Another song by 2Pac, the title sums up what pushed me on,
Hopeful of a return to form once this disease is gone,
Finally reclaiming my health after months of torment,
Revenge is at hand, I’ll come out triumphant.
17 August 2018
My parents and I drove back to Dr. B’s clinic for a follow-up consultation a week after my sister’s birthday. I kept up the Prednisone treatment throughout the week and I definitely saw some changes, although there weren’t any miracles just yet. For the most part it was still a game of hit-and-miss but some afternoon and evening sessions began to yield blood-free results, much to my relief.
Never thought I’d ever find myself getting excited over taking a shit. Aint that something!?
Anyway, we pulled up to the parking lot of the business tower where Dr. B’s practice was located during that afternoon. Afternoon peak hour traffic had yet to take into full effect so the voyage was rather smooth-sailing and we were fortunate to find a decent spot in the relatively small parking lot.
There was still some time to kill when we arrived and so we sat in the car, listening to the radio in relative silence. My parents would occasionally make small talk with one another but I stayed quiet and continued to listen to the music. Dr. B had told me shortly after the colonoscopy that the purpose of this meeting was to discuss the further course of action after I had been weaned off the Prednisone and while I wasn’t expecting any more scary news the thought of going to see a doctor still gave me the creeps. Like I said before, going to the doctor or hospital, even if I’m not the patient, makes me feel uncomfortable.
We left the car when it was about fifteen minutes before my appointment and I took a deep breath as we exited the vehicle and I stretched my limbs, my back and glutes having tightened up as a result of all that sitting.
Ok, let’s do this.
My parents went straight to the waiting room as I approached the receptionist to confirm my appointment. She checked my details on the computer system and confirmed my attendance.
“Please take a seat in the waiting room.”
And with that I joined my parents, along with two other patients accompanied by their significant other, in the waiting room.
When Dr. B called us into his office he was still dressed in his blue operating room scrubs. He had probably been on his feet since the early hours, rushing back and forth between his office and the Hospital for Specialist Surgery like a madman in addition to frantically checking his e-mails during whatever downtime he had but if he was tired or stressed, he did not show it. He was a true professional.
I took a seat opposite his desk, an assortment of cards regarding different digestive disorders stacked right in front of me, while my parents both took their seats on the side of the room, directly facing the massive window with the panoramic view of the suburbs. I felt less anxious this time as I was no longer swimming under a cloud of uncertainty about my health. You could say that the worse was behind me.
No pun intended. Stop laughing!
Dr. B sat down and tinkered around on his computer to upload some documents in addition to images taken from my colonoscopy before commencing our meeting.
“So you have ulcerative colitis,” he began.
Shoot, tell me something I don’t know, Doc!
“Your colonoscopy shows that your bowels are severely diseased and swollen.”
Oh yes, how could I forget? My official diagnosis was severe pancolitis, meaning that my entire bowel was affected. Dr. B turned his computer monitor towards my parents and I to give us a good look at the images of my bowel taken by the camera during my colonoscopy. I’ll spare you the details but all you need to know was that the images were horrifying and I wouldn’t have been surprised if my parents threw up a little bit in their mouth.
Dr. B did a side-by-side comparison of my results with an image of a healthy bowel and the difference was startling.
Whoah!!! This is what it looks like inside me!!!???
“As you could see, that’s a pretty diseased bowel, when we looked inside it was rather swollen and bloody,” stated Dr. B, “the walls of your bowels are quite ulcerated, like you have a bad rash in there.”
My dad, perhaps to put me at ease, tried to make light of the situation.
“See that, son? It’s nothing but a rash,” he said, “you’ll be over this quickly.”
Dr. B smiled at his attempt to lighten the mood before adding, “it’s not quite that simple, I’m afraid. This condition could require lifelong treatment and maintenance. Your son could have been in a world of pain had we not done anything about this and could have led to a complete removal of his bowel.”
And there it was, confirmation that my sheer stubbornness could have cost me my bowel. Boy, did I feel like a fool for not jumping on this thing quicker.
Dr. B then changed the subject but maintained his relaxed tone. “You’re currently taking those Prednisone tablets that were prescribed to you, yes?”
“Absolutely,” I replied.
