Carrie Datkuliak

IN HER OWN WORDS

I had symptoms for three years before I finally received the diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. When I started having problems, the first gastroenterologist I saw did a colonoscopy but didn’t take any biopsies. He said I had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and that I just needed to manage stress better. At first I accepted this diagnosis, but as my symptoms continued and got worse I decided that I was not going to accept this as an answer. I did some research online, and with the help of my family doctor I decided to seek a second opinion from the Cleveland Clinic (in Ohio). I agreed to do another colonoscopy, but this time the doctor took biopsies. The results came back that I had Crohn’s Disease.

Even though I was taking medication for Crohn’s, I still had frequent symptoms. At thirty years of age, this disease seemed to take over my life. I found myself not doing things I once enjoyed. I was so scared of when I would have another flare up or who I would be with when this happened. My life revolved around the restroom, and when I went somewhere with my kids they would see one and tell me where it was in case I needed it. I stopped making plans with friends, because I would be so disappointed when I would have to cancel because I was having another flare. Embarrassment took over whenever I would be out somewhere with friends and I would need to excuse myself multiple times to use the bathroom. As a single parent, I was scared of losing my job because of all the frequent restroom trips I was having to make.

I was not sure how I was going to continue living my life like this. I thought that if the rest of my life was going to be like this, I didn’t know what I was going to do. My doctor did not have any advice for me other than medications. I finally reached a point where if someone had told me that jumping up and down would fix my problems, I would have done so all day long. I felt that desperate.

A friend of mine had known Dr. Popper at Wellness Forum Health for many years, and he suggested that I give her a call because she might have the answers about my health that I wanted. He warned me, though, that her plan would be strict but that it would help. By this point I was very skeptical to think that a strict diet could cure me.

I’ll be honest. The first month of my IBD program with Dr. Popper was the hardest. I had to give up favorite foods and drinks, but I was willing to give the diet 100% of my best efforts. After several weeks of following the program, I started noticing that my symptoms were improving. The changes were gradual, but I could tell a difference. I still have flare ups occasionally, but they don’t happen very often and when they do, they are not as intense as they used to be.

Living my life now has become more worry-free. I can make plans with friends and family, take trips, and go places with my kids. It’s nice not to worry about where the closest restroom is, or even if I’ll make it in time. I think some of those fears will always be in the back of my mind, but I don’t let them stop me. A great example of change: I used to love riding on the back of my friend’s motorcycle, but when the Crohn’s took over my life I was too afraid to ride anymore. I even sold all my riding clothes because I thought I could never ride again. But now I date someone who rides, and I’m always going on trips with him. Crohn’s Disease no longer controls my life.

The advice I would offer to others who struggle with this disease is not to give up. If you know something is wrong with your body, listen to it! Keep asking questions, keep searching for answers. Don’t be a passive patient. Crohn’s Disease does not have to be the end of your life. You can manage it through diet alone. Yes, it’s a strict program, but it works!

I would also tell other people with Crohn’s that you don’t have to keep it a secret. Sure, it’s an embarrassing disease that’s hard to talk about, especially if you’re dating someone. I mean, who wants to discuss disease with other people? But honestly, when I stopped keeping Crohn’s a secret and instead started talking about it openly to my friends and family, things got better. With this disease, you need a good support system. Let your friends and family do that for you. Being open about Crohn’s to others is also a great way to spread awareness about this condition to those who don’t know anything about this disease.