So, I’ve decided to just dive right into how this happened. For over a year, I had been dealing with gut wrenching pain that would drive me to tears. Due to a combination of my ignorance about FMLA, my stubbornness about going to the doctor, and my company’s attendance policy, I did not go to the doctor about my problems. I would have bloody diarrhea for about a month and it would go away. I would lose a bit of weight, but never really thought much about it. I didn’t recognize the warning signs that something serious was going on.
Among the diarrhea, I had decreased appetite (because of the pain), my hair had started to thin and get dried out and brittle, weight fluctuated more than is normal, and I was pretty anemic. That started probably around February of 2013. It wasn’t until March of 2014 that I went through a pretty bad break up and was stressed at work and had been taking a few too many Advil and Aleve for back pain, that the stress finally pushed me so far I ended up in the ER.
I had been having the bloody diarrhea for just over two months. I could barely get through my days because I was hardly eating. I was losing a lot of weight, but when I started throwing up on an empty stomach, I realized something else was wrong. I was already on attendance probation because I had been sick earlier in the year, so I was afraid to leave work early to go to the doctor. By that time I’d already had some bad dizzy spells and then the vomiting. The head of my department was useless as all he said to me was, “You know what options you have available to you,” and went back to texting on his phone.
I really didn’t know what options I had available to me. I went back to my desk, afraid and disheartened. I didn’t know what to do. The supervisor sitting next to me had come back from a meeting, saw how bad I looked and suggested I apply for FMLA, especially since I looked bad enough for her to suggest the ER. I called the numbers she provided (she had an FMLA case open) and found out that I would qualify. I immediately left work and drove myself to the ER. Only to find out later, I shouldn’t have driven myself. They found I was severely dehydrated and there was clearly something going on with my gut that was not right.
I was kept over night, which turned into a week. My mother was terrified that first night, because of how clammy my skin was, how ashen my face looked and how little energy I had. After a few days of IV therapy and some hospital food I was forced to eat, the color started to return and my energy started to increase. I had a colonoscopy after a few days and they discovered many ulcers in my colon. Turns out, I had ulcerative colitis. The bad news was, it wasn’t going away, ever. The good news was, with medication, I could keep it under control. So, they got me started on a medication, got me to the point where I could go away and put me on steroids to help fight down the flare up I had.
Unfortunately, I had a reaction to the medication that caused me to feel like I was having a heart attack. After putting off the symptoms of UC until I was in the ER, I decided not to mess with this and went back to the ER. I wasn’t having a heart attack, but I was having an allergic reaction to a medication almost no one has an allergic reaction to. Yes, I am that kind of special butterfly.
So, after another week in the hospital (the cardiac section this time), they determine I’m okay, just need a different medication and send me home. After much discussion with my insurance company, they accept that I can’t take the meds I’m allergic to, and accept the new medication.
This post won’t go into details about what UC is or my day to day bits. This is simply this overview of how I got to surgery. So we’ll skip over most of 2014. I missed over half my scheduled shift for the year, due to flare ups, while we waited for the steroids and therapy meds to level out. By December, I had one last flare up and then it seemed everything was normal. Or as normal as I could be. Unfortunately, that last flare up caused me to end up on attendance probation at work, because I had used up all the FMLA time I had available. I missed one more day and ended up getting fired, losing my insurance.
I’m not sure why I didn’t apply for the Oregon Health Plan at that point, but I didn’t. I couldn’t afford the medication that was over $500 a month and went without therapy meds for just over 6 months without a flare up. We thought the stress of my previous job was what was causing the problems. Then another flare up hit me, hard. By then I had was on OHP so I tried to go the same route as before, therapy meds and steroids. Unfortunately, when I went in to see if the meds were doing any good, I was barely able to walk, due to severe dehydration and physical exhaustion. I wasn’t allowed to go to work that day, and my doctor told me I could either drive home (yes, he laughed when he said that) and try aggressive fluid therapy, or I could check myself in to the hospital (which was across the parking lot). I opted for the hospital.
I am going to cut this post off here. The next part of this story is a story all on its own. And you probably need to rest your eyes before continuing.