It may be bad, but it could be worse

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 15, 2001

It seems we all know someone who has some kind of sickness, and the worst thing is that most of the people I know are my age, in their twenties and thirties, and have some kind of problem.

From various types of cancer to multiple sclerosis to even asthma, sickness seems to know no age boundaries.

I personally have had to deal with my own sickness over the past few years

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something that was certainly new to me because I have always been so healthy.

For four years, I battled with stomach problems. Unfortunately, the problems began after I had no health insurance and the doctors were hesistant to diagnose me so I had to deal with it until the doctors would help.

Over the course of two-and-a-half years, I dropped from weighing 133 pounds to 108. I couldn't eat anything without having to rush to the restroom at least half-way through the meal. And right before I was put into the hospital for diagnostic testing, even water hurt my stomach.

Throughout the course of the years, I was diagnosed with all kinds of different problems

celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers

name it and if it was related to anything with the gastrointestinal tract, they said I had it. At one point, they even thought it might be Zollinger Ellison Disease which is a form of cancer.

But, after a little over three years, they finally found the problem

one they had suggested from the beginning, but never tested for

Crohn's Disease.

The disease causes inflammation in the small intestine, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the general name for diseases that cause inflammation in the intestines, and can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome ulcerative colitis.

Unfortunately, no one really knows what causes Crohn's, however, there are several theories. One theory has always been genetics, but many doctors doubt that is the true cause. Another theory is that the body's immune system reacts to a virus or a bacterium by causing ongoing inflammation in the intestine. One doctor explained it as, "Your body thinks something is wrong so it reacts to what it thinks the problem is even when nothing at all is wrong."

Crohn's disease is another one of those diseases that knows no age boundaries, but normally it kicks in in the late teen years or the early twenties. It also doesn't discriminate between men or women, but is found as frequently in both.

Fortunately, Crohn's can be controlled somewhat with medication, but in worst case scenarios, surgery is necessary.

I, myself, am fortunate in that I do not have the problems that many people have. In fact, within two days of being diagnosed and taking medication, I was fine. After four years, I could eat food again. I could sleep an entire night without having to get up three to five times and rushing to the bathroom. I had honestly never thought that I would ever know life again without being sick every single day.

I never thought that I would ever make it through the day without having stomach pains.

But I am lucky.

However, some people are not as lucky and have to deal with their sickness on an everyday basis.

And although I do deal with Crohn's on a regular basis, I feel lucky that it is the only thing wrong. I've said many times that if I had to choose a disease to have, it would be this one, even though it's not a walk in the park.

But, still, it's not fair that people my age and younger will live their whole lives with some kind of sickness.

Fortunately, that's what prayers are for, and more often than not, they work.