Monday, 29 August 2011

Pleased to Meat You

It seems that meat, and red meat in particular, will have to be stripped from the menu for me. I've tried to persevere and cut down, cook it in different ways, and experiment to see how much or how little I can cope with, but to no avail. As soon as I have a steak/piece of pork/piece of beef, i'm almost instantly bloated so badly I resemble someone who's left the pool and forgotten to remove her rubber ring, or, i'm forced to spend so long in the loo in agony I could read 'War & Peace' 3 times over.
Bacon is tolerable, and also my preferred meaty snack of choice. Although I must admit, lately the smell of frying bacon hasn't quite been doing it for me in the way it used to. Therefore, i've composed a farewell letter to meat I think conveys my feelings appropriately;

" Dear Meat,
I'm sorry for the way things have worked out (or not in my case..). I think we've just grown apart. So much has happened in the past year I just don't see you fitting into my life anymore. It's not you, it's me (and my Crohn's).
I think we will be able to have an amicable separation, I can still see you occasionally, just not as often as I used to. It's just you cause me so much gut wrenching pain (literally) that I just can't see how it can work.
I care for you, I do, but there are 3 of us in this relationship now and unfortunately my colon feels strongly that we can no longer see one another. I'll always think of you fondly when I pass a steakhouse. :(
To be honest I feel I should dedicate my time to chicken. I always preferred it anyway and it's just so much more gentle and considerate, and never asks to much of my colon.
Hope there are no hard feelings, think we just need some time apart.
Love and tomato sauce always,
K x "

So there you have it. I've cut all ties with the red stuff. For now anyway. I'm not completely giving up the ghost though, I LOVE chicken with a passion and it's so bland I reckon we'll do ok. Not quite ready to become a fully fledged veggie yet, will just have to have a trial separation and see how it goes.
We'll meat again, i'm sure..

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Crohn's & Claw

If anyone reads my blog regularly, follows me on Twitter or has met me even once, it's 100% likely the conversation has come round to Cats. I love Cats. I realise I can't say that without sounding like an insane cat-loving spinster, but nevertheless it's a fact. I asked a friend if it's too weird to blog about my cat and her immediate response was "Yes" - so i've decided to ignore that advice completely and do it anyway.
It's a PROVEN FACT (I did research and everything..) that pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride (fatty acid) levels, and feelings of loneliness :( They can increase opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities and socialisation. ACTUAL scientist-types have PROVEN this. 
So there are a few reasons why cats (and dogs - I'm no animal racist) are wonderful - and useful. I make no excuses for my love of felines, but as you've been good enough to take the time to read this, I feel I should explain a little more before I sound like the aforementioned crazy cat lady. 
I've always been 'Team Feline'. My parents always kept cats, so there have always been furry little things in my life since I was a wee one. I was besotted with them and their little habits. Loved that I was a 'Kat' too and read books and studied them until I was a self-proclaimed expert. I even had an 'I <3 CATS' badge I wore proudly on my Primary School blazer. I realise admitting my childhood adoration has now shot me well beyond mad-cat-lady-status, so i'll leave it there. 
Needless to say, I'm a cat fan. But what has all this got to do with Crohn's? I hear you ask. Well the reason for this post was to express how much my own personal little bundle of fur has helped me since i've become ill. I believe completely that animals ca sense our feelings and emotions. After my operation, when I was home from hospital to recuperate, our cat and I spent a LOT of time together. Yes, we had visitors but they came and went and my other half was at work most days. 
I spent the first few weeks bed/couch-bound, and the cat barely left my side. He learned quickly not to sit on my wound and rested his weary wee body on my knees or feet instead. It could be my imagination but i'm convinced he saved his mega meowing sessions for when his dad got home as he was mostly quietly purring for me all day. He was patient when I took about 3 weeks to drag myself off the couch to feed him or open the door. 
The sheer fact that he was right there at all times cheered me up and the simple fact of stroking a cat DOES lower the blood pressure. Meaning he made sure I didn't get stressed out and remained relaxed. When I went for a nap he joined me every-time and got up when I got up. When I had the misfortune of having to go to the bathroom he either meowed to come in with me or stood patiently outside the door waiting. 

