Sunday, November 27, 2011

How to Cure Anemia

It’s Sunday, November 27. I'll make sure to spend time on my next blog addressing more on the proper diet to heal the Crohn's and colitis ulcers, but this was an interesting topic that I spent time on today and wanted to share it with you all (whomever you are that reads thisJ).

I went to the movies on Friday night, November 25, to see the new Twilight movie with my long time friend Connie, who lives in the Brandon, Florida area. She had not seen any of the movies or read the books. I have read the second and third book after seeing the first movie. So I filled her in on all of the important parts J.

I had not seen Connie for years. She had only first learned about my illness after reading one of my posts on Facebook thanking those that I considered my Angels who had helped me so much during the time I was at my worst. So after the movie, much time was spent explaining everything that happened to me. I also explained that currently, my ulcers in my colon are not yet healed and I’m anemic, which means my body is not creating enough red blood cells yet. This is not uncommon for people with colitis or Crohn’s. Connie made a simple suggestion that I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of myself. She suggested that I might research how to increase the production of red blood cells.

Anemia is a condition in which your red blood cell count is so low that not enough oxygen is carried to all parts of your body leaving you feeling weak and tired. A lack of oxygen can also begin to deteriorate the parts of your body not getting the oxygen it needs. Oxygen is an essential component of life.

Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which is a protein that carries oxygen. The role of red blood cells is for the hemoglobin to absorb oxygen in your lungs and carry it to all the muscles, organs and tissues in your body. These cells die every 120 days and new cells are made to replace them.  My last blood test showed my hemoglobin at 10.9 gm/dl (grams per deciliter) which is exactly what it was five weeks earlier. So my body is producing red blood cells, but not at a fast enough rate to be considered healthy. Hemoglobin for a woman my age should be at 12 – 16 gm/dl.

Worst of all is that since I have active ulcers in my colon, it is essential for these ulcers to get enough oxygen to heal. If oxygen is not getting to the parts of the body that needs healing in adequate supply, it will slow down the healing or even make things worse.

Therefore, I began to research how I can increase the production of red blood cells online. My research showed that I need to increase my intake of iron, as well as the B and C vitamins.

Iron is an essential blood builder. It comes from green leafy vegetables and beets. I really dislike beets, so I intend to increase my intake of romaine and bok choy. Both of these vegetables are alkaline based, not acidic, which is what I need until my ulcers heal. However, both of these vegetables are tough to digest and as a whole food will aggravate my colon during digestion. Therefore, I’ll juice them which will ensure the best absorption of the iron I need, without aggravating my colon.

Vitamin C strengthens the immune system, helps to heal wounds and is used by the bones in the production of red blood cells. It is water soluble so it must be replenished often. Vitamin C mostly comes from fruits and vegetables, and since that is what I mostly eat, I don’t need to change my diet in this regard.

The B vitamins are necessary for the formation of red blood cells among other things. They also are water soluble and therefore they too need to be replenished regularly. Other than B-12, the B vitamins can be readily found in many alkaline based foods including red bell peppers, bok choy, carrots, squash, watermelon and many other foods which I eat on a regular basis throughout the week such as bananas, dates, grapes, mangos and sweet potatoes.

They are also included in cauliflower and avocados, which I have added to my diet but only on a very limited basis. Ultimately, to be certain that I get enough iron and B vitamins I’m going to make a vegetable juice about two hours before I go to sleep each night. I’ll include romaine, bok choy, carrots, squash and red peppers along with various random other vegetables to ensure I am getting all the nutrients I need in order for my diet to be optimum for creating red blood cells. For anyone with Crohn’s, this juice along with plenty of alkaline based fruits and vegetables throughout the day (found in a prior blog) will significantly help in curing the Anemia which often comes with the disease. Ultimately, I am to increase my hemoglobin by January 10 to a minimum of 12 gm/dl so that my snowboard season won’t be compromisedJ

The only problem with all of my research is that I cannot find foods that work within a whole foods plant based diet that gives me B-12 and I’m not certain how important B-12 is to the creation of red blood cells. Certainly it plays a part, but most sources of B-12 are animal based foods, and I cannot eat animal based foods if I want to stay symptom free of Crohn’s :(

I have an appointment Tuesday with my holistic gastroenterologist, Dr. Azar, and I will address this with her and will report back to you then….

Another suggestion I found to increase the production of red blood cells is to exercise at elevated altitudes. Oxygen is less abundant at higher altitudes, so the body’s natural response is to increase the number of red blood cells. Based upon the fact that Dr. Azar is not recommending exercise at the moment since we want the body's focus to be completely on healing my ulcers, I’m going to inquire about this on Tuesday as well. Stay tuned…

Friday, November 25, 2011


Today I’m getting my Epic Pass for the upcoming ski and snowboard season. I’m an avid snowboarder. I enjoy it so much I even instruct part time up at Beech Mountain in North Carolina. The Epic pass is a season pass for unlimited use of seven resorts around the Vail area in Colorado:  Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar and Arapahoe Basin. I usually spend most of my time at Vail, Beaver Creek and Keystone for the night skiing.

My holistic Gastroenterologist, Dr. Zarin Azar, will not likely recommend me snowboarding this soon. Among other concerns is that I’m anemic presently. My hemoglobin is 10.9 which is low. Ultimately, I’m not producing red blood cells yet, and when your muscles break down from strength exercises, they need red blood cells for your muscles to recover properly. Not to mention, that your solar plexus radiates nerve energy throughout your body which helps your body get what it needs to be healthy, and she wants 100% of my body’s healing power to be focused on my Crohn’s ulcers. She is not recommending exercise quite yet.

