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....

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