In observance of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week (December 1-7), I wanted to share a little bit about my story to help anyone who is unsure how devastating these diseases can be, and to help everyone learn more so they might better understand their impact on a person who lives with this every. single. day.
I have had more than a dozen major surgeries and thousands of medical procedures that require me to be biopsied, explored, cut, stitched, stapled, and pieced back together. This disease has affected every part of my body. I have spent years of my life hospitalized trying to fight this disease. I have lost my large intestine, parts of my small intestine, my rectum, my anus, and a few other parts of my anatomy, forcing me to live with a permanent ileostomy. What is an ostomy you might ask? An ostomy is when part of the intestine is pulled through the abdomen wall allowing waste to empy into an ostomy appliance or bag on the outside of the body.
Although my ostomy saved my life, it also destroyed parts of my self esteem, it caused an enormous amount of anxiety, and oftentimes, depression. As much as I’d rather focus on the positives, one bad day, week, or month can pull you right back into the abyss of some pretty heavy feelings. Thankfully, there are now more good days than bad and without my ostomy, I would not be here as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a niece, a cousin, an auntie, a crochet teacher, a friend and an advocate.
I remember the days when I wanted to just give up. When I sobbed and hurt; when I begged for Allah to have mercy on me and let me just find relief. I remember the days after surgery when I had to relearn to sit-up, to walk, go to the bathroom in a new way, to take care of all my wounds, to treat all the infections, to fight my way through sepsis, infusions, experimental treatments, failed medications, hearing the good news and the bad, the numerous doctors and labs, the constant feelings of being scared, the bag leaks and the humiliation of being covered in poop in
a public place, and ALL. THAT. PAIN.
This disease has not been kind to me, nor has it been kind to the 5 million people around the world who suffer every day from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Every year, I pray and fight and campaign and rally for a cure. Each year passes and although it feels closer, it still feels so far away.
This illness is just part of my story. Even if it has dominated my life for more than ten years, it isn’t all of it. There is so much more to my life than this miserable sickness, and thankfully I am still here to live the best parts of my story.
Every step this crooked, crazy journey has taken me on, landed me right where I am today. I would have never had the opportunity to know this kind of joy or feel this kind of love, if this disease had defeated me.
There are millions of people at the mercy of these illnesses. Although my fight continues, I consider myself lucky. Many are not as lucky as me. I am lucky not because of the treacherous medical path this has taken me on, but lucky because it has brought me here.
Please take a moment to share my story. To spread the word about these life altering diseases. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are debilitating to many who live with these diseases. This deserves more than a week of awareness. We deserve to find a permanent cure. Please help us find one. I have so much to live for. I want to always be here to watch this little boy grow..
It has been 4 weeks since Nasir was born. He came into this world a true miracle and is perfect in every way. I am overjoyed that he is here, happy, healthy and growing like crazy. His due date was June 30th and throughout my high-risk pregnancy, it was understood that with so many health issues, surgeries, and not having a rectum or anus, the probability for me to deliver him in a traditional birth was going to be out of the question. I was told by not one, two, or three doctors but EVERY doctor on the team, that it would be the safest for me to have him via c-section and to do it a week before his due date. Although this didn’t coincide with my idea of the “ideal birth plan,” I ONLY cared about having a safe and healthy delivery for me and safe birth for him. It doesn’t matter how our babies enter the world, it only matters that they arrive safely in our arms!
High Risk Pregnancy
Throughout my pregnancy, many of you are aware that I had numerous issues not only with my Crohn’s disease but also that I had to cease all my medications that keep my disease in remission. I also had severe Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, I had problems with tearing my adhesions and scar tissue from previous abdominal surgeries, I have a Septate Uterus, I had terrible sciatica, I had anemia, I lacked the nutritional support for myself and Nas because I don’t have my large intestine or parts of my small intestine, and I had a herniated ostomy that prolapsed. Because my anatomy isn’t like most, my intestine pooled to one side of my body and my baby was restricting the digestive flow. I also had the general issues of constant heartburn and swelling like a lot of moms-to-be deal with. I tried to be grateful, thankful, happy, joyful, and appreciative for this miracle; and I was. However, I won’t sugar-coat it, I was freaking miserable in my body. I hurt every single day and probably complained to Nate or my mom incessantly EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. all while keeping a smile on my face and forging ahead because I kept telling myself that if this is the sacrifice I have to make to have him here, then I can do this! It was only temporary. My “this too shall pass” mantra was on repeat every moment of every day. I was miserable. But, just to be clear, I would do it ALL over in a heartbeat for this outcome. Nasir is magical…
Things weren’t going well
Over a month before I was to deliver, I was rushed by ambulance from the hospital in La Crosse, Wisconsin up to Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota because I had a severe infection and could not keep anything in. I needed IV support and to be monitored because they thought our baby would make an appearance MUCH earlier than we thought. I was so scared. I was alone in the ambulance with the lights and sirens going as we rushed down the highway. I knew Nate was somewhere in a car behind me, my mom also, but being alone and not knowing what would happen was terrifying.
