In early 2011, shortly after returning from our honeymoon in Costa Rica and two years before our infertility diagnosis, I became rather ill. I had dealt with digestion issues on and off for about 5 years and had multiple explanations from various doctors over those years as to what was going on with my body. None of them were right. When my symptoms didn’t go away, I requested to be referred for a colonoscopy by my family doctor. He thought I was too young, as I was only 27 at the time, but I knew something was wrong.
You see, we have a history of bowel disease in my family and I wanted to get some real answers. After three colonoscopies and one sigmoidoscopy in less than 6 months, by three different gastroenterologists, I had a final diagnosis: Crohn’s disease (which is a form of inflammatory bowel disease). I remember the day it was confirmed. I sat in my car in the parking lot of the GI’s office bawling my eyes out. I didn’t understand it. I had NO idea why this was happening to me and what it even meant. I remember being a child and having a close family friend being hospitalized and having major surgery. I flashed back to another family friend who lost her battle with IBD and had passed away a few short years before my diagnosis.
I was terrified.
Luckily, with some trial and error, we were able to get my Crohn’s under control and I remained relatively symptom free for the first two years. In 2013 I was having a regular day at work when all of a sudden, a pain came over my entire abdominal region. I began to bloat and started bleeding when I went to the washroom. I immediately went to a walk-in clinic where the doctor suggested I be admitted to the hospital. I was admitted a few hours later and started my first IV prednisone treatment (steroids). I was so scared. I remained in the hospital for three days while the inflammation went down and remained on the prednisone treatment for 8 weeks. After weaning off that treatment, I was able to go on a maintenance drug that has had no side effects. Between 2013 and present, I have gone through two additional serious flares which required treatments of up to 3 months each. I have now been in remission for 17 months while on a maintenance drug only. Currently there is no cure for Crohn’s or Colitis.
Living with a chronic illness is tough. Add an infertility diagnosis in to the mix and it’s even harder. I remember every time I would be in a flare up our GI would advise we not try to conceive because it’s best for the body to conceive when in remission (understandable). As flares would come and go, we would continue to try when I was healthy.
Last year I became rather ill again. I couldn’t eat, was on a liquid diet and struggled with my energy levels.
On top of it all I was in the middle of one of the biggest transactions I have ever worked on in my career. My doctor suggested we try a similar protocol we had used to get my last flare under control but warned that if it didn’t work, we may have to look at surgical options. I will tell you right now that surgery is not something I want to explore quite yet. Would I do it to save my life? 100% yes. But if there are other options available, I would exhaust them all before starting the surgical journey. We started the treatment in March and after the 12 weeks, I was feeling much better. I waited four weeks for my follow-up and by that point, I was in the clear. I went back to my maintenance drug and have been in remission ever since.
We knew we would be starting our assisted fertility journey this year and being (and staying) in remission is something that was important to me. I was in the clear for almost a year before we started treatment and I am so grateful that through all the stress and heartbreak of IUI and IVF, my health is still currently in check. I am more conscious of my disease going through this process because infertility is hard enough, I don’t want to add another flare up to the mix.
This month is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month in Canada which is why I decided to dedicate my blog topic to this. I will never stop bringing attention to inflammatory bowel disease or infertility as they are two things I must live with every single day.