Ulcerative Colitis Journey

 My Story   

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IMPORTANT NOTICE BEFORE READING:

 This post is directed at those living with Ulcerative Colitis or who have loved ones with the disease. I will not be explaining what Ulcerative Colitis is.

I’m going to share my story and experiences with Ulcerative Colitis, but most importantly, what I did to get healthy and stay healthy. Stick around because the story ends well.

What you first need to know is 10 years ago, a GI (Gastroenterologist) doctor told me that in order to treat my disease, we would progress to stronger and stronger medications, the “big guns” as he called it, until finally I would need my colon cut out of my body and removed.

Well a lot’s changed since then, I no longer have that doctor, I still have my colon, and my recent colonoscopy showed the colon of a perfectly normal, healed, and healthy person.

I want to let you know right up front I’ve been healthy and symptom free for 6 years now, without any medical drugs or surgery, and side effect free. I completely control my Ulcerative Colitis on my own.

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ THIS BEGINNING TO END. SET ASIDE AN HOUR, SIT BACK, AND GET LOST IN MY STORY. I TOOK THE TIME TO WRITE IT, PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ IT AND GIVE IT THE ATTENTION IT DESERVES. YOU OWE IT TO YOURSELF OR LOVED ONE WITH ULCERATIVE COLITIS.

Thank You


  
My Experience With Ulcerative Colitis is Divided Up Into 3 Parts:

Part 1: Diagnosis, Beginning Parts of My Journey, and Experiences With A Prestigious Hospital

Part 2: My Worst Flare-Up Ever, Absolute Rock Bottom Moments, and Unbelievable Turning Point

Part 3: My Journey To Recovery, Healing, and Conquering The Disease


With that out of the way, let the story of my Ulcerative Colitis journey begin:

          At 13 years old, I started having my first symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis. It was a stressful and emotional point in my life. I experienced the death of a beloved family member, was starting high school, and had a horrible diet compared to how I eat now.

I walked out to my backyard one day and told my dad I saw blood in the toilet. At this early point in my disease, the blood wasn’t accompanied by much pain or cramping.

“Ok, let’s handle this responsibly” my family and I thought. “We’ll go to the doctor, they are professionals, and will figure out what’s wrong. You’ll be all set, right? You’ll be taken care of”.

Well, not really.

As you’ll see, this would be the beginning of a long series of disappointments from “professionals” in the medical field. We didn’t know it yet, but the trend of incompetence would continue for a long time.

As time went on, we’d learn that the people who were supposed to know, didn’t know. As time went on, we’d learn that I was really the only one that could help myself.

At this first hospital, I had a colonoscopy and endoscopy in an effort to diagnose my problem. The endoscopy was done to rule out upper GI problems. After getting the results of these procedures, my doctor came to the conclusion I had some form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. She wasn't sure if it was Crohn's or Ulcerative Colitis though.

This doctor had more patients than she knew what to do with, and was totally overwhelmed. Not surprisingly, this had a huge impact on the quality of care I got while under her supervision. Her and her staff made every mistake you could think of. Losing my lab results, my medical records, and accidently trying to give me another endoscopy after I just had one. 

This was pretty unsettling.

After multiple mistakes, and mix ups we realized I was not getting the care I would need. I say “we” because I was only 13 years old at the time and my parents played a major role in getting me medical care. We would all go to the appointments as a family.

My parents switched me to a prominent hospital in my area that is “THE place to go” if you have any major health problem. This hospital has quite the reputation for top of the line medical care, even on a national and international level.

Everyone in my entire part of the country knows this is where you go to see the best doctors, and get the best care. Sometimes people come from other parts of the world just to get care there.

NOW, we figured I was in good hands because these people were the best.

          I met my new doctor and immediately cooperated with anything he instructed me to do. I was just happy to be in the hands of the “the best”. I was non-argumentative, compliant and followed medical recommendations exactly. This is because I was in pain and wanted to feel better. I’m sure you can relate to this if you or a loved one has UC.

At the time, I was just beginning high school, and my symptoms consisted of the typical Ulcerative Colitis profile: blood and mucus in the stool, urgency, abdominal cramping, and frequent bowel movements. You and I are all too familiar with this fun stuff.

I can’t say I experienced a lot of the joint pain or mouth sores others have reported with UC, but I did have the tell-tale signs I listed when it came to my other symptoms. My case was not yet becoming a major inconvenience to my life, but definitely caused noticeable issues. It made it harder to do well in school, enjoy a social life, and be happy in general.

This hospital had a whole team of renowned professionals that would work with patients. There was your GI (gastroenterologist) doctor, nutritionist, and psychologist all within the hospital.

Even this early on, my mindset as a patient was different than what these professionals were used to encountering. They typically had patients who were resistant to any lifestyle changes, accepted their diagnosis, and took medication.

I too accepted my diagnosis, understood my diagnosis, and took medication. What made me different is I ALWAYS asked about nutrition and they always had same response, ALWAYS went armed with questions regarding how to improve my situation, but got very few answers. I guess I thought maybe…there was something I could do on my end to help my condition??

With the exception of a very short list of foods that could make me worse, the doctors said diet and nutrition do not cause or worsen ulcerative colitis. What I ate wouldn’t matter.
  
This was hard for me to believe.

From what I could tell in life, there are very few things that you can’t make better or worse by your own actions. This doesn’t mean your problem is solved. But hey, I didn’t want to pour gasoline on a fire and thought maybe with some instruction from this prestigious medical establishment….I could help myself.

The way I looked at it was like this:

If you have a tendency towards being overweight, don’t make fast food and sitting on the couch a habit. Or if you tend to have trouble sleeping to begin with, don’t drink coffee late at night type of thing. This was my rationale and made sense to me. I wasn’t being ridiculous, and didn’t think that means you don’t have that predisposition anymore, it just means you don’t make it worse. Right? Common sense.

I understood that I had Ulcerative Colitis, I just wanted to know how not to make it worse, and improve my condition.

I NEVER went there with the mentality of FIX ME. I just wanted to know what I could do on my end NOT TO MAKE IT WORSE. I did not expect anyone to wave a magic wand.

Well, it’s good I didn’t expect that, because they didn’t even come close.  I received very little instruction on how to make anything better.

Not only were they NOT  there to fix me, they weren’t there to figure out why I was having problems to begin with. If you think your doctor is going to be a health detective for you and get to the bottom of things (which is what I thought at my naïve young age), you’re in for a rude awakening. This may not be news to some people, but at the time it was certainly news to me:

When it comes to a chronic disease like Ulcerative Colitis, DOCTORS TREAT SYMPTOMS BY PRESCRIBING MEDICAL DRUGS OR PERFORMING SURGERY. That’s really what they do.

I don’t even think that could be considered an attack, opinionated judgement, or criticism of the medical approach. I’m just factually stating what their approach to disease is.

It became apparent to my Dad and I that our questions were falling on deaf ears. If fact, it became apparent that our questions were borderline irritating to the doctor. You’d think they’d be glad you wanted put in effort on your end, right?

Wrong.

This went on for years during my care under them. Finally one day, I asked yet another well thought out question I had prepared for the Doc. This question was met with zero well thought out response, the doc conveyed the message:

“hey kid, get this through your head, these are the cards you were delt, sorry this disease happened to you. You got screwed, and there’s really not much you can do. Lets try keep you comfortable with medication and support groups until you someday need to get your colon cut out”

Nice.

People that know me know I’m a friendly and genuine guy. It’s not hard for me to be nice, that’s who I am. My default setting is to treat people with respect unless they give me a reason not to. None of my relationships with people start out with me being nasty.

