Am I Going To Die?
Most, if not all, of you have sat in a doctor's office awaiting the results of some test or procedure. It's almost never a pleasant experience, except maybe if you expect to be told that you're pregnant and you actually want to be. But in most cases, the anticipation is stressful. In April 1990, for me, it was eager anticipation. After about one year of suffering in, what I thought of, as the bowels of hell (pun absolutely intended), numerous hospital visits, and enduring every embarrassing, intrusive, frequently painful, test and procedure where I had to starve myself, drink nasty things and have instruments inserted in every imaginable opening in my body, I desperately needed an answer to this mysterious illness that had taken over my life, and was baffling my doctors.
My gastroenterologist at the time was an elderly gentleman in his late '70's maybe early '80's, and was a straight-shooter with a very dry sense of humour, who had come to know me really well, literally from the inside out. He was an excellent doctor and I had full confidence in him. As I sat across from him at his desk, he looked me directly in the eyes and said "Sati, you have something called Crohn's Disease". My very first emotion was elation. Finally! They have found out what's wrong with me! Fast on its heels came my second emotion, confusion. Wait, what? What is that? I'd never heard of Crohn's Disease. The questions then came fast and furious - How did I get that? Is it contagious? How do I get rid of it?
My GI said to me, a little sympathetically I think, "No, my dear, it doesn't quite work that way". He went on to explain that Crohn's is a chronic disease, the cause of which is unknown and that there is no cure. My feelings of elation and confusion were quickly replaced by those of paralyzing fear. Am I going to die? I asked him. Feeling the way I had for the past year, I probably wouldn't have been surprised if he'd said yes. Seeing my fear, I guess, and trying to lighten the mood, he replied "Someday, but hopefully not today and not from this". He told me that there were some treatment options that should help improve my symptoms and cause the disease to go into remission, which I was made to understand was the goal, the best outcome to hope for.
My New Reality:
Ever the optimist, I thought okay, I can do this; I'll do the treatment, feel better and get my life back on track. I had places to go, goals to meet, dreams to fulfil!! I said as much to my GI. Not so fast, he said to me, right now, you're very sick and need to take one step at a time. He went on to explain that my blood readings were really bad - what's supposed to be low was high and vice versa, also I was severely underweight. He called it "involuntary anorexia". Say what? I didn't like the sound of that one little bit. He told me that unfortunately the tests showed that my disease was severe (as opposed to mild or moderate) and I needed to be hospitalized immediately. I sat in shock as he promptly picked up his phone and called the hospital and instructed them to get a room ready for me, that I would be there shortly. When he hung up the phone, he looked at me and told me that I need to get to the hospital which was a short distance away.
Telling My family:
On my way to the hospital, still reeling in shock, I'm thinking of how to tell my husband and worrying about what's going to happen to my two and a half year old son, not to mention the new job I'd started a few months before. I had already taken so much time off because of this illness; I was actually on my lunch break!! The room was indeed ready for me by the time I arrived at the hospital. I'd just like to make special mention here of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada. It's world-renowned as THE hospital to go to for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases ( Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis). There's a entire floor assigned only for IBD patients, complete with the very best gastroenterologists, surgeons, and specially trained nurses. I didn't know that at the time though. So, upon arrival I asked the nurse to make a phone call to my husband who, at the time was at work. My son was at a babysitter. I told my husband that I'd been admitted to the hospital and I didn't know what was supposed to happen next. My husband, being a cool sort, said okay, that he'll pick my son up after work and come to the hospital. This was the beginning of a sequence of events I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams, and which changed the course of my life and me as a person.