It all started so innocently. I had been nursing a lung and upper respiratory infection for a couple of weeks, but was on the mends. The miracle drug Prednisone had finished its 14 day run and the healing had begun while feeling stronger and better day by day. Then the enemy of the past barged back into my life and a war long thought concluded 44 years ago was now going strong once again.
Adolescence is a time of growing and exploring all that life has to offer. Potato chips, ice cream, soda, French fries, onion rings, hamburgers and hot dogs were foods of choice for most teenagers when I was growing up and I seriously doubt things have changed a whole lot from the 1960s until now. However, for me things did change around the time I turned 15 years old. For you see, that is when I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. No one really knows for sure why this disease rears its ugly head, but it does and it can be quite serious in nature.
Lucky for me I didn’t get sick in Junior High School and therefore, I was able to be in gymnastics, track and run the hurdles. However, by the time High School rolled around I was physically too ill to participate in sports. I had rapid weight loss, chronic diarrhea (certainly not a topic a teenager wants to discuss) and unrelenting, debilitating abdominal pain. Instead, I turned to art and drama classes as a way to cope with the void in my life and they served me well. Of course there were hospitalizations, due to severe malnutrition and at one point my parents were informed this disease had the potential of being fatal. That was all the news my dear mother needed to hear and off to the Lahey Clinic in Boston we went for several extensive days of testing. The exams were grueling and although my mom had only my interest at heart I recall how livid I was with her for making me endure the barium enemas and painful colon, rectal and intestinal scoped exams. I was so exhausted after these medical screenings that I slept on the plane from Boston to New York City and on to Syracuse Hancock Airport where my mom had to awaken me on our arrival home.
So for the remainder of my teenage years I was advised to avoid all fried food, only eat ice cream if I let it melt in my mouth, drink several glasses of warm water per day and on and on went the restrictive behavior. Oh, and also back when the legal drinking age was 18 I was told to avoid alcoholic intake. Well, I learned at an early age rules were made to be broken and I proudly broke every single restriction placed on my activities. Did I pay a price? I sure did, but it was worth every savory tidbit I nibbled on or ice cold beer I drank. I also worked like other teenagers as a dishwasher, busboy, and car hop and in retail at our Sears & Roebucks. Then, as mysteriously as Crohn’s appeared, it vanished. I was rid of the menace and that is how my life remained until Thursday evening….44 years later.
It was not unlike any other evening at home. We had my homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs and garlic toast. I had a small bowl of popcorn after dinner and around 9:00 P.M. a slice of blueberry pie. By midnight I was in complete distress. My stomach was bloating faster than filling a water balloon and the pain was excruciating. From the left side to the right side to the upper and then lower abdomen, it was as though everything was twisting and turning in slow motion. The bloated stomach and severe pain became so uncontrollable the ambulance was called and off to the hospital I went where the emergency room admitted me on Friday at 6:30 A.M. Crohn’s has come back as my nemesis and the war is on once again. What happened to our truce? Who crossed the line? It makes no difference who caused the battle because the assault is on and I am bound and determined to win it once again, even if several decades have passed since our last confrontation.
Written By: Dennis L. Page