He's a little furry legend and I adore him down to his last wee whisker! Pets should really be prescribed on the NHS. Just not mine's of course. 

K x

Monday, 22 August 2011

Queens Of The Crohn Age

When I was first diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, the doctors and nurses fired all the usual 'support' options at me. Websites where I could gather more information on my condition, support groups where fellow 'crohnies' and I could sit and share stories of defunct bowels till the cows came home, phone numbers of a special Crohn's 'expert' I could call at anytime, endless trees worth of information leaflets and booklets outlining all the in's and (more specifically) out's of my disease.
All of this I instantly, and politely declined. I was not interested in talking to people who had the same horrible problems I had. It was bad enough I had to deal with this happening to my own body without having to hear about other peoples issues. Heaven forbid!
The image I had of these so called 'support groups' was a bunch of ill looking people, probably all over 70, moaning about their visits to the toilet and whining that they are feeling just awful, like, ALL THE TIME :( I also didn't like the idea of researching my disease anymore than I already had, i'd seen enough bad news to last a lifetime, I didn't want to pile more misery on my own diseased shoulders.
I was confident with my family and friends support i'd cope fine. I certainly did NOT want to associate with any other 'me's'!
What an absolute plum. I soon realised that although my family and co are amazing and listened intently to every last worry and whine I had about my recent diagnosis, there really is no substitute for talking to someone who has/is going through the same thing. Most of the more, shall we say, intimate, details of the disease can be discussed in-depth with fellow sufferers as there is no such thing as subtlety where Crohn's is concerned. Talking to someone with Crohn's cuts out the middle-man, that awkward pre-curser 'we are now about to talk about my backside' or rapid fire vetting of the symptoms to ensure the conversation is socially acceptable.
Fellow 'crohnies' are amazingly open and honest - there really is nothing else for it. They understand exactly what i'm going through because they are going through it too. They can sympathise and offer constructive advice; from experience. It's especially helpful talking to people who have suffered with Crohn's for massive chunks of their lives as they know all there is to know, and even better, are totally un-shockable. It also puts things into perspective and stops me wallowing in my own woes.
The main benefit of Twitter, other social networking sites and support groups where other Crohnies can unite is the feeling you are not alone in dealing with this disease. Perversely it helps to know that there are people just like me dotted all across the globe who feel just as rubbish as me a lot of the time. And although I obviously wish that wasn't the case, while it is, I'll make the most of my global comfort blanket.
Can one of you pass the loo roll please?

K x

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Guest Who

I was asked to 'guest post' on 'The Gutsy Generation' website (an incentive from The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of Canada). Here is my wee bit x

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Two Birds with One Crohn

It's been a very stressful week, where a lot of rubbish stuff has gone on, and bad news seems to have been pouring in from all angles of my social circle. None of which I particularly want to share with planet Earth (no offence, I obviously trust you all implicitly), but needless to say, various problems have been popping up all over the shop and none of them are Crohn's related. 
However, even though lots of other issues have taken priority over my illness recently, Mr Crohn's has still been lingering in the background and clambering for my attention like a spoilt child. Stress aggravates Crohn's and therefore i've been feeling pretty rotten all week. 
So, in a desperate attempt to to find something positive out of an abundance of negatives, i've tried to listen to so called 'positive' people - one of whom advised me of that old adage; "Laughter really is the best medicine!" - Is it really? This thought has led me to investigate (and rip to shreds) other 'positive' theories regarding health and happiness throughout history...

