Nicole’s Story

Everyday Counts towards Happiness

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I was first diagnosed with Crohns Disease when I was 19 years old, although, looking back; I had bowel issues long before then. When I was diagnosed I had been sick for months and the doctors had no idea what was wrong with me; I had lost a ton of weight, my hair was thinning, I was exhausted and constantly running to the bathroom. None of these symptoms led to the diagnosis of my Crohns disease however, until, one day I felt a hard lump just below my tail bone on my bottom. I went straight to the Doctor with worry and the next couple weeks followed in a blur of ultrasounds and making appointments. I was referred to a surgeon initially and my surgeon took one look at the lump, asked me how I had been feeling and went onto guess I had an anal fistula and most likely Crohns disease, this was soon confirmed by my specialist through a colonoscopy. As a 19 year old girl with an anal fistula and Crohns disease I felt helpless, afraid of what Crohns disease was, sad thinking that my body was attacking itself, alone with my illness while everyone was out being young and I also felt bad knowing that there are people worse off. I had to undergo surgery initially to have a seton put in for my anal fistula which lasted for 3 months and I was put onto Infliximab infusions for 3 years.

When I first got diagnosed with Crohns disease I was working on becoming an accountant at university. I had gone to university not really knowing what I was going to do with my life but enrolled into commerce anyway in the hope I would find something that sparked an interest. Second year came around quickly and I needed to choose a major and I chose based off what I was told was a “good job, with good pay and stability” I chose accounting. I quickly had no interest in it and had to work extra hard at it because it did not match me. I applied for a cadetship in accounting thinking maybe the job would be different to the study and was rudely awoken when I realised how unsuited this was for me. I ended up stressed and became very unhappy till I was eventually put on anti-anxiety medication from the stress. All the while I was having infliximab infusions and trying to do everything right food wise for my Crohns, but the stress itself was doing more damage than all the good I was trying to implement. I was spending everyday concerned that the stress I was under would led to a flare up and spent the majority of my days running to the bathroom still.

Luckily July 2014 came around and my fiancé and I had planned the holiday of a lifetime to go to Europe for 5 weeks. It was here away from everyday distractions I allowed myself to truly think about my situation, I thought long and hard about my Crohns, my career, my happiness and the damage I was doing to myself. I realised this was my one and only life and my one and only body and I needed to focus on; me, my health and my happiness. I came to the mindset that I was punishing myself for no reason based off external pressures that didn’t matter; I needed to stop caring about the opinions of others that didn’t know my pain or my everyday worries, I needed to stop thinking that I had chosen my fate and change wasn’t an option and I needed to start thinking more about me and what I deserve.

With this mindset I returned to Perth and quit my job in accounting to go work into a retail job I love and to try focus on hopefully becoming a Dietitian specialising in gastrointestinal diseases something I feel very passionate about.  Although having a job you do not like may seem like a small facet of your life, the lesson I came to learn is that I do not deserve to have any unhappiness imposed on me that I have the power to change and this is something I try to apply to all aspects of my life now. If I didn’t have Crohns and didn’t appreciate my good days as much as I do due to having Crohns I may have never realised this. Although Crohns has imposed many limitations on my life it has given me an insight that many will go through life never having – that life is short, life is hard and that every day counts towards happiness and we have to make ourselves happy.

I have recently had a relapse with my Crohns my body built antibodies to infliximab after 3 years, my disease all came back, I had to get my seton put back in again due to the flare up and I will be starting on Humira in the coming weeks. It was hard hearing I was back to where I had started physically after my 3 year journey especially after trying so hard to get to a good place  with my health but I also realised I was in an entire new place mentally than when I was first diagnosed, I have understanding and a self-interest I used to lack.  I have realised this is the nature of the disease and I hope that there will one day be a cure for everyone who struggles with Crohns and Colitis so that we do not have to experience the and pain of our diseases.

I have learnt I need to help myself and when I have good days I have to live for the day.

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