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Crohn's Disease - My Story

My articles are written from my perspective as a long time writer on HubPages, a retired healthcare professional and an educated patient.

Abdominal Pain is the worse you can imagine

Abdominal Pain is the worse you can imagine

PAREGORIC - dosage instructions

PAREGORIC - dosage instructions

Abdominal Pain in Children

  • Acute Abdominal Pain in Children
    Lists of common ailments in children from birth to age 18, showing differences between medical and surgical types of abdominal pain.


Diagnosis - awordlover's story

I was officially diagnosed with Celiac Disease (gluten sensitivity) in 1963, when I was around 10 years old. It was called "Sprue" back in the early 1960s. From the time I was a toddler, belly pain (called colic until I was 2), mouth sores (ulcers), abdominal bloating, vomiting, alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation were my constant complaints. As a very young child, one doctor told my parents I had gastritis. I was always on the thin side, was considered underweight, anemic and iron deficient. I was sick. A lot.

In our house, Paregoric was given for almost anything that ailed you - everything from diarrhea to stomach pain to coughs to tooth pain. It was a derivation of opium, a narcotic, did not require a prescription (it was sold over the counter in tiny brown bottles) and was widely used until the 1970s. I can still remember the taste of it. Unfortunately, dosing with paregoric masks illnesses and therefore delayed diagnosis for many of its users.

Supplemental vitamins were always a part of my nutrition. No one else in our house was thin like I was, we all ate the same foods, yet I was the one who was skinny and got sick. By age 10, I was nearly 5 feet tall, weighing only about 60 pounds.

It became an annual medical occurrence to go through upper GI and lower GI series and I dreaded it. I can still remember getting so sick after each test, the taste of the chalky barium I had to drink and the awful feeling of the barium enema followed by a series of Xrays. And being sick with belly pain followed by chalky stools for two or three days after the test. The insurance my father had from work covered this test once a year.

To add insult to misery, I started with menstrual periods a week after my ninth birthday. The pain was unbearable. Losing all that blood made me more anemic and iron-deficient. Four to five days a month put me flat on my back in bed, with heavy bleeding, absent from school, with a hot water bottle, Donnetal, Paregoric or Belladonna for pain (whatever was available in the medicine cabinet), which helped a bit. When the gas pain and diarrhea kicked it on top of it, which it always did, I thought I was gonna die.

My first trip to the gynecologist at age 9 1/2 years old resulted in being prescribed birth control pills to regulate my periods, which were occurring from three to eight weeks, lasting four to five days. The longer I went without a period, the worse it was. The GYN said the birth control pills would help make the pain less severe, but you couldn't prove it by me. I wasn't allowed to take medication on my own; it was doled out by one or the other parent, who often did not compare notes with each other. No dosing happened more than overdosing.

By the time I turned 11 years old, the doctors diagnosed "ileitis". My parents didn't hear "Your daughter has Crohn's Disease," until three feet of my ulcerated colon was removed and I was given a temporary colostomy.

The temporary colostomy was reversed one year later when I was 12 1/2 years old. The thinking at the time was to give my colon a chance to heal without stressing it with bowel movements. I hated it; it was supposed to be for SIX months, but I was still exhibiting a lot of gastrointestinal symptoms, so the docs decided to let it go for 12 months. Never tell a child a date and then renege. It was a very long 12 months.



"She Complains Too Much"

About six months before the colon surgery, my belly complaints took on a different tone. At that point, my complaints fell on deaf ears because I had been complaining all my life. I often overheard my parents on the phone or in mixed company - "She complains too much." With the start of menstruation, any pain I talked about was attributed to that or gastritis. This time, professional care came too late. I had a "hot appendix" which resulted in an emergency appendectomy. Unfortunately, my appendix burst and I got peritonitis.

Although my Celiac symptoms started when I was still a toddler in the 1950s, that diagnosis would never be considered in a young child. A milk allergy was ruled out early on. However, everything dairy was an antagonist and as children, most of our diet was dairy, sugar and starches. So I always had abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation which doctors called gastroenteritis, and in conversation my parents shortened to gastritis.

When the doctors said I had appendicitis and needed emergency surgery, I thought my problems would be gone with the removal of the appendix, thinking that had been the problem for all those years. Remember, I was still a young girl then. It took a long time to recover from the appendectomy and peritonitis. The gas, bloating, abdominal pain, vomiting and alternating diarrhea and constipation returned with a vengeance after the appendectomy. It became an everyday thing with me. More medications were ordered for symptoms and dosages were adjusted. All played havoc with my blood sugar, vision, mobility, and stamina.

My Gran came to take care of me while my parents worked and my brothers went to school. She prepared cream of wheat, farina, puddings, buttered cinnamon toast and hot tea for me to eat most days. And most days I was as sick as a dog.

Gran and my parents had no idea that the foods they were feeding me were making me sick. Doctors did not tell them or me half of the foods and types of flours that should have been eliminated from my diet, not to mention fried greasy foods. So my diet went relatively unchanged growing up in an Irish American household in the 1960s where there was no extra money in the household budget to buy 'special' food for one family member. If the food served was good enough for the majority, it had to be good enough for me.

