Saturday, December 16, 2017

The One I Loved Already

My husband and I went to our first appointment with the fertility clinic in early 2014 (the exact month escapes me).  I'm not sure how my husband felt at this point although I know he is reluctant to go to doctor's offices and hospitals.  But I imagine he was a little on the nervous side.  I sure was. 

Going to the doctor's office usually has the power to make me a little on edge.  I probably should be used to the process after going to the doctor so often with having Crohn's Disease.  It seems like there would always be an unpleasant test of some sort awaiting me.  What surprise tests would we have here?

With this visit to the fertility clinic, we were looking at potentially large medical bills coming our way as insurance would provide little to no assistance in the process.  We had saved up money, but how long would that last?  And would we get the results we wanted after spending that much money? 

And the biggest cause for my shaken nerves: the end result.  Either way it went.  I was nervous it wouldn't work; that the baby I longed for, of mine and my husband's own flesh and blood, would never be, and I'd be left with a massive hole in my heart.  On the other hand, if it did work, if we were to be blessed with a child...well, having a baby makes everyone nervous!

The waiting area at the office provided a slight calming of my nerves.  The environment was open and quiet.  But then we were handed the new patient paperwork to fill out.  That's hard to do when you keep thinking of the potential life change awaiting you.

Once we were called back, we went through the new patient preliminaries.  The staff was great.  It was helpful that we already knew one of the staff members prior to our visit (my husband knows someone everywhere it seems) which, for me, is calming as it provides familiarity.

When we met with the doctor, we heard a trusting voice.  He brought knowledge and confidence to a room that was filled with a sense of possible hopelessness.  He explained what was currently happening with me physically with the information he had from the tests that had been done prior to this point.  Further tests would be needed in order to get a better understanding of what my body was doing (or wasn't doing).  He also addressed what tests would be needed on my husband's side of things to eliminate issues there. 

I had thought that my modesty within the medical world had gone out the window by this point in my life.  How many times have I had to have invasive testing done with strangers present in regards to having Crohn's Disease?  And once I was of age to start going to a gynecologist...there's not really any explanation needed there, right?

The testing needed for this battle with infertility: It's a well advanced, in-depth trip to the gynecologist; throughout the whole process.  It's like modesty went out the window, tried to come back to thinking the coast was clear, and then saw the actual situation and said, "Why bother?"  There were times I'd think my life couldn't just be simple somewhere in the health spectrum.  (Of course, that was just me having a pity party on top of being tired of having to see doctors.)

I'm fairly certain I could have donated a decent amount of blood over the years (if I were medically cleared to do so) with all of the lab work I've had done in my life.  I think I had lab work done every time I visited the fertility clinic. 

And you know what?  I would have had even more lab work done, filled out enough paperwork to write a book, went through even more tests, worked more to be able to pay for all of this if it meant sharing the love that God had put in my heart for a child.  Some people say they love the child they are carrying but is not yet born.  I loved a child that didn't yet have life inside of me. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Love, Marriage, and...

There's a saying "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage".  My husband and I had the love part.  We had the marriage part.  Next, we wanted that baby carriage.

At this point we had been married around three years.  It seemed like a good time to expand the family, bring new life and joy into our home.  But something strange had happened to my body.

My menstrual cycles started off as normal as possible for a teenage girl.  But then Crohn's Disease happened and wreaked havoc on my body.  I had lost a lot of blood over time due to my illness that the "gift" had disappeared.  My body was doing good to pump enough blood to keep my heart going, I'm sure.  Functions that had to do with reproduction were not important.

After my issues with Crohn's were addressed, then my menstrual cycles (or lack there of) were addressed.  I was prescribed birth control to get my body to have cycles.  A woman's body is meant to have cycles once a month.  The monthly visit seemed annoying at the time (and sometimes still does), but it's unhealthy for the woman's body to not go through the process.  Birth control resolved that issue; at least on the surface.

When my husband and I decided to take the leap into parenthood, I just assumed it would happen.  No issues could possibly interfere.  The only medication I was taking was the birth control medication (my Crohn's was under control after my ileostomy).  Obviously, I stopped taking that.

