So, this is not a cheery post. But it's time to tell my story. I think 16 years is enough distance from the actual event to be able to tell it without tears pouring down my face. I'd like to think that if someone has gone through, or is indeed going through something similar to my experience, they will feel hope, support, understood...whatever they need.
As I've mentioned previously, I used to eat a lot of sugar, bread, and chemical-laden foods. Hey, I like cake. My early 20's was filled with moving out of home, my first corporate job out of uni, partying, meeting lots of people, depression, travelling overseas, partying, finding out my boyfriend of five years had been cheating on me, and generally trying to work out who I was as a person. Pretty stock standard stuff for that age. Food was not a priority. When I was hungry, I'd grab the quickest thing around. Occasionally I'd cook for myself but it was pasta most of the time (Italian heritage).
I started working for a small company with an amazing boss. She was so amazing that she was head hunted by another firm not long after i started and then the nightmare began. You see, the new boss was not amazing. Rather than leave when I realised I hated working for her, I dug my heels in and stayed on because "I was here first". So very mature. Keep in mind this was my early 20's. It just so happened that my grandmother was dying around this time also. The stress of being in a negative environment every day was compounded by the concern I had for Nonna. The way this manifested in my body was by a tight 'knot' forming in my gut. That's the best way I can describe it; a big black knot that got tighter every day. Even the thought of my boss would tighten it.
My daily lunch from the food court across the street consisted of a large toasted white bread roll with a freshly cooked chicken schnitzel, fried potatoes and onions, and lashings of gravy inside it. There may have also been cheese on those rolls. Tasty…very tasty. I started to notice that on the drive home every day I would get gut pains at the same time. They would make me double over in pain sometimes. When I couldn't ignore the consistency any longer I went to see a specialist about it. A gastroenterologist. Actually, I think I saw several doctors over that time and they all poked and prodded me and performed colonoscopies, endoscopies and endless blood tests. But none of them could tell me what was wrong. None of them asked about my diet nor mentioned food once. The words 'Crohn's Disease' were thrown around by one of them but when my worried mother asked for more information the young doctor brushed her off and went back to pretending to be an expert in his perfectly decorated office with plush carpet, elegant furniture and his kid's painting hung on the wall like a Picasso….. yes, there's still anger there.
My memory of the sequence of events that followed are sketchy; I have had a lot of morphine, pethidine, and other drugs which affect the memory. I remember being told to go to hospital if the pains ever became really bad. I woke one morning doubled over and my boyfriend at the time took me straight to hospital. I spent three days there, getting more tests done, and still nothing was found. I was dying to get outta there. When the specialist came to visit me on the morning of the third day, it was clear he had no idea what was wrong. He asked me how I was feeling, I said I was fine, and he sent me home with cortisone drugs. He knew that I hadn't really had a proper bowel movement in that time, and my stomach was very bloated.
About five weeks later I fainted whilst moving a wheelie bin at Mum and Dad's place. When I came to I started fevering something stupid. I was so cold I was shaking and my teeth were chattering. Mum gave me Panadol, I'd sleep for a while, but once the drug wore off I was back to the shakes and the extreme cold. They took me to the doctor and, as luck would have it, my usual GP wasn't in that day. His replacement asked a few questions (I looked like shit and was delirious by that stage) and told me to go home and to continue taking Panadol. I must have eventually felt better because the next thing I remember was the day I was moving into a new apartment with my boyfriend.
It was July 1999. He had a mobile phone, I didn't. On the afternoon of the move, he had to go back to his old apartment and help with the bond clean. The landline wasn't yet connected at our new place. I was alone but excited to be making a new home with my new man and I busied myself with emptying the boxes of crockery etc. I started to get the all too familiar gut pains again. In a relatively short space of time the pains had escalated to a point that I could no longer do anything. I ran a warm bath and sat in it hoping for the pains to subside but they just kept increasing in intensity. I tried everything i could think of that night but nothing worked. I couldn't call my boyfriend because the phone wasn't connected and I wasn't aware that I was bad enough to be calling an ambulance (or that you can still call emergency services on a landline whether it's connected or not). I kept praying for him to come home and when he finally did I was writhing around on the floor in the foetal position, just moaning in pain.
The drive to the hospital was excruciating; every single bump on the road was torture. I couldn't tense my gut because that's exactly where I was sore. When I finally got to the emergency department I just wanted drugs. GIMME DRUGS!!!!!!!!!! I couldn't talk by this stage. It's probably a good thing I couldn't speak because I would've torn the nurse to shreds who was using my arm as a f*cking pin cushion. He couldn't find a vein because they'd all collapsed from the extremely dehydrated state I was in. I think about three different nurses attempted to inject pethidine into me, about five times each. Well, eventually one of the them was successful because the next few hours were spent on a cloud. I was coming in and out of consciousness, floating along in a pain free world, where my Dad and Mum kept appearing with very worried looks on their faces. I'm sure there were others there too but my cloud was so cosy. No wonder people are into this stuff.
I was transferred to a bigger hospital and asked to sign papers, I think. I don't remember what those papers were for…I was on a cloud remember. But, whatever it was, I knew it was serious because my Dad was telling me how much he loved me.
Next stop: the morning after...