So I’ve hummed and hawed on writing this piece for a few weeks now given my recent health problems but probably more so on realising just how many people suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
There has been a major breakthrough in the press recently for sufferers of Colitis who wear various types of “bags” with stories running on CNN and British Morning Television of Bethany Townsend revealing an image of herself in her bikini with her colostomy bags on show. This has helped raise a huge awareness of the illness as well as break some of the stigma involved in what can be an embarrassing illness to talk about.
So I started showing symptoms around 2 years ago, but being the typical bloke I kept going, dismissing it as “just one of those things” and pretty much accepted that going to the toilet 8-10 times a day was because I had a super efficient bowel ( and I eat a lot!).
Around 10 weeks ago I started feeling really poorly; suffering severe fatigue (i literally could fall asleep anywhere at any time), an increase in trips to the lavatory, bleeding, ulcers in my throat and pain in my joints. This one really took it’s toll on me and to go with the symptoms I developed a really short temper because I simply couldn’t handle the fatigue more than anything else. I battled through that spell that lasted a couple of weeks and thought I was on the mend again.
Two weeks later I was on a fire safety course when I began feeling awful, I actually thought I was dying at one point. All of the symptoms had returned as well as severe abdominal pain, cold sweats, dizziness and not really knowing where I was of what I was doing.
I tried to pull myself together and drive (3 mile) home, which in hindsight was a pretty dangerous thing to do. When I pulled up to my drive I could barely turn the wheel into the drive. Now I’m 6’5″ and a pretty strong chap- the fact I couldn’t turn a power assured steering wheel really scared me. This was the first time I had ever asked to go to see the Doctor…..ever!
After seeing the GP he referred me directly to hospital where I was admitted with dehydration and all of the symptoms I mentioned earlier. Luckily they ruled out any immediate need for surgery first, and then they started going through the issues. Having explained my history and my symptoms the Consultant decided it was 90% likely that I was suffering from Ulcerative Colitis. Rather than start me on medication straight away, they wanted to wait until the Monday ( this being Friday) to see the Specialist to get his input. So I spent my first weekend in hospital being looked after on the Emergency Assessment Unit in South Tyneside Hospital- and well looked after!
A couple of weeks on and the truth is I don’t yet have a full diagnosis, its proving rather difficult to figure out exactly what is causing the symptoms I’m displaying. On visiting various forums and Facebook groups on IBD it seems as though for most getting diagnosis can be a long process, for some it has taken years! I’m fairly confident that the great consultants I am seeing will find it, and treat it and get me back somewhere near feeling human. I’m not going to pretend that my symptoms are anywhere near as bad as some who suffer out there, but for me the biggest problem is the fatigue. Falling asleep when ever I am sitting still in a quiet place ( I recently fell asleep while eating lunch during a wedding!) and not being able to run around with my boys for more than 5 minutes without feeling exhausted. I used to be an International Basketball Player and a County Champion Cross Country runner- its like WHAT IS GOING ON!!????? I can pretty much deal with the rest of the symptoms as after two years I’ve grown used to them- just not the tiredness.
So I guess the real reason I wanted to write this is because around 150,000 people in the UK suffer from Ulcerative Colitis alone, not taking into account the other forms of IBD. And like me, most dismiss it, don’t seek medical attention or have it misdiagnosed as something less serious until a major fare up lands them in A&E. So if you suffer from the symptoms described by the NHS then please, go and get checked out! I feel like now after two years, but more so a terrible 3 months, that I am somewhere on the road to getting sorted. I can see some light at the end of the tunnel, and if I can feel just 25% less tired all of the time I would be absolutely over the moon!
I also want to say a massive thank you to my beautiful family for putting up with me and looking after me through this- especially the Mrs!