Although my memory of this is vague, when I was 17, in the early months of 2014 I attended the GP with symptoms of both constipation and quite the opposite, diarrhoea. I’m not even sure if the GP diagnosed me with IBS but I was sent away with medication for it anyway to give it a try. I wouldn’t say that I was unwell during this time, but I was experiencing random bouts of symptoms that were more inconvenient than uncomfortable. I was either completely blocked up or running to the toilet.
In the weeks approaching my AS exams that were due to begin in May 2014 I started experiencing consistent diarrhoea and urgency. I tried carrying on with life as normal, which resulted in me being rushed home numerous times from my then-boyfriend’s house before I had an accident which as you can imagine at 17 was traumatising? I just kept thinking I had some sort of bug and it would go away but it didn’t and then I noticed blood. I remember the first time I told my parents there was blood and the look of fear in my mummy’s eyes, you’ll soon understand why. Daddy probably thought I was being my dramatic self. I didn’t really know what to think and I just started necking Yakults (supposedly good for gut health) which is actually hilarious in hindsight. God loves a trier.
Within a week of seeing blood I think I’d lost nearly a stone in weight and with how petite and light I already was at the time a stone was a whole lot. I was going to the toilet countless times a day, I was unable to stand up straight, hunched over holding onto whatever tummy I had left, I got an emergency GP appointment for Monday 11th May 2014.
MON 11TH MAY
There were no seats left in the waiting room. Whilst I waited, I went between sitting on the rough carpeted floor (shoutout Hillhead Family Practice), to the only toilet available and breaking into a sweat when someone occupied it. In the appointment the GP went through family history and after learning that my mother has Ulcerative Colitis and that my granny had Crohn’s disease he advised me that I needed to be referred to the gastroenterology team in the City Hospital. Fine, BUT, the wait for an appointment was at least 6 weeks and with the state I was in, I wouldn’t have been there in 6 weeks. Looking back, I should have been in A&E and to this day I’m unsure why the GP never sent me. I have absolutely no doubt that I would have been admitted. My mummy and I left the GP in frustration but with hope that with my daddy’s private health insurance I might be able to be seen sooner. After a call with bupa and the Ulster independent clinic I was given an appointment the next day.
TUESDAY 12TH MAY
The Gastro Consultant went through my notes and over my families health history to which he suspected I might have Ulcerative Colitis, to be honest I remember hoping that it was ‘that disease’ that my mummy had as I’d never seen her really ill, I thought that what I was going through was 100x worse and hoped it was just that. How wrong was I. To investigate I was scheduled to have a colonoscopy on the Friday. Oh lovely.
THURSDAY 14TH MAY
To prepare for a colonoscopy, 24 hours before the procedure patients must fast and drink 2 litres of Moviprep followed by 2 litres of water. At this stage I wasn’t eating much anyway and so I accepted the challenge. That’s until I tasted the Moviprep. I was allowed to add diluted orange juice to the mixture to try and improve the taste. I was told to stay away from anything coloured red in case mistaken for blood during the procedure so blackcurrant juice was off the cards. The taste is indescribable. No matter how cold it was, it tasted warm, it was salty, and every mouthful was a fight with my own mind to swallow. I started off well, taking sips and keeping them down but the taste only got worse. I asked my mummy to go and get me hard lollies so that I could take away the taste after every mouthful. She initially handed me an orange lolly, and with the ever so slight taste of orange in the mixture my reaction was far from grateful if you know me you know what look I gave my poor mummy. To an extent the lolly helped wash away the taste of the liquid after each mouthful. The effect of the moviprep was immediate, removing anything in my digestive system in an aggressive and disgusting manner. During the last litre I was gagging with every mouthful, my sister comforted me and talked me through it trying to distract me, something she still does when I down a dioralyte. In the same room, my mummy threatened that if I kept throwing up the solution ill have drank the first litre for nothing as the procedure wouldn’t be able to be performed. Thankfully, after my unimpressed mother grew more worried, I finished the 2 litres of Moviprep, and throughouhly enjoyed the 2 litres of water which followed and that was me until the following day. I think this might be one of my biggest achievements, not eating for 24 hours. I don’t think I could do that now.
FRIDAY 15TH MAY
The Ulster independent clinic is a private hospital and so I arrived and was shown to my own private room where I could change into my gown and wait until the procedure. The gowns are great and really what everyone wants, they are completely, entirely backless. Like I mean there is no back to it so if you don’t wrap it round you and secure it in place with your hands everyone gets a sneak peek. But of course medically this allows for easy access of the scope. During the procedure I was given a strong sedative and I vaguely remember speaking to the nurse who held my hand and the screen showing the consultant my insides but other than that it was a blur. After the procedure my mummy brought me to get a milkshake to get my cals up.
The colonoscopy confirmed my mother’s worst fears and I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis on the 15th May 2014. I was given a prescription for 5ASA (Mesasaline) tablets, 4 to be taken twice a day, and a rectal foam which was to be taken (not by mouth J) at night. And this is how my journey with Ulcerative Colitis began.
Some details of this time in my life are as clear as day and others not so much, my mind does a great job in helping me forget the bad times.
Everyone’s diagnosis is different and for some people it takes a lot longer than what I experienced, sometimes even years. Being aware of your own health, weight (to an extent) and eating and toilet habits can play a big part in recognising signs that may indicate something is wrong- don’t ignore these. Being aware of the symptoms associated with IBD is key to an early diagnosis in which treatment is more effective as well as a lesser chance of complications. It is also important to know the difference between IBS and IBD. Speak to your doctor, your family and friends and feel free to speak to me:)