Welcome to Crohn’s


The first time I ever heard the words “Crohn’s Disease” was right after I found out I had it. I remember I was sitting with my mother looking at the latest round of x-rays from a small bowel series, and although to me it looked like a traffic jam in the Holland Tunnel, the doctors seemed confident that disease was evident.

The room started spinning. Only four months ago I had been a seemingly healthy high-school student and then the universe flipped some cosmic switch and my guts went into open revolt. In the following months my life turned into a circus of new terms, new medications and new doctors, and as if the symptoms of my new disease weren’t enough, the stress of knowing I had one only made it worse.

So that’s what I want to talk about today – the immediate aftermath of a diagnosis. Yes, you have a disease. No there’s no outright cure, and no, no one is quite sure why you have it. These things you simply must accept. In order to get enough of your brain back to focus it on what needs to be done, just let it go, and move foreword.

Secondly, this little thing called the internet has made finding other people like yourself much, much easier. Sites like crohnsadvocate.com and a host of other similarly minded sites await your perusal – and typically a huge community of sympathetic voices too. I have made lifelong friends simply by signing up and reaching out. And if you’re on Facebook, search for “Crohn’s Support” and in no time you’ll actually be using it for something useful.

Thirdly – diet. You must now embark on a long and arduous journey to find out what your body now does and doesn’t like. For whatever reason the rules in your tummy have changed and it’s worth taking the time to carefully rule out what’s a no-no. Cook just a chicken breast. Eat it. See how you feel, and write down any particular discomfort. Then over the course of a week do this for all the major food categories. By the end of the week you’ll have a nice little docket of information on what your body wants, and right now, information is gold. Eventually you will find one or two things that seem to be OK, and when you do, learn to cook them like a Top Chef. Challenge yourself.

Fourthly – focus on your body. Instead of viewing this as a negative, why not decide that you’re going to fight against it by getting in better shape than you’ve ever been. When I got diagnosed in high-school I was relatively heavy, and given that I was dropping weight anyway, took it as my sign to begin running. Because of that regular exercise is a now a vital staple of my wellness, and on the few occasions I let my workout lapse I can feel Crohn’s creeping back in.

And finally – you must identify all the things you do have control over, and lord over them like a dictator on a small island. If Crohn’s is going to mess with you, then you’re going to mess with it right back by pulling together all these threads to make a net much stronger than it’s unwelcome presence. The road you’re about to walk down is much easier knowing you control your destiny, and despite all the new doctors, meds and terms, you’re still in control. Never forget that.

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