Thankfully, the doctors were able to hold off delivering Nas and just treat the infection. I was hospitalized for about a week before going home, but we were advised that due to the complicated nature of my pregnancy, I would be on “bed rest” (which couldn’t actually be bed rest because I have a history of forming blood clots), so I took it really easy. The doctors recommended I move to temporary housing in Rochester to be closer to the hospital, and I was there a few days before things began to decline again. Read more about our Temporary Transition here.
We couldn’t wait any longer
Although I was advised to hold off on delivering Nasir for as long as possible to give him the best chance for development, the doctors also understood the gravity of my health situation and knew it would be dangerous to wait too long. Not long after my hospitalization, I was still having problems and was not doing well. I woke up on the Wednesday before he was born feeling terrible. My entire body felt like I had one big bruise covering every inch of my skin. EVERYTHING hurt. The slightest touch hurt, and I was swelling up like a balloon. I called, and the doctors said to meet them up at the hospital. My mom took me in because Nate was at work. After a short examination, the doctors suspected that my infection set off a full body flare of my Crohn’s disease. They couldn’t wait any longer. If they didn’t deliver him soon, I might have gone into labor and could have potentially faced a threatening situation where it would be too late to assemble the ENTIRE team of doctors necessary to bring Nasir into this world and keep me safe in the process. Not only was my disease creating a serious health risk, the baby was breech. There was no time left. It would be way too perilous to wait and risk going into labor and a vaginal delivery. Delivery was scheduled immediately for next morning.
I crumbled under the weight of everything and started to cry.
I wanted more time for him to develop. I was scared for him, what if something went wrong, I was worried about the risks, and the surgery and, and, and….and then I took a deep breath.
I called Nate at work.
“You need to come to Rochester right now. They are going to deliver our baby tomorrow morning…”
“Are you serious? Is this for real?”
“Yes, just please come as soon as you can. I need you…”
I don’t know if Nate could even think after that phone call, if he could even concentrate enough to finish his work for the day, or if he was on autopilot all the way up to Rochester. He made it up there by 10 pm that night and we stayed up nearly all night talking. He kept reassuring me the entire time that everything will be OK.
An assembly of sixteen
When Nate and I arrived at the hospital the next day, along with my mom, dad, and my brother, I was ushered into a room immediately. I was a bundle of nervous energy but also ready to meet my baby!!
Shortly after arriving, I was given an IV and little by little the entire assembly of doctors and nurses ushered in team by team to see me. All in all there would be 16 medical staff in the room with us to deliver Nasir. HOLY MACARONI!! 16!!! I was only allowed one other person with me, and of course that was Nate. I was then taken into the OR alone while he was told to get garbed up.
While I was in the OR, it was freezing. More IVs were placed. There were so many lights, so many machines, so many instruments, and so many people. I started to shake uncontrollably. I was given an epidural and a spinal, but the placement was giving me issues. They kept telling me to sit still. I couldn’t stop shaking. I hugged a pillow tightly to my front while they put the needles in my spine. It took forever. At one point, I felt a severe pain in my hip. They hit a nerve and my leg involuntarily shot out and kicked without me doing it. Yeah, this wasn’t working. They moved it a little higher in my spine and it was better.
From there, things moved so fast.
I was put on a table with my arms spread out wide. I had all the IVs in me, they erected a curtain up in front of me. So many people ushered in and out. The anesthesiologists, the surgery team, the OB-GYN team, the colorectal team, the nurses..SO MANY people! That team of 16 was in full action!
I wanted Nate and asked them to check on him. They said he was outside pacing. I wanted him with me, and it wasn’t much longer and he was able to come back into the OR. As soon as he walked in, they started to open me up. The doctors were wonderful about talking me through every step. I had the best cheerleader by my side. Nate was incredible. The anesthesia team was also very supportive and kept encouraging me softly, cheering for me, kept me comfortable, and just made me feel safe. I get choked up just thinking of these moments–moments I wanted to be fully present to remember.
I started to feel a severe pain in my right shoulder and started to get afraid. I told the doctor and they said they had my uterus out. The uterus is connected to the nerves in the shoulder and the pain I was experiencing was called “referred pain.”
It was only moments later when we heard our baby’s tiny cries. Nate started sobbing, I started sobbing. They lifted him over the screen so we could see him. My first thought was how tiny he was. They quickly moved him to the warming table so Nate could trim the cord and the team moved fast to get all the baby stats. Within moments, they brought this tiny naked baby to me and laid him on my chest. I could barely see or breathe I was crying so hard. HE WAS BEAUTIFUL. So precious. My miracle.
