Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ups + Downs + Answers + Questions

Living with chronic illness is a constant battle. Sometimes you feel like a warrior and sometimes you feel completely defeated; but either way, it's always uphill. There are moments of celebration when you have a pain free day or a test result that makes you smile, and there are moments of complete desolation.

Today I finally got back my test results from my colonoscopy and endoscopy  biopsy. They were clear! Which means the inside of my bowels, colon and stomach look healthy and are free of polyps and ulcers, etc. Which is great! The weird part of that is, the pain that seems to be gastrointestinal-related, is still present. Every day. I was given the diagnosis of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome); which many people blow off and act like it's no big deal.  The good thing about the diagnosis of IBS is that you know it isn't causing any structural or permanent damage to your organs, but unfortunately it can cause a lot of pain. IBS was explained to me like this, "The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm as they move food from your stomach through your intestinal tract. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, the contractions may be stronger and last longer than normal, causing gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Or the opposite may occur, with weak intestinal contractions slowing food passage and leading to hard, dry stools." 

Yeah, so IBS isn't exactly a walk in the park but I'm glad I at least have one answer and have ruled some more serious issues out. Although, the end is not yet near. Because the diagnosis of IBS does not cover all of my symptoms, more action is required. I also have Endometriosis (a disease mainly affecting to reproductive organs) and it has not been checked up on in about three years. Endometriosis can not be diagnosed or detected through an ultrasound but only through laparoscopic surgery. I was diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 17 but had been experiencing symptoms since the age of 12. Endometriosis, most people assume, can only affect the ovaries and uterus but this is far from true. My internal specialist suggested that the endometriosis may have spread and be growing on the outside of my bowels which could be causing a lot of my pain. Normally a gynaecologist would perform the laparosocpy for endometriosis but because the likelihood of the endometriosis growing on my bowels is high, the surgery needs to performed by a general surgeon. 

So now, I'm awaiting a referal to a general surgeon to take care of my endometriosis and perform a general exploratory surgery! Yay! Surgery sucks, but getting answers is a positive step to be taking. From now until the surgery date, I am going to start keeping a journal of what I'm eating and drinking and what symptoms I have throughout the day. Hopefully, this will give me an idea of which foods/drinks trigger IBS flares and which ones help me to feel better. There's always a next step. If you are sufferinging from unknown illness, don't give up on trying to find an answer. There is one out there! Find a doctor that respects you and will listen and you will find the answers you need.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

It's Been A While..

Well, it's been quite some time since I've wrote a blog post. That was not my intention, I promise. With the combination of stress and illness, I just have had no desire or energy to write. But I'm here now, and ready to spill. This past Monday, I finally had a colonoscopy and endoscopy done to check out my insides! I've been waiting to have these procedures done for months. No, it wasn't pleasant but it's definitely a beneficial step towards better health. On the downside, I don't get a full work-up of my results for another two weeks. All I know about the procedures thus far, is that there was nothing 'too serious that they could see' but I do know that some samples were taken from my stomach and intestines for biopsies. I'm praying that the biopsy results don't come back with anything too scary but at the same time, I need to know what's going on. So, after my results come back, if there is nothing that explains my pain over the last few months, I'll be booking a laparoscopy surgery to check up on my Endometriosis.

Endometriosis can be extremely frustrating; mainly because, you have absolutely no idea what it's doing to your body or where it's happening, until you're cut open. Which just sucks. It mean's fasting and bowel prep, laughing gas and having people poke and prod at you, waking up in pain and having weeks of best rest afterwards. I am overdue for a laparoscopy, my last one was almost four years ago now. That was when I was officially diagnosed with Endometriosis, although it was clear that I was suffering from it beforehand. As it has been four years since my last surgery, endometriosis has likely grown back. My Internal Medicine specialist suggested that if nothing comes up in my colonoscopy/endoscopy results, my recent pain might actually be caused by endometriosis. 

The thing that confuses me about that is that my pain caused by endo has always been the same type of pain. I get menstrual pain (cramps) but more intense (very intense) and leg pain (feel's like a charlie horse or growing pains, or both combined). Once in a while, there's other things thrown in there but those are the main two symptoms I experience. The pain I've had lately, I never thought could be endo related. But my specialist explained to me that if endo were to grow (for example) on my bowels, the pain wouldn't necessarily present in the same way. It wouldn't feel like menstrual pain, it would probably feel more like heartburn, indigestion, intestinal inflammation, etc. Which is what I've been experiencing.

So lately, because of all of these discussions with my doctors and specialists; I'm really hating on endometriosis and wishing that there was more recognition of this horrible disease and the struggles it causes. March is endometriosis awareness month and I want to encourage everyone to represent your endo-warrior strength and spread the word!