'Laughter is the best medicine' - Proverb 
- No it's not. It's not. If it were, thousands of nurses and doctors have wasted a helluva lot of time studying for years. In my case, for the moment anyway, Mercaptopurine is the best medicine. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE to laugh, and yes, laughter and happiness usually go hand in hand, but I could laugh until my sides literally split and i'd still have Crohn's Disease (and deformed sides). 

'Let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food' - Hippocrates
- As any Crohn's sufferer knows, food is the absolute opposite of 'thy medicine'. Food is akin to catnip for Crohn's patients like me, the temptation to eat to excess is sometimes overwhelming, but too much or the wrong thing and it whips my bowels into a frenzy and i'm out of my tiny mind in pain all night.

'Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory' - Albert Schweitzer
- I see where you are going with that Al, but as I have both a rubbish memory and my health leaves a lot to be desired, does that mean I am destined to be unhappy? 

And finally..

'The best activities for your health are humping and pumping' - Arnold Schwarzenegger
- In all my many visits to doctors and health professionals, i've sadly never been prescribed either 'humping' nor 'pumping' :( Arnold (MD) has clearly taken his own form of medical advice (hence the love-child) but much as i'd love if life was that simple, i'll reluctantly stick to the medication. 

All very enlightening, however I think i'll go with a quote from that right honourable wartime leader who looks like every newborn ever produced, Sir Winston Churchill, who once apparently said; 
'Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference'
Very true I feel, so i'll try to remain positive when all around me is distinctly pants, and hope that the 'big difference' is not too far on the horizon. Either that or i'll get all over that humping theory Arnie-style. 

Friday, 12 August 2011

Crohnly the Lonely

The life of a Crohn's sufferer can entail a lot of hospital visits. Particularly bad flare-ups or complications may require anything from an overnight stay to weeks in end if hospital food and drips. These incarcerations in a ward aside, visits to see doctors, nurses, dietitians, and surgeons are also a regular occurrence and the aroma of bleach and cheap soap become a familiar scent. I regularly find myself checking my arms for decent veins as I'm so used to being jabbed with needles and can navigate my way around a hospital like nobodys business.
I don't know anyone who 'likes' hospitals. Staff (perhaps), but i've yet to meet a patient who enjoys spending long periods if time in one. Even regular visitors who secretly enjoy the attention, go out of their way to push the point that they feel otherwise. Sometimes annoyingly so.
One of my most memorably miserable visits to hospital was around June of last year. I was in a huge hospital miles from home and therefore not easily accessible for my family and friends. We were still in the midst of trying to solve the mystery that was my unbearable stomach pain, and my partner and I were in the process of trying to buy a house. Apparently the most stressful time of a couples life. This was nothing, I thought, compared to the pain and misery I was in health-wise.
Shortly before i'd been admitted for this latest visit, we had viewed a beautiful house which we'd instantly fallen in love with. It was perfect. Quiet area, huge rooms, unusual design, near friends and family (but not too near) and the major plus, within our budget. We made plans, pictured ourselves and the cat sitting around the dinner table, and i'd already pulled my freshly grown veg from our garden. I was so smitten with this house that I had the picture from the estate agents in my handbag and glanced at it of an evening to keep me going. The thought that soon i'd be mended and packing up my troubles and heading to my new pad.
This was sadly not to be, as that afternoon, my boyfriend phoned to break the news that following a call with the estate agent, we'd lost the house. I was utterly heartbroken, inconsolable. This was exacerbated by having already seen the on-call doctor who'd promptly informed me i'd not be going anywhere for at least a week, and that they were no further forward in finding a diagnosis. I was also one month away from bridesmaid duties at a friends wedding and was stressing out big-time i'd have to let her down. I was unbearably homesick and due to circumstances, faced a night with no visitors. I was lonely and stressed and confused and ILL and had just had some more gutting news. I cried. And cried and cried a LOT for that whole day.
A male nurse was in charge of my ward that day and did NOT have a clue how to approach me. In fact he went out of his way to avoid the blubbering wreck in the corner. I think my 'do not approach me' face gave him a major clue on the best course of action.
My friend called to see how I was, she was also disappointed about our house news as it would've meant moving closer to her too. For pretty much the entirety of the phone call I was sobbing like a fool. I cried solidly and sniffed and apologised profusely. After the call where i'd made a completely helpless friend feel awful, I continued to blub the night away.
Later that night two female nurses, on separate occasions both came and sat with me and let me spill out all my woes and worries and just listened. They were lovely and I was embarrassed but very grateful. Leaving me to snooze, the older of the two let slip that when they were changing shifts that male nurse from earlier, the one who had no clue how to approach me, had told them to keep an eye on me as I "might need a cuddle" :)