It took some time for the surgeons to close me up because they had to clear out scar tissue from former surgeries. They excised my old scar from the time I had the wound vac, and cleaned all of that tissue to make my incision a cleaner closure. It took quite a while, but I wasn’t even paying a moment of attention to that. Instead I was counting toes and fingers, memorizing my little boys face, and through my tears and laughter, I was rejoicing in this miracle.
As I was wheeled into a recovery room, Nate went to tell my family that our baby arrived. We wanted a few minutes alone to relish our first moments as a family of three. We also had an overflow of emotion that was just indescribable and we wanted to bask in the intimacy of sharing these very personal feelings together.
I remember when they lifted our baby over the screen after we heard his cries. I recall looking at him and instantly knowing that his name in my heart would be Nasir, but I didn’t say anything. To be fair, I wanted to hear Nate’s thoughts about his name. As soon as I asked him what our baby’s name should be, he said Nasir! We both felt it. We both knew. His name is Nasir Nathan.
Nasir is a Pakistani/Arabic name that means “Victorious,” and there is no more appropriate name fitting to this little boy than that. After all I have been through, all the health struggles and trials, I look at him and I know it was all for this moment.
Disclaimer: This blog contains sensitive pregnancy photos. I ask everyone to be respectful and any negative comments will be deleted. It took a lot for me to be vulnerable to share these images. With my health history, I wanted to be as transparent and open as possible with this miraculous pregnancy.
Many of you already have been following my journey and know that my health history has been plagued with illness, numerous surgeries, and plenty of setbacks. I had my colon removed in 2008 because my Crohn’s disease was so progressive. Doctors, worried about the dangerous potential of colon cancer and with fast deterioration of my colon, removed it to save my life. That journey was wrought with so many setbacks and ongoing severe illness. Chemotherapy, biologic treatments, thousands of procedures, multiple ostomies, hospitalizations, and repeated surgery had severely impacted the quality of life I was living in my late teens into my 20s. Most of my dreams were put on hold just to survive.
The one dream I held onto and hoped for was to one day be a mother. Doctors could never give a definitive answer as to whether or not pregnancy could even be possible. It was always a “wait and see” possibility. Without my large intestine or parts of my small intestine, even carrying a baby to term was a huge risk. And, it has been. This miraculous pregnancy has been filled with many issues, illness related problems, and so much worry. Yet, this sweet little boy growing inside me is a fighter. Just like me.
That is why, as we came closer to my due date, I dreamed of having pregnancy photos taken to mark this extraordinary time in our lives.
My colo-rectal surgeon told me last week, despite all the complications, try to enjoy this. “Enjoy being pregnant, Nadia.” She said, “Time goes so fast, we forget these moments. Try to remember how exciting it is to feel him moving…” And it is! This is so true! I have to appreciate everything I am going through to bring him here, and I love him so much that I don’t care how much I have to endure. This is temporary and so worth it.
Next week, I stop the last of my medications needed to keep my disease in remission, so our baby has the best chance and can be his strongest at birth. That part is very unsettling because I don’t know what my body will do without those medications. I am hoping that the last dose will sustain me through the final weeks until delivery and beyond. With that in mind, I decided now was the best time to do these photos. While I felt as good as I can expect to feel, I wanted to capture the power of this moment and the profound feelings of this health and pregnancy journey. I channeled my inner “life-giving goddess” for these powerful images!
I want to thank my mom and dad for their help in bringing my vision to life through these photos, and a huge thank you to Nate for being the most amazing husband and best friend on this journey. I couldn’t have done this without him..obviously..haha!!
“Life reveals her beauty one precious miracle at a time.” ~Flavia
It’s no secret that my battle with my health has been mostly an uphill one. Numerous surgeries have taken their toll on my body for the past ten years as I continue my fight. My Crohn’s disease has to be considered in every facet of my existence. My life, daily decisions, activity, diet, my body, and my future are ruled by this illness and how it will affect my daily living. After ten years, it is “Normal for Nadia” to be at the mercy of this condition. It just is that way. Like a habit, living with severe Crohn’s disease becomes part of my routine.
Doctor appointments, daily meds, regular testing, procedures, and so many details have worked their way into the fiber of my ordinary existence. Even getting married in March was overshadowed by the very real possibility that I may end up sick or in the hospital on our wedding day. It’s just the reality of living with chronic illness. Fortunately, adrenaline was my friend on March 17, 2018 and it helped carry my aching body through the day without incident! Our wedding was the most glorious day ever. Sure, I paid for it afterwards, but I would do all of that 1,000 times over just to relive that beautiful day!
Hardcore family planning
Nate and I always knew we wanted a family, we also knew that it would not be an easy path to having one. Several months after getting married, we sought help from my doctors to find out if I can safely support a pregnancy since I have such a challenging health history. I underwent a series of tests, some incredibly invasive (dignity be damned). A team of specialists were assembled to oversee my care if we were able to get pregnant. According to all these insane tests, there was no reason, despite my health battle, that I couldn’t get pregnant. We were so relieved! We were aware it would be very risky; the warnings from the medical staff came across loud and clear, but we have confidence in the high-risk team overseeing my care. They were very realistic but also reassuring. I was facing my 28th birthday, and although we weren’t aggressively trying, we weren’t being careful either. So, in early November–two days after my birthday–with symptoms that screamed that I might be pregnant, I went to the store and bought a half dozen pregnancy tests.
