Everyone tells you that your college years will be some of the best of your life. You’re finally an adult and free of any parental supervision. You’ll make new friends, experience new things and study your ass off. It’s that and so much more.
Unfortunately, my college experience hasn’t exactly been what I was hoping for. When I was a freshman I was diagnosed with a form of inflammatory bowel disease known as ulcerative colitis. Not exactly the best way to start my college career. A quick background on ulcerative colitis: it’s basically a chronic disease that affects your colon and screws up a bunch of stuff, including your appetite and your energy levels, along with what types of food you’re allowed to eat. To put it bluntly, you’ll also develop a strong relationship with your toilet – your new best friend. I don’t really want to get into a bunch of details but it’s a pretty crappy disease.
My Gambling Addiction
Honestly, the worst part of the disease was losing the freedom to be able to eat whatever I wanted. Spicy foods and raw veggies were out of the question and most dairy products were major no-no’s as well. Can you imagine having to give up pizza or ice cream? Most of the foods that I had grown up on were out of my reach as well. Say good-bye to all of my mom’s amazing home-cooking.
From time to time, I would gamble to see how my body would react to these “bad” foods. If you know anything about gambling you know that the house always wins, and wouldn’t you know it, the house always won when I gambled. I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I put up with the pain so that I could experience the foods that I loved to eat.
For three years I was put on every type of drug you could imagine. From a daily regimen of meds that included a number of different pills, and even up to intravenous infusions, you name it, I probably tried it. The only option left was surgery.
Option 1) No surgery and live with a colon like everyone else but feel like crap for the rest of my life. On top of that, I’d never be able to freely eat whatever I want.
Option 2) Undergo surgery and live without a colon. Obvious risks of possible medical complications but also with the upside of possibly making a full recovery and eating whatever the heck I wanted.
This was a no-brainer for me. I decided to go all in and gamble one last time.
Breakups Are Always Hard
Breakups are never easy, especially when you’ve been in the relationship for most of your life. Excuse me, because I should’ve done this a couple of weeks ago. A brief breakup note I’m writing to my beloved colon:
It’s not you, it’s me. It’s been a great twenty-one years but recently I just haven’t been feeling it between the two of us. For the past three years, you’ve put me through hell. It’s been both mentally and physically draining and I honestly can’t take it anymore. We had a good run but this breakup has been long overdue. I think it would be best if we parted ways. I know that it’s going to be hard, but it’s for the best.
Sorry about the brief intermission, just had to do that. My apologies for the all the cliché breakup lines.
Honestly, getting my colon removed was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. I don’t regret it one bit. I haven’t heard back from my colon in a while, but I hope it’s doing alright.
Dreaming of Pizza and Ice Cream
Fast-forward to the day of the operation. I’ve got a bunch of needles in my arms, and nurses are scrambling from one place to the next. Nothing new for me, I’ve done this all before.
My mom’s crying and my dad, who’s usually pretty cool and under control, is getting a bit teary-eyed as well. All normal reactions that anyone would expect. You would expect me to be freaking out as well, but all I can think about is where I’m going to get my first pizza once I’m out of the hospital. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
Anyway, the nurses wheel me into the operating room, and I basically pass out dreaming of pizza and ice cream. Just like any other nap I’ve taken during a boring lecture. I still haven’t eaten at that pizzeria I was dreaming about yet. Adding to my to-do list now.
When I finally woke-up from my deep slumber, I was pretty out of it. I was on a bunch of pain meds, so I don’t remember much from my hospital stay. What I do remember was my first meal. Nothing special, just a bowl of mac ’n cheese – one of the things I wasn’t supposed to eat when I still had my colon. Every bite was glorious. Even if it was hospital-grade food, I savored every bite. It was like tasting cheese for the first time. I had been waiting for that moment for three years, and I’ll never forget it.
Back to Normal
It’s been a couple weeks since I was released from the hospital – two days earlier than expected because I’m a boss. Everything has run better than I expected. I no longer have to deal with a constant pain in my abdomen, my appetite is up and I no longer have to race to the bathroom. The best part is that I can eat anything I want now. No more dietary restrictions.
A message to ice cream everywhere: I’m coming for you.
I’m still recovering and even though my plumbing isn’t like everyone else’s, I don’t care. The upside is that I don’t have to worry about colon cancer or future colonoscopies like the rest of you. I’ll have to miss a couple semesters of school, and I’ll graduate a little later than the rest of my friends, but guess what, I’m back to doing what I love to do: eating everything in sight.
So not exactly normal, but it sure is close.
I want to personally thank everyone’s that’s helped me through these past few years, especially my family and friends. I also want to thank all the doctors and nurses at Johns Hopkins Hospital for making my stay as comfortable as possible and helping me get better.
This article is dedicated to my fellow IBDers who continue to fight everyday against this disease. I want to let you all know to never lose hope and to keep fighting the good fight.
So did the gamble pay off? I think so. When I say I love food, I really mean it. I would do anything to eat what I want.
Here’s my previous article about my battle against this disease: