"From the Fight" -- Lisa's Story -- 5 min read
Hello fellow Warriors! Welcome to the “From the Fight” blog written by yours truly, Lisa. The purpose of this blog is to get as much free content as possible to you, the readers, regarding health, fitness, and nutrition. These first couple blogs will focus on telling you about our "battle stories". Now, I am not an experienced blogger or even a great writer, but bear with me, I do have a lot of insight into the health world and I do have a story to tell.
If you have read my bio in the about me section of ftfwarrior.com, you’ll know that in 2009 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. After being misdiagnosed for 6 months with what doctors called “severe constipation” I had finally had enough and my parents took me to the ER. It was there that I was pre-diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. A week later, I went in for a colonoscopy and was official diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I remember thinking to myself, “I am 17 years old and I am going to have this disease for the rest of my life.” It wasn’t fair. I had so much more life to live without having the complications of a disease. I cried in my room as I read through the mounds of pamphlets and papers describing the disease. All I could think of was my grandpa. He had colon cancer and needed his colon removed. Because if this, he had a colorectal bag that collected drainage from his intestines. “Was I going to have one of those too?” I would think to myself? I saw the pain it caused him and the horrible embarrassment he went through when his bag would start to smell in public. He didn’t leave the house for a long time because of this. It was hard to see him go through that and horrifying to imagine myself having to go through that same thing if I needed my colon removed.
I didn’t really handle the stress of being diagnosed with a lifelong disease very well and decided to drink and party to numb the pain. That helped take my mind off my situation temporarily, but then I felt the lump. I started to notice a lump in my lower right abdominal region and I began to have a lot of stomach pain which was too much to ignore. I went back to the ER and the doctors found an abscess in my small intestine. They did an emergency operation to insert a tube into the abscess to drain it. While I didn’t have my colon removed, my worst fear had come true; I had a drainage bag attached to my side. I wore sweats for most of that summer. Don’t worry though, they were the cute sweats they used to sell at Abercrombie so I was still semi- stylish. After 3 weeks, the nurses were able to take the drain out and it was just in time to go on a house boat trip with my best friends. A couple nights before I was supposed to leave for the trip, I woke up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain. I literally rolled out of bed on to the floor and crawled to my parents’ bedroom to tell them to take me to the ER. The doctors had determined that the abscess had come back and my Crohn’s flare up was more aggressive than they had anticipated.
I was put on 5 different antibiotics as well as pain medication and anti-inflammatory medicine. I was given the option to take prednisone (a steroid) but I opted out of taking it. In retrospect, that was one of the best decisions I made during that whole process. Prednisone is a great medicine and helps thousands of people every day but I thought the side effects for taking it long term were too risky and I decided to exhaust my other options before resorting to the steroid. I tried medication after medication and while the medications were helping the inflammation decrease, my GI doctor recommended that I have surgery to remove the diseased portion of my intestine. At this point, I just wanted to feel “normal” again so I was all in for the surgery.
On November 18th, 2009, 5 months after my diagnoses, I had 3 feet of my small intestine resected as well as a couple inches of my colon. It wasn’t a pleasant recovery, but I did recover and was able to get off my pain medications 2 weeks after my surgery. I felt so much better just one week after my surgery! I was starting to be able to enjoy life again. Crohn’s did leave me in bad physical shape though. Before being diagnosed, I weighed 120 pounds. After the first abscess, I dropped down to 100 pounds. I had to gain at least 8 pounds in order for the surgeon to feel comfortable operating on me. Once he did the resection, I hovered around 104 and struggled to gain weight. I was malnourished, had lost any sense of appetite and had little to no energy to do anything. While I could hang out with friends again, I wasn’t that much fun to be around. I not only lost my health, I lost my purpose and my will to THRIVE in this life. My parents were very worried about me and spent thousands of dollars on naturopathic doctors, alternative medicine and different methods. While the naturopathic doctor didn’t cure me of my Crohn’s disease, she did help me learn how to rebuild the flora in my gut as well as pointed out foods that irritated my gut.
The food allergy test I took revealed that I was "allergic" to brewers yeast, bakers yeast, and soy. I haven’t had a single beer since being diagnosed with Crohn’s and I tried to cut out baker’s yeast and soy but it is so hard to be on a restrictive diet, especially in college. I did try to stay away from those foods, and I wouldn’t drink beer (impressive if I may say so for being in college) but it wasn’t until I took a general nutrition course in college that I really gained a passion for learning about food and what food does to the body. Nutrition, which was once just a hobby, became a passion. I began seeking out articles from health experts, listening to podcasts and reading all the literature on nutrition that I could. I also began choosing healthy alternatives to the food I was eating and felt a lot better.
I still noticed that I wasn’t functioning at my optimal level of health. I began considering mental health and became completely fascinated by the workings of the mind and how that affects different aspects of a person’s life. It was then that I chose to eliminate toxic relationships from my life and pursue full physical and mental healing. I began working out more consistently and ate healthier, sought out professional counseling for my anxiety, and I properly learned how to manage stress. It only took about 3 months to see the results and in June 2014 I was at a healthy weight again, built back some of my muscle I lost and I was even able to stop taking the anti-inflammatory medicine I had been taking for the past 4 years. It was truly miraculous. It just goes to show that when you change your health, you change your life.
Life takes guts.
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