My internal dialogue was: “I just spent a small fortune on something I am going to pee on. Who cares!??? I need answers!”
It all comes down to a (+) sign
It was a Friday afternoon, November 9th. My friend Sarah was coming to town for a visit, and I was planning on picking her up at the bus station in a few minutes. I only had a small window to privately check out my pregnancy suspicions. So like millions of women before me, I peed on the stick and nervously waited through the minutes that could change everything. I was pacing, nervous and fidgety. How do you distract yourself for those moments without constantly checking if you have your answer? If “a watched pot never boils,” does frantically fanning a pee stick prolong the results?! Because that 5 minutes felt like a flippin’ lifetime!
The test read (+) and I freaked out! I called my mom on Skype immediately, and I was hyperventilating and crying and couldn’t get out what I needed to say. I completely freaked her out because she thought something tragic had happened. I couldn’t speak, and my dramatic reaction had her thinking the worst. I was able to show her the pregnancy test and get her expert opinion on what it was saying. (Like I didn’t already know, right?!) Were these tests saying what I thought they were saying? Of course they were, but I needed Dr. Mom!!! She talked me through it and asked me what Nate said about it…
Oh. My. Gosh. Nate!!! I had yet to tell Nate! How did I not think of that?
She suggested that maybe I should have called him first! Oh my goodness, absolutely! I was a bit of a frantic mess. Where’s my coat?! I’m wearing it. Where are my keys?! In my hand! I had only a few minutes because Sarah’s bus was about to arrive! I jumped in the car and decided to stop at his work! Woops! Was that a stop sign? Just kidding! I am grateful I didn’t receive a citation on the way to tell my husband!
We are having a baby… What do we do now?
Nate came out to the car and I had the test stick in a Ziploc bag. I told him I have to tell him something and without asking, he just said, “You’re pregnant.” I cried, I laughed, and I shoved the pee stick in the Ziploc at him and told him to look at it. We were so happy! He said he had a strong feeling. He knew. What emotions! So high, but then reality started to sink in like “What are we going to do now”? Even though we didn’t know what direction to take at that exact moment, we would figure it out together. We called my mom again from the car in the parking lot at Nate’s work. After talking to her, we knew I had to see my doctors first. We had to keep this quiet for a while. By all calculations, I was only about six to seven weeks along. Things were so precarious with my health and we wanted to make sure the pregnancy was viable and baby was healthy. We also needed to be sure I was fully healthy enough to actually support a pregnancy. On a scale from one to ten our emotions were off the chart. What ARE we going to do now?! GAHHH! WE ARE HAVING A BABYYYY!!
Game Face and A No Colon Surprise Party
Nate went back to work, and I had to pick up Sarah. How was I going to keep a straight face? How do I keep this from my best friend? Although I was busting to tell her to the point I was getting twitchy, I knew I couldn’t. I am the WORST at keeping a secret, God knows, and it was stressful to not blurt it out! I put on my best game face and decided to get it out of my mind (yeah, right!) and enjoy the weekend. Little did I know that the reason Sarah was really coming to visit was because my mom, Nate, Sarah and Nida were planning a surprise party to celebrate my birthday tied into a No Colon, Still Rollin’ – 10 years later party! WHAT IS HAPPENING!??? Saturday afternoon my entire family and all my friends surprised me and I couldn’t say a word to any of them! I ate three poop emoji cupcakes just from the stress of it all. Only Nate and my parents knew, and I couldn’t talk to them with everyone around! Again, ALL THE EMOTIONS!!!
Thank goodness for poop emoji cupcakes. That’s all I’m sayin’.
Well, it’s true! We’re pregnant.
I scheduled my first appointment and we had our first ultrasound. I knew going into this that it wouldn’t be easy. Nausea, heartburn, extreme fatigue, restless legs, extremely sensitive boobs that have grown 10 times their size, body pains off the charts, visits to the ER to check scary symptoms caused by adhesions from past surgical scar tissue, phantom sharp pains in my non-existent anus, my ostomy is shifting to the side as my tummy begins to grow, the scars on my tummy are being stretched, back pain, sciatic pain, vivid dreams and nightmares, itchiness, sleeplessness, aversion to certain foods, no appetite to ravishing hunger, even more profound vitamin deficiency (particularly folic acid and magnesium), chronic asthma symptoms to the point I need my rescue inhaler constantly and now a nebulizer, and more issues are plaguing me night and day, and I’m only past my first trimester!
But, it’s all worth it.
Especially at that very moment when we saw our baby on the ultrasound.
