“Becky and I were diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis back in 2012. Well technically, I suppose Becky was.
By our second date, I knew this was the girl I was going to spend my life with. She could recite the entire rosters of the 90’s Chicago Bulls championship teams, even the role players! What more could a guy want? We began dating in the fall of 2010 and life was pretty perfect.
In mid-October 2011, Becky woke up one morning in excruciating abdominal pain. After about a month of blood work and failed acute drug therapies, not to mention toilet water that was consistently crimson red, we went for further testing, including a colonoscopy. The diagnosis was ulcerative colitis. To be honest, I knew nothing about this disease (or any disease, for that matter) at the time, but it made me physically sick to see Becky physically sick. The doctor said that Becky would require a cocktail of drugs for the rest of her life in order to be “normal.” The first words out of Becky’s mouth when he said this were “Doc, I’ve been looking into this for years. There are no meds in the world that’ll make me normal!”
We spent Valentine’s Day in 2012 in the hospital. Becky had a bad flare and was in rough shape. She’d lost 15 pounds by this point and couldn’t hold down any food. It’s incredibly painful to see someone that you love going through something like this. Knowing in that exact moment that I couldn’t possibly live my life without her, there was no better time to let Becky know that I’d be by her side forever, and that we’d get through our new disease together. I asked her to marry me right there in that hospital room. Her weak body melted into my arms as we embraced and committed to spending the rest of our lives together.
Four days later, Becky was out of the hospital. Over the course of that first month, we completely overhauled our fridge and pantry with nothing but unprocessed foods. What began as “clean-eating” turned into full-blown SCD. By the summer of 2012 we were making homemade yogurt like a makeshift fro-yo shop! Veggies became our entrees, snacks consisted of kimchee and sauerkraut, and we discovered the joys of cooking together. All I could fantasize about were all those justice-seeking new bacteria colonizing Becky’s gut and crowding out the bad guys. I read book after book and called “expert” after “expert.” We were doing the right things. The following spring was the first year in almost a decade that I decided not to rejoin my softball team. Instead, Becky and I took up yoga. The rest, as they say, is history.
Within three weeks, BOTH of our bodies began to transform. By the end of week seven, Becky ditched all of her meds. We followed strict SCD and practiced yoga 3-4 times per week. Eventually, we were able to add certain non-SCD foods back into our diet (safe starches, white rice, and a few others).
On the day we got married during Labor Day weekend in 2013, Becky never looked more radiant. She jokes that I was born without tear ducts, but on this day it was waterworks. We’re fortunate enough that I have a steady job that I enjoy very much, so Becky was able to quit her job in January of 2014. She’s since become a full-time yoga instructor, as well as a health coach.
Her last follow-up colonoscopy (August 2015) revealed no inflammation or sign of disease. We do all the right things (the best we can) and maybe we’re a little lucky… for now. And if our disease were to ever return, we’d find a way to deal with it. I’ve learned so much about supporting the person I love most in the world. During the darkest of times, I’d learned to recognize when the meds are doing the talking for her, or when she’s trying to push me away out of guilt for having “dragged” me into this situation. It took Becky a while to stop feeling badly about everything, but eventually she realized that it’s OUR disease. Just like it’s “OUR” satin blazer that I occasionally wear out (it’s gorgeous, she just won’t admit it).
The message I’d like to share with the spouses, families and loved ones of someone who’s going through something similar, is to embrace disease as a gift, and to make it equal parts yours. Ever notice how it’s hard for someone to get on stage and sing on their own, but it looks so much easier when it’s a duet or group? It’s much harder to go through disease on your own, as opposed to having a loved one(s) by your side. Embrace foods that previously made you cringe, trade in your baseball glove for a yoga mat, and do a whole bunch of other things that make absolutely no sense to anyone outside of your little nest. You might just end up benefiting as much as, or even more than, your “sick” loved one.
The night that I proposed to Becky in the hospital, she cried and asked me if I’d still love her if she had to live with a stool collection pouch for the rest of her life. I said it then and I’ll say it again – her pouch would be my pouch. I’d take Becky, with God forbid no limbs, no hair, no ears and no energy to even cuss me out when I leave the toilet seat up, over anyone else in the world with perfect health. I came across somewhere on your site where you said that health isn’t the ultimate goal, but merely the vehicle to take you to your ultimate goal of happiness. Believe it or not, disease can take you to happiness also – it’s just a longer, slightly more convoluted route… but it can be incredibly scenic.” – Ben
If you have your own personal health story that you’d like to share, send it, along with a photo, to firstname.lastname@example.org.