Figuring out you have a chronic disease is not something someone should go through at 16. The weeks following up to my diagnosis were a mess. I was sick all the time and missed a total of twenty days of school in about a month and a half. I felt awful all the time due to nausea, headaches, diarrhea. Doctor appointments were a constant in my life. My family and I just wanted to know what was wrong so we could fix it. I recently had had a few tests that were done to help the doctor come to a diagnosis. It seemed useless to participate in them but I complied anyway.
We were called to come to the U of M hospital a few weeks later and if course it was bright and sunny outside; the exact opposite of how I was feeling. As I walked down the cold, uninviting white hallways, my mind went through every possible thing that could be wrong from every cancer to us making a mistake, to it being just a rare strand of the flu. I was as scared as a deer caught in the headlights of a car. On our way to my appointment we took a quick detour to the bathroom. Even the bathrooms seemed uninviting due to the sterile smell.
I was tugged out of my thoughts when we reached the first set of elevators and had to step aside for a patient in a wheelchair. The nurse thanked us quietly as she pushed the squeaky, wheelchair along. The nurse herself was as quiet as a mouse. We moved to get in the elevator a few seconds later, and my dad pressed the button for the now all-too-familiar 8th floor. We were headed back up to Rheumatology. As I stood there, I could smell the god-awful smell of cleaning supplies that had somehow stunk up every nook and cranny in the hospital. The elevator ride was short, way too short. Yet it still seemed way too long with me breathing in these awful fumes.
We got off the elevator and took a left at the golden frog hanging above the nurse’s station. We passed by some other elevators that were a lot closer to the waiting room than ours had been. We definitely should have used those but it’s too late to go back now.
My mom had told me earlier that they wanted me to check myself in so that I could work on my people skills. I had tried to argue, but once she had given me her hard stare that could only be rivaled by a Greek God, I relented.
I checked myself in, answering all the regular questions to their satisfaction, so I turned around and walked over to the oddly organized waiting room. I took in all the chairs that seemed to be set up in no particular way, the TV playing a random kids movie that I couldn’t remember the name of, and the wall of windows that had a metal bench attached, why, I had no idea. The waiting room was chaos within a symmetrical painting. I sat down next to my parents as we waited to be called back. We sat there being consumed by our ever-changing thoughts.
After a few minutes of all of us pretending not to be worried, I got called back. We stood up and hurried over to where the attendant stood and got ushered through a door. I then had to get weighed, my blood pressure taken, and my height measured. Just some more boring standard procedure.
Once that was all settled, we walked down a couple of hallways just to find the room. We arrived, and the nurse started asking all the standard questions like, what medications are you currently taking, how are you feeling today, etc...
The nurse only stayed for a few minutes and then they left after telling us that the doctor would see us in a moment. Oh sure it usually takes at least 30 minutes for a doctor to come, I thought to myself while trying to hold back laughter. My dad saw that I was trying not to laugh and of course started laughing at me. I flushed in embarrassment, the nurse walked away laughing silently.
My doctor comes in almost 45 minutes later. We greet each other and then get down to business. She sits down and starts to explain that I have a chronic disease that’s commonly called Crohn’s disease. We all sit there dazed knowing that we should have known that that could have been a possibility since my grandma has it. She struggled with it for a long time.
“Common symptoms are: stomach aches, throwing up, fever, and diarrhea. All of these can go on for weeks or months when not treated, as you all know by now.”
My dad immediately jumped to asking questions, as per usual. We figured out by the end, with the help of my dad’s questions, that Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease meaning that I will get sick a lot easier and have to watch what I eat since some types of food can agitate my immune system. There are several ways to alleviate symptoms--they won’t go away entirely, but they will be lessened-- such as an intravenous medicine.
The doctors pushed for me to do the intravenous method because it had shown greater results than some of the others. However, after learning that the first 5-6 appointments could take at least 4 hours and up to 6 or 7, we decided to take a different route.
I ended up being prescribed a medicine called Imuran that I take once a day that helps with my Crohn’s disease and my rheumatoid arthritis. My parents aren’t fond of medicine so they also took me to a holistic doctor to get a second opinion. All because of one doctor’s appointment 2 years ago, I am still not eating gluten or dairy because it might agitate something. My life will never be the same.