Simply put, if I’m disgusted with someone, then they probably earned it.

So, knowing what I know now, I have nothing nice to say about their outlook on digestive disease. In fact, I cannot put into words how disappointing and borderline pathetic of a thing that is to hear from a doctor that spent 8-10 years in school and 20 years in practice SPECIALIZING in the digestive system.

How can you not do better than cutting someone’s colon out?

You are a medical expert, specializing in the human digestive system, and the best you have for your patient after all your years of study and clinical experience is to cut a part of their digestive system out?

To me that’s pretty disappointing.

That’s ok though, because you know what?

He was WRONG. Medical degree and all, he was still wrong. Credentials don’t automatically make someone right.

He was wrong when he said there was nothing I could do about it, that this disease would take its natural progression regardless of what I did on my end.

I know this because I did “the impossible”, I healed on my own. I’m here now, with better health than ever, no medication, and my colon still intact to tell my story.

To me, the fancy medical building, the nice embroided letters after the doc’s name on his coat, the white coat itself, the reputation of the hospital, and all the endless med school is good for nothing if you can’t help someone.  The coat was just a costume, and to me he was playing the role of someone who helps people get healthy.

He could not help me and was a failure. End of story.

Remember how I said he was wrong for saying I would get my colon cut out? Here’s what I mean:

Just a few months ago, I had my routine colonoscopy done and my NEW doctor said he feels he was looking at the colon of a perfectly heathy, normal person. He congratulated me on my healing. He sees a lot of patients, and it takes a lot to impress him.

Well, he was impressed.

He knows how hard I work at my health, how seriously I take nutrition, and how seriously I take understanding the human body.

This new doctor has been outstanding and commends all my efforts to regain my health. I think he realizes just how big of a deal me controlling this disease on my own truly is.  I feel he is head and shoulders above what I experienced at the prestigious hospital I spoke about. He really knows his stuff, is personable, a great communicator, and open minded to alternative therapies and approaches to disease.

For me, it’s really easy to value and respect a doctor like that.

In no way do I “have it out” for all doctors. I just believe there are wide variations in the quality of doctors and their approach. My current doctor is highly impressed with my results and has never held back a compliment for me.

I deeply appreciate this acknowledgement by a medical professional and I think we have a real mutual respect for one another.  We work well together and have a much healthier patient/doctor relationship than my last two doctors. Best part is, I really only go to him to check in. I check in at appointments and get colonoscopies every couple of years. He doesn’t play too active of a role in helping me because I already have things under control.

He’s ok with that, and is there in case I were ever to have an emergency, need lab work done, have questions, or need a prescription. But other than that, we have pretty quiet uneventful office visits.

Just the way we like it.

Back to the prestigious hospital in my area. To give you a window into what I experienced here, I’ll need to share some stories about the professionals I encountered during my 5 years there.

I like to refer to the 3 Jokes at this hospital, in addition to my doctor.


Joke #1: The 1st Nutritionist

What a joke. I mean it really was a JOKE. Looking back on it, and having the extensive knowledge I now have on nutrition and digestion, I can’t believe the advice I was given. It’s polar opposite of what I did later on to heal and get healthy. It’s opposite of everything that gave me phenomenal results.

It felt like she was a salesmen for the packaged food industry. I think if she had her way I would just live on pre-packaged food, my floor would be littered with wrappers and empty bottles, and I’d have an IV of milkshakes going into my vein at all times.

I mean the only way her advice would have been acceptable is if you LITERALLY picked someone off the street with no particular background in the human body and asked them what type of diet someone with Ulcerative Colitis should eat.

For a “professional” to give advice like this out is really haunting.

I cringe to this day, thinking there are others with Ulcerative Colitis receiving advice like this.
Anyway, I’ve made my point with her, and don’t need to go any further. Just understand how “experts” aren’t always right.
                        

Joke #2: The 2nd Nutritionist

She had a big reputation around the hospital and was considered “the best”.

Yeah, right.

I had been set up with her by my doctor at the time (the doctor at the prestigious hospital, NOT the one I have now that I told you I like). The reason for the appointment was to give me some advice on gaining weight without eating anything that would make my disease worse.

See, I exercised throughout this whole disease to lift my spirts, boost my mood, and stay fit. Don’t get me wrong, I also just enjoyed working out, but it was one of the ways I tried to fight back against this horrible illness. My exercise of choice was weight training. I am a naturally skinny guy, so adding some muscle to my frame helped me not to feel as sick and frail looking.
I had played sports my whole life, and been into lifting weights since I was 13. Even before that, I was doing pushups, sit ups, sprints, and other drills for karate, basketball, football, and the various sports I played. At 13, however, is the age that I started weight training specifically with the goal of getting stronger and improving my body.

Needless to say, I was “at it” since a very young age.

I let her know I was into working out, and was looking for some advice on gaining more weight. I needed to do this without eating anything that would make my Ulcerative Colitis worse. The reason is some high calories foods that might be good for gaining weight may not necessarily be good for Ulcerative Colitis. I had to manage both of these things given my circumstances of having UC and wanting to gain weight.

Call me crazy, but I figured a sports nutritionist with a PhD just might be a good person to talk to about this.

I showed her some pictures of me so she could see my progress working out up until this point. With my clothes and hoodie on, she may not have been able to tell I was serious about exercise and really was into it. I wasn’t trying to show off, it was kind of my way of saying:

“hey, I know I probably just look like a skinny kid to you sitting here with my hoodie on, but I do lift weights seriously and have already built somewhat of a body, I’d like to expand on that”

A picture is worth a thousand words, and I knew that. If I just explained I was really into it she would just shrug and nod her head yeah..yeah..yeah.

Well…I guess I was doing a good job on the working out, because once she saw the picture her biggest concern was that I looked as though I was on anabolic steroids.

Hmm, thanks. I guess? 

At my next appointment with my doctor, he had some questions for me that were conspicuously timed after my appointment with the nutritionist.

Questions and comments like whether or not there were steroids in my gym, or if I knew that steroids were bad. He never mentioned anything like that before. So apparently, this nutritionist found time in her busy schedule to contact the doctor about it too.

Funny, because she didn’t bend over backwards to help me with nutrition, which is what I went there for. Didn’t follow up with some awesome diet plan for me. Actually, she didn’t do ANYTHING to help or impress me. She didn’t help with the reason I saw her to begin with.

I’m saying to myself (about the nutritionist):

“you know, maybe somewhere in the process of getting that PhD of yours, ya learned a thing or two of value you could teach me”

Nope.

But she did find time to contact the doctor about her steroid concern which was totally unsubstantiated and erroneous.

Another professional that’s all flash and all reputation with no follow through. More concerned about the letters after her name and her ego. What else is new?

I thought to myself:

“I ask you people (by you people I mean the doctors, nurses, nutritionists at the hospital) all sorts of questions. I report pains in my digestive system, I show you pictures of rashes I’ve gotten, I describe specific reactions to foods I’ve eaten, etc. ALL THIS RELEVANT MEDICAL STUFF I’d love answers to, hoping that among the ocean of MD’s and PhDs I tell this to, SOMEONE could use their highly educated brain to connect the dots”.

No one even gets back to me.

With that being said, somehow they had enough time and energy to address this silly thing about working out. You can see now how this would piss me off.

Unbelievable.

I looked good because I actually knew what the hell I was doing and had years of training under my belt. My body was nothing over the top or naturally unachievable. I was not using steroids and never have.

The doctor brought it up to me and was so disgusted I just told him to screw.