Suddenly, it all became real. We heard the heartbeat and we laughed and cried.
We called it our “little bean.”
We instantly fell in love.
Our baby is due in June 2019, and our hearts are so full.
What now, doc?
We had our first minor complication. There was a subchorionic hemorrhage (a blood clot) that was found on the ultrasound. The doctor said it happens in implantation, and unless I had excessive bleeding (I was only having some bleeding), not to worry too much about it, and it would be monitored. I also had to cease a bunch of my medications. In stopping the meds, I risk some complications, but I have been managing things pretty well. One medication I can’t stop is my biologic injection. I am so worried about taking it, but I can’t risk getting sick to the point it would put me and baby in danger. My team has warned me over and over not to stop it.
I have to be truthful, I was contemplating stopping my biologic injection. The grave warnings from all my doctors have me reconsidering as I face having to take it this week. There is no evident risk to baby, but to me, if I stop, it would be very grave. I could become too ill and not be well enough to sustain the pregnancy, putting both of us at risk. Every doctor concurs. I do have to stop taking it at thirty weeks into the pregnancy to best insure that baby comes into this world the strongest and healthiest it can be. I am concerned without the protection of any medication to control my disease, my body won’t cooperate. I am hopeful. I am optimistic. I am scared. I won’t lie, I know what I am facing, and I know it will be worth it, but I also know this isn’t going to be an easy journey. Nothing this wonderful ever is. I have learned this lesson over and over in my life; I am familiar with how this goes. I am familiar with the bargaining process.
Now we are three!
We are now in the planning stage. I am almost 14 weeks pregnant, and have been following all the doctors’ instruction and am closely monitored. I am also chronicling my pregnancy on The Bump Phone App! According to the app, today our baby is about the size of a lemon! I have regular doctor appointments both with my standard team as well as a high-risk OB-GYN in Rochester, Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic. I couldn’t ask for a better crew of docs overseeing our care! They are so thorough. My last appointment with the specialist was two hours! We are in great hands, and we’re hopeful that things will continue to go well. I just pray that I stay healthy and strong for our little sweet pea. My heart is so full and all I want is to provide the best for this tiny baby despite my challenges.
Merry Christmas to Us!
We told Nyle, Nabeel, Samantha and Des over Thanksgiving. We also went to visit Nate’s dad and gave him a special “Grandpa” shirt.
We also told Nate’s brothers that weekend, too. Other than immediate family and a couple close friends, we decided to wait and reveal our news to everyone else over Christmas! Our family and friends are elated, and some told me they “just had that feeling!”
Today, I wanted to share this with our YARNutopians now that our extended families and close friends received the news. Now, my crochet project list grows! Baby stuff galore! I already have some baby projects on our agenda! What an exciting year of crochet we have ahead of us! I hope to continue with our filming and projects as long as I can and will continue after baby’s arrival! We all have so much to look forward to in the New Year. Not only are we expecting a new addition, but my brother and his wife are also expecting a new baby in January! So many reasons to crochet! Haha! I am excited and filled with joy to share our news with all of you. Cheers to 2019! Thanks for being with us on this crazy and wonderful journey!
When I was diagnosed, it wasn’t clear right away whether I had ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. My disease was so progressive, and I was so sick, that each treatment was like grabbing straws in the hopes that something worked. I prayed to avoid surgery, I prayed to survive.
On the cusp of colon cancer and failing treatment, there was no way to avoid the inevitable. Surgery was the only choice. Well, surgery or quite possibly death. But I was 17 years old and the idea of losing my colon was terrifying. I remember the team of doctors-specialists, surgeons, students, all filing into my hospital room to deliver the news.
I remember my surgeon drawing a picture with a black pen on white paper. “We will cut here, remove this, and make an opening there, create an ostomy out of that…” each scribble demonstrating what he planned to do to me. It was all so abstract and unreal. It was like I was that paper person and it was as simple as drawing a cut across my tummy and pulling my intestine through my abdomen. JUST. LIKE. THAT. But I am flesh and blood and not a series of sketches on paper.
All I knew is that my life would forever be changed. Illness changes everything, losing my colon was collateral damage that this disease was leaving in its path. It was killing me from the inside, and if my colon wasn’t removed, then there was not much hope for a future. I prayed to just survive.
Go ahead then, take it out.
Surgery was scheduled, my Living Will intentions were made, I signed the papers and cried when they wheeled me away from my parents, holding my mom’s hand until I couldn’t anymore. Until I had to let go… It’s so hard to describe that fear of the unknown. I was sick. Not just sick but deathly ill. If this was my chance at survival, would I really survive? I prayed to live through surgery. I prayed to survive.
I survived the surgery, but I was left with a body that was so unrecognizable to me. Cuts across my abdomen, part of my intestine on the outside, an abnormal anatomy that was hard to comprehend when I was just a teenager. Actually, no matter how old you are, this is something so incomprehensible. Who goes to the bathroom in a bag? Who lives this way? How do I live my life going forward? I am just a kid. Why me? The litany of unending questions each one more palpable than the last. I prayed to survive. Now how do I do that?
