A Second Chance at Life After Ulcerative Colitis: Kristin's Story A Second Chance at Life After Ulcerative Colitis: Kristins Story
A Second Chance at Life After Ulcerative Colitis: Kristin's Story
Life With Ulcerative Colitis
Before I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis I was as healthy as could be. I led an active lifestyle, got straight As, and had a social life filled with plenty of friends. I was a senior in high school, the captain of my tennis team, and had just received a full academic scholarship to The University of South Alabama.
I had no idea that having an autoimmune disease meant that my life would change forever. All I knew was how desperately I wanted to get back to my old life.
The symptoms I experienced were debilitating. I lost massive amounts of blood, I couldn’t leave the bathroom, I was unable to eat, and I began rapidly dropping weight. My parents were clueless, I was scared, and we were all kind of frozen due to this unforeseen kink in what was a previously healthy life.
I never made it to my state's tennis championships. I remained stuck in the hospital. I was mad at the world and couldn’t understand why life had thrown me such a curveball.
I went from never taking medicine to taking drugs every day. I remember asking my doctor how long I would need to be on medication, assuming, in my head, I’d be off of them in…a month? Maybe two? He laughed at me and scrawled out a timeline of my life on the back of his notepad.
My whole life was to be spent on medication. I didn’t understand.
Steroids brought me back to decent health, but at the beginning of my first semester of college, I spiraled out of control again. I had to drop several classes, lost close to 20 pounds, moved home, and was bedridden. I couldn't eat without running to the bathroom and would cry out from my spot on the couch when spasms of pain would shoot through my intestines.
Remission, Relapse, and the Hardest Decision Ever
The thing I remember most during this time was the depression — the inability to accept what was happening to me, and why I was experiencing the worst pain I had ever felt. My social life was gone. I was chained to my house and to my bathroom. I refused to go outside. I felt very, very alone.
I slowly came out of this flare, gradually moved back to my apartment and entered a lucky period of remission. I say ‘lucky’ because I now realize how rare remission is when battling an autoimmune disease.
Four symptom-free years later, I walked at graduation and received my diploma. Unfortunately, I knew my symptoms were about to return.
For almost three years after graduation my health fluctuated. I had to leave my first full time job as an art director because I could barely get off the bathroom floor in the morning. I tried everything: , lifestyle changes, and new medicines, but nothing worked. My quality of life was gone, many of my friends were gone, and I was on an extremely dangerous treatment, receiving IV infusions every 6 weeks.
It’s a terrible feeling having no control over your life. And when even the strongest of medicines didn’t help, I knew I had to make one of the hardest decisions I’d ever have to make.
I decided to have my colon removed.
A New Colon-Free Life Begins
On October 15th, 2013, I had my colon removed at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. After three years of pain, blood loss, zero quality of life, harsh medicines, and a hatred for food, I woke up symptom free.
Without my colon there was nothing left for my immune system to attack. Even with the surgical pain, I no longer felt that sick feeling that plagued me every day since remission three years prior.
After eating my first full meal, I braced myself for the usual cramping, pain, and bathroom run, but nothing happened.
I felt nothing. No pain. Nothing. I cried with happiness.
Within the next 9 months, I will undergo two more surgeries to create a new 'colon' from my small intestine and I will no longer need any chemo medicines or steroids.
It’s been such a scary road dealing with things that no 24-year-old girl wants to deal with. But I am symptom-free for the first time in three years.
I’m going out and living.
I’m savoring every bite of food I eat that isn’t giving me pain and every walk on the bay where I don’t have to worry about a restroom. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life, and I’m enjoying every single second of it.
What I Lost and Gained
My disease made me lose friends, but I’ve realized who my true friends are.
My disease ruined relationships, but I’m now engaged to someone whose spent three rough years by my side. I finally have my light at the end of the tunnel.
You never know when good health will be taken away from you. I never asked for ulcerative colitis; it just happened. But it has given me so much appreciation for the smallest things in life.
Never take your health for granted. If you’re able to, go out and live.
Kristin Williams, 25, is a graphic designer, illustrator, college graduate, and Pilates instructor diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2007. She is currently working on freelance design and illustration. She loves tennis, her nephew, raising baby squirrels, and cotton candy ice cream.
Photo Credit: Ari Nurh/Getty Images
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