It seems like a page out of someone else’s life when I think about my husband’s diagnosis.
He was just 19 years old, a college kid experiencing worse-than-average intestinal distress after every cafeteria meal.
I was just The Girlfriend who heard the retelling of the doctor’s visits, the way his family doc pressed on a certain area in his lower abdomen which hurt like the dickens, and guessed – both immediately and correctly – that the eventual diagnosis would be Crohn’s Disease.
Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease in which the immune system basically attacks the small intestine, thinking it’s an intruder that needs to be eradicated each time the person eats.
It’s characterized by stomach pain after eating, continual diarrhea, weight loss, and inflammation in the small intestine.
I mostly remember a lot of laying down on the couch after meals, some missing class because of pain, and the process of trying different medications that lasted all the way through college. He went through the lower, gentle-side-effects class of drugs for Crohn’s, then he had an expensive infusion of something that I think was called Humera, but that might be the new name for the old one which was found to be totally dangerous – yikes!
Finally he was put on Prednisone, a steroid drug with a list of quite nasty possible side effects as long as my arm. He was very fortunate in that he didn’t really experience any of them, and it was the thing that finally worked.
Life just…moved forward.
We went to class.
We went to bars on Fridays and drank cheap beer.
We helped out at church, took walks around campus, kept counting the days until that degree would be in our hands.
Crohn’s wasn’t his life, it was just this thing that happened to him once.
Then in April of our senior year, he had a major episode – I honestly don’t even know what happened, blood in the stool, pain beyond belief? – and landed himself in a hospital bed for a weekend.
The doctors said it looked like he had a hole in his intestine or would soon and that he needed surgery. Now.
Having intestine taken out of your body three weeks before final exams is not exactly the way one wants to close their college career, and my husband and his family were somehow able to convince the doctors to let him wait until graduation.
That’s how he ended up lying on a gurney in a hospital gown just two days after he walked in cap and gown to receive his diploma, his pain at a "9," the number you give only because there’s a sliver of a chance that "number 10" pain might exist beyond the blinding feeling in your gut at the moment.
Ten inches of the end of his small intestine had become medical waste, and while everything was stitched back up, it would take five days for his bowels to be kind enough to speak to him again and a long, vertical, worm-like pink scar will forever hurt his chances of being a swimsuit beauty.
That’s Life…Isn’t It?
When readers email me with questions and include the story of a young person’s diagnosis, I always think, "Oh, how awful, how terrible, how do you get through that at such a young age!?"
But my husband was 19-22 when all of this happened.
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