So that was Joke #2 for ya.

Joke #3: The 3rd Joke of the Medical Circus: The Psychologist

The Psychologist: A well-meaning, very sweet woman. She was so nice I sort of feel bad saying that she was no help at all. But I’m here to tell the truth, and this is story is about what actually happened. So I’m telling you she was no help.

I politely sat still and listened attentively as she went through her spiel. I didn’t need nice, I needed results. I personally found her approach bizarre.

So listen to this, she was there to connect me with support groups where I could meet others with colitis. One of her biggest and most highly raved about recommendations was that I attend “Colitis Camp” where it’s only UC patients allowed, and we would get to play a game called.....

“Pimp Out Your Toilet”

You could add like a chrome toilet seat, maybe put some champagne in the toilet bowl instead of water, and other fun pimped out features.

Umm….colitis camp and pimping out a toilet.

Gimmie a break, just give me a break please. I wanted to distance myself from this disease, by getting better. Not dive in deeper.

I didn’t find this very amusing and had no interest in attending something like this.

I was a problem solver, was in pain, and was interested in getting to the bottom of my condition, with the ultimate goal of GETTING BETTER. I didn’t need someone to help me make a sad joke about my disease.

I love to laugh, but to me this was sick and not the least bit funny.

Let me clarity something, THESE PEOPLE DO NOT BELIEVE YOU CAN EVER GET BETTER.
Their whole approach revolves around the premise that no matter what you do, you’re stuck with this disease, and it gets worse over time.

This is the opposite of how you need to be thinking and what you need to be doing. It is my belief that doing stuff like this further embeds the disease into your identity. It becomes a bigger part of who you are and what you are made up of, because you’ve welcomed it in.

That being said, Ulcerative Colitis is never welcome in my home.

I encourage you all not to fall too in love with the label of “Ulcerative Colitis”. Don’t walk around with that mentality, telling yourself I am so and so, and I have Ulcerative Colitis. To me, a disease is a part of you that’s gone a little haywire, it’s not who you are.

Don’t over identify with it, please. I tell you this as compassionately as I possibly can, knowing there’s much more to a person than what disease they have.

Over identifying with UC further embeds the disease into what and who you are. It becomes a bigger part of who you are, and all that you are made up of. Once you get more comfortable having it around, the odds you will do anything to change it immediately decrease. Instead, I treated my Ulcerative Colitis as an intruder. It wasn’t welcome in my home, never will be, and I got phenomenal results partly because of it. More on that philosophy and way of thinking later.

So anyway, that explains Joke #3 and concludes the circus…for now. Don’t worry you’ll get more entertainment later and the circus team of “professionals” will start up again later.

So a quick overview of what the brilliant panel of experts had to say:

Nutritionist # 1: it doesn’t matter what you eat, but eat as much processed food as possible.
Nutritionist #2: You’re on anabolic steroids.
The Psychologist: Go to colitis camp and pimp out a toilet.

All these people are freakin’ nuts. I’m telling you.
You’ll eventually see if you don’t already. Lots more to come.

          Later on in my life it would become very significant that my disease never became too severe, to the point that it was unbearable. I lived with my symptoms and figured this was just going to be my life. It had never gotten bad enough for me to really get motivated and investigate further on my own. I would only really ask the doc questions. I wasn't yet pursuing solutions on my own.

In addition to the dismissiveness my doctor showed whenever I felt something was important or asked a question, he “dropped the ball” big time with something else.

For YEARS I used to tell him that I would get this horrific pain, high up in my abdomen, on my left side. It seemed too high up at the time to be my colon, so I figured it was not pain associated with Ulcerative Colitis, since that effects the colon, and that’s lower, correct?

In present day, I now know that the anatomical area my pain was in was my stomach. Contrary to the public perception, the stomach is only one part of the human digestive system. I say this because people often refer to any problem in the digestive system as a “stomach” problem, which is anatomically incorrect. But back then, I was not as aware. I explained to him my symptoms, it felt like someone was sticking a knife high up into my ribs.

“Hmmm.. interesting, not sure what that could be” he’d answer with a puzzled look.

I elaborated further, explaining that every time I would go to the movie theater, the smell of all the popcorn would actually trigger this problem and I would be in agony during the movie and for several hours afterwards. I couldn’t even enjoy going to a movie.

He was still puzzled.

I don’t have this problem anymore, by the way. I figured that out too in addition to conquering my Ulcerative Colitis. Needless to say, with no help from the doctor.

I WANTED to put more effort in on my end, just TELL ME WHAT TO DO, but this was not my doc's approach. He prescribed meds and ordered surgery.

My disease continued this way through high school, and early on into college. It never got truly debilitating up until this point. Let me make it clear that the disease was definitely present, active, and making high school life suck more than it needed to. In fact, it was there almost all the time. I only had one true period of remission where the disease calmed down. But for the most part, it was always there, taking a huge chuck out of my quality of life.

Always there to keep me from enjoying things to the fullest, like an anchor, weighing me down, but hadn’t sank me…..yet.





My Worst Flare Up Ever, Absolute Rock Bottom Moments, and Unbelievable Turning Point


          About halfway through my 2nd year of college (I was 19 years old at this point, diagnosed at 13, and in present day I’m 26 years old), I started getting the symptoms of a flare up again. This was after I had enjoyed a time where my colitis was relatively quiet.  I only had one true period of total remission since diagnosis at 13. I was familiar with these symptoms, and figured this was just business as usual. Just another flare up. It sucked but I had been here before.

The symptoms worsened, I was cramped up, bleeding, and going frequently, but I was used to this happening and just figured, here we go again.

Little did I know this flare up would not be like any of the previous ones. I had no f**king idea what I was in for. I was about to get blindsided by the flare-up from hell.  The flare up that would change my life forever.

It would be the worst AND the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

So with the beginning of this particular flare up resembling others I had before, I tried to continue on with my life, thinking I’ll manage. I had always managed before.

Mind you, I was in college at the time, and this particular semester was enrolled in a course called human anatomy (among other courses). For those who don’t know, let me explain the relevance of this. It was well known on my campus among science related majors that human anatomy would be the most brutal course you would ever have to take. Basically, it was a 4 month long academic boot camp. A boot camp in which you were forced to memorize massive volumes of information about each and every organ, bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, nerve, you name it, in the human body.

The semester you were enrolled in anatomy, you didn’t go out and you didn’t have fun.

You studied all the time.

And if you didn’t? Well you were screwed.

The amount of material crammed into this 4 month course was considered absurd and laughably unrealistic my most students. But, we have to face challenges like this sometimes in life. I was a ready as I could be to dive in to anatomy boot camp.

Quick side note: in retrospect, it’s actually quite funny to see health related majors chowing on candy, cookies, and soda while they study. They in no way lived a lifestyle one would expect from someone pursuing that field of study. I witnessed first-hand nursing, nutrition, exercise science, and pharmacy majors eat some unbelievably bad diets.

Anyway, while trying to get through the human anatomy course, which in itself is difficult, I now had the added challenge of dealing with a flare-up simultaneously. That's life with Ulcerative Colitis. 

During previous flare-ups, I had used other areas of life to help get me through my flare-ups and accompanying mental depression. You may be able to relate to this. Sometimes we lean on other things in life to offset not feeling well. I would say the most important parts of my life and sources of gratification were:

-learning (I really like studying the human body, and I love philosophy)
-working out
-enjoying a sense of humor and laughing my ass off with my friends.  
                  
These were my favorite things. Making sure I enjoyed these areas of life usually worked for me. It was an effective approach for offsetting the pain and suffering of Ulcerative Colitis.