That was 10 years and more than a dozen surgeries ago. That was 10 years and more than 100 hospital stays ago. That was 10 years and 1,000 procedures ago. That was 10 years and a lifetime ago. I will never forget that scared young girl. Now, 10 years later, although I am still in a battle with this disease that has finally been diagnosed as Crohn’s disease, I am stronger and I am a survivor. Today, I live with a permanent ileostomy and a permanent positive attitude. I survived. 10 years. I survived.
This is the surgeon who performed my first surgery
December 1-7 is one week out of the year that is designated to Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness. So, as a voice for building awareness and being an advocate for myself and patients battling this debilitating disease, I wanted to share with you a few facts about these diseases. I know this is not crochet related, but the reason I started crochet was to help cope with my illness and also help pass the time in the hospital when I would be in for months at a time.
Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It affects the entire gastrointestinal tract and can affect anywhere from the mouth to the anus.
Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine/colon, and rectum. Symptoms include Inflammation and ulcers, diarrhea, internal bleeding, fatigue, fevers, abdominal pain and cramping, reduced appetite leading to significant weight loss. Complications from this disease and sometimes treatments can be life threatening!
THERE IS NO CURE.
Oftentimes serious drugs like chemotherapies and biologics are needed and/or drastic surgeries are necessary to stave off the progression of the disease. Most people who suffer from these diseases can appear “normal” or “healthy” from their outward appearance, but are silently suffering from the inside. Many are among our friends, family, co-workers, community members – millions of people worldwide have some form of IBD!!!!
It is an invisible illness that oftentimes is not discussed in everyday company. Unless you know ME or someone who has Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis you may have never heard of these before.
Have questions? Want to learn more? Ask me anything-I am an open book when trying to educate about this topic. One thing over the years I have learned is there is no shame battling illness and the stigma surrounding it. I may not look it, but I am battling this disease Every. Single. Day. It affects nearly every aspect of my life. I am not alone. I have so many friends suffering!! I am devastated to say people were lost by complications of this disease.
If we can educate just one person through our journey, through disease, then our suffering is not in vain and there is some purpose in all we have gone through and continue to face. Please, Please take time to learn more this week (and beyond) and understand how devastating Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis really is.
Crohn’s disease has impacted every aspect of my life including School, Employment, Relationships (Romantic or Familial), Socially, Financially, and Emotionally.
You can find more information about these inflammatory bowel diseases at CCFA.org
If I could crochet a colon for myself and anyone else who has lost their intestines due to Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, I would. If only it was that easy. I would stitch until my fingers fell off!! Unfortunately, I would have to crochet for millions of people who sadly have had total proctocolectomy surgery due to the devastation of inflammatory bowel disease. Today, May 19th, is World IBD Day. It is a day to recognize the millions of people worldwide who suffer from these debilitating diseases.
I crocheted this colon (large intestine) as a symbol of loss. Crohn’s disease claimed my large intestine in 2008, only one week before my 18th birthday. On the very cusp of colon cancer, my disease was extremely progressive and surgery was my only option. The fight never ends because sadly, there is no cure. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the most common types of inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis affects only the colon and rectum. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive tract from mouth to anus.
This colon represents each major surgery; each stitch stands for each procedure, x-ray, scan, or test that I have undergone. This may seem like an unusual analogy to represent an organ or diseases that most people rarely, if ever, think about. To me, this disease changed my entire life and those changes led me here, crocheting my very own colon, and using my voice and skills to advocate for others who don’t have a platform to help spread awareness. Many of whom are no longer with us. Our diseases may appear invisible, but we are not!
Silly, strange, serious, or an obnoxiously bold statement, however you view this piece I created, hopefully it will generate conversation for inflammatory bowel diseases. Not just on May 19th, World IBD Day, but every day of every year until we find a cure.
Please *share* this blog post and you may be surprised to find how many people YOU know are silently suffering. There is NO CURE. Help raise more awareness so that I never have to type those words again.
If you crochet as much as I do, there are going to be days that you push those hand and wrist muscles to their limits! Combine that with the fact that I have auto-immune issues including swollen joints from arthritis, there will be days when I wake up and my hands hardly function.
Today is one of those days.
Even typing this blog has forced me to take breaks because the muscle in my hand going into my wrist is causing a lot of discomfort. That discomfort is impairing my ability to do what I love!
Have you experienced something similar?
From time to time, I switch using a standard crochet hook to using an ergonomic handled hook to alleviate some of the tension and pressure in my wrist. There are points in time where even that doesn’t do enough to help my issue. After talking to my best friend, Nida, about my concerns, she sent me a pair of these fabulous gloves by Copper Joint.