Although I haven’t had a blood test for a few weeks, I’m certain my hemoglobin hasn’t risen to where it needs to be yet due to the fact that I have other issues affecting my monthly cycle if you know what I mean. When that gets back to normal, I suspect I’ll be producing red blood cells again. My next blood test isn’t until January 10 and I expect to reduce my Sediment Rate to 20 or below and increase my Hemoglobin to 12 or above, which would be normal for both. This would be a great indicator that my ulcers are well on their way to healing. When that happens, exercise is more feasible.

In any regard, I’m still buying the Epic Pass and will begin working on scheduling a trip for the middle of January!

Also, last weekend I went up to Beech Mountain for the Instructor’s kick off meeting. All the ski and snowboard instructors for the season attend. We complete the employment paperwork and get our employee identification and jackets in preparation for this year’s season. I attended of course, but I only agreed to about 50% of the time that I instructed last year. Even without Crohn’s, I had already decided not to commit to as many weekends this season as last. Last year, although it was very fun, it simply was too much of a commitment based upon the time requirements of my real job. Also, I like to travel to different places to snowboard, so committing to instructing almost every weekend prevented me from doing so.

This year, I agreed to instruct about half of the weekends between December and March. This will give me the flexibility to travel to other snowboard locations, take a break, or just rest so that I don’t over stress my body and prevent my healing progress.

If you have been reading my blogs, you may have noticed that I am doing phenomena since my Crohn’s flare up just a short time ago this past September. I not only had severe inflammation, but it was my first ever medical diagnosis of the disease. I have stabilized the symptoms by diet, rest and managing stress. This allowed me to wean off of the medication within two months of the diagnosis, which is unheard of.

One of the reasons I believe that I’m doing so well is that I expect to heal. I am convinced that the body can heal itself when given the right circumstances better than any medicine can. Dr. Sigmon had a patient that has done so, and David Klein's book talks about others that have done so as well. So there is no reason why I can't do so. 

Medicine is meant to treat symptoms, it doesn’t cure. The body is what cures and heals itself if you treat it properly. Certainly, the diet I have adopted has a lot to do with why I am progressing so well. But another reason why I am progressing is due to my positive expectations. An expectation creates actions and circumstances that bring about a result consistent with the expectation every time.

The circumstances or situations that occur within our lives do so because we have thoughts consistent with the circumstances first. Let's look at an example, such as your body weight. Your weight today is a result of the behavior or actions of your recent past. Your behavior of the recent past is a reflection of your current beliefs, which are a result of your past thoughts. Ultimately, your past thoughts created the chain of events that resulted in your current weight.

However, if you decide today that you are going to lose weight, and you know that failure isn't an option, then you immediately begin to change your thoughts. The changes include how you have been thinking about your food intake and exercise, among other things. Your beliefs know that improvements in this regard will result in weight loss.

In this example, only after your behavior changes will the result begin to manifest physically. So if you start acting as if you're one hundred thirty pounds when you are actually one hundred sixty pounds, you will become one hundred thirty pounds eventually. But if you continue to behave as if you're one hundred sixty pounds, you will remain there.

I absolutely believe that every result or effect in my life has been as a result of my thoughts. So if I think it, believe it, and expect it, it will happen. Now there is a difference between hoping for something and knowing it will result. Using the weight loss example again, when you really decide that you will accomplish your weight-loss goal and you know that nothing will prevent you from achieving it, when you truly know and expect it as sure as the sun rising in the morning, then you attain it, don't you?

But if you say, "I'll try to lose weight" or "I'll give it a shot," then you likely will not lose weight of any significance, because the undertone and true belief is that it's difficult and won't likely happen. You must decide for certain, and then have the faith that your desired result is certain, or you will achieve what you know to be certain instead.

I saw Joel O’Steen once with my friend Mark Kopaz in Tampa, Florida. Joel used a great analogy as it relates to power of faith. He talked about the differences between behavior of a married couple that was trying to have a child and one that was expecting a child. The one expecting a child was already preparing the baby’s room; buying furniture; getting their child care figured out, etc.

But the one that was trying to have a child, that had yet to conceive, didn’t do these things. He talked about faith as having the desired expectation. Meaning that if the couple that wants a child because considering it as eminent, than that level of faith would be more apt to bring about their desired result.

My expectation is for the results of the blood test on January 10 to be that which confirms I’m well on my way to being healed, and therefore, snowboarding won't be harmful to my healing process. So I'm purchasing the Epic Pass and I don't consider it a financial risk at all.  I also am going to be scheduling the trip; purchasing the plane tickets and reserving the room. I am already acting as the results are guaranteed; just like the couple that is expecting a child.

I’ve decided that I will go on a very strict healing diet starting tomorrow through Christmas. My commitment to my blood test results has already influenced a different behavior than without it. I have been cheating a little and adding some foods that really are meant for post healing. But if I expect to be healed enough to snowboard this winter, I cannot cheat any more. 

Just think about this for a moment. If you had to consciously think about needing air when you breathe, or pumping the blood within you, or even what each organ has to do in order to function, you’d be dead within seconds of being born. But our subconscious coordinates all of our vital functions without ever needing a conscious thought from us. It knows that to do and does it. Our subconscious also knows how to direct our bodies to heal!

I’m convinced that once a belief is fully formed consciously, it is then stored in the subconscious mind and the subconscious doesn't make decisions about true or false, or if something is right or wrong. The subconscious takes the conclusions of the conscious mind as fact. I intend to use the power of my subconscious mind to assist in my healing. 

