Want to lose 20 pounds in 3 months? Have I got the disorder for you! It's called Crohn's disease, and I was diagnosed with it about three weeks ago.
I'll talk about the interesting biomedical stuff in another post, but for now, I'll just tell you that the disease causes chronic inflammation of the intestines and it's exact causes are unknown.
My case unfolded as follows_ (more under the fold)
March: I get sick with whatever virus is going around. Head cold, slight fever, the usual flu symptoms. I shrug it off, knowing that antibiotics don't treat viruses anyway, and recover in a little over a week. It's then that my GI symptoms start. I start having lots of diarrhea and a little indigestion when I eat something that doesn't agree with me. I start popping Tums occasionally, and am feeling generally okay.
April: Heather visits, while recovering from a cold, and I manage to pick up whatever strain of flu bug is going around St. Louis. Again with the week of flu-like symptoms and again with the diarrhea and horrible indigestion. This time, it doesn't go away though. By the end of April, I'm worried, and visit the doctor, who seems sure that it's just residual effects of the flu. To his credit, those symptoms often last a month or so, and with his reassurances, I shrug it off and go back to work.
May: The category "things that don't agree with me" is rapidly expanding. I can handle pastas and other bland foods, but anything greasy, spicy, or flavorful is out. Oh, and alcohol? Definitely out (After consuming less than two beers one evening I end up puking in the bushes next to Chad's house). I have nausea more frequently, and the dull ache in my gut never seems to stop. I'll spare you the gory details of my bowel habits, but suffice it to say that things are not going well in that department either.
June: I go back to the doctor, who refers me to a gastroenterologist. Several rounds of tests later, he recommends a colonoscopy. I readily agree, because I have no energy, am dropping weight at an alarming rate, and generally feel like shit. You want to stick a camera where? Hell, If it'll help me feel better, you can stick the whole damn Spanish Armada in there.
July: Due to the wonder that is our health care system, I finally get in for a colonoscopy in early July. The day before, you are restricted to a liquid diet, and then you drink a gallon of laxative. Hilarity ensues.
After the procedure I ask for copies of the pictures and am disappointed that I don't get to see a video of the whole thing. It's also my first time under anesthesia, which is really kind of bizarre. I expected to drift off slowly to sleep, but a few minutes after the needle was in me, I went from 0 to unconscious in no time flat. It's like someone had reached in and turned off the light switch.
A week or so later, I go back in, and am told that my diagnosis is Crohn's disease. This is a chronic condition with no cure. Patients with severe cases often end up in the ER or getting ileostomies (removal of the colon and large intestine. The small intestine is then attached through the wall of the abdomen and waste is collected in a pouch that hangs there. Sounds like fun, huh?). Luckily, my case is relatively mild, and at the present, there's no reason to suspect any kind of drastic measures will need to be taken.
The doctor put me on an intestinal anti-inflammatory, Pentasa, which means that I take 2 huge pills 4 times daily, with each meal and before I go to bed. So far, the treatment has helped quite a bit. I can again eat a lot of foods and my bowel habits are recovering nicely. I still suffer from frequent mild indigestion though, which really kills my appetite some days. Unfortunately, that's likely to be something that I'll just have to live with.
As far as food goes, I was basically told that I should avoid things that disagree with me - everything else is fair game. Thus begins a long process of trial and error. Most foods have been all right far, but my experiment with beer the other evening didn't go swimmingly. I'll be testing various hard liquors and mixed drinks over the next few months, hoping to find an alternate libation that doesn't flare up my symptoms.
So, that's the state of my Union. I'm back in action, which feels really good after 3 months of being down and out.