Ally versus enemy

Dear Crohn's disease. At 17, I didn’t know I was going to meet you. I never wanted you either. You presented yourself in a deceitful way. You hid yourself very well behind the blue bumps on my legs and my aching joints. I had to undergo a lot of exams, you stole some precious time from me. I hated you from the moment I was told about you. Mom told me not to worry, Dad told me I was going through a bad spell and the gastroenterologist prescribed medication for me. Dad was right, you calmed down for a while. You made me feel helpless about what my parents were going through; Nobody wants to give birth to a sick child. Over the months, your disasters in my large intestine paused and I felt like I was regaining control of my life.

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I continued to live, trying to avoid thinking of you, even if you were, sneakily and constantly, gaining ground. You were hurting my belly. You searched for weapons (arthritis, psoriasis and anemia) to stop me and pushed me to be operated on a first time. The surgeon explained to me that he only had to remove a little bit of my big intestine, considering a part of it was still healthy. Nice! At least you left with me that! The operation went well, and my family took great care of me (thanks again!).

You had been discreet for a moment and I wanted to be a mother. I forced two pregnancies on you, without warning you about them. You reacted to the first one, but you couldn’t compete with the team of specialists who made sure that everything went well for the baby and me. The center of my attention became my family and I loved it! Yet, time passed and, little by little, I started to smile less, do fewer activities and hide myself behind others to avoid suspecting your return. If I didn’t give you room, maybe you would need to leave. I continued my work at school, crying and vomiting secretly. I changed drugs many times and my immune system weakened. I ended up listening to the amazing people who were put on my path. Every day, I hoped to get better. I slowed down to rest.

In October 2017, I felt bad. Belly cramps, urgent needs to go to the toilet and well-established arthritis were not enough for you. Diagnosis: septic shock. The bacteria in my blood was now another of your weapons. You had control of my life completely. This long hospitalization made me realise how powerful you were. My system was chaos. We had to act quickly, so I was treated. I slowly regained strength, for one, and only one month.

Horror for the holiday season. The last part of my colon wasn’t in the mood for a celebration. I cried. The surgeon spoke to me, advised me. The best option was a permanent ileostomy. I wasn’t ready for this; can we ever be? I tried to isolate myself. I was imprisoned in a hospital room while happy families were making snowmen outside. I didn’t want to see anyone. I cried a lot. And I saw them come in: the three men with whom I lived my daily life. They had a sad and worried look, but it was a reassuring one. A look that empties us inside and reads us completely. I saw helplessness in their eyes, the same feeling I had when I was looking at my parents. Parents never give up and I have the best models in the world! I had to make a choice, THE choice. At this exact moment, I found, hidden far away in my body, my ally, my inner strength. My strength in all its entity. I didn’t have a lot of possibilities, I had to get my colon removed to get better and I was going to do so. Crohn’s, it was my job to make you compete with my ally. I chose that way.

When I woke up from my second surgery, I immediately felt the good caused by the removal of what you had damaged. Quickly, I was introduced to Rosie, my ostomy. Her arrival was going to change everything. I first was afraid to see Rosie rival with my lover. I wasn’t ready to leave her this control. Well, my lover loved Rosie as soon as he saw the benefits she brought me. We can bike together, I can get up in the morning without having a swollen joint and I can even go to concerts without having to swap my seat with the one of the toilets (be careful Alex Poulin, I'm coming!). I'm learning to live with this improved version of me and that's fine. Even if our partnership isn’t quite perfect (yes, she can be unpredictable!), I’m pretty lenient. After all, we haven’t known each other for a long time.

Considering everything, I won. Crohn’s, you can sleep for a long time. This ally, who was hidden far in my body, is here to stay. You’ll never again have control over me because I'm stronger now and it's thanks to you.

Joannie S.