The usual disclaimer:
Consider yourself warned. In the post below, I’m going to be really honest. I frequently get asked questions about ulcerative colitis, living with ulcerative colitis, what the illness is like, what the symptoms are, and what happens if I eat things I shouldn’t. I tend to shy away from answering because… well… it’s not very polite to discuss “number twos” in casual conversation. But the more I search for healthy lifestyle tips, recipes, blogs, and first-hand accounts of living with ulcerative colitis, the more I realize that there isn’t much out there. I feel like I should be honest here. But it’s not pretty. So for the squeamish (or those who just don’t want to know about my bodily functions), I understand. But you should probably stop reading here.
The weeks that followed my diagnosis were, possibly, even more exhausting than the weeks leading up to it. Sure, I had a name for why I’d been feeling so cruddy. But I was also faced with the daunting realization that ulcerative colitis doesn’t go away. It can be in remission, but it is something I will deal with for the rest of my life.
Armed with Prednisone and Colazal, one to help my colon heal and one to hopefully keep it healed, I headed back to campus with my mom. Although she originally planned on just helping me get settled, my mom ended up staying for the entire week. I was weak, tired, and enjoyed my mom’s company and support.
Prednisone and I got off to a rocky start. For the first few days, I had to wake up about four hours before I wanted to be anywhere. I needed that much time to eat, get my stomach settled, and then hopefully keep the steroids down. They were hard on my stomach, and even if I didn’t throw up, it took a couple of hours for my stomach to settle again. Once my stomach got used to the medication, Prednisone found other ways to make its presence known. Blackheads. All over my face. And weight gain. Now, I lost quite a bit of weight leading up to my diagnosis, so my clothes were a little big before I started taking it. I took Prednisone for about 8 – 12 weeks. In that time, I went up three sizes. Talk about adding insult to injury.
Looking back, aside from my family and friends, my college is the thing I am most grateful for throughout those first few weeks. The Vice President of Student Life called me at home the day of my colonoscopy to check in and see how I was doing. Back at school, when I approached my advisor about dropping a class to allow more time for rest, two of my professors offered other solutions. I ended up keeping my full course load, but taking one class via e-mail. My 8:00 am philosophy class was difficult for me to get to while I was adjusting to my new medication, so I frequently attended at 12:15 class that was full, with my professor’s blessing. One of the many reasons I love Clarke is how comfortable everyone made me feel while I was learning to live with ulcerative colitis.
McDonald’s chicken nuggets got me through the next few weeks. I was also able to eat cheddar cheese, peanut butter sandwiches, and baked potatoes. Slowly, I added bland foods. There were setbacks along the way — like when I decided to have almost an entire box of Wheat Thins for a snack and couldn’t figure out why my stomach hurt like crazy. Oops.
Even though I was slowly finding my groove, I was afraid of food. I couldn’t try something new if I had anywhere to be in the next day or two. I had already fallen behind in my classes, and didn’t really want to fall any further behind. (Not to mention the fact that Goose & I had just started dating, and I was mortified by the thought that I might have a “colitis attack,” as I call them, when he was there.)
So I lived on a few simple foods. When I knew I had nowhere to be, I indulged on favorites I knew I wasn’t supposed to eat. And that worked, but only for a little while.