By the way, I believe it is within subconscious mind that we are connected to God, and having faith is how I go from wanting to heal, to knowing I am going to heal. If you’d prefer to consider all of what I’ve been saying as a form of prayer, that works tooJ

Ultimately, I get the feedback from my doctor on the blood results usually within about 3 business days, so somewhere around January 13, I’ll make sure to blog the results!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Healing Diet

Many years ago, I used to get migraine headaches almost weekly.  The medication that was prescribed worked most of the time if I took it before the migraine was in full force. I would get an aversion to light and begin to lose my peripheral vision prior to the onset of the head pain. As soon as that occurred, if I took the medication, I would be able to prevent the head pain from fully materializing. But if I didn’t have the medication before the head pain began, then I’d have a migraine for about three days.

I decided in 2005  that I didn’t want to deal with this any longer and I started to log into a journal everything I ate as well as everything I did so that I could identify what, if anything, was triggering these migraines. Once I could identify what was triggering the migraines, I could then eliminate whatever it was from my life in order to prevent them forever. It took only about two months to determine that there was something in my protein drink that I took every morning that was triggering my migraines. There were too many ingredients in the protein drink to identify what it was within the drink that was the cause, so I just eliminated the drink entirely from my diet. I had thought it was the bananas that I also included in the drink that was the trigger, but later found out that was not the case.

In six years I’ve only had one migraine. I unfortunately don’t know what triggered it, but I must have consumed one of the ingredients that used to be in my protein drink that day. Nevertheless, I basically cured my migraines through diet.

With Crohn’s, I’ve learned that the medication prescribed to me and to others suffering from most anything, simply reduce the symptoms; it doesn’t cure what is causing the symptoms. Meaning the ulcers are still active most of the time. And if by chance they do heal, which is unlikely on the standard American diet, the scar tissue makes the area highly vulnerable to ulcers reoccurring.

What I wanted to do was to find what was causing the ulcers so that I could eliminate the cause, just like I did with my migraines. According to Dr. Sigmon, one of his patients did the same with Crohn’s, so I should be able to do so as well.

Therefore, I began searching on the Internet diets for people with Crohn’s. Although I found many ideas about what aggravated Crohn’s, nothing I found talked about the cause of Crohn’s and what needed to be eliminated to CURE Crohn’s with one exception. Self Healing Crohn’s and Colitis by David Klein was the only source I could find on the Internet that talked about healing Crohn’s. Every other source I found on the Internet, including all medical sources, refers to Crohn’s as a chronic issue that could not be healed, and remission was the best case scenario.

I downloaded the book immediately and read it in four days between my naps;) From a big picture perspective it claimed that with diet you could not only heal the ulcers but prevent reoccurrence forever. Since this book was the only source that suggested anything of the sort, I decided to follow the advice given in the book immediately. I still was feeling quite miserable, and a restrictive diet would be better than feeling so fatigued with an upset gut all of the time.

The diet had a few objectives in order to heal the ulcers so I could become healthy again:

  • Eat easily digested foods so that the body doesn’t have to work very hard to digest what is ingested.
  • Eat raw foods so that the maximum amounts of nutrients from the food could be digested.
  • Eat plant based whole foods only.
  • Eat only alkaline based foods.
  • Do not eat foods high in fat.

When I went to Europe in June, on the flight to England I began reading a book called The China Study. My friend Phillip Smith suggested it a few months prior, and then a friend and business associate that merchandises my model homes, Kay Green, also mentioned that I would likely be interested in the book.

I had already been living a Vegetarian lifestyle. I technically was a Lacto Vegetarian, which means that the only animal foods I consumed included milk. The China Study was touted for being the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease. Particularly, it details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Even colon cancer.

At the time I began reading The China Study, I had no idea that I had Crohn’s. Candidly, the book was a tough read, but it convinced me that cow’s milk and any other animal milk was not good for us. It praised the benefits of a plant based whole foods diet. So ironically, just days before beginning to experience Crohn’s symptoms, I began reading a book that praised almost the exact diet that now David Klein was suggesting for healing Crohn’s. Ironic???

David’s book suggests a different diet for the healing phase than after healing. Meaning, as long as there are active ulcers, the diet was more restrictive than after the ulcers are healed. The diet for the healing phase meets the rules above, but the post healing diet is introduced many more foods. The healing diet is actually a cleansing diet. The book also has a juice diet noted for extreme cleansing.

Once the healing is complete then the diet is very much like that Dr. T. Colin Campbell, the author of The China Study suggests, but it includes more uncooked foods, which makes sense and we’ll go into that in more detail later. I don’t think it’s coincidental that within two months of beginning to read The China Study, I was faced with the decision to find a diet that heals Crohn’s or take costly, dangerous medication the rest of my life.

Let’s go back in time for a moment... When my fatigue grew and I was having diarrhea all the time, I began a juice diet immediately. I had learned to do this in the past to help cleanse away any illnesses. During this time, I drank orange, apple, grape, and cranberry juice. I stopped eating solid foods so I could cleanse and also because having a bowel movement hurt my hemorrhoid too much. I thought if I just drank my nutrients, it would reduce my bowel movements and therefore reduce my pain. Ultimately, this action began my cleansing process as described in David Klein’s book, before I even read his book. But this extreme detoxification made me feel even worse at the time.

In any regard, because of my Vegetarian diet, and the cleansing I had already begun, I suspect the medication that I received the day of my colonoscopy was more effective than it may have been if I had a lot of toxemia within my body. I was fortunate to have a jump start on cleansing my body as well as a jump start in my knowledge of diet and disease from The China Study. I was unknowingly preparing in advance for what I was about to endure. I was a Vegetarian that was considering a whole foods plant based diet and was already cleansing. I don’t believe all of this was a coincidence, but instead, I believe I was meant to heal my Crohn’s.

