July 19, 2012 marked 1 year since my life changed. For days, I’d been feeling increasing pain in my gut. “It’s appendicitis“, they said. “Routine surgery, should take about 90 minutes”, they said. I woke up 4 hours later to the news that it was not, in fact, appendicitis. Instead of an appendectomy, they had removed my terminal ileum and my ascending colon. All told, about 24″ of gut was now gone, along with a “softball sized” mass of inflamed tissue. Not to mention the massive scar ensuring the end of my nascent (read: extant only in my mind) underwear modeling career! I had to wait a few days for the lab to determine that it was Crohn’s disease. I’m glad it was caught when it was… there’s no telling how much longer that mass could have gone without rupturing, and then things would have gotten SIGNIFICANTLY worse! Read Jon Reiner’s The Man Who Couldn’t Eat for a powerful story of how bad things can get when that happens! I feel blessed that things worked out they way they did.
While my initial response to my diagnosis was one of shock, surprise, and even a touch of denial, I have a confession: Once I accepted it on it’s on terms, it was one of the most validating things I’d ever been told. Suddenly a lifetime of gut pain, irregular poop, and a host of other issues was no longer just my imagination, or my ‘cranky gut’. Now it had a name and a framework for understanding. Now it made sense!
But there was a new challenge. How do I now take this new information and incorporate it into a healthy life, without it becoming a ‘thing’? Without it becoming a central defining facet of my life? How do I, on the one hand, put my health first, heal from my surgery, and ensure that I never get that sick again, while on the other, keep from becoming a Crohn’s patient first and a person second? So far, I feel as though I’ve done a reasonably good job of finding the balance. Like so many things in life, that balance was found not in the facts of the situation, but in how I chose to look at those facts. I wrote about this briefly in an earlier article, “Getting Sick vs. Getting Well”. It boils down to this: My crisis last year and the resultant healing journey made it blatantly clear that I had not been taking care of myself. That sickness has motivated me to find new ways of being healthy, and to keep health at the forefront of my consciousness. What is NOT at the forefront of my consciousness is Crohn’s disease. Eating well, getting exercise, spending time outdoors, and rebuilding a long-languishing social life are the things that I’m thinking about. The fact that these will also help to keep my Crohn’s disease in remission is a bonus. I’m doing this for me, not for my Crohn’s. I did not get sick last July. I’d been sick for a long time. What happened last Summer was that I got well!
Another auspicious anniversary is looming. In a couple of weeks, I’ll have followed the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for a year. Talk about major lifestyle shift! Going on SCD has quite literally changed the way I live. I spend easily 2-3 times as much time in the kitchen than I did before. I spend easily half again as much on my weekly groceries as did before. But you know what? I spend a lot less money on food now than I used to. I used to eat out for lunch 3-5 days a week. No longer. I used to go out for dinner 2-3 nights a week. No longer. I used to go out for breakfast a couple of times a month. No longer. Instead, I pack my lunch every day, and enjoy the jealousy of my coworkers as they smell the amazing food I bring. Diana and I eat dinner at home, at the table, in the comfort of our own space. Sunday mornings are spent enjoying quiet jazz, the smell of bacon, and schlepping around the house in our pajamas.
But surely there must be more to SCD than just spending more time at home and in the kitchen?
Indeed, there is. I’ve learned many things as a result of going SCD. I’ve learned that 90% of the food that’s available to us at the grocery store is poison, especially to folks with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I’ve learned that, in a grossly dark ironic twist, it is much cheaper to eat crappy, highly processed, nutrient-free, carb-dense, chemical infused ‘food’ than it is to eat a diet comprised of simple ingredients, free of chemicals and genetic alteration. I’ve also learned that I believe this is a crime. It’s little wonder we have an epidemic of obesity and obesity-related illness in the First World. Not only is toxic ‘convenience’ food cheaper, but the more we rely on it, the less we know how to cook, how to work with food, how to prepare it. Combined with our over-reliance on symptom-centric allopathic medicine, it’s my belief that, at the rate we’re going, our Mutually Assured Destruction will not come from warring states, but indeed from our own grocery stores and our own misinformation.
I’m on the verge of ranting here, so I’d best cut myself off.
I started this blog less as a resource for others, and more of a way to document my own journey. A journal, if you will. It’s incredibly gratifying to me to hear that others have found value in it as well. Thanks for being readers. Thanks for leaving comments. And thanks for finding my rambling to be worth your time. I’ve been astonished at how tight-knit the IBD and SCD communities are, and while I still refuse to allow Crohn’s to be how I define myself, I’m so grateful to all y’all for your advice, your help, and your willing listening.