I'm lactose intolerant. When I was eighteen, that's what the doctors told me. Not a big deal right? But that wasn't the only news I received in the hospital that day.
After a year of being extremely ill, months of arguing with my doctor that I just KNEW what I had (by Googling my symptoms of course), I was finally given the news: I have Crohn's disease.
For those of you who don't know what Crohn's disease is, I'll give you a quick (and non-graphic) explanation.
Crohn's is an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract causing a wide variety of symptoms. I won't get into the gory details, but some of the symptoms include extreme abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, and a lot more.
There is no cure for Crohn's yet. Even though many organizations such as the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada have completed excellent research over the years, they still do not know exactly what causes it, and how to rid a body of it.
Throughout the years, I have tried a cocktail of various medications from Prednisone to Pentasa to Imuran and more. Each time, the drugs would work for awhile, whether it be a month or years, but ultimately none of them were the long-term solution that I was looking for.
My Crohn's disease symptoms are typically brought on by stress. For me, any major life event or change gets my body all wound up, and then I have a "flare up" and get ill. For the past six years, I have been on a drug that has literally allowed me to have a normal life! Since starting on Remicade, I have not had a single flare up.
So you may be asking, why is she telling me all of this?!
Living with Crohn's disease means that I have to watch and monitor everything that I eat. I’ve had this disease for almost eighteen years (nearly half my life), and today with the help of drugs and a special diet, my Crohn’s is much easier to manage, though it definitely wasn't always.
I lead a lactose-free life, I can't eat spicy foods, and I can't eat greasy foods. (Okay, sometimes I cheat and do it anyway, but pay dearly for it.) I always have to be cognizant of what is in meals that I didn't make myself.
I still drink milk, because it does a body good! It just has to be lactose free. When I was first diagnosed eighteen years ago, there was no such thing as lactose-free milk. There was only soy milk, which I really do not like. Today when I go to the milk section in the grocery store, I am amazed at how far we have come! Seriously, the other day I saw lactose-free CHOCOLATE MILK!
I cannot have cream of any kind, so all of my recipes are modified to exclude this ingredient. If a recipe calls for cream, I substitute lactose free milk in its place. Extremely spicy foods and me also do NOT mix. My gut can tolerate a little bit of spice, but I have to be the one who controls just how much is going into the recipe. Otherwise I will pay for it for days, and it's really just not worth the pain.
I've always been envious of people that can eat anything. I would give my right arm to be able to eat any type of ice cream, cheesecake, and brie cheese, just to name a few.
I watch my children eat anything under the sun. They love ice cream, cheese, milk, and all sorts of other things that my gut could never handle. My wish for them is to always have that luxury and to never suffer like I have in the past. When I was eighteen-years-old, Crohn's defined me. It took over my life, shattered my last year of high school, and made me change so many aspects of my life without my permission.
Throughout the years, I've shared my Crohn's disease experience with others, counseled friends and strangers who had just been diagnosed, but above all, I have managed to lead a normal life that I didn't always believe was possible.
And for that, I am thankful.