All I remember is driving through the parking lot by the Quest lab; that I missed a scheduled phone call and I was crying. My head was pounding, I was hot and sweaty and something, definitely, hadn’t gone right.
Within a few hours, I was being admitted through the ER to a room at Fairfax Hospital. I saw some familiar faces (I’d been on the same floor three months earlier) and was angry and confused about how I wound up here, again.
For years I’d been trying to get to the bottom of the symptoms that were taking over my life. I’ll spare you the gory details but my digestive issues had gone from embarrassing and uncomfortable to distressing and I soon found out life threatening.
Partially because of my age when I first saw a Gastroenterologist and partly because of my weird ability to tolerate pain, it took a while to diagnose my issue. The Doctor I saw told me that most people with Chron’s or Ulcerative Colitis present symptoms much earlier than in their 40s. In addition, these types of diseases are supposed to be genetic and since I didn’t have a family health history they weren’t sure if this was my problem.
During my first hospital stay, I received 5 (count ’em) pints of blood. For those of you in the medical field, this may be surprising because women generally have a full tank at 8 pints of blood. Obviously, I was severely depleted.
The second time I received 3 or 4 pints. Maybe 5. By the second time, I really didn’t care. I was like that honey badger (NSFW) and all I wanted was for the entire nightmare to go away. Later on, I decided to heed the fact that this, and many other auto-immune diseases can go into overdrive when one is stressed.
Maybe that was the trigger to start digging into my biological family history with a renewed fervor. All I knew was that if this kind of hell could come rumbling through my intestines I wanted a heads-up on anything else that might be hanging out waiting to show up. Plus, I wanted to talk to someone who might understand what I was going through.
Throughout my life, when asked why I was searching for my biological family I’d always replied, “for my medical history, and to find someone who looks like me.” That’s an easy-to-swallow answer for anyone who asks. People get uncomfortable if you tell them you’re searching for your biologicals because you have a hole so deep that you’re afraid it’s going to swallow you up and destroy you. Better to tell them the medical history and the familial looks story.
Until I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, I’d say that I could do and eat pretty much anything – because I had NO MEDICAL HISTORY weighing me down. For instance, I didn’t have to worry about things that my parents or grandparents worried about health-wise because their genes were not my genes! It was like having a free pass at Wally World! I could do all the rides and eat all the things and no one could tell me I needed to take it easy because of my family medical history. (WHEEEE!!)
Interestingly I think the hole that was so deep that it threatened to destroy me is what caused my particular immune system to attack itself. My insides were literally eating away at me and it wasn’t pretty.
It’s my personal experience that illness is a holistic thing, it’s not just in the physical body but it starts in the mental and spiritual self. When we’re not healed and settled in our minds and in our souls, it eventually comes out somewhere. (This does NOT mean that I believe anyone deserves to be sick.) I do believe that we make ourselves sick. Even with diseases that are meant to be genetic.
Here’s the thing – I’ve found my biological families on both sides. No one has this auto-immune disease. If they do, they’re not talking about it and no one seemed to have any recollection or understanding of what this disease is when I asked. However, on my maternal side, there are a number of family members with diabetes and Type-1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease. I don’t know which type my maternal aunts and uncles have, but it’s possible this is a distant connection to my situation.
I believe in signs and that there are no mistakes. I somehow contracted an auto-immune disease that is primarily genetic because it was, in its own way, my genetic story that was needing to be healed. There were so many spiritual aha’s that happened during my journey with my disease and I’m amazed at how much better I’m feeling since I’ve started talking about my story.