Friday, 5 August 2011

For Your Eyes Crohnly

[Before I begin: in order to get the full effect, this post should be read whilst listening to Carly Simon's 'Your so Vain']

By no stretch of the imagination do I consider myself to be a fine figure of a woman. But lately as my Crohn's (and the drugs I have to take) have started to take a more prominent effect on my body, on the outside as well as the in, i've found myself becoming a bit more concerned with my appearance and have begun reflecting on how this disease will affect my 'looks' in the long term.  
As a youngster I was a serious tom-boy. Dungarees were my standard uniform for several years. I considered these to be an all-purpose garment - ideal flexibility and ease of movement for climbing trees, riding bikes, fighting with boys and partaking in one of my favourite pastimes; rolling down hills. This caused much dismay for my parents as my mum in particular had been desperate for a girl and obviously harboured dreams of taking said daughter shopping for pretty dresses and jewellery and exchanging make-up tips in later years. All of this did eventually happen but probably not until well into my teens as until then I dreaded being 'girly'. 
There is photo-graphic evidence of this unfortunately, multiple pictures forever trapped in my parents albums of me in a new outfit looking glum after having paraded said outfit up and down the living-room for any relative who happened to be present to 'ooh' and 'ahh' on command. This was both to display how lovely I looked and to show my dad what an unbelievable bargain it had been. The 'unbelievable bargain' was usually the following calculation:
Full Price divided by two then a few extra pounds removed for good measure = a price my dad would consider acceptable. (Sorry Mum! x)
I was also stick-thin for my entire youth - didn't hit puberty until quite late on and it was only then I really started to bother about how I looked. Because up until then most of my friends were of the male variety, i'd never thought of a boy looking at me as anything other than someone to fling down a hill. (This is NOT a euphemism).
Anyway I digress. Recently i've noticed the drugs have given me terrible skin, mainly on my visage, and my hair is dull, lank and lifeless [insert terrible Cheryl Cole impression here]. Because these (minor) issues are symptoms and/or side effects, no fancy creams or special shampoos can really help. When I was really ill my lovely locks were falling out in clumps so I suppose I can make do with using a bit of extra conditioner until it hopefully calms down. 
Vanity aside, the major area I can't hide with make-up is my scar. As it's Summer now (which in Scotland has been unusually long - over a week and counting!) it's becoming clear I can't cover myself up and dress like an old-maid forever. The whole, to bikini or not to bikini dilemma plagues me, as I'm sure it has done over the years for many great thinkers throughout history. 
Do I embrace my Crohn's scar as part of me or hide it away so as to avoid any repulsed glances or prompt uncomfortable questions? 
I'm aware its hardly a major disfigurement compared to what some people have to go through and that I'm probably entirely over-reacting but it's still early days and I'm still pretty conscious of it. 
I like to try and think of my scar as a tiny ink blot on the whole big book that is my body. 
And I'm a hard-backed book with a lot of my story still to tell.

Lights, Crohn's, Action!

Along with a few other lovely people I was asked to appear on the new Crohn's Channel for the WEGO Health website. Their new channel went live a few days ago and below is the clip featuring yours truly being all Scottish and Crohn's-y :) x