Well…this disease managed to absolutely RUIN all those areas of life, leaving little left to offset the misery and pain of a flare-up. I’ll explain.

I was never a bodybuilder or anything, but as I touched upon earlier in the story, I had trained with weights from a young age, enjoyed it, and achieved some good results. I had fun with it, and liked the dedication it required. I improved my naturally rail thin physique into something respectable for a natural, drug free lifter.

I enjoyed setting goals, lifting heavier weights, and watching my body change. It was fun to track that progress. Growing up, it became something that people who knew me could joke about.

“Hey Dan flex that wide back! C’mon flex that back!” Or, “show so-and-so your abs!!”
“He’s got some crazy triceps, flex your triceps!”

It was positive attention and something fun to be known for. The summer and fall season prior to this flare up, I had gotten into the best shape of my life up to that point, and that felt good. Lifting served as a way to stay fit, improve mood, look good, set goals, and improve on myself. I’m interested in human potential in general, so this fit well with that. Also, as I mentioned this served as a much needed boost in offsetting the symptoms of UC.

Well…the disease would take that from me.

In fact, the disease would take a lot of things.

I became so mentally and physically drained, that my workouts were lifeless. My lifts were going down fast and my energy was gone. I couldn’t seem to digest anything and my abdomen was bloated beyond belief all the time.

I looked pregnant.

The bloody diarrhea had me losing so much fluids and blood, that I actually believe I became what’s called hypovolemic (the medical term for low blood volume.) Granted, this was never medically documented or confirmed, but I have reason to suspect I had lost enough blood for this to happen based on my symptoms.

Next, I mentioned laughing was one of my favorite parts of life too.

As far as the sense of humor part. Well those that know me know that I have both a very serious and philosophical side, but also quite the goofy side. I’m in love with that feeling you get from laughing so hard your abs are sore. If it was a drug, then I would be strung out on it, because let’s be honest, nothing beats that feeling.  Well, making someone else laugh that hard is a close second. I love it.

Me and my friends would get together, and if our abs were sore the next day, then it was a success! Sometimes we’d crack up so bad at stuff we seriously couldn’t breathe. I lost count of the amount of times my head looked like a tomato from it. We’d call each other the next day and just reflect on how record-breaking of a time we had.

"Those were some great “ROFL’s”  we’d say (Rolling On The Floor Laughing).

So I loved to laugh, and my friends really knew me as someone who was always making them laugh.

Well, not anymore.

As you might have guessed, I wasn’t laughing much during this time and wasn’t cracking many jokes. It’s hard to be in that goofy mindset when you’re going through all this pain and suffering. The mental preoccupation, the physical pain, it’s all too much to bear.

For these same reasons, my love of learning was totally interfered with as well. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, read for extend periods, or watch educational content because all the pain was way too distracting. Heck, I could barely think, never mind learn.

So as you can see, this stupid disease interfered with almost everything I normally used to keep me going.

Ulcerative Colitis touches the sacred areas our lives, the areas that are supposed to be off limits. My workouts, my socialization with friends, my love of learning, all had been taken from me.

Just picture all the normal comforts you turn to during hard times gone. Picture nothing of comfort to turn to. I don’t quit easily, but this disease would bring me to the brink and almost break me as a person.

The semester all of this took place during ran from January to May. This is important so that you can establish a mental picture and timeline of what took place. My flare-up had already started by the first day of school, in late January. The onset of the flare-up was similar to others I had before.

However, what initially looked like a normal flare-up became something else. It escalated in increments, and got much worse over the course of the next month (putting me into late February). By this time I was experiencing the following:

-15-18 bloody diarrhea bowel movements a day
-unbearable cramping (literally had me doubled over in pain and at points crawling to a toilet)
-ridiculous urgency (I had about 30 seconds or less to get to a toilet, IF I even made it in time)
-tons of mucus with my bowel movements
-the blood would POUR out of me each time I’d use the toilet

I was losing a really disturbing amount blood. The toilet looked like a crime scene after each time I was done. This just about topped anything I had previously experienced before at the hands of this disease. There were no “quiet” days during this time. I’ve heard people with UC describe good days and bad days during a flare. This flare did not follow that up-down pattern. It was ALWAYS unbearable. This flare was RELENTLESS in every sense of the word.

RE-LENT-LESS. I had to say it again because there really was no end in sight to this nightmare.

I cannot even describe the stress I went into during this time. I truly cannot describe it. I can attempt to explain with words, as I am doing now, but words will always fall short. Even if I was armed with a thesaurus at my side, and all the time in the world, it would be no use. Words are simply not suited to explain some experiences we go through as human beings.

My words can give you maybe half an idea of what occurred. Although I am being somewhat in depth with my story, believe me I am sparing you a lot of details as well.  I am sharing a lot, but some of which occurred is simply too personal to talk about, which I hope you’ll understand.

I had faced adversity and hardship before, but NEVER to this degree. When it comes to this time in my life, I will forever be alone. No one will EVER know what I went through like I do. There isn’t a single person that can understand what I went through the way I do. Even amongst others with UC, we each suffer in our own unique way. Our rock bottom moments and flare ups are unique to each of us. I really believe that.

Back to my flare up:

Everything just kept getting worse and worse, the disease was coming at me like a truck with no brakes, and I started to have nightmares about getting my colon cut out, graphic awful nightmares that stayed with me for a long time after. My heart was RACING and POUNDING all the time. I walked around with a constant feeling of impending doom.

Honestly, up until this point I didn’t even realize Ulcerative Colitis could be this vicious. It was like some mutant form of colitis was coming at me. Up until this time, my particular case had never been this severe. It always sucked to have UC, but I never had symptoms with this level of intensity.

          Usually in life I was a firm believer in doing something about problems. In acting. If there was a way to fight back, best believe I would find it. If there was a cause of the problem, I would find that cause and develop a solution.

I wasn’t a brute force and sheer hard work kind of a guy though. Based on my observations of others, and my life experience up to that point, that approach did not always work well. I was never a believer that sheer desire, without the right approach would accomplish ANYTHING at all. You can HOPE till the cows come home. 

Hope is not a plan.

Instead, I believed that I could THINK my way out of almost anything. That was my preferred method of choice. If it really came down to it, I figured I could think my way out no matter what. I would think my way into a solution, and try to take the smartest approach possible.

This situation was unique though, and not in a good way. What was unique about it is that I couldn’t use my go-to method. I couldn’t think my way out.

This flare-up was a different animal. A record setting flare-up that easily trumped anything I had previously suffered through.

For the first time, I felt I couldn’t even use my brain to help me. How is this? The pain was so crippling and so distracting that I literally could not think or problem solve. Each and every time my pain would subside, it was only for a pathetically brief period of time. It’s like the countdown would start before the next bout of cramps hit.

Then it would be lots of cramping, blood and diarrhea.

During these times, I was so exhausted and depressed about my predicament, and how bad my life had gotten, I would just lay on the couch and think about death until I had somewhere to be. One day, as I was lying on the couch reflecting on my circumstances, I felt a tear roll down my cheek as I looked out the window, and came to terms with what my reality had become.

I was now filled with despair and hopelessness.  I was well on my way to being totally broken and defeated. This is the worst and most dangerous place to be in mentally. Before people totally give up, and before people commit suicide, they usually enter a state of despair and hopelessness. That is one of the pre-cursors to suicide in my opinion.

Needless to say, I was now in a dangerous place mentally.