Now let’s discuss what types of foods comply with the objectives above. Plant based whole foods means no processed foods. The food had to be whole and plant based. This means grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables only. But the food also must be easy to digest, and grains, nuts and seeds are not easy to digest, not to mention that most are high in fat. So that basically means I could eat fruits and vegetables only.

Most vegetables are not so easy to digest due to their roughage. Therefore, they needed to be steamed or juiced. Juicing vegetables are better because enzymes aren’t altered. Food cooked at over 118° F quickly break down, just like our bodies would if we had a fever that high. The cooked food loses its enzyme effectiveness and the enzymes are what help in digestion. One of the objectives noted was that food needed to be easily digested, and therefore, they should have their enzyme composition intact. So lightly steaming vegetables would make them more digestible without losing all of the benefits of the vegetables. But juicing vegetables would be even better.

Most fruits are already partially digested and they are wonderful for the healing diet. Bananas and melons in particular. But many fruits are not alkaline based. They are acidic and acidic foods will not help cure the ulcers.

David Klein’s book lists all of the fruits and vegetables that I could eat that would meet the objectives in order to heal my Crohn’s ulcers and I began following it exactly. Within days I began feeling better. It was amazing actually. Although it was very restrictive, the way I began to feel was well worth it. I felt more healthy in the first week, than I had for months. I mostly ate the following for breakfast and lunch, and I ate as much as I wanted:

  • Bananas
  • All melons
  • Pears
  • Raisins (soaked)
  • Dates (soaked)
  • Apples (peeled)
  • Grapes

The following were my predominant dinner items. The leafy items were juiced only due to their roughage. Otherwise, I would juice them or steam them:

  • Romaine
  • Bok Choy
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Squash
  • Celery
  • Sweet peppers
  • Cucumbers

On this diet I felt great and was able to wean off of the medication within 2 months. I’ll explain this further in the next blog….

You must get Self Healing Crohn’s and Colitis if you are a sufferer of either disease. I would suggest that you do not read the entire book at first, but go immediately to The Healing Diet on page 155 and begin following it immediately. Then read the entire book. Just don’t delay even a day starting the diet. Just give it a try for a month and see how you feel. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Treatment Options

I had one day to prepare for the discussion with Dr. Sigmon. My Mother and I talked quite a bit on this evening, and I prepared a list of questions that I saved on my iPhone to ensure that I didn’t forget any. At this point, I had not spent much time with Dr. Sigmon because I was primarily dealing with Tanya. I not only wanted to make sure to get the answers to all of my questions, but I also wanted to determine if he was going to be the doctor I would trust and remain with for the next several years of my life.

As I began researching Crohn’s disease, it was evident that this was not something going away in the near future. Most everything I researched calls Crohn’s an auto immune disease with no cure. It’s a very nasty disease and it increases the risk of colon cancer as well. But the symptoms are debilitating so sum, and miserable for most. All of the symptoms I had had for the past few months are what people with Crohn’s live with forever. There are bouts of remission which is managed with medication.

Ultimately, Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The disease consists of ulcers in your intestines or bowel. The ulcers involve all layers of the intestine. In my case, I only had Crohn’s colitis, which limits the disease to the colon.  

Some of the complications of Crohn’s includes obstructions, fistulas, abscesses, perforations and hemorrhage.  The ulcers create cavities and swelling. The swelling and scarring that occurs can obstruct the intestine and inhibit proper digestion. This creates cramping, and sometimes vomiting due to food that is not able to pass through.

Fistulas can sometimes be caused by Crohn ulcers that go too deep and actual penetrate the intestinal wall. These can become infected and create abscesses. Worse yet these ulcers can tunnel through the layers of the intestine into the abdomen. Imagine all your simidigested food leaking out of your intestines into other organs. Yuck.

More common chronic issues that many Crohn’s sufferers experience are Anemia and malnutrition.  Active ulcers in our GI tract prevent proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Our nutrients enter our blood stream by being absorbed in our intestines. When our intestines are diseased, this doesn’t occur properly and we do not absorb nutrients properly, and therefore we will lack the iron and folic acid which is needed to produce red blood cells. Add the lack of red blood cells to blood loss due to the ulcers bleeding, and the result is Anemia.

For similar reasons, malnutrition is common among Crohn’s sufferers. Most people don’t have good diets to begin with and inflamed and ulcer ridden intestines do a poor job of assimilating nutrients. When you add the two together, it often results in malnutrition and weight loss.  Worse yet, one of the most common treatments of Crohn’s as well as other inflammatory bowel diseases is the use of steroids. Steroids cause tissue breakdown which makes the GI tract even more vulnerable in the long run. This just adds to the problem. But we’ll talk more about that later.

So this was what I researched that night I found out that I had Crohn’s. Below are all the questions I had for Dr. Sigmon:

  1. Does my diagnosis mean that my Crohn’s is only limited to my colon, and not the rest of my GI tract?
  2. Are you sure I have Crohn’s and not Ulcerative Colitis?
  3. What is the plan if I want to get off of these drugs?
  4. Will I ever feel normal again?
  5. Are there any treatments being tested that you can recommend for me to participate in?
  6. One of these drugs I’m taking is a steroid. When can I stop taking it?
  7. Can I stop taking the Flagyl and other drug that is for my upset stomach?
  8. How long until you retire?
  9. Can I live a full life with this disease?
  10. Has anyone been cured from this disease?

1.    With Crohn’s colitis, my disease is only limited to my colon. This is good news simply because it leaves the rest of my GI tract healthy which will help in digesting and assimilating nutrients. There are five types of Crohn’s disease: colitis, Ileocolitis, Ileitis, gastroduodenal and Jejunoileitis.

Ileocolitis is the most common and this affects the ileum (the canal between the small and large intestine) and the large intestine (the colon). Ileitis only affects the ileum. Gastroduodenal affects the stomach and duodenum (the part of the small intestine adjacent to the stomach). And Jejunoileitis affects the upper half of the small intestine.