Nida works in the medical field, so I trust her guidance and I decided to give these a try. I wasn’t disappointed. Although my pain can be far beyond the scope of what most things can help, these Copper Joint Gloves have been a crochet life-saver! Today I’ll be wearing them throughout the day as I work on my latest designs.
I know that I’m not alone in this experience, so I ask you, my YARNutopians to share with me your methods of finding relief for your tired and aching joints! Maybe your technique will help others who suffer the laborious tasks of chronic crochet syndrome! 😉
On a serious note, this truly is an issue that many can relate to. I’m looking forward to hearing your suggestions!
Annually, the first Saturday in October marks a day of recognition for ostomates. Ostomy Awareness Day is a day to shed more light on this life saving surgery. I take this opportunity to try and educate others about this surgery which saved my life.
What is an ostomy?
An ostomy is a surgically created opening in the intestine. The intestine is then brought through the abdominal wall to form a stoma through which waste passes into an appliance on the outside of the abdomen.
No one really knows the exact number of ostomates worldwide – estimates range from 450,000-1 million people. Many, like myself are surviving and thriving because of this life saving surgery. We would not be here without this. Ostomy surgery is often the last resort after exhausting and failing every other treatment option.
Why do people get ostomy surgery?
Cancers, inflammatory bowel disease, spina bifida, perforations, trauma, accidents, gunshots, neurogenic issues, diverticulitis and several other reasons can lead to why a patient is LIVING with an ostomy. Some patients have temporary ostomies while others, like myself, live life with a permanent ileostomy.
What are some myths about ostomies?
Unless people are educated about this, the stigma exists for misconceptions and misunderstanding to form. Common myths about ostomates are:
We always have to wear baggy clothes to hide our appliance
We can’t participate in sports or be physically active
An ostomy is a death sentence
Only elderly people have ostomies
Speaking for myself, as someone who had her first ostomy surgery at 17 years old, I am LIVING proof that these are myths. My Crohn’s disease was so progressive as a teenager that I would not have survived without having my colon removed and been given an ileostomy. On the cusp of colon cancer, my alternative was to live with this surgery and try to get my life back from the grip of a horrible disease. Things are not always easy and my road to acceptance has been rough at times, but rest assured that I do not smell. I love fashion and wear a wide variety of clothing. I was never athletic, but that isn’t because I have an ostomy, it’s because I am a klutz. Ostomy surgery saved me from an absolute death sentence. ANYONE, no matter what age, can have ostomy surgery.
I hope this helps provide some information about something that I, and so many others, live with each and every day. Thank you for the opportunity to educate and advocate on this Ostomy Awareness Day 2016 and for taking the time to read this blog and help the awareness grow!!
Without this surgery I would not be here to share my love for crochet with the world.
This blog is the first part of my birthday gift to you, Nate.
As I start this blog I have to admit that, surprisingly, it is one of the hardest pieces I am writing for a couple of reasons. I have backspaced and deleted enough to the point where, if I were writing in the 1970s, my trashcan would be over flowing with crumpled paper that I keep pulling out of my ancient typewriter. Good thing it is 2016, and several trees are being saved from my inability to focus on how I want to put these thoughts into words.
Part of the reason I am having trouble with this blog is because it was the object behind a bit of a disagreement between Nate and me. It was nothing major, just a misunderstanding. I can be feisty and stubborn, but being ill has taught me enough about what is important and what matters, so arguments and fights with anyone are few and far between. So, no worries please.
Secondly, I am hesitant on writing this because, usually, when things go up, they must come down, and that has been my typical health pattern for nearly nine years. I have learned that a lot of things are temporary. As I continue to write about some of the positive things that have been happening with my health, in the back of my mind there is a whisper reminding me of Newton’s Universal Law of Gravity. That pesky law keeps me from getting too comfortable with the status quo. But tonight I am going to ignore that stinking voice so I can write in peace.
I had surgery on December 9th, 2015 following a very scary episode of sepsis which landed me in the critical care unit for nearly a week. You can read my last health update here. The surgery was scheduled in hopes to offer me a better chance at not repeating history of sepsis in that area as the risk was so high. All of my physicians concurred that I may not be so lucky ‘next time,’ so I had a removal of my rectal/anal cuff and the surgeons closed my bottom. Essentially I was given what they call a ‘Barbie Butt.’ You can laugh. It’s OK. It’s the truth, and God help us all, we NEED humor. I am 25-years-old and have managed to survive some of the most painfully undignified, frightening, and major health hurdles to end up with this Barbie Butt. Believe me, laughter has helped me so much it’s not even funny…or it is…but it’s not. (You know what I mean!) Without humor I wouldn’t have survived; I promise you that. Having this surgery is better than the alternative. So, I laugh in the face of this *bleep* disease that keeps coming at me. “Go ahead Crohn’s disease, Take my a-hole. I didn’t need it anyway!”