I would have to say the first time I became truly terrified through this experience is when I realized that I could not use the asset I always relied on my whole life: my mind. Guys don't like to admit it if we're scared. Believe me, I was scared by this point. 

I realized I was done for. I came face to face with what at the time I believed my situation was: I was screwed.

Everyone has different standards for quality of life and everyone has a different tolerance for pain. The best way I can explain the way I approached life at the time was this:

There was a big difference between what I COULD tolerate and what I was WILLING to accept. I was not willing to accept, anything other than living healthy. I was holding firm and wasn’t about to compromise my standards for quality of life. Being healthy and not in pain was non-negotiable. Believe me, I WAS tough, but I was NOT complacent. I didn’t have it drilled into my head that no matter what, “ya gotta get through it”.

To me, if my quality of life was gone, what’s the point? That’s how my mind worked, and still does today.

It’s not that I wasn’t mentally strong enough to tolerate getting my colon removed, or any other horrible physical affliction. I just didn’t want to live like that. For me, that was unacceptable. Others are able to get a procedure like that, and move on with their lives. They amaze me, and I absolutely commend them for that. I give them all the credit in the world for their courage and resilience. It just isn’t for me.

For me, it was a good life, or nothing. I guess I have the all or nothing mentality when it comes to some things. In this case, as you’ll see later on, that served me very well. I didn’t know it yet though.

I feel I’ve prefaced the mental place I was in enough now. I’m going to share with you an uncensored and honest description of the place I reached mentally:

During all of this, I figured I’d be saved from this hell not because my flare-up would go away, not because I would be cured, not because the medicine would work. Instead I figured I would eventually end up killing myself to escape my pain or I would suffer a fatal heart attack from all the stress I was going through.

Horrible, but true.

As the reader of my story, you may disagree or not be able to relate to that way of thinking, which is fine.  However, that’s how I operate. I strive for excellence, I wanted to thrive and be healthy, not just exist and be sick. Frankly, I would have rather died than be deprived of that. 

Mind you, this WHOLE TIME I was under the care and supervision of an “expert”. The GI doctor, “one of the best” at my region’s children’s hospital could not help me. The normal reaction you have when there’s a health problem is to go to the doctor.

Think about it, someone might say, “sounds like you need medical attention”.

Well, I had medical attention, LOTS of it. I was under their supervision and instruction, and STILL experiencing 15+ bloody diarrhea bowel movements a day, urgency that made life totally impractical, and pain that I couldn’t hold a conversation during.

I was already was at the doctor, one of the best! And this is how bad I was suffering.

To elaborate on my intestinal pain, my cramping came in waves/intervals. It seemed like I had 10 minutes after each bowel movement where I wasn’t in too much pain and could think. I mentioned my approach to problem solving earlier. As laughable as it sounds, I took advantage of this the best I could. My mind would race with thoughts of problem solving and potential solutions during this short 10 minute window of time.

It’s ok, you can laugh at the visual of me brainstorming like this (I do have a bit more of a sense of humor about it now that I’m healthy and am no longer going through this). Talk about trying to work with what you’ve got right? I know, I’m a resourceful person. I’d figure out how to use a roll of toilet paper as a weapon if I had to, lol.

Basically I would have my bloody diarrhea bowel movement, be in less pain for a few minutes while trying to think of solutions, then be crippled by a wave of pain where I would be doubled over, then the cycle would repeat. This little window of time was my opportunity is the way I saw it.

And hey, I’m gonna take my opportunity.

10 minutes of intense problem solving mode thinking, followed by 40-50 or so minutes of severe pain, again and again this cycle repeated.

I can tell you that when you’re on this kind of schedule, and have this close of a relationship with your toilet, it makes it really hard to do normal things like attend class or see your friends. Yeah, not totally sure how I did it, but there were many times I was late to class because I was stuck in the bathroom beforehand.

Even if I went right before I left my house, I would have to go again after I parked my car, then right before class, and after, and maybe stop on the way home, and then go again when I got home.

Awful.

No one other than my parents really knew what I was going through. The whole time I was living alone (not with my family and not in a dorm). I was isolated, and no other friends or extended family knew what I was going through. Ulcerative Colitis can be a very embarrassing disease, and I didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone else. I wanted privacy.  From time to time the pain showed up on my face enough for friends to notice. I never really explained why, but they knew something was up. I hid it relatively well and I’d prefer not to get into detail about that part of my story.

As if my circumstances weren’t bad enough, I got to have some more fun during all of this. As if it didn’t already feel like life was conspiring against me.

I was really struggling to keep up with the crazy amount of work in human anatomy class I talked to you about earlier.

I have NEVER felt entitled or the need to be accommodated for anything. I don’t think it’s a pride thing for me, I just feel like if I am of able body and able mind, then I have no excuse and would not expect accommodations.

I went through my first 2 years of college with active Ulcerative Colitis and without the thought of being accommodated for my disease even crossing my mind. I didn’t even know such options existed.

But I now was desperate. I was not of able body or mind anymore. I was in the middle of a debilitating flare up and was not the person I used to be. To me, it was totally unreasonable for me to keep up with the same pace as a normal healthy student. I wasn’t a normal healthy student, and why should I be held to those standards? Pride was not an issue for me. I needed help and wasn’t ashamed to ask.

I was spending most of my time cramped up, on the toilet, or at the doctor, I had no chance of succeeding academically.

I basically figured that if what I was going through wasn’t a valid enough reason to get cut some slack, then what was? I mean….what do I have to do, have cancer? Hahaha…ha…ha………ha uhhhh wait….I guess so. You’ll see later on as you keep reading.

So I had my doctor write up a letter to my anatomy professor explaining what I had been going through, that I had Ulcerative Colitis, and I should be given as much academic leeway as possible. (For all the things my doctor was not able to meet my expectations, he did write a great letter and did it quickly for me, which I appreciated).

The letter was on hospital letterhead and signed by the doc. He scanned it and sent it to me. I did not have a mailed hard copy letter. I sent an email with the attached letter from my doctor, to my professor, which he didn’t bother responding to.

Went to office hours many times. A professor’s office hours is a time slot in which the professor is required by University to be in his or her office so that they are available to students who may have questions or concerns.

Well he would routinely not even show up to his office for office hours.

Finally I caught him at his office. There were several other students sitting right outside the office, waiting their turn to talk to him. They were all female college students and I’ll tell you this:

As a 19 year old, single guy in college the last thing you want to do is go tell a perfect stranger (my professor) about your embarrassing disease that involves shitting blood and using the toilet 15+ times a day. A disease that’s none of his damn business to begin with, while other 19 year old girls sit outside the paper thin walls office and can obviously hear what you’re saying.

But, I had no choice.

Turning off a couple of girls was the least of my worries. I was already figuring I’d end up dead one way or another.  So here we go, I took a deep breath, went in and gave it my best.

Upon, sitting face to face with him, and after he seemed annoyed I had emailed him and persistently tried to contact him, he told me 2 things:

1) “How do I know you actually have Ulcerative Colitis?”

Keep in mind the letter was on official letterhead from the hospital and signed by a doctor.

I wasn’t prepared for that response. In my mind, of course I have UC, why would anyone lie about that? In addition to this, I thought to myself, “well that’s the point of the letter”. I would think that serves as proof, correct?

I guess the letter from the prestigious children’s hospital signed by a medical doctor and on letterhead wasn’t good enough. I was really at a loss of words. How was I supposed to prove my disease if that isn’t good enough?

I found his skepticism pretty ridiculous. Would he like me to take a bloody, mucus filled diarrhea shit on his desk? Maybe that can verify it for him, I thought.