2.    Dr. Sigmon was certain that I had Crohn’s and not some other form of colitis. Crohn’s is the worst of all forms of colitis so I was hopeful that there might be a slight possibility that it could have been misdiagnosed. He showed me the pictures of my ulcers and compared them to other forms, and even I could see that there was no mistake in the diagnosis. My case was severe and even a lay person could see the issue.

3.    When I asked about a plan to get off the drugs, Dr. Sigmon was at a loss for words. Ultimately, there is no plan. The treatment for Crohn’s is drugs or surgery. There are different types of drugs; some with more side effects than others, but drugs or surgery were my options. He started by giving me the gentlest treatment which was a corticosteroid called budesonide and an anti-inflammatory called mesalamine.  But the options for other treatments came with more side effects, and surgery was a last resort.

4.    When I asked if I’d ever feel normal again, he said, “That is the goal.” But realistically, most never do.

5.    All of the experimental treatments that were in the works came with more side effects and were only being recommended for people who weren’t getting relief from the more mild medications that I was on. It amazed me that the mildest treatment involved a steroid. This is one nasty disease.

6.    The only good news I seemed to hear up to this point is that the steroid only needs to be taken to control flare ups, which is how they describe all of those nasty symptoms I was having. Once the flare up was controlled, I could be weaned off of them and only take the anti-inflammatory. He didn’t want to commit to a time in which I could stop taking the steroid, but said we could consider reducing the dose depending upon how I felt and progress at the next visit, but he wanted me taking it for at least 30 days or until the next visit.

7.    The other two drugs I was taking I would be able to stop taking soon. The one for my upset stomach I could use only when I felt I needed it, and the Flagyl, which was the antibiotic, he wanted me to continue using until I completed the prescription, which was only a couple days longer. Yay:)

8.    Since everything I read about Crohn’s indicated that it was a chronic condition, I was going to need a long term partner as a doctor, and Dr. Sigmon is an elderly man that appeared close to retirement. So I had to ask how long he planned on continuing his practice. Many of my questions, not only were asked for the sake of wanting the answer, but I also needed to assess if Dr. Sigmon was the right doctor for me. He plans on working for another ten years! So I felt good about that.

9.    The Crohn’s symptoms take a toll on the body and put the individual at risk for colon cancer. When the body is living with chronic issues, the immune system and nervous system have to work hard on one issue, leaving little left to work on other issues in the body. So it is likely that life is shortened whenever there is a chronic disease.

10. When I asked if anyone has been cured of Crohn’s, Dr. Sigmon referenced one of his patients. She has had her Crohn’s in remission for years and her follow up colonoscopies show no active ulcers. Now Dr. Sigmon has been in the GI field for a very long time. He is 60 years old and the majority of his time as a doctor has been as a Gastroenterologist, and he could recall only one person that appears to have cured the ulcers. He indicated that she had done so through diet.

I spent over an hour talking with Dr. Sigmon that day. He is a wonderful caring man. We were there until the place closed, and never once did he make me feel like I was taking too much of his time. When I first arrived and he realized I had so many questions, he suggested that he send me off to get my lab work done, while he gathered some information for me.

He gave me quite a bit of information about experimental drugs, as well as other available treatments that he was not recommending at this time because the treatments were harsher and came with more side effects. But the information he was providing was meant more as educational than a suggestion for me at that time. He also gave me the latest issue of Crohn’s Advocate magazine. I was surprised to see that Dr. Sigmon himself was the “Go To” doctor in the magazine.

I was pleased with everything I experienced with Dr. Sigmon and knew at that moment that I would keep him as my Gastroenterologist and partner. I was disappointed, however, that the disease is considered pharmaceutically incurable, and that only one of his patients cured her ulcers:( But she was the one I was going to focus upon. If one person can cure the ulcers through diet, than I was certain I could too. So that was what I left with, and for those of you that know me, I’m pretty persistent and determined. That soon became my mission…

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Diagnosis

My hemorrhoid was feeling a little better when the compounded ointment began to work on curing my fissure. But the hemorrhoid still wasn't 100% and the stool softener was giving me diarrhea. Worst of all, however, is the fatigue that I was experiencing was still an issue and a significant one. But the hemorrhoid did improve a little since my last doctor's visit, so I continued going to sleep at 8:00 p.m. so that I can get up early enough to go to work the next day. I've never in my life needed 10 hours sleep! This seemed insane.

As each day passed, the fatigue began to grow. I decided to stop taking the stool softener because the diarrhea was creating difficulties in the middle of the night and at work. But several days after stopping the stool softener, I was still having diarrhea. The fatigue was getting worse and worse. I began having to leave work early because I was so tired. By mid-August, I couldn't work an entire day due to my lack of energy and the amount of rest I needed; the diarrhea was usually occurring every couple hours; and the hemorrhoid, although not the worse, certainly wasn't healed and began bleeding intermittently again;  I was wearing clothes that were too big for me because any pressure on my gut was uncomfortable as I felt like I had an upset stomach all the time and it would make me have to go diarrhea again.

On August 24, I remember going into work for a morning meeting and by 11:00 a.m. I was already needing to go home to nap so that I could be prepared for a meeting in the afternoon. This day seemed to be a turning point for the worse. Remember that my first doctor's appointment for a bleeding hemorrhoid was less than two months earlier on July 5. In less than two months I went from what appeared to only be a hemorrhoid problem to multiple symptoms that just kept getting worse.