Then the issues started.  A month went by, and I didn't have a cycle.  I'm all excited and go and get pregnancy tests.  They were negative.  That was disappointing.  But it didn't seem terribly odd to me.  I'd been taking birth control for several years at this point.  My body probably just needed time to adjust to not taking it.

Well, months went by and then almost a year had passed since I had stopped taking the medication, and still, my cycles hadn't returned and unfortunately, I still was not pregnant.  It was time to go to the doctor.  He reinforced my idea that it could take some time for my body to get back into order after stopping the birth control.  But he actually put me back on it for three months thinking that it may jump start my body.  It didn't.  At the end of the three months trial, my cycles still hadn't returned, and I still was not pregnant.

I found myself trying to will my body to do what it was supposed to.  If I could just have my cycles back, we would be able to conceive.  But there was nothing I could do of my own accord.

We took it upon ourselves to get more in depth help for reproductive issues.  We made our first appointment with a fertility clinic.  The emotional roller coaster would start here.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Make Them Aware

December 1-7, 2017 is IBD Awareness Week.  This is a great time for those who have Inflammatory Bowel Disease or those who may know someone who has it or those who work in gastroenterology to bring awareness to the forefront of people's lives.  It's a time to share information on the disease and how it affects different areas of the body in various ways.  And it's a time to share experiences of dealing with what can be a vicious illness that takes over the ability to live in comfort.

IBD (specifically Crohn's Disease in my case) isn't something you can take an antibiotic for 10 days (or however long), and the affliction goes away.  It isn't a scrape on the knee where you just clean up the injured area, put some ointment on it and a bandage, and the scrape heals.  IBD is...well...forever.

With IBD, medical tests are commonplace.  Fortunately, for me, I can now go two years between ileoscopies as I've had good results from my previous scopes over the past few years.  Every year (at least), I see my gastroenterologist.  But there was a time when my Crohn's was active that my visits with him were much more frequent.  Medications (that aren't always budget friendly) have to be taken regularly.  But there is no guarantee that they will help the individual that is taking them (for me, they did not).

Some people face multiple surgeries due to the impact their illness has had on them, such as removal of parts of their intestines or even removal of their colon completely like with me.  And though its been a blessing to my health, I have to admit that sometimes I wish I didn't have to wear an ostomy bag.  When things are quiet around me, that's when my stoma wants to be the noisiest.  It's not very lady-like.  I attempt to muffle the noises by putting my hand over my ostomy bag, but it's still noticeable, to me anyway.

There are costs involved with IBD as well.  Monetary costs are big due to expensive drugs and sometimes extended (or just frequent) hospital visits.  And of course, doctor's office visits.  With an ostomy, supplies can be quite pricey.

There's a time cost.  People with active disease are likely to miss time at work due to those hospital visits, doctor's appointments, and just feeling unable to work.  They miss time with friends and family when they don't feel well.  Being a part of society gets pushed aside as one just tries to get through the daily pain.

Family and friends pay a price, too.  They may miss out on the same things as the family member that is struggling with their illness: time at work, spending time with other family and friends, and just having time for themselves.  They are doing their best to support the loved one who is sick; but their free time may be turned into a time of care-giving.

And lets not forget the emotional toil IBD can have on a person.  The uncertainty of if and when one is going to get better (or the if and when is the next relapse going to happen) can really take a person on a roller coaster ride. They are on top of the world when the disease has calmed down and one is able to go out of the house pain free; but then the ride goes way too fast in a downward spiral when a relapse occurs and the painful symptoms reappear.

As this week of awareness goes forward, my hope is that the awareness of IBD doesn't end on December 7th, but that it will carry on each and every day.  People can't be a part of something they know nothing about.  Bringing awareness of IBD is part of why I started writing this blog.  I'm hoping that it's doing just that.  Please continue to share my story with those that may be affected by IBD.  We all need the support of others.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Let's Take a Look

Eventually, after marriage, Geoff would get to experience the yearly ileoscopy.  This would be where my gastroenterologist would take a look at my small intestines and make sure there were no signs of Crohn's Disease making its return and that all looked healthy.

Lucky for him (and luckier for me), Geoff didn't have to endure my experience with the prep needed for colonscopies to clean out the intestines.  I don't have to do this with an ileostomy.  If anyone has had to be prepped for a colonoscopy, or had diarrhea due to a stomach virus, imagine that experience with a bag attached to you.