When I asked (politely) if he’d ever had a similar situation where the student had Ulcerative Colitis before and needed some help, he responded:

2) “Well, NOOO!!! I mean, I’ve had students who’ve had cancer, but not colitis”.

He said it as if to reference a condition that was ACTUALLY severe, as opposed to my LOUSY excuse with a WIMPY disease like Ulcerative Colitis, like it wasn’t bad enough. He was trying to make me feel as if my reason was illegitimate.

I had some choice words for him I felt like saying, but didn’t. My blood was practically boiling. I think my temper was flared up worse than my colon at that moment.

But… I stayed in control, bit my tongue and walked out after we finished up.

Obviously anyone reading this knows how bad Ulcerative Colitis can be so I don’t need to rant on how absurd and moronic his responses were. Keep in mind, this is an anatomy professor and you’d think he’d have little more informed of a response on matters of the human body.

But…he didn’t. What else is new? Notice a trend when it comes to these  “professionals”?

WE, meaning me and you, know that Ulcerative Colitis can be REALLY  bad and can certainly interfere with your ability to keep up at school or perform at work. If you are in the middle of a flare up you have a more than valid reason to qualify for academic accommodations. End of story.

Not going to even waste time on that.

I left his office feeling dazed, humiliated because the girls could overhear, defeated, and like life was conspiring against me.

I had the, “did that just really f***** happen??” feeling. Damn man.

Back to my problem solving attempts during my little 10 minute window where I wasn’t in too much pain. I did try to take these opportunities, but was not coming up with any great solutions. I certainly tried, and gave it all I had intellectually. I wasn’t a doctor and wasn’t sure what to do. I sank even lower after I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere, and my little incident with the professor didn’t help.

Not one would cut me a break.

As I sat in my psychology class (a gen ed requirement), I watched and I listened to that day’s lecture.  This particular lecture was on the psychology of the elderly. The depression that those in their final years face, and the coming to terms with their own mortality. Basically, accepting and preparing for death.

As this mindset was described in more and more detail, and we watched a movie that portrayed this final phase of life, I became overwhelmed with emotion.

I wasn’t emotional for the same reasons others were.

Other students may have become emotional during the film because they felt bad for the characters in the film. They could SYMPATHIZE.

It was dark while we were watching the movie and sitting in an auditorium. I’m glad it was, because I was holding back tears, realizing that I felt more in common with people 60-70 years older than me, that were about to die, than I did my younger student classmates.

I was only 19 years old.

I didn’t feel young, I didn’t feel alive, and I certainly didn’t feel care free. While most of the students on campus worried about scraping together beer money for the weekend, or deciding which house party they’d go to, I was faced with my current predicament. A predicament in which I seemed screwed from EVERY possible angle.

I genuinely felt I was preparing for death in some way. I didn’t know if it would be literal, if it would be figurative, but in some way it felt like the end for me. A true feeling of impending doom.

The disconnect I felt with others my age was insane. They had no idea what I was going though and I couldn’t relate to anything they’d do or say.

At the time, I was already on 3 different meds for controlling my UC. Needless to say, they weren’t helping. 18 capsules of Mesalamine per day, 3 Budesonide capsules, and 2x daily corticosteroid enemas (I stated the chemical names, not the drug brand names because I’m not  picking on any particular company or brand name) and my doctor was about to give me another one: prednisone.

His plan was to give me high doses of prednisone, then transition to an immunosuppressant CANCER drug called 6mp.

Ironic right? Considering I didn’t have cancer, and my little incident with the professor. I should have said, no I don’t have cancer, but my doctor does want to give me cancer drugs, is that cool with you?

My doc wasn’t sure if it would work, but that was the plan.

Let’s give you a harsh corticosteroid called prednisone and cancer drugs and see what happens.

Sounds smart. (I’m being sarcastic, if you haven’t already gotten a feel for me).

So…a nurse called me and gave me an extremely rushed, half-assed run-down of how to use the drug. With background noise and a bad phone connection she quickly listed off:

“Ok take it before school and if you’re feeling a little nauseous then…”
“It may cause potentially deadly side effects such as….”
"Watch out for chest pains, heart rhythm disturbances, and signs of heart attack"
"You probably won't be able to sleep at night"
“Oh and if you see someone coughing on a bus then try not to sit next to them, your immune system can be weakened from this medication”

And she hangs up.
I could barely get a word in or ask a question.
What. The. Heck. Was. That.

Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled about the doctor’s plan, the weak instruction I was given, and didn’t want to take these potentially damaging medications into my body.

However, it seemed like I had no choice.

I still haven’t made up my mind on how I feel about human intuition, and the role it plays. What I can say though, is at that time, every “gut” feeling I had was telling me NOT to take those meds. I suspected that they would ruin what aspects of health I had left, and STILL not relieve the Ulcerative Colitis. Somehow I intuitively knew this.

I had a strong feeling there was some other reason why this particular flare was so much worse than all the others, but couldn’t put my finger on it.

So, my mind had evaluated the situation and determined that logically speaking, only one of two things could happen:

1) I could NOT take the medical drugs, and continue having the unbearable symptoms, knowing it was further damaging my colon, possibly giving me scar tissue, and putting me closer to getting my colon removed some day.

2) I could take the harsh medical drugs, with no real guarantee it would even help, and experience the side effects ON TOP of my disease symptoms.

That’s it. There is no 3rd, good option.

NOTE: Hopefully the following is already crystal clear to you (the reader) but I want to make sure. At this time, my flare up was still in full force and all the symptoms I told you about are still happening at this point in the story. Ok, just wanted to emphasize that. By the way, thank you for reading up until this point, I hope you’re hangin’ in there! Let’s keep going!

The next week went on and was an awkward in between period. My doctor had already proposed the plan for prednisone and 6mp, and I was stalling. I did not fill my prescriptions. I didn’t know what I’d do instead. I was just stalling and thinking.

I wanted to wait as long as possible before I took these harsh drugs, but had no real plan. A solution would have to fall into my lap in order for me to get out of this one. It seemed like I literally needed a miracle.

Remember what seemed like the only 2 possible outcomes I listed above?

Much to my surprise, what actually happened was NEITHER of what seemed like the only two possibilities. After a long streak of bad things happening to me, I ACTUALLY CAUGHT A BREAK and I later capitalized on the opportunity BIG TIME.

This was the proverbial turning point, that pivotal moment that you see in movies, or hear about in success stories. I just didn’t know it yet.

Soon after I had swallowed my first dose of prednisone (I was lucky I didn’t take it for longer), I received a call from my dad, who had just received a call from my doctor.

“Dan, don’t take any more prednisone! Stop everything! They found something in the stool sample! They don’t really know what it means but want you to hold off until we figure things out,” he exclaimed.

“The results of the test show that you picked up a nasty bacterial infection, and you need to start antibiotics right away.”

My jaw dropped, and I almost dropped the phone. I was confused.

I had remembered that a week or two prior to this, I submitted a stool sample (poop sample, basically) to a lab. I didn’t think much of it at the time, and almost forgot I even did it. I don’t really remember what motivated that lab test to be ordered, because the doctor was pretty confident this was just “business as usual” for my Ulcerative Colitis and not some other cause making it worse.

Anyway, being very relieved….but not knowing how much of an improvement to expect, I started the antibiotics.

Was the bacterial infection causing these symptoms? Is this something I’ve had for years? Is it something I picked up recently? I had no idea what to think. I was confused. I had little knowledge about bacterial infections, had no idea what kind of relief to expect from taking antibiotics, or how much the infection was contributing to the way I felt. I was about to find out.

What actually happened is my flare stopped. Everything stopped.

Not only did the flare up and accompanying symptoms stop, but I was feeling better than before the flare-up stared. I was having really healthy, formed bowel movements compared to what I was used to even before this flare. This relief and healthy bowel movements continued for the duration of the course of antibiotics, and a little while after I stopped.

During this time, I went from hopeless and not wanting to live, to outright euphoric from sheer relief. For the first time in several months, I wasn’t in pain. I think I must have looked even crazier than usual with my constant smile on my face at all times! I was truly thrilled that I caught this break and was feeling better. I was overwhelmed, relieved, emotional, and confused at the same time by all this.

NOTE TO READER: I absolutely NEED to make it clear that I AM NOT saying that the antibiotics CURED my UC. What they did was stop a flare up in its tracks. As you’ll see, my disease was not fully under control yet, but the worst was certainly over due to the antibiotics resolving this infection.

This marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life. One of discovery, hope, health, and re-birth.





 My Journey To Recovery, Healing, and Conquering The Disease


          Ahhh, Part 3! The worst of my Ulcerative Colitis Journey has passed. The worst of the storm is finally over, and the fun part of the story can begin. Part 3 is a several yearlong chapter of my life that involves embarking into the unknown, leaving the care & supervision of the children’s hospital, my journey to get truly healthy, my efforts to better understand this disease, and the promise I made to myself to never be at the mercy of Ulcerative Colitis again.

The following summer (school ended mid-late May and it was now early June), I had only 2 things on my agenda:

1) Recover from mentally and physically from what I had been through
2) Declare war on this disease. This meant learning as much as I possibly could about health, with the intent of NEVER having to suffer like that again.

Still dazed and confused about what happened the last several months, but not in so much pain anymore, I wanted to master the science of being healthy. I decided the medical team had failed me and I would try this on my own.

I emailed my doctor, and respectfully let him know that I would no longer be coming to the hospital anymore.

I wanted to try and address this disease on my own, and believed I could do a better job. I will tell you though, as much as you may believe in yourself, it can be intimidating leaving a prestigious hospital like that, basically telling them to take care, and embarking into the unknown without medical supervision.

I got off all my medications (against the doctor’s recommendations) and started the next phase of my journey.

For most people, this might not even be doable at all. There are a lot of deeply ingrained perceptions about the medical system and doctor supervision that one must battle.

Fortunately, I had taken the path less traveled on multiple other occasions in my life and it always brought me great things to show for it. I was ready to take that path of unknowns again, and see what I could make happen.

For me, it wasn’t that hard to break away from my doctor. I have a strong tendency toward critical thinking (asking questions and challenging things that don’t make sense to me, even if they’re widely accepted beliefs). Anything was preferable to the care of those “professionals”.

I had a very vivid picture in my mind of what my summer would consist of. I would be relentless, I would be merciless in my pursuit to conquer this disease. Just how the disease had been merciless and relentless towards me, I would respond proportionally with my own efforts.

That last flare had supercharged my motivation, and my curiosity about health. Although I went through an awful amount of suffering (as you read about), I now had something few people do. I had an unshakable drive to get healthy, and become my own master, to gain control over my health and not be at the mercy of the disease.

I began fantasizing about what it would be like to have great health. To feel good, not be in pain, to be lifted from depression and also have the energy to live life more. My mind raced with ideas of what I could do with a clean bill of health. Social life, learning more, enjoying the outdoors, I fantasized about it all.

I started learning more about health, which in retrospect, was the right thing to do, rather than focusing only on the disease. I’m not quite sure why I took this approach, rather than focusing on the Ulcerative Colitis disease, but I know I made the correct choice.

I like to refer to that flare up I went through as a catalyst. That’s actually a great word to describe the role it played. That 4 month period of hell served as a spark that would lead to a chain of events that would permanently change my life for the better.

I didn’t know it yet but I would eventually become exponentially happier, healthier, and wiser THAN IF I NEVER WENT THROUGH THAT FLARE UP TO BEGIN WITH.

This is what I intend to highlight in this part of my story for you. What I learned, how my health improved, and how my life improved as a result of turning pain… into opportunity.

This was a sacrificial summer. I needed to take time, pick up the pieces of my shattered life, and rebuild.  I would trade my summer, with little to no socialization or leisure, in exchange for knowledge, becoming healthy, evolving into the next phase of my life, and becoming Dan 2.0.

More than an even trade in my eyes. I was happy to make this deal.

I read, and I read, and then I read some more. I watched videos, read books, listened to podcasts and educational audio, and I started food shopping differently. Make no mistake about it, I was only a beginner on this journey, but I was hungry.

I would say the word obsessed accurately described me.

The way Michael Jordan used to still be shooting hoops at 2am, because he wanted to be great, well I had that kind of appetite for achieving health. I never wanted to be in that much pain again.

I can’t even describe the level of tunnel vision I had for this. I was driven, pissed, fed up, and excited all at the same time.

I was sick of being sick.

This is the type of drive you must have to get results, and I had it. You need to be absolutely bulletproof in your mindset.

I spent my summer immersed in information and every attempt I could make at learning more. I didn’t do much else this summer and didn’t care.

I began trying to solve the puzzle of this disease myself. Sometimes, this meant getting a professional to do tests without them even knowing why.

Over the summer, I made an appointment at an immunologist and had him run some tests. I was there among asthma patients, those suffering seasonal allergies, food allergies etc. I was there for my colitis. As you might imagine, I had to answer the same questions about a hundred times to different secretaries, assistants, nurses, and the doctor.

“Yes, I am here for Ulcerative Colitis”
“Yes, it’s a disease of the digestive system”
“Yes, I understand that this is an immunology clinic, not a gastroenterologist’s office”
“No I don’t have asthma”

From some of the research I’d been doing, I had an idea of how to use immunology tests to improve Ulcerative Colitis. Long story short, there was confusion and resistance on behalf of the staff to do the tests, but I kind of gave a “just do the damn tests please and I’ll handle the rest” sort of instruction.

To my immunologist’s surprise, and I mean surprise, my panel was FULL of positive reactions. His jaw was open, eyes wide, and then he just kept saying, “I can’t believe this, you’re a VERY allergic person”.

Ok, what does that mean? I was looking for some kind of medical interpretation that I could then use to help with my health. This was the year 2010, just so you can understand the timeline of when this went on relative to present day.

I found the results interesting as well but can’t really say I was surprised. The results from these tests became another tool in my toolbox during my journey back to health.

            Toward the end of this game changing summer, as I was about to start my 3rd year of college (Fall 2010), I started working with a health practitioner who was well versed in nutrition and digestion. This was the next step in my journey to rebuild my life.

I had built a good foundation that summer, both in my knowledge base and my lifestyle. I was eating more real food, cutting out the junk, supplementing with some important stuff and learning more. I needed to take it to the next level now.

I wasn’t feeling as good as I could though, and still had a way to go. Although totally manageable compared to that flare-up from hell during anatomy, I still had cramping, bleeding, frequency, etc. Back to the way I used to have Ulcerative Colitis (before the bad flare-up).

This is the stage where I needed a TEACHER to compliment my efforts.

I discovered him online, and selected him based on the description of his approach. He was different and made sense. He was making such great points about nutrition in his videos and I loved the sound of his approach to health. In addition to this I even liked what I heard from his guests on his podcast. Once I got a taste of all this, I knew he could help me. I knew me and him could work well together.

It was a fit. I had heard all I needed to hear, and I was convinced. I scheduled our first call.