My boss, Mike, began getting really concerned about me. My friends began offering to help me because they could see that I was getting worse and worse. Kayla later referred to me as looking like a zombie with no color or energy. By this time I had already changed my diet to only fruit juices, and my gut couldn't seem to even handle that. All I did was sleep and go to the bathroom. Walking my dog, Rusty, became too exhausting for me as well. I couldn't even get the energy to go to the store for myself.

My diarrhea began to smell and become very mucousy, if there is such a word. haha. Ultimately, by the weekend of August 27, I knew that I needed to return to the doctor's and expedite the colonoscopy, upper endoscopy, and any other test that could figure out what the hell was causing all of this. I had hired my dog sitter and friend, Stephanie, to begin taking care of Rusty full time, and to run errands for me. My friend, Kayla, went grocery shopping for me. And all I did was sleep, drink juices, and go to the bathroom. I knew something was seriously wrong.

By the end of the weekend, I was carrying a temperature between 100 and 102 F all of the time. I began taking acetaminophen and ibuprofen on a rotating basis to control the fever. On the Monday morning of August 29, I called to set an appointment. Dr. Sigmon wasn't available, but Tanya Williams was able to see me. Tanya had already been discussing my symptoms with Dr. Sigmon and he had already come to the conclusion that we should expedite tests. I took the day off of work and we began many tests. I had lost 11 lbs since my last visit just one week prior and was now 142 lbs.. It was clear I was spiraling downward and we needed to figure out what was going on quickly. We tested my stool, urine, blood, and even had a sonogram of all of my organs. Dr. Sigmon had a sense of urgency that was in alignment with mine at this point, so I was very appreciative of all the tests.

A colonoscopy and upper endoscopy was scheduled for the following Tuesday, September 6. I was feeling so bad now that I took the week off of work. I felt like walking death. Tanya prescribed an antibiotic, due to an infection observed in my stool. The drug was Metronidazole, or more commonly known as Flagyl. This didn't seem to help at all. Tanya didn't want to speculate what Dr. Sigmon suspected was going on, but I looked up the drug and found that it was commonly prescribed for infections that occur in the colon.

So far during all of this process, I had not shared much of how I felt to anyone. My son knew very little, and my mom, dad, sister and brother, didn't know a thing. I decided it was time to call my mother and son and tell them what was going on. I had speculated that I had either a bacterial infection in the colon, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn's disease. I also speculated that it might be as bad as colon cancer, but I didn't express this to either my mother or son.

I began talking to my mom nightly as she would check in on me to make sure I wasn't getting any worse. She also began doing research online to try to figure out what it was that was causing all of these symptoms. She volunteered to come down, but my procedures were scheduled for only a few days away, and until I knew the diagnosis, it didn't seem to make sense to drive all the way down. So I slept almost all day, every day until September 6.

Stephanie and Richard picked me up at my condo, and took me to the hospital. I had little energy, I  could hardly walk a block.  Due to my lack of energy, when I arrived at the hospital, I was taken to the area where they checked me in for the procedures by wheel chair. I remember never ever feeling so weak. One of the nurses, Lola,  was wonderful. She was very sweet and comforting. She was just one of many angels that were there for me on this day.

Dr. Sigmon was so funny. I remember that because of him, I laughed for the first time in weeks. Of course they drugged me and even though at the time, I thought I had full faculties, apparently I didn't. I kept asking questions, and Dr. Sigmon kept saying, I'll answer that for you, but you won't remember the answer...

I kept asking questions, and I remember that he kept answering them, but he also kept saying that I wouldn't remember the answer.

He was right! I only remembered a couple of things. First is that Dr. Sigmon decided not to complete the upper endoscopy. He was quite certain that he found what was causing my issues in my colon, and didn't feel the second procedure was necessary. Secondly, I remember that I kept asking questions, and Dr. Sigmon kept answering them, but he also kept telling me that I wouldn't remember the answers. Lol.

Dr. Sigmon did speak with Stephanie and Richard. He explained to them that he took many biopsies from within my colon and the results would take seven to ten days. He prescribed two medications that he believed would begin to help my symptoms immediately, and that if they didn't help by the time he had the results from the biopsies, he would have something stronger for me at that time.

The two medications were budesonide and mesalamine. Budesonide is a corticosteroid, and mesalamine is an anti-inflammatory. I researched both of these drugs and the budesonide was commonly prescribed for Crohn's disease, and the mesalamine was commonly prescribed for ulcerative colitis. I began researching both diseases. Neither one of them seemed to be good news, but it was better than colon cancer which gave me a little relief.

I began taking both medications immediately. By Friday morning, just a few days later, I felt well enough to attend a managers meeting at work. I didn't work the whole day, but I had felt better than I had felt for weeks. The following Monday, September 12, I felt well enough to go to work. I still had diarrhea, my stomach felt bloated all the time, it was still gurgling regularly, and my hemorrhoid problem, but the fever was gone, and the fatigue had improved. I received a call from Dr. Sigmon's office advising me that I had Crohn's colitis. We scheduled a time so that I could discuss this with Dr. Sigmon for the following day.

My life was about to change dramatically for the rest of my life....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Two Months Preceding the Diagnosis

On July 5, the P.A. (Professional Assistant) at my primary care physician confirmed I had a hemorrhoid and prescribed ointment. The ointment gave me quite a bit of relief. The massive blood in the bowl disappeared with this treatment, and I believed I was on my way to finally healing this pain in my behind;-)

As a safety precaution, I scheduled my annual physical with my primary care physician. This occurred later that month. And as always, everything comes back great. No issues what so ever except the typical, which was that my vitamin D was low. I simply needed to make sure to get out in the sun for about 15 minutes a day. This really shouldn't be that difficult because I walk my dog, Rusty, three times daily, and one of them is when the sun is shining. So rest assured, I'm healthy as always was my thought.