Now I've had to deal with diarrhea and my ileostomy because unfortunately the stomach virus still finds its way in my body.  It would seem great that one wouldn't have to run to the bathroom with those sudden and emergent urges.  But the problem is emptying a bag full of liquid.  It doesn't even have to be full.  Any liquid output can be hard to aim into the toilet without a mess.  The bag has to be emptied often.  Sleep is at a minimum with this issue.  It fills up so fast and sleeping doesn't slow the output down.

The worst part of the ileoscopy (besides being a mess after the procedure due to output) is the bloating.  They blow air into the intestines to widen them to make them more visible.  The air doesn't absorb into the intestinal walls.  It's got to come back out.  For the next few hours after the procedure, I have to deal with a bloated ileostomy bag (the bag balloons) and the discomfort that being bloated affords.  (This is still better than a colonoscopy prep.)
Anyway, back to the ileoscopy: the more entertaining and challenging part for Geoff would be after the test is complete.  The first few scopes, I had after having an ileostomy, I would be sedated.  So Geoff would come back to the recovery room to a groggy, slightly incoherent Megan.  Who knows (except for him) what I said.  I'd ask this once I awake enough to think.  He never admitted to anything.  He probably has videos stashed away to use in case he needs to pay me back for something someday.

I wouldn't be under anesthesia long because the test itself is maybe ten minutes long.  I know this because I no longer get sedated for the procedure.  This wasn't an issue the first couple of times.  My gastroenterologist even suggested it.  And for me, it’s barely noticeable that he's in there with this long, skinny, flexible tube looking at the inside for my small intestines.  It's even neat for me to be able to see what's going on.  And I like not having the 'hangover" when the procedure is finished.  It allows us to be able to leave the hospital quicker.  And the procedure can be messy as I’m not allowed to eat or drink for so many hours prior to the procedure, so whatever output there is becomes liquid, and inevitably there is a mess around my wafer once the procedure is complete  The more awake I am, the easier it is to get cleaned up.

However, the lack of anesthesia was an issue for one person at my last ileoscopy: the anesthesiologist.  My gastroenterologist had already confirmed and okayed that I didn't want anesthesia (like I said, it was his idea to begin with).  But the anesthesiologist didn't like that I refused the anesthesia for the procedure.  He wanted quick access in case of a need to administer a medication in an emergency.  I get that.  I said if he wanted an IV access point, go ahead and put one in.  But I do not want to be sedated.  My doctor and myself had already discussed it.  He was perturbed I could tell.  As if I couldn't hear him a few feet away, he was discussing with the other staff the situation.  And then he commented as they wheeled me out that I got what I wanted using that tone of voice that makes one feel 2 inches tall.  Real good bedside manner huh?  The nurses and my doctor made sure to let me know that my decision was fine.

Geoff's experience after this ileoscopy: he saw his wife's anger directed not at him for once.  Haha!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

How I Met Your Ostomy

Well, so this is Geoff, the husband. Megan asked me to follow up last week's post by giving my point of view of my introduction to her ostomy.

To be honest, I don't remember much from that moment. That, of course, doesn't surprise me as I can't even remember what I ate for lunch yesterday! But I do remember that we were at my apartment in Ashland City, TN, and we had probably just gotten back from going out to eat somewhere. She pulled out an extra set of equipment to try and show how things connected together for the process as a whole.  I probably got a little queasy as I seem to do any time she talks about it with others, but I didn't get too bad that time.

It seems weird that I don't remember a whole lot from this time where she told me all about her ostomy, but isn't that kind of the point? One of the main reasons I encouraged Megan to write this blog was to show people who may be just getting started with an ostomy bag that life can be relatively normal. So the fact that I don't remember a lot from this sharing is also a testament to how it has just been a normal part of our relationship.

In regard to our first date, the story she told last week is completely true! As she mentioned, having been on eHarmony, I had been on a few other "first dates". This one obviously had a very different feel, and I know the manager at Longhorn Steakhouse only referenced her smile, but I know that I wasn't frowning either!