This practitioner and I did a lot of work together. He ran different lab tests on me, trying to get a window into how my body was functioning and what was going on inside my digestive system. The results were very interesting to say the least.

In only a couple months, this health practitioner, lacking any MD title, had such an effective approach that he helped me more than the doctor I told you about ever did, in his 6 years with me.

Not only did I learn how to eat better through him, but he guided me on fixing my digestion and using supplements effectively to get the results we were looking for. He was acting as a health detective, trying to get to the bottom of my problems and find the culprit.

Not only did his recommendations help get my colitis fully controlled, he helped me solve the stomach pain problem I told you about in Part 1, without me even asking. That pain used to leave me in agony. Boy did it suck having that pain in addition to my Ulcerative Colitis. I was happy to get rid of it.

He was and still is a seriously awesome guy. I still keep in touch with him to this day. Super knowledgeable and has made a huge impact in the online world of alternative health information. In my opinion his website, podcast, and YouTube channel are the best I’ve come across for online alternative health. He’s found great experts to interview over the years, and I really appreciate what he’s done. He no longer does 1on1 coaching/consulting though.

Between my research that summer, and the new tools I had been given from my health practitioner, I was armed and ready to kick some serious ass.

This was my “Rocky Balboa” moment (as in the movie “Rocky”, in case ya didn’t know ;)

I needed my highlight reel, or some kind of montage. Instead of practicing boxing combinations on frozen cattle, doing early morning pullups, or running up big tall staircases like Rocky, I started enjoying the reading, the eating, the food shopping. I couldn’t wait to do more, and the days started to blur into one another.

Reading, coaching, food shopping, eating, take my supplements…..repeat.  

It was around this time that my digestive health was becoming much more stable and better than it had ever been. There were less fluxuations in my digestion and bowel movements, and WAY less flare up symptoms. Gradually, I was actually becoming stable and entering this thing we’ve all heard about called remission.

I was taking really good care of myself, and the results were showing. Each night, I couldn’t wait to wake up the next day. This is a feeling I never thought I’d have.

I was learning more by the day, feeling better by the week, and actually evolving as a person too. To be honest, I must tell you I feel distance from the person I used to be and the life I used to live. I still overlap with that person somewhat, but so much has changed it’s crazy.

People started noticing I felt better. It showed in the way I look the way I acted. I was projecting something that only people who are centered and at peace give off. I seemed less preoccupied, less stressed, more centered, and at peace in some way that was hard for people to put their finger on.

You know what? When you feel good it shows, and people WANT to follow in your footsteps. No convincing needed.

At this point I had to pinch myself, because this was really happening. I was completely managing a chronic, incurable disease that ruins lives, with no medication, completely on my own through healthy living principles. A disease that doctors say YOU CANNOT control on your own.

How’s that for an accomplishment? I was really proud of myself.

It was all coming together, I kept up my remission for the next 5 years, and am still in remission. This was no fluke. I was stayed healthy because of everything I changed and all my efforts.

My family members sometimes have to remind me how big of an accomplishment this really is. I defied the odds, did the impossible, and reclaimed by life. They couldn’t be more proud. Since they were present the whole journey, only they know how truly rough of a ride it has been and all I have overcome.

I can’t describe the joy that I was filled with at this time. Going from feeling like my life was over, to getting a 2nd chance. I wasn’t just relieved, I was actually blissful and happy. There’s a difference.

I spent the next few years learning more about health, nutrition, and digestion. I learned from multiple other health professionals in addition to tirelessly reading and researching on my own. I finally was able to live a more normal life, continued learning more about health, knocking down classes at school, drastically improved my social life, and developed a relationship with an awesome girl.

I would absolutely LOVE to get others to this place.

A place where the disease doesn’t dictate every waking moment, and you can actually focus on building other aspects of your life. A place where having Ulcerative Colitis isn’t your full time job.

Instead, being able to develop relationships, social life, career, fitness, or whatever you want. That’s the beauty when you have the freedom health provides for you. You can live your life the way you want.

I wouldn’t have been able to help anyone 6 years ago, because I hadn’t yet helped myself. To help others you have to be coming from a place of health, energy, and knowledge yourself. You must have a surplus of these in order to give, right? I could not do that before. How do you give what you don’t have?

Now that I’ve stabilized my own health, and learned all the information, I believe this whole Ulcerative Colitis Journey (it really is a journey) is coming full circle. Now I can help those in my former predicament, those earlier on in the journey.

Everyone deserves a shot at health, but that’s just it. They need the shot, the need the opportunity.

If I were to help others with this disease, I’d be applying years of experience living with UC, formal college education (I majored in a field that involves the human body & health), informal education, and my own research. Most importantly, it’s my above average ability to empathize, to connect with what others are feeling because I actually have Ulcerative Colitis.

Combine all these things and boy do I wish I had a person like that to learn from during my rock bottom moments. I used to dream about someone who’s knowledgeable, speaks from experience, gets results, and who cares about people coming into my life and helping me.

If I could combine all of my experience with this disease, my wisdom and lessons learned, my knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, nutrition, and give that to a motivated and willing person. Well words can’t describe how I’d react for the opportunity to do that.

It breaks my heart to think about what others go through. However, the idea of being able to help by passing on what I’ve learned is the positive part I want to be focusing on instead.

          In my end message, I want to leave you with some extremely valuable wisdom. I paid the price for this knowledge in pain, suffering, literal blood and tears, and in years of my life I will never get back. It took me years of trial & error, and hard work getting well to learn the following. So please, be smart and treat this information accordingly. Do not shrug this list off. This information is GOLD.

          The ingredients for improving any aspect of health, including Ulcerative Colitis are this:

-Reaching An “I’ve Had It, That’s Enough” Moment:
 This means things have gotten bad enough for you to change. You’re sick of being sick.


-An Unshakable Drive To Do Succeed In Getting Well
 A crucial part of achieving health is not quitting. Having an unshakable drive to succeed is what  will lead you to take action, stay focused, and not quit once you start. Nothing can stop you.


-Being Willing To Accept Revisions of What You Thought Was True.
 Sometimes professionals don’t have all the answers and aren’t always right. Sometimes foods  you thought were healthy aren’t so healthy after all. Sometimes the causes of health problems  are things you’d never expect. Have an open mind, but not so open your brain falls out ;)


-The Right Teacher or Information to Instruct You
 You must have the right approach and the right information to apply. All the desire in the  world, in the absence of accurate information will not give results. Information determines the  effectiveness of your efforts and the results you get. Lack of good information, with a lot of  desire leads to what I call “full speed ahead in the wrong direction”.


-Lastly, the Willingness to Better Get to Know Yourself:
 You are the only one that can FEEL what's going on inside your own body. Your body talks to  you via reactions and symptoms. It communicates when it does or doesn't like  something. Your body and your unique reactions to food, people, and situations is something  no one else, including  professionals can sense for you. You must be willing to develop a self-  aware  relationship with your body with the purpose of establishing cause and effect.

          In my opinion and in my experience, a person who has all these ingredients is a person ready to succeed in getting healthy. Myself and others who have gotten similar results all have the ingredients in this recipe.

With that, I’d like to conclude the story of my Ulcerative Colitis Journey. I channeled my energy, time, emotions, and at times not-so glamourous personal life experiences into this. I hope you were able to connect with it, enjoy it, feel inspired by it, and learn from it.

Sincerely,
Dan

Please let me know what you thought of my Ulcerative Colitis Journey! I want to hear from you! Comment & subscribe below. You'll be kept up to speed as things progress on the site.

   
  

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