Crohn's Disease - The Unknown Storm
By: Elaina Koukoulas
I was 15 years old in 2010 when I was handed a pamphlet by the doctor that stated, “You may have Crohn’s disease”, complete with an entire description of what this accusation entailed. Sure enough, after 3 months of pain and agony and after my first endoscopy and colonoscopy, the results came back, and I was officially diagnosed. No one in my family had any history of Crohn’s disease, and none of us had ever even heard of it. It’s been almost 8 years, and while I’ve had time to accept my diagnosis, it is not synonymous with being okay with the adjustments that had to be made.
Crohn’s disease was an unknown that stormed into my life and forced me to question every decision I had to make. It forced me to adjust my diet, my fitness regimen, my way of life. I face daily heightened anxiety that I had never encountered: what if my Crohn’s flared while I was at school? At work? Traveling? Would people understand? It was the first time I truly felt alone and isolated. I was angry and I was devastated, but with the beautiful support from my family and my faith I finally began to no longer see my diagnosis as a hindrance, but merely as a change in the winds of my life. I simply had to readjust my sail.
I began taking Humira three years ago which is the only medication that has been substantially successful, and it has made a significant difference in my well-being. While I still experience a flare-up from time to time, they are less severe and frequent. I eat a diet that involves mostly fruits, vegetables, and proteins, with the occasional grains incorporated here and there. I’m highly lactose intolerant and gluten sensitive so I try to avoid foods that contain these. However, I certainly cheat from time to time, and when I do I most definitely pay for it.
The most frustrating part of battling with Crohn’s disease is the fact that it is an invisible disease. People think that because they can’t see the pain I’m struggling with, that I’m exaggerating or using my disease as an excuse to avoid responsibilities and obligations. That hurts just as much as battling the disease itself. However, the beauty that I’ve found in fighting a disease so relentless is the amazing mental strength that I’ve developed and the positive attitude that I’ve cultivated. I’ve learned that there really is truth behind the phrase “mind over matter”, and I do my absolute best to live by those words each and every day.
While of course I’m human and have my bad days, I’ve accepted that that is okay, and that does not make me weak. I can confidently say that I am tough, I am strong, and I am without a doubt, a fighter.