Our second date was quite the story as well... We decided to go see a movie! Well, being Labor Day, there wasn't a wide selection of movies out and available. So we ended up seeing the movie "Gamer" with Gerard Butler. It was quite possibly one of the worst movies I've ever paid to see! My apologies if you liked this movie, but only 28% of people on Rotten Tomatoes did, so I guess most people agree with us! I remember thinking the entire movie, "This is terrible and inappropriate. We really should leave. But would she think of me less that I can't handle scenes like this? Maybe she likes it?? (Which of course, she didn't either!)" But it was afterwards that Megan and I officially started dating, and of course, the rest is history!

One last point I'd like to mention while I have the floor is the blessing it has been to have her. Besides of course the obvious years of marriage, son, and memories. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. It clearly is not at the extreme of Megan's Crohn's, but it requires me to take medicine everyday for it. Having Megan around made the process so much easier as she knew how the different procedures would go! Without her guidance, I have no idea how I would have made it through the diagnosis, and very well could have not even brought it to the attention of a doctor in the first place! I hope that this blog of hers can help someone else who is staring at procedures like the ones Megan has had, but that she can guide and share the expectations through the process for someone else.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Love & An Ostomy

I have to share the story of my husband and myself met.  For one reason, it's too special not to share.  And for another reason, he wasn't just getting me in the relationship.  He was getting my health baggage, too.  And I would have to tell him about it and explain that and hope that he would not run away.
 As has been mentioned in previous posts, I was depressed and lonely.  I had been looking for "the one" since I was 13 or 14 years old.  At this point I was 23.  My siblings were married and out on their own.  And one had a child.  I guess I probably felt left behind.  With my health issues, I wasn't up to dating much, but I was always looking for that one guy that would make my life complete. 

Where I was at the time didn't lead to the meeting of many people anywhere close to my age.  And I didn't go out much in general due to not feeling well with Crohn's.  Plus, I'm just a homebody.  I got the suggestion from my mom to try eHarmony.  I was floored that she would suggest because it was such an out-of-the-box idea that I never expected to come from anyone in my family.  But I went with it.  The site asked many questions to get the best idea of the interests and desires of the client and to be able to match them with a potential suitor.  After filling out the necessary information, I was given a list of male matches that can be contacted if the client finds them of interest.  I sent out a few messages, but the only one that contacted me back was my now husband.
We communicated through the eHarmony site briefly and realized we had both were on Facebook, so we switched over to that as our sole source of communication for a while.  Of course, we would need to meet sooner or later if this relationship was going to go anywhere.  But this was where I was most nervous, and not only because we would be meeting for the first time, but because I was meeting someone I'd only spoken to on the internet.  Now I have seen enough movies, TV shows, and news reports to know that people can be on the screen may not be the person who is communicating with you. 

With this realization, Geoff suggested we meet in a public place and in our case, that was the food court of a mall.  I'm sure I got the approval of my family before the outing.  And thankfully, he looked like his profile picture. 

We decided to eat at Longhorn Steakhouse, and the story to follow has provided us with a yearly tradition to celebrate.  As we walk into the restaurant, the manager is standing there.  Apparently, I had a large grin on my face because he asks Geoff if he just proposed.  We told him that we'd just met.  He takes us to our table, we order and eat, and the manager cimes back to our table with balloons and their Chocolate Stampede dessert.  He apologizes for embarrassing us (although we were more humored than embarrassed) and says our ticket is taken care of.  We like to think we have
a great first date story.  Every year we go to Longhorn around the time of our first date and always order the Chocolate Stampede.  (This year, we happened to get the dessert for free.)
A few weeks into or relationship, I realized I would need to be upfront about my health issues.  It seemed unfair not to share issues that would be a part of his life if things grew more serious.  I'm not good at explaining things verbally.  I need visual aids.  But I didn't want to shine my ostomy bag to this guy I had known for just a short time.  However, I always have my spare ostomy bag, wafer, and accessories with me just in case I need to make an emergency appliance change.  I used that to give him a more visual idea of what I was trying to explain.  I don't know how much he understood, but he didn't run away in disgust or fear. 

On one date, in the beginning of our relationship, I had to use the spare ostomy appliance.  We were going to a football game with some of his friends and went to eat first.  The ostomy bag I had on sprung a leak.  I was trying to subtly get his attention to let him know this and find out where the restrooms were.  He just kept saying hold on because he wasn't understanding what I was trying to say.  I learned then I would have to be more blunt.  (This is still the case.)  Once he figured out what I was needing, he was apologetic, and helped me the best he could.  That was the first time I'd had to change my ostomy appliance outside of home or work.  And this was the first time I'd met his friends.  I'm not sure they were aware of the situation but I almost wish they were.  It was embarrassing because it seemed like I was in the restroom a long time.  And it was a single occupancy restroom.  People were waiting on me.  And I had leaked enough to get my shirt dirty.  I was thankful to have worn a long sleeve shirt under a short sleeve one.  I could just take off the dirty one and be good to go.  As embarrassing and gross as that was to me, he still stuck around. 

He was there when I had surgery to remove the rectal muscles.  He despises hospitals.  But he tried to be there the whole time I had to stay there.  We continued to date.  And seven months after our first date, he proposed.  Six months after that, we were married.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

There's Always a Rainbow

I wish I could say that after my nephew was born, after I had my epiphany that his existence was enough reason to keep pushing through each trial that I faced, that the clouds just rolled away and that out came the sun and a rainbow of beautiful colors.  But it wasn't...

People don't get into debt overnight, and it takes a while to pay off that debt depending on how much is accumulated, the income available, and the intensity in which you go attack the debt.  When people realize they've gained too much weight, it wasn't like they went to bed slim and woke up the next morning overweight.  The weight gain took time, and possibly bad choices were made.  Losing the weight will take time, sweat, and determination.  (This one I know from experience.)

Getting out of my depressed state would take me facing intense moments of opening of myself up and becoming vulnerable and having a determination to keep doing this until it became a habit of purpose.  Only then would my dark clouds start rolling away and my burdens become lighter.

This is where I had to go to counseling.  Even though my parents have great ears to listen with, they couldn't help me through my depression any more than they could cure me from Crohn's Disease.  But they could help me find the source who could walk me through my struggles.  If nothing else, speaking to an unbiased, unattached personally individual was a great avenue to relieve my inner thoughts that I had a tendency to carry inside for too long.  I was a a hoarder of my worries.  And hoarding isn't healthy in any circumstance.  My counselor had me keep a notebook of what was going through my head, and we would go over it at each session.  It provided a way to dig through the thoughts I had that I wouldn't remember to (or maybe want to) speak about at my appointment.  And it also helped to relieve those thoughts that would build up.

I also quit my job and tried a different area of nursing.  However, the anxiety I felt everyday remained.  I lacked so much self-confidence.  And eventually, I had to walk away from nursing altogether, an occupation that I was sure at one time was my life's calling.  The experience I had of my call to nursing and the one I was currently facing with depression were so conflicting and very much confusing.  And certainly didn't help the depression.

At this time, I had also started dating the man I am married to today.  Having him in my life was helpful to me as it was when my nephew was born.  He gave me yet another reason to push forward through my depression journey.  And of course, being in love gave my mind other areas to focus on than just on myself and my troubles.

He got me back into church.  I didn't completely walk away from church.  My relationship with God had been barely existent.  Here was a guy that took his walk with God, his church attendance, and his involvement in church very seriously.  His knowledge of the Bible amazed me as it still does.  I saw how important it was to be a part of the church and how much it meant to him, and it made me want that as well.  He was able to use the fire from his light to rekindle the fire that was dim from my own candle.

It didn't take us long to realize that we were meant to be together.  We had some struggles with lack of jobs while we were engaged.  And as much of a worrier as I am, I don't remember this being as much of a worry for me.  I know that sounds crazy.  Maybe I was too in love to think otherwise.  Maybe I was still too absorbed with my depressed state to notice something that today would probably throw me into a tailspin of worries.  But regardless, the Lord had our lives in His hands and provided each of us with new jobs.

With these changes, He also pulled me out of my depression.  What seemed like a scary time, getting married and being jobless, turned into a test of patience and faith.  Deep down, I had faith.  I like to think that God had to allow me to go through the illness with Crohn's Disease, the ileostomy surgery, the depression, and the unemployment to show me (and others) that He was the One in charge.  That He wouldn't leave me.  And that He truly doesn't give you more than you can handle.  There's always a rainbow...