thank you, colitis. no, really.

For the past few days I have been asking myself, “Is this real life?” Because I’m really unsure.

Companion Magazine’s Inaugural Issue, something that was just a dream in my head a few moths ago is coming to life on Weds. After months of planning and hard work I can’t believe it’s almost ready!

My surgery is officially in 4 days. Am I scared? No. I’m really anxious and a little worried about the unknown. My last surgery came so quickly and so emergently and I was trapped in this fog of illness that I didn’t realize what was going on around me. This time, when I really stop to think, it’s kind of scary to know that in just 4 short days, I won’t be feeling so good again.

This disease has seriously put my life, and others lives around me, on hold. It is quite annoying that I am in the middle of a surgery series that is preventing me from moving on with my life in a big way. I came to terms with that a long time ago when I was really sick. We often reflect on those times, how bad they really were. How scared everyone was. I was never scared, just so angry. I was stuck between completely hating colitis and accepting it for the rest of my life. I never thought surgery was going to happen. So now that we are here, and onto the second surgery, what’s next?

That question has always been an easy one for me to answer. And it should be an easy one to answer for any normal, healthy 24 year old girl. I can be wound a little tightly, so maybe not everyone is always asking themselves what’s in store for them over the next few years, but I do. I am a planner. And I certainly never planned on being sick, having an ostomy, having 3 major operations all in the same year. But guess what? It happened. And there’s nothing anyone can do to change it.

Through all the negativity, tears and heartbreak I don’t think I would want to change it. This disease has changed ME for the better. I think it has given me such a better understanding for what it means to live. Live in a healthy way and not take things for granted. I often hear people say, “things happen for a reason,” and I sure am a believer in that as well. I don’t think these things just happen out of no where. There has to be a greater plan, a big lesson that needs to be learned.

Before I was sick, I can’t say I was the greatest, most health conscious person. I worked in a bar (not the classiest one, either) drank a lot of alcohol, partied, hung out with some of the wrong people, made bad choices, the whole nine yards. Maybe everyone has to go through those phases. I don’t think I got this disease just to let it eat me alive. I got this disease to highlight everything I was doing wrong in life. The people I was around and helping that I never should have given a second look, a job I was dying for that I should have walked out on a long time ago, the boys I was dating that never really cared about me. This disease was given to me to open my eyes. To make me see the bigger picture. To make me grow the hell up. Because I certainly wasn’t. I was stuck in a rut of caring only about money, alcohol, trashy people and working too much at a job that was never going to take me anywhere. I was focusing on all of the wrong things in life.

To me, ulcerative colitis has not been a punishment, but a chance to start over. I look at myself differently now. Seriously. When I look in the mirror I don’t see the same person. I don’t even think I physically look the same as I did before I was sick. I look at pictures all the time from 4 years ago and think, “Wow, I don’t even look like that anymore.” And it’s not just because I’m older now. Something has changed about me, physically, emotionally, in every possible way.

Do I hate ulcerative colitis? Yes, I think it’s an awful, draining disease. Am I thankful for ulcerative colitis? Yes. Without ulcerative colitis I would not have the amazing group of friends that I have met through this journey, I wouldn’t have realized my real friends, my true love, how outstanding my family is, I wouldn’t have come up with Companion Magazine, I probably wouldn’t have met my boss, I wouldn’t be as tough, as smart or as brave. I am so thankful that I was diagnosed with colitis because it has given me a platform to not only help others, but to help shape myself.

So, Friday starts a new chapter in my book of life. I’ll have my j-pouch, but the plumbing won’t all be hooked up until 6-8 weeks later. I’m almost there, I can see the finish line. I have made it 5 months with an ostomy when I never thought I would make it out of the room in the Cleveland Clinic where I found out I had to have my colon removed. I’ve showed countless friends my stomach with no hesitation at all, spoke about it in front of 250 strangers and live with it with ease on a daily basis.

This past week was all about being thankful. #1 on my list? Ulcerative colitis.

2 thoughts on “thank you, colitis. no, really.

  1. Wow. You are soooo young to have to endure this. I have not had a pastel-pretty pretty life; my father shot himself when I was 14, my husband died at 44 (and he got me into jogging; we both chose to be vegetarians/nonsmokers); can’t believe I developed Stage IV colon cancer. I have a bag, consider myself lucky to have lasted 20 months. The cancer has recurred in lymph nodes and the chemo had to be changed. I’m a widow with a 20-year-old daughter – she kept me going when my husband got ill and I keep going now (still exercising) because of her. Because I have talked to so many cancer patients while taking chemo, I can only offer this encouragement (whereas I have about a 5% chance of lasting five years): One woman had “deadly melanoma” 30 years ago, and is still here! Statistics are interesting and useful but not definitive. Hang in there; get up every morning and keep going – that’s what I tell myself. And I’m 60! So YOU can do it!

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