According to The NHS website, “Crohn’s Disease (CD) is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system”. There’s no known cure but it can be managed. So after being diagnosed with something like this there’s naturally a lot of questions going through your head: What happens next? What can I expect to happen in the future? What do I need to do?
And how the hell did I not know I had this disease before..
The cause of Crohn’s is unknown but it’s been attributed to many things such as genetics, problem with the immune system, previous infections, smoking and environmental factors. The common symptoms for Crohn’s are diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue, unintended weight loss and blood and mucus in your stools (The NHS).
Having read a number of stories of others with CD it does seem that the road-map is that abdominal pains and fatigue kick in long before diagnosis. There’s then a period of uncertainty before diagnosis which is then followed by some drug treatment. Some patients may well end up in hospital for an operation and some end up with a stoma, depending on the severity of the case.
I Don’t Feel 100%
Now this may seem a strange thing to say, but I think I was quite lucky to go straight in at the operation point. I didn’t have to go through a period of uncertainty, various prods and a series objects inserted into me, nor did I have to endure taking a boatload of drugs either.
I guess things could have been a little bit different for me had I acted on some of the signs that something was wrong long before the surgeon started resectioning some of my internal organs. But then I’m a bloke and despite telling Jude “I don’t feel 100%” on more than one occasion during 2015, I never felt so unwell that I’d make an appointment with the Doctor. Just going to the Doc’s and saying “I’ve got a feeling all is not well, but I don’t know what” just didn’t seem the right thing to do.
So what were the signs…
First off I had an issue with weight! Now I’ve always been on the lighter side for someone that’s 6’4″ tall and I’ve never passed 13 stone so being around the 12 stone area wasn’t that unusual. During 2015, it was obvious that there was muscle loss, especially around my upper body and legs. In November 2014, I dislocated my shoulder simply by rolling over in bed to get the remote control. On reflection, I’m pretty sure that that occurred because of muscle loss and weakness – so we can assume bad things were happening to my body at least 12 months before the op.
My appetite also wasn’t great – again nothing too unusual as I’d always been a picky eater. A few months before the op I’d really gone off food – but still craved sweet things. It’s a good thing we had no trick or treaters at the end of October, for example, because I’d quickly polished off a couple of tubs of Haribo Halloween sweets.
Now muscle loss should equate to weight loss, but this is where things got confusing. Whilst the rest of my body was aiming to be slimmer of the year, my stomach was frequently starting to show signs of expansion – perhaps I’d eaten too many Haribo or they were helping distort my weight? My jeans were getting so tight I even had to consider a larger size – but fortunately Levis don’t do big gut/stick leg styles that I liked. I squeezed into my usual 501s and simply put my expanding veranda down to a lack of exercise and getting older.
Homes Under The Hammer
The bloating stomach was usually accompanied with a few indigestion pains.. and to combat that I took a few Rennies and other indigestion tablets. It turns out I wasn’t taking them “every now and then” as I thought but had been frequently taking them for a couple of months prior to the operation. It just goes to show how easy it is to regularly pop a couple of tablets before bed and not realise how often you’re doing it.
Fatigue was also in the mix! I’d definitely started to stay in bed longer and longer, past Jeremy Kyle and well into Homes Under The Hammer – yet still always felt tired. The extra hours of sleep were simply attributed to feeling stressed, working hard, age etc. catching up – so in isolation it perhaps wasn’t so obvious a factor. I also lost a lot of motivation and didn’t have the energy or desire to work, go out or do things.
Apologies for the next part, but it needs to be covered. I’ll try and not get too graphic as bathroom activity also played a part. Now if you recall, “blood and mucus in your stools” is a common symptom according to The NHS. Thankfully there wasn’t any of that. On the flipside, there wasn’t much of anything else either other than a lot straining. Put it this way, I can fully understand how Elvis met his demise whilst sat on the pot.. and we’ll leave it at that. Like the Rennies though what was an event believed to be “every now and then” was actually a lot more frequent.
Looking further back then 2015 and 2014 there’s probably a few other illness, weight, fatigue times I could highlight as “maybe related to Crohn’s” but the simple fact is I’ll guess I’ll never know for sure. What I did know was that late 2015 symptoms wise I had muscle loss, bloated stomach, fatigue and poor bathroom habits. On top of that I had bad skin and looked rougher than a badger who’d spent the last week drowning it’s sorrows with 10 cans of special brew every night. On reflection – yeah – something might have been amiss.
Don’t Flush Your Health Away
So why didn’t I go to the Doctor earlier? The weight/muscle issue has been with me for years – I’m skinny so being slightly skinnier didn’t seem to be of concern. I guess that Crohn’s could actually have been the reason why I’ve been light for my size all these years? The bloated stomach was thought to be occasional/an age thing whilst fatigue could be attributed to working hard/stress. The only area where there should have been genuine concern was bathroom wise – but then I’m a bloke and it’s easier to flush concerns down the pan than pop to the local surgery.
Ignoring my health wasn’t sensible though, and the takeaway from this section is don’t take your health for granted. Health is definitely wealth so don’t wait until it’s too late to discover this simple notion. Watch your bowels, keep an eye on your weight, monitor your fitness, and be mindful of the drugs you’re taking. If you don’t feel 100% get along to the Doctor for a check up. I got lucky this time round which is great news as in many respects it could have been a lot lot worse.
Time To Look Forward
With that in mind, this particular part of Attack Of The Crohn’s is a convoluted way of saying that I have absolutely no idea what role CD has played in my life up to December 2015. I guess even if I could attribute specific events down to Crohn’s it wouldn’t make any difference as you can’t change the past. However, you can shape the future and so armed with my new diagnosis it was time to do just that. Details in Part 4.