Hi guys! I’m back!
You might be thinking, Hmm, the name Jenna sounds vaguely familiar or I think I used to read blog posts by someone named Jenna.
And I don’t blame you. I’ve been MIA. Dropped off the grid. In blackout. Whatever you want to call it, I have not been crackin’ jokes or sharing stories on this platform for a couple months!
I must admit, some of it is my fault. Quitting my job and going back to school for nutrition has been comprised of me nuzzling my face in textbooks, filling up notebooks with chemical equations and molecular structures, and surrounding my laptop with candles to stay up with me into the late nights of studying. I love school and all that comes with it.
However, I’ve also been off the map for forces beyond my control. Namely, my impulsive and high-maintenance colon of mine. The crazy thing has a mind of its own.
At the end of June, about two weeks into my summer chemistry course—and, specifically, inside a stall at a liver disease conference—I noticed signs of a flare.
The pains and cramping got progressively worse throughout the summer semester. For some reason, they were worst in the morning. Until 11am or 12pm, I was literally confined to my apartment, sucking down decaf coffee because if I couldn’t have the caffeine, I at least needed the taste.
The pain was unbearable.
I’d be sitting on the toilet, one hand grasping the counter, the other the bathtub, giving birth to the ugliest stool children imaginable.
I was fortunate that my class didn’t start until 1:30pm, or else I undoubtedly would have had to drop it.
Though I didn’t drop the course, my grades did.
I consistently got Cs, Ds, and Fs on exams. As a school-lover, proud nerd, workaholic, and summa cum laude grad, this simply was. not. me.
I couldn’t study in the mornings because of my distracting sprints to the toilet every ten to fifteen minutes.
And I could hardly study after class because just going to class too the rest of my energy. It was a stressful, tearful, worrisome eight weeks.
Without delving into too much detail—I’m saving the juicy details, tips, and resources for future posts—July essentially marked the continuation of me being a living experiment.
I did countless lab tests, stool studies, jumped back on the Prednisone train (boo!), did X-rays, chugged Miralax and several rounds of magnesium citrate, and even became an expert at giving myself medicinal enemas. (There will be a blog post dedicated to that!)
TL;DR = July sucked.
I canceled all my plans, from a fun double date with a couple I met at the liver disease conference to a Fourth of July BBQ. I spent more time with my doctor that with my friends.
But with the end of July came hope.
I passed my chemistry course with a B- (that must have been because of the Lord because there’s absolutely no way I could have done that on my own with the severity of my flare) and I had three weeks before the fall semester started. Plenty of time to heal, get my energy back, and be ready to take on Chemistry II and Microbiology. Right??
If my colon could, it would would have slapped me in the face with a raw and inflamed tentacle while laughing mockingly.
“Au contraire!” It would jar. “I’m going to send you to the hospital!”
And it was so.
Week three of my three-week vacay was comprised of me becoming all-too familiar with my small hospital room and the hustle and bustle of nurses and case managers coming in and out when all I wanted to do was sleep or apologize for interrupting their uplifting words but excuse me, I’m about to shit my pants! And I’d awkwardly wheel my portable IV pole into the bathroom as the sweet occupational therapist was mid-sentence.
Again, I will dedicate a separate post describing my whole hospital stay and experience. But, in short, I was hospitalized for five days due to my entire colon first being entirely impacted with stool, and then becoming completely and utterly inflamed, from cecum to anus.
As I’m sure you can imagine, that was flippin’ painful. At least fifteen bowel movements each day, with blood and mucus in every flush.
In the hospital, I did routine labs, a CT scan, and an emergent colonoscopy. But probably the worst of all: I was put on a strict liquid diet for my full five day stay. With an inflamed colon, the last thing the doctors wanted to do was give my colon chunks of meat or nuts—that would only stroke its ego.
It was day in, day out of jello, broths, and cream of wheat. It left me in a state of constant hunger. I also lost a lot of weight. I’m naturally thin with high metabolism, so I didn’t really have any weight to lose. So, my body stripped it from my muscles.
Prior to the hospitalization, I had been working out regularly, lifting weights, and downing protein. It’s my personal goal to gain lots of pounds in muscle. I saw—and felt—all that hard work go down the drain. I was forced to supply my lack of energy with light food with little nutritious value, which just left me hungrier and craving more.
And with this lack of energy, my only exercise was walking to open the window in the morning, close it at night, and all the bathroom sprints in between. I really missed walking and hiking in the sunshine.
After five days of flooding my veins with steroids and shoveling down endless pills for the inflammation and pain, I was discharged on the evening of the fifth day.
Still with diarrhea. Still in pain. The only improvement is that I was going to the toilet maybe six times a day instead of ten plus. But, hey, they sent me home with an antispasmodic so “I should be okay” as I continued to heal.
Though I was, of course, stoked to leave the hospital, I dreaded the imminent days ahead of at-home recovery and the all-too slow reintegration of soft foods into my diet.
I forced myself to do another two days of liquids only. Then I slowly reintroduced the softest of foods into my diet, like chicken noodle soup and mashed potatoes.
Hoping these bland pieces of substance would coax my colon out of its murderous rage, I continued bribing it with Progresso chicken chunks and bites of pastas.
As of today, that’s basically where I am.
The fall semester has started, and my professors were understanding and gracious when I had to miss the first two days. But now I’m able to do, peering through microscopes and conducting experiments with a pissed off colon.
After my hospital release, I met with my GI doctor. We have a game plan. More on this to come, but we agreed to put me on the biologic Entyvio ASAP to taper me off this ineffective and moon-face-making Prednisone.
I fear that like Remicade and literally all the other meds I’ve been on since my diagnosis in September 2014, Entyvio will work temporarily and then stop working. But if that’s the short-term solution that will remind me what it is to see a normal log in the toilet then so be it. We’ll figure out the long-term solution after this insane flare is under control.
I miss talking with you guys, and I will post updates and posts when I can—between the bathroom trips, doctor visits, and classes. Please forgive me for this long hiatus and for this lesser-structured blogging system. I’m trying the best I can as I’m slowly getting my strength back.
To end on a positive note, my breakfast this morning consisted of a biscuit sandwich with egg, turkey and ham slices, avocado, and a splash of salsa. So, I guess you can say I’m upgrading 🙂 Lord knows I need to keep up my strength as I take care of this dependent, needy, high-maintenance comical colon.