But....early August, the hemorrhoid returns as painful as before, and the bleeding is back. I decided to make an appointment with a Gastroenterologist, which is what the P.A. at my primary care physician recommended if the hemorrhoid continued to give me problems. So I called multiple locations looking for anyone that could give me an appointment within a reasonable period of time. The only place that could accommodate me within the same week, was the Pineville Medical Center in South Charlotte, but only the P.A. was available to see me that soon. Based upon the amount of pain the hemorrhoid was giving me at that point, I took the appointment.

I arrived for the appointment, and Tanya Williams, the P.A., again, confirmed I had a hemorrhoid and prescribed something a bit stronger than what I had prior received. She also suggested an over the counter stool softener to ensure that I kept my stool soft which would aid in the healing of the inflamed hemorrhoid. All of this instantly gave relief, both with the swelling and with pain. Ana Mantle, the ointment she prescribed, seemed to be my cure! Or so I thought.

But then again, after about two weeks of relief, I ran out of medication. I began again to use over the counter remedies, but not only did the pain return, it returned with a vengeance. Now it seemed that every time I had a movement, what I was eliminating was scraping or tearing my anal canal. I know this sounds gross, but I cannot describe it any other way. It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced other than child birth. I almost passed out at times. It was too painful to even clean myself properly so I'd end up in the shower for 10 to 15 minutes afterwards so that the warm water could cleanse the area, and once it was clean, the feeling of the tear would subside. I actually started drinking my meals because I thought if I didn't eat any solid foods, I wouldn't have a bowel movement and the fewer movements I could have the less pain I would have.

This level of pain every time I had to go to the bathroom made it very difficult to work, so I started having to leave work mid day so that I could have a bowel movement in the comfort of my own home. How sad:(

I also got extremely fatigued each day. I had assumed it was associated with my body trying to heal this stupid hemorrhoid. Little did I know it was something much bigger.

Of course, I returned to Tanya for all of this. She confirmed that I had developed a fissure. A fissure is a small tear in the anal canal. Although it was a small tear, it created an unbearable pain! She prescribed a compounded ointment to cure the fissure, as well and another ointment to help with the hemorrhoid. She discussed the need in the future for a colonoscopy in order to assess what was causing all of these issues. She suggested that we cure the fissure, then schedule the colonoscopy. All of this sounded fine to me because I was now dealing with this chronic hemorrhoid for a few months, and the amount of blood loss as well as the fatigue was very tiring and was affecting my work. I'm normally the healthy one, yet I found myself going to sleep at 8:00 p.m. so I would have enough energy to go to work on time the next day. That was not typical of me at all. I simply needed everything to be cured so I could go back to a normal life.

Immediately upon beginning to use the compounded ointment for the fissure and alternating it with the hemorrhoid ointment, I got some relief. At least I didn't pass out any longer while having a bowel movement, but I still had to use the shower to get enough immediate soothing of the pain and I still had a significant amount of fatigue.

However, very quickly, things went from bad to worse...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Europe in June

Every year I try to visit some international destination that I haven't visited before. This year in June I visited London and Paris. My son, Jim, and I spend six days in London and four in Paris. We had a wonderful time. We visited most of the common tourist attractions in both locations. London is very much like a typical U.S. city. I could live there in a heartbeat. Paris, is quite different, but sooooo beautiful. Four days is not nearly enough time there.

We started in London, and stayed at a hotel by the Lancaster Gate Tube Station. The Tube is the subway we road to travel around London. The Lancaster Gate Station is on the Central Line, zone 1. Which basically means we were close to everything! We stayed at the Lancaster Gate Hotel. Most restaurants in London are very much like that in the U.S. They lack healthy foods. There were many pubs and you could find fish and chips (their version of our French fries) anywhere. But I was a lacto vegetarian, which means that I didn't eat meat of any sort. The only animal products I ate were milk products. So there weren't many choices for good food in London, similar to here in the U.S. 

We were fortunate to fine a little place by our hotel called The Swan. It's a pub atmosphere, but they had an awesome vegetarian lasagna smothered with cheese. It was a delicious meal, and Jim loved their fish and chips, as well as their chicken and chips. So we found ourselves eating there quite often. But for some reason after eating, I always felt bloated. Unlike after meals when I was in the U.S. I really didn't think much of it, but this bloating feeling also made me a little lethargic, as I seemed to noticeably need more rest while I was there. 

I chalked it up to the amount of alcohol I was consuming and the poor diet most meals I was eating in London. I certainly ate way too much fried food. For example, the fish and chips my son would order, came loaded with chips and they were delicious. I probably ate more of them than my son did each meal. And the beer here was awesome. Many different brands that I've never had before, and I really liked the wheat beer. I think Carlsbad was my favorite.

I also had been dealing with a hemorrhoid this entire trip. It wasn't anything significant. The typical over the counter products seemed to manage it's symptoms. I had been having difficulty with hemorrhoids all year, but over the counter products always seemed to get it under control.

In any regard, the poor diet, too much alcohol, and the hemorrhoid were all reasons to justify why I needed more rest than normal.

Next we went to Paris. What a beautiful city. Many warned us that the French people were not so nice to Americans. We didn't experience that at all. The men in Paris are much more forward than in London, or the U.S. I certainly had my share of propositions by young handsome French men. It was an ego boost for sure, since nothing of the sort happens regularly in the U.S. My son was getting tired of people asking if we were a couple:) But I enjoyed it of course!