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Because of fairly consistent flare ups, I have been on sliding scale doses of steroids (oral Prednisone, IVSM, Decadron) for Crohn's Disease since age 11. In September 2011, I turned 58 years old.

Oh, I forgot to tell you -- I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 23, and Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 33. Oral Prednisone is the medication I take for all three autoimmune diseases, and IV Solumedrol for flares.



Symptoms, Treatment & Checklists.

Infertility, Fatigue, & Immune Diseases - awordlover's story

There was no way to know at that young age, the future repercussions of all the medical decisions that were made for me by others. Just as there was no way to know about what certain medications would do to me in the long term.

What added to my symptoms was the use of oral contraceptives at an early age, smoking (from age 13 to 30), unregulated diet, stress, depression, fatigue, untreated acid reflux and the fertility drugs and treatments. I think if I had known then that birth control pills, smoking, stress and untreated acid reflux (GERDS) were all antagonists, that I would have pleaded to the powers that be to help me. Hindsight is 20/20, but hopefully others can learn something from my experience.

After a tonsilectomy (age 5) which resulted in lacerated larynx and loss of speaking voice for 4 years (I could sing but not speak), adenoidectomy (age 6) which resulted in lifelong sinus problems, reoccurring insulin dependent diabetes induced by steroids, four bouts of mononucleosis before my appendectomy with peritonitis, colon resection, two intestinal obstruction surgeries, surgeries for removal of adhesions, D & C's for breakthrough menstrual bleeding, eleven years of all types of fertility treatments, five in vitro procedures none resulting in a live birth, seven laser surgeries for endometriosis (which always grows back), reproductive organ reconstruction surgery due to endometriosis, seven miscarriages, two live births, gall bladder surgery, three back surgeries, two ischemic (brain) strokes, four benign brain tumor surgeries for meningiomas (which caused MS flares, memory loss, numbness and blurred vision) partial then a complete hysterectomy, complications of multiple sclerosis (more than 20 brain lesions), rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue, GERDS, dysphagia (swallowing issues) due to MS and strokes, both Addison's and Cushing's Disease from steroid use, years of physical, occupational and speech therapy to regain what I lost in function due to all of the above, people say it is a wonder I am still around.

Whole Foods Market - Gluten Free Products

The Stress Factor - my decisions

Besides diet, stress plays a big part in any digestive disorder. If you get your diet squared away and still have a moderate amount of stressors going on, you are defeating your purpose in trying to get well. It is very easy to say -- cut down on your stress -- it is another thing to actually be able to do it.

When you add being a sickly child living in a constant state of flux between fighting parents who happened to also be dependent on prescription drugs for anxiety and depression, and who also happened to be functional alcoholics (meaning they went to work mostly every day and drank from the time they walked in the door from work until they crawled up to bed - and weekends blended into one very long day), removing stress from your life is just not possible.

Removing stress from your environment is probably the most impossible thing for any person to do. Stress is everywhere and comes in many forms. It should not be out of the question for anyone to have a little help with low dose Ativan or similar drug because not many people can do it all on their own without picking up, moving to another city, leaving all ties to their former life behind. Almost like going into a Witness Protection Program, without the protection of the authorities. ::smile::

For me, the changes I put in place came with a whole new set of stressors. I became the sole provider for me, living on my own, supporting myself, paying to go to college and later medical school, paying rent for an apartment, holding down two part time jobs while in med school, paying for my own medical insurance. Some said I had gone from the frying pan into the fire.

In actuality, I had total control over the stressors after the changes. I could remove any one of the stressors at any time. Because none of them involved having feuding family members in my life anymore, the stress was on a different dimension. I was still getting sick, just not as much. Slowly I weaned off a lot of the medication I had been on since early childhood in order to be able to function, hold down a job and go to school. Some people in my life saw my schedule as one big stress factor, but I loved it. I was achieving a dream for a career I had been told was totally out of my grasp. I was always told I would never amount to anything, that I'd be better off finding a husband and let him take care of me for the rest of my life.

Not a chance.

If you don't try, you will never know if you would have succeeded. If you happen to have a whole laundry list of medical problems, then what better field to go into than the medical field. My education was important to me but after graduating from high school it was no longer important to my parents. Anything I wanted after that, I was on my own.

CREAM OF RICE - Fat free, gluten free, and cholesterol free

CREAM OF RICE - Fat free, gluten free, and cholesterol free









Diet and My Medication

I think the hardest part of any diet is finding out what is not on the list of approved foods. Favorite foods that you didn't think twice about eating before and had no idea they were making you sick are now replaced with other foods.

Don't deprive yourself - substitute.

If you deprive yourself, you will never stay on any diet. Don't try to go on a gluten free diet all at one time. I think it is best to do it gradually. By the same token, when saying goodbye to foods you love, do it a little at a time - say eliminate one food per week until you have eliminated them all. See if the same food has a gluten free version to substitute so you can still enjoy that food. It may take quite some time to totally get on a gluten free diet, but by doing it slowly, you won't feel deprived and therefore will have a better chance for success.

The trick to any diet involving treating any digestive system disease is to keep food in your body at all times. That means eating six to seven small meals per day, getting enough fluids, and supplementing with vitamins and minerals whatever you are not getting from your food.