So… I have ulcerative colitis (UC). It’s an Inflamatory Bowel Disease (IBD). People don’t often talk about IBDs because it’s not polite to discuss the symptoms in public. That’s unfortunate. I’d never even heard of ulcerative colitis, or any other type of IBD, before I was diagnosed. So here I am, discussing it in a very public place!!

I’ve had 3 flare ups since I was diagnosed about 3 or 4 years ago. No one knows what causes it and there’s no cure other than to cut out the offending piece of bowel. I’d rather not cut out important pieces of me, so I’ve been trying to get it under control in other ways. The current flare up started last August, almost a year ago now! My doctor and I had planned to get it under control in a few weeks. Hah!!

When the colitis is active, one tends to run to the bathroom often, in a ‘mad dash’ sort of way. We’re lucky to have 3 bathrooms in the house. The symptoms include quite painful cramping and loss of blood. It’s funny. I can deal with the pain (it only happens once in a while), but it’s the sight of blood where one is not supposed to see blood that bothers me the most. Hm. I thought I would be able to be more specific about the symptoms, but I can’t. I keep picturing people reading this and I get too embarrassed to provide details. I suppose these diseases will always be kept quiet for this reason!

Anyway, I’ve been on cortico-steroids since the flare up started. Steroids are not nice. Well, maybe they have some cool side effects, but mostly they’re nasty. The nice thing is that I have so much energy I don’t know what to do with myself. It’s probably why I’ve been working on my house, diligently and without pause, while the kids were in school. I’ve painted, wall papered, stripped baseboards, replaced lighting, re-wired phone lines, … the list is so long, it would take pages. So my sabbatical has actually been: Luisa working furiously to burn off all the energy she’s had due to the steroids. The other nice things about the steroids: gives you a healthy glow, stronger fingernails, and thicker hair. The bad thing about steroids: waking up at 4 or 5 am, easily bruised legs and arms, extra facial hair, more susceptible to sun burns, weaker bones, blurred vision, adrenal gland shuts down and your face shape changes (wider jowls). Funny, my doctor insists that the type of steroids I take do not have that many side effects. He can’t seem to believe me when I tell him what it’s like for me. I guess I’m just sensitive to them.

At present time, I’m coming off the steroids. (I’ve come off them 3 times before, but have had to go on them again since the symptoms would worsen.) I’m suffering from withdrawal. So as I type this, I have a headache. I’ve also been exhausted all day. One has to come off the steroids very slowly. At present, I take them only every third day. So about 6 or 7 hours before I’m due for my “fix”, I get a headache. No amount of over-the-counter pain killers will make my withdrawal headaches go away.

I’ve recently started taking another drug that my doctor tells me his patients prefer to the steroids. It’s an autoimmune suppressing drug. I looked up the side effects: carcinogenic, mutogenic, blah, blah… “Hey Reid, this drug turns me into a mutant!! I’m gonna sprout a 3rd eye!” I was upset at first, but then I realized that practically everything out there is carcinogenic these days. The drug’s been in use since the 50’s so I’m not going to worry about it. We’ve tried everything else – it’s time to try this. (Yes, I’ve done the naturopath thing. It made me worse!)

It’s funny, though. Although it’s a difficult disease to deal with, I’ve never missed a day of work because of it (other than for doctor appointments). Yes, this disease has affected my life greatly. There are things I can no longer do. But you know, I’m very thankful it’s not something worse. It’s also made me think about what’s most important to me: my family and time for myself.

And now you know why I took a year off work!

Ronnie Story

Conversation in the car with Ronnie, on the way home from school yesterday:

Ronnie: “I want a diarrhea.”
(Michael: Muffled giggling)

Mom: “Why would you want diarrhea????”
(Michael: Barely contained laughing)

Ronnie, injured: “I want a diarrhea!!! Like a book!!”

Mom: “OH… you mean a diary
(Michael: Loud guffaws)

Robins gone!

Last month I wrote about watching some robins leave their nest, which had been built just under the roof of our deck. About a week later, a new set of robins set up in the nest and we’ve been watching them closely ever since. It’s amazing how quickly the chicks grow!

Tonight, we had dinner out on the deck and spent quite a lot of time watching mom and dad robin fly in with bugs to feed the 3 chicks. They had gotten so huge! They made lovely, soft chirping sounds when one of the parents arrived. One of the chicks was moving about quite a bit, stretching out its wings. It must have been standing on the others, there seemed like there was so little room left in the nest. We thought they’d be ready for their first flight very soon, possibly even tomorrow.

Well, all ended in disaster tonight. I heard quite a commotion from the birds at about 10pm. I ran outside, fearing the worst. Sure enough, there was our hated raccoon up at the nest. I picked up a deck chair and ran at it. It scrambled on top of the roof deck. I heard rustling in the nearby hedge. Thinking some of the chicks had fallen from the nest, I ran in for the flashlight. Sadly, I found one dead chick. No other chicks were left in the nest. Reid and I looked all over but couldn’t find the others. We really hope they were able to get away – since they were so close to being able to fly anyway.

I was really pissed. I realiaze it’s just nature taking its course, but our family had taken quite a liking to our family of robins. After it was over, we found Michael out of bed wondering what was going on. We told him what happened, and he was upset. He went off muttering something about hating that raccoon and wishing it would die. My sentiments exactly. This particular raccoon has been plaguing me since we moved in. We’ve looked each other in the eye challengingly on more than one occasion. I think we both know he has the upper hand. The little bugger.

Still working on the &#*@ hall!

Well, warm weather has arrived and I’m STILL working on painting/redecorating the hall. It’s my own fault. I ripped up the carpet on the stairs, expecting to paint the trim around the stairs and replace the carpet. When I saw the lovely oak under the carpet, I realized I didn’t have the heart to re-carpet. I hate carpet anyway. Reid seems to love it, but he lets me have my way in most things concerning the house. He did, however, insist on some sort of non-slip thing put on the stairs — so we’ll have a runner. I spent the day stripping the stairs with varnish remover and steel wool, and now my wrist is killing me from all the scrubbing! Now I’ve got to figure out how to urethane the stairs and still be able to use them! (I think I’ll do them after the kids have gone to bed and leave every third step un-urethaned so that Reid and I can get to bed. That way, they’ll be dry by morning.)

Not that I expect many people to be reading this, but be warned: you will no doubt find many of these logs really boring. They’re here for my own purposes, and for close friends and relatives who care enough to put up with me! I had intended to start the log in September when I started my sabbatical, but every day was too busy doing things to the house while the kids were at school. I had hoped to log everything I was working on so that I might use it as a reference.

Now that I think back, I can’t believe how much I got done. I think it’s due to the cotico-steroids I’ve been on since last September. I’ve had boundless energy while I’ve been on steroids. I have to take them because I have ulcerative colitis, a particularly icky disease. I fully expected this episode to go away after a few months, but it seems to be quite stubborn and has lasted (with 2 very brief respites) for more than 9 months! I’ll write all about it one of these days.