My son was 20 years old when we were in Paris, and today he turns 21!! He lives in Florida which is where he was born and raised. I only moved to Charlotte, which is where I now live, after he graduated high school. In any regard, when we were in Paris, we had our fair share of French wine. Way too much indeed. One day Jim and I shared four bottles of wine.  A couple of days later, I don't know how much wine we drank, but we ended up at this great little restaurant close to our hotel near the Opera House and met a group of men from the U.S. who were there on business. We chatted and drank with them until past midnight. The next day was definitely a hang over day for both of us. 

I must admit, however, that the food in Paris was much healthier. You could observe the lack of obesity in Paris simply by walking the streets. At a size 8, I felt like I was one of the heaviest people there. I mentioned to Jim that they were inspiring me to lose weight. Little did I know at that time, that losing weight would be the least of my concerns.

In any regard, I assumed that my poor eating in London, and excessive red wine in Paris had something to do with my hemorrhoid problem which got significantly worse by this time. It not only began to bleed, but would fill the bowl with blood during a bowel movement. And the pain associated with the hemorrhoid got worse as well, predominantly during a bowel movement. I decided when I returned, I would go get it checked out by a doctor because this level of blood could be a bigger issue. I was concerned about anemia.

Ultimately, our trip to London and Paris was wonderful. I met so many awesome people, like Ellie, and was able to visit with my good friend Bhavesh who works in London that I have known for several years. But as our trip came to an end with our hangovers from the wine from the night before, we returned to the U.S. Let's now travel eight hours on a plane with a bleeding hemorrhoid. How fun was that? Not to mention that the fattest man on the plane sat next to me. His fat encroached into my chair about 4 inches:( He had to get a seat belt extender because he was too fat to fit in the seat belt. 

I attempted to get my seat changed but Continental wouldn't allow it because the only seats available were at the exit row which was considered an upgrade. I felt that if I paid for a full seat, I should have gotten one. In any regard, I'll choose not to fly Continental whenever I have a choice in the future.

So we returned home on June 20. I tried to manage the symptoms of my hemorrhoid on my own, but this time it didn't work. The following weekend, the pain got worse and the fatigue from fighting this pain in my behind (literally) grew even stronger. I felt so bad that I missed a friends wedding that was on July 4:( Her wedding was in the mountains, and it was going to take me about five hours to drive there. I just couldn't imagine sitting on my ass for five hours. Arrrggghhh:(

On July 5, I set an appointment with urgent care at my primary care physician's and met with a P.A. (professional assistant), Emily, about my hemorrhoid. Unknown to me at the time, this was the first of many appointments. Emily promptly prescribed some powerful ointment for hemorrhoid and sent me on my way.

The treatment seemed to work as each day the hemorrhoid improved. The pain lessened and the bleeding subsided. Yay. I'm healed!! Or so I thought....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day 4 Without Meds

It's November 3, 2011 and this is the fourth day that I have not taken any medication. I'm not sure where to begin, except I know that when I was diagnosed with Crohn's less than two months ago I was told I'd likely be on medicine to control the Crohn's symptoms for the rest of my life. Almost everything I've read about this disease is horrible. I quickly had to come to terms that I had ulcers in my large intestine that even if they heal temporarily, they will likely return; that medication would become a daily routine just to control the symptoms that when not controlled create more pain and discomfort than child birth; and that Crohn's will make the rest of my life miserable and take years off of my life. This seemed to be common knowledge among all the experts and "facts" about the disease that I am now being asked to accept.

Ironically, my first reaction when I heard the diagnosis on September 12 was that this is good news. Thank God it's not cancer. On September 13 I met with my Gastroenterologist, Dr. Sigmon, who preformed the colonoscopy. He indicated that my inflammation was severe. It was one week ago when I had the colonoscopy and Dr. Sigmon suspected the diagnosis at that time. He prescribed Budesonide (Entocort) a corticosteroid and Mesalamine (Asacol) an anti-inflammatory. These two prescriptions cost me $150 each and that is after my insurance took care of about 80% of the cost. Wow! Now I was on a total of four different meds. These two new ones and two that had prior been prescribed. One was to assist with my upset gut and the other was an antibiotic because of a prior stool sample showing signs of an infection.

On September 13, Dr. Sigmon had my blood tested and I received a call from the P.A. Tanya Williams to review the results. My Sediment Rate was 67. A Sediment Rate is the rate in which red blood cells settle a the bottom of the test tube. The higher the rate, the greater the amount of inflammation in the body.  My Sediment Rate of 67 is considered very high, therefore indicating a significant amount of inflammation presumably due to my severe flare up of Crohn's. A normal rate is under 20 for women.  I had only been on all of the meds for one week, so it is understandable that the intestinal inflammation was significant. My Hemoglobin was 10.9, which is low. Basically this means I'm slightly anemic due to my body not producing red blood cells. This is pretty common at this stage of Crohn's.

Before I met with Dr. Sigmon this day, I researched all of the meds that I had been prescribed and pretty much knew that the diagnosis was either ulcerative colitis or Crohn's. When I arrived to discuss this horrible disease with Dr. Sigmon, I came prepared with many many questions. The most important question I had was regarding how I can live a normal life without all this medication. I respect and am very thankful for Dr. Sigmon, but living with Crohn's and without medication is not his expertise. Medical Doctors treat illnesses and diseases with medication and there is no pharmaceutical cure for Crohn's, so although he seemed to want to support me, I wasn't hearing the answers I wanted to hear.

So how is it that less than two months later I am living without medication and symptom free? How is it that my Sediment Rate has been reduced to 36 at my first followup visit after my diagnosis?

I will answer this and more, as well as discuss the changes in my life since symptoms first began in early 2011.

My primary purpose for beginning this blog is to help others who have Crohn's or ulcerative colitis understand that they don't have to be in pain and live with symptoms or meds for the rest of your their lives. There are alternatives.... it's your life! It's your choice! Do you want to live with or without Crohn's?