Being diagnosed with IBD can be a complicated process. Throw in a foreign language and the journey can take a few unexpected turns, as Queensland’s Renee Wickson discovered.
I WAS diagnosed with indeterminate colitis about six years ago.
My story starts in Nagoya, Japan, where I was teaching English. After about three months of being there, I started to take time off work due to exhaustion. My stomach felt like it was in knots a lot of the time and my reaction to food was very random, from throwing up to the runs (the squat-style toilets are not very co-operative during these types of symptoms!)
My Scottish flatmate convinced me to head to the doctors to make sure nothing was seriously wrong. Going to the doctor in Japan was like going to the bank; you took a number from a machine and you sat and waited for your number to be called.
I was told to sit and wait for the doctor in the hospital who could speak English.
This then turned into a drawing pictures and charades scenario, resulting in the doctor telling me I had AIDS. AIDS? How in the world could I have AIDS? By the end of the consultation, I was told that AIDS was the wrong word and I had to go back for a colonoscopy because I had something wrong with my bowels.
Although I still had no idea what was wrong with me, I put my trust in the doctors. My first colonoscopy was done with out being knocked out! That’s an experience I hope to never have again!
After medication and a strict diet I decided to move my travels to the UK where I continued on with things fairly fine. At this point I knew things weren’t right but I thought things would fix themselves. I just had to ensure I took the medication and watched what I ate.
It wasn’t until I was admitted to hospital after returning to Australia for severe bleeding and pains that the reality hit me. After specialist appointment after specialist appointment, I came to the realisation that what I had was a chronic illness. It was serious and my life would change because of that.
Stopping on a car trip fairly regularly is the norm, along with awkward conversations at barbecues when I can’t eat any of the food they have served without spending the rest of the night in their toilet. Having to say no to parties is not part of my personality, so it has taken a long time to feel comfortable with having “Renee nights in”. The emotional and physical rollercoaster that I have been on over the last few years has taken me to a point in my life where I have learned to live life according to my own rules. I try to make IBD work for me, rather than me revolving my life around it.
I have a very supportive family, an encouraging partner and friends who cheer me up when things are just getting too much. I have managed to accomplish awesome things so far, such as travel, sports and simply working at being positive about my situation. I would like to think that there is lots more excitement to come and although the road can be a little more difficult with having IBD, it makes it all worth while at the end!