Tuesday, October 21, 2014

MY THIRD TRIP DOWN COLONOSCOPY LANE

FOR THE THIRD TIME
In a few days, I will be undergoing a colonoscopy...for the third time.  You may be wondering why someone my age, who seemingly lives an outrageously healthy lifestyle, would need a colonoscopy.  Well, in 2008, I was diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease and thus began my journey to a healthier lifestyle.  This medical condition must be monitored regularly through a scope. It's been almost 3 years since my last colonoscopy.  So, it's time for another one.  

IN MY PREVIOUS LIFE
Before starting a family, I exercised regularly but I didn't pay as much attention to other aspects of my health.  I ate fast food (a lot!).  I took over-the-counter medicine at the slightest sign of a headache (which was often).  I drank alcohol frequently.  I never paid attention to the quantity or quality of my sleep.  The list could go on and on.  All of these things occurred before my eyes were opened to the side effects of living such an unhealthy lifestyle.  

SINUS INFECTION AFTER SINUS INFECTION
After my daughter was born in 2008, I started experiencing SEVERE sinus infections.  Always reluctant to go to the doctor, I would overdose on every sinus medication that was available in an effort to reduce the pain.  Each time, however, I would end up in the hospital because the pain was so debilitating. Each hospital visit would result in powerful (and damaging) antibiotics and pain medication.  Every few weeks, I would be hit with another infection.  It became a vicious cycle that, over time, began to damage my digestive system.  

A DIAGNOSIS
Then the bleeding started and let's just say that when you notice blood coming from places in which it shouldn't originate, you take notice!  I visited with a gastroenterologist and was promptly scheduled for a colonoscopy.  The result of that initial scope came a diagnosis: Ulcerative Colitis.  Yep, my large intestine was full of ulcers.  These ulcers, I later learned, were caused by excessive ingestion of over-the-counter and prescription medications.  

ULCERATIVE COLITIS
If you choose to Google "Ulcerative Colitis" you may end up feeling very sorry for me. According to the experts, people with UC suffer severe abdominal pain and spend half their day searching for (and running to) the nearest bathroom. I'll spare you the pity though as I fortunately do not experience any traditional symptoms of the disease.  I'm quite lucky actually because I don't really suffer from any symptoms at all these days.  I suppose that's due to my extra-healthy lifestyle.  But, because Ulcerative Colities can be progressive (often leading to Crohn's Disease and the possible surgical removal of the colon), I have to undergo a colonoscopy every 2-3 years.  This is to ensure that the disease has not spread to other parts of my digestive tract.

NO MORE SINUS INFECTIONS
Once I learned of my Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis, I stopped taking any over-the-counter medication.  In the beginning, whenever I felt pressure in my sinuses, I used a neti pot to rinse things out.  It was difficult not to reach for pain relief at first but after a few short months, I stopped having sinus infections.  In fact, 7 years later and I haven't had a sinus infection, stomach ailment, cold, flu, or even so much as a headache!  I no longer feel the need to rely on the pharmacy and instead eat a diet rich in whole foods.  These positive lifestyle changes didn't happen overnight but it makes having a colonoscopy a lot less nerve-wracking because I know that I am living the healthiest way possible and I don't go into the procedure full of worry.  

MY THIRD SCOPE
So, as I begin to prepare for my third trip down Colonoscopy Lane, let me remind you all of a few things.  First, don't ever ignore your body when it is trying to tell you something.  If something doesn't seem 'right', there's a reason for it.  Simply plan a visit with your doctor to discuss it.  Also, when you're with your doctor, be sure not to omit any pertinent information that can help him/her treat you as needed.  Finally, if you're 'of age', please don't be afraid of getting that initial colonoscopy.  They're really not that bad.  Okay, so the prep work that needs to be done beforehand is no walk in the park...but it's worth the time and effort to ensure your health!  So, just do it!
  


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