This past Christmas didn’t really feel like Christmas for us. On Christmas eve, while we were doing our traditional Holy Night preparations, my sister was rushed to the hospital with a strong pain on her right side. We thought she had appendicitis. In the ER, they found air in her abdomen–not good. They rushed her into surgery, and we all sat. And waited. When the doctor emerged, the words Ulcerative Colitis entered our world. My dad started firing questions at the surgeon. One that stands out in my mind was whether she’d be able to conceive a child. I remember it because it shifted me from worrying I may lose my sister to realizing that her life was irrevocably changed. Forever. She was 22.
Amy’s colon was so damaged that it was unusable. As the surgeon finished his work and Amy was moved into recovery, we were all reeling. Shock, blame, and sorrow mixed with relief, and even a sudden understanding of some issues she’s had over the years. I don’t think we really knew how to process it though. None of us had ever had serious, chronic health issues of this magnitude. The time between seeing the surgeon and waiting to be allowed to see her dragged on and on.
But life, as it is wont to do, went on. Amy recovered slowly and steadily during the ensuing weeks. As she was weaned off of massive amounts of pain medication, she started to become herself again. She learned to deal with the new state of her body. She handled it all with her characteristic sunny nature and sense of humor. Her roommate commented that it was a good thing this had happened to Amy, because she didn’t know anyone else who would be able to laugh about it. Oh, how important it was to laugh. She had debilitating back pain from the weeks in bed. And she had her moments of sadness. But she never got deeply and utterly depressed. She went back to her job as a special ed teacher, helping kids as they helped her to heal.
And then she started to lose her hair–a common side effect after GI surgery, and an utterly unfair one at that. She told me she felt like Jo March; of everything she had to cry about, she was crying about her hair. I laughed through my own tears at that one.
Amy’s facing two more surgeries this year, which will completely remove her colon and allow her to put all of this behind her. She’s one of the strongest women–strongest people–I’ve ever known, and I’m so blessed to call her my sister and one of my best friends and one of the few people in the world who knows my heart. We live on the same wavelength, she and I.
As Amy was recovering this winter, she stumbled upon the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. CCFA sponsors a walk called Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis, which raises awareness and funds for research about irritable bowel diseases. My family is participating in the Charlotte Take Steps walk next weekend. If you’re in the area, please come and stand with us. If you’re not local and would like to support us, you can give a gift on our team page.
Your support means so much. Irritable bowel diseases aren’t pretty. The medications and medical supplies to maintain these diseases are expensive. Amy’s very, very fortunate to have good health insurance that covers most of what she needs. For her, the Take Steps walk has become a rallying point–something she can do to take control back from a disease that slammed so unexpectedly into her life. Thank you.