Believe me, upon seeing those images of my bowel I was not about to disobey his orders.
“Have they been beneficial?”
“Oh yeah,” I answered, “there’s been less blood every time I ‘go’ and at times there’s been no blood.”
“Oh ok, that’s good to know.”
Dr. B then became serious once more. “And you’re aware that you need to cut back by 5g every week until you are completely weaned off them as long-term use can be hazardous to your health?”
“Yes,” my father responded on my behalf. Being very good with numbers he had tasked himself with the job of preparing my medication and keeping track of my dosage for me as he felt that it would lighten my load and reduce whatever stress and anxiety I was already under.
“Good,” replied Dr. B.
Dr. B then addressed the reason for our meeting – to introduce me to the additional medication that I was to add to my arsenal in this battle against ulcerative colitis. Dr. B printed out a couple of forms for my parents and I to read over.
“So in addition to the Prednisone you will also be taking Imuran and Mezavant. You will continue with the two once you’ve been completely weaned off the Prednisolone.”
Finally! Some heavy artillery to beat this motherfucker.
Dr. B wrote me a script for both medications, in addition to the dosages. Imuran, AKA: Azathioprine, was an extremely powerful imuno-suppressant that was vital in keeping the disease in remission and preventing relapses. It was a rather tiny pill but packed a bigger punch than Mike Tyson on steroids and so was not to be taken in large doses straight away. My prescription called for an initial dosage of half a pill (literally, half a pill) before moving onto a full pill three weeks later and then two pills three weeks after that. That way my body can acclimatize to them without feeling overwhelmed.
The other new piece of weaponry in my toolbox was Mezavant, designed to maintain remission and heal the bowel. Dr. B prescribed four tablets a day. Combined with the Imuran the battle plan was to come at that ulcerative colitis as aggressively like a hungry lion on an antelope, reduce the inflammation and then keep the disease in remission.
“Will there be any side effects?” my mother inquired.
Dr. B sighed deeply. “Yes,” he admitted, “but they’re not very common. Contact me if you feel any aches and pains and nausea. You may need to undergo blood tests every now and then to make sure that other parts of your body such as your liver, kidneys and pancreas are still working well as the medication may affect these organs.”
Well shit……those sounded like some rather serious side-effects. My bowel was already fucked and I really didn’t want any of my other organs to follow suit. But I suppose it was take the meds or lose my bowel and there was no way in hell that I was going to get any of my organs cut out of me. Besides, Dr. B said that side-effects were not very common so there was no reason to get ruffled.
“I’m still anaemic, though,” I added.
“As long as your blood count is not going down any further you’ll be alright. It takes time to recover from that, especially since your haemoglobin levels had dropped to some rather severe levels.”
“I know,” I responded with a chuckle.
That colitis was going to pay dearly for that. It rendered me weak, inactive and living like a sick person.
“Just take it easy for a while and remember to keep taking your medication,” advised Dr. B, “you’ll be ok before you know it.”
And with that, Dr. B concluded the meeting and handed me my scripts.
“Go to your local pharmacy in the next few days and you can start taking them starting next week,” he instructed, “I included your weekly dosages with the script. Let’s meet again in nine weeks’ time. Make sure you get another blood test done before then.”
“Ok, Doc,” I replied, “thanks for your time.”
My parents and I shook hands with Dr. B before leaving. I made sure to book my next appointment with the receptionist before we headed back to the parking lot.
The next day, my father and I both went to get our haircut before buying a steady supply of Imuran and Mezavant from a nearby pharmacy. The boxes that housed those pills were a lot bigger than I thought.
Following a dose of Prednisone during breakfast I took half a pill of the Imuran with my mid-day meal and saved the four Mezavant tablets for after dinner. I almost felt like Tony Montana from Scarface before taking each pill, shouting ‘say hello to my little friend!’ in my mind before swallowing them with water. I didn’t feel any side-effects afterwards, much to my relief.
Take that you blasted disease!!!!
I had officially begun my full treatment for ulcerative colitis but I wasn’t naïve. I wasn’t expecting any quick results regarding my anaemia and the blood in my stools but it was a great feeling to know that I was now fighting back. I just had to take it easy, work a fine balance between work and rest and wait patiently before I was back to my best, physically and mentally.