Following surgery, I ended up back in the hospital with another abscess and sepsis scare, but it was minor and with a strong dose of antibiotics, I recovered and was home in time for the holidays. That was crucial because I was about to launch the 365 Days of Granny Squares blog in the New Year. Here I was, sitting in the hospital, trying to figure out if I could orchestrate this project from my hospital bed so it would be ready to go by January 1st. I got lucky. I got to come home. 365 Days of Granny Squares went off without a hitch. Today, it has officially been an entire three months that I have not been hospitalized, and to be honest, that is a near record. The granny squares are helping me keep count! Haha!
The struggle is real
Although it hasn’t been easy, and finding an effective treatment plan for my Crohn’s disease has been like playing roulette, things are beginning to look up.
I struggled for the entire month of January trying to recover my strength. By February, I felt stronger but didn’t feel fully better. I started a new drug treatment six weeks ago that offers a lot of promise. Other than being bothered by a few side effects and minor setbacks, I am hopeful as I have seen some mild improvements *knock on wood*. I have tried so many new drugs and treatments, diets and health regimens, that I started to lose hope after failing so many times, but this time I have to hold on to hope. This time is different. It’s different because there is someone else in my picture besides myself, my friends, and my family. It’s Nate.
He’s my person
Remember that argument I mentioned we had earlier? Yeah, well, it was because I put him on the spot barraging him with questions about all this health stuff the other night with that not-so-pleasant side of my personality that demands answers about handling life with a sick person. I was probably having a tiny pity-party. There were tears, but I’m over it. Sometimes, in those fleeting, not-so-pretty moments, I feel unlovable, ugly, and scarred from a dozen surgeries and having an ostomy, all THIS worry comes out and gets overwhelming. It is overwhelming living with a terrible disease, so walking into this life by choice and choosing to love someone with these circumstances on their plate is HUGE. It’s a risk, and he did it. He did it for me. He told me I am worth the risk. Me! *insert a million feels here*
Presently, I am surrounded by several skeins of yarn and 600 tiny square crocheted pixels for a project I am making for Nate’s birthday gift.
I’m not thinking about the ugly side of this disease but about how lucky I am to have that love. For the first time in three months since surgery, I don’t just feel good, but I feel amazing! It has nothing to do with medication, doctors, good lab results, or clinic visits. It has to do with someone who Googled Crohn’s disease so many months ago and spent time reading all about it trying to learn what he could, so he could better understand this disease and what he would be facing with me. I feel amazing because Nate says I “fight like a champ” and I am the strongest person he knows, and guess what? I believe him. I feel amazing because, when he looks at me, he doesn’t see all those scars or my ostomy, and that I feel “broken.” He just sees me. Nadia. The girl I always wanted to be before my body was attacked by this disease.
Fighting like a champ (Surgery 2015)
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades
There are a lot of things in life that aren’t fair. Nothing is remotely pretty when fighting against sickness. Chronic illness has taught me how unpredictable life can be. I wish I had that magic crystal ball to see the future, so I could know what is coming, but I don’t. I can recite to you my dream of what I would want to see, if the universe lined up just right to grant me that future. It’s a beautiful private dream. But it is exactly that – just a dream.
One thing I have learned is that I can’t control any of this disease, and the universe has a plan of its own. However, despite all these trials, I have been given this perfectly imperfect life that looks nothing like a perfect dream, and that is OK. Illness was the reason I started to crochet. That led me to create YARNutopia and introduced me to this wonderful crochet community. It has brought me lifelong friendships. It taught me the value of what is truly important, and finally, it navigated my life to cross paths with an extraordinary man who is willing to face that frightening, unknown future by my side. He gave me a pinky promise. That is a promise of HOPE. There are no words that exist to thank someone for a gift that extraordinary. Maybe these undeleted, uncrumpled words can help.
So when you ask how I am feeling, the truth would be, I feel amazing.
Happy Birthday, Nathan Lyden.
“…It’s a blessed thing to love and feel loved in return.” ~E.A. Bucchianeri
As I prepare for yet another surgery, I wanted to reach out to everyone with an update on my current health situation, as well as give a background on my journey through illness thus far. Repeatedly challenged by sickness, I am often left to navigate my way through life around numerous obstacles placed in my way due to complications from Crohn’s disease.
I ask you to read this blog and hopefully you will be able to get a clearer picture of how truly devastating inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can be. My hope is that once this ordeal is behind me, I can hit the ground running (or at least walking) into 2016. My goal is to get through an entire year without having major surgery or complications. My real hope is that we find the CURE.
Health Challenges Ahead
For the past eight years, I have been struggling with my health. Some of you who follow my page have known about a few of my struggles; others may be new to learning that I have a very severe and complex case of Crohn’s disease. Every doctor I have ever encountered has termed me everything from an “anomaly,” to “complicated,” to “a nightmare.” It has been extremely difficult to walk this journey and try to maintain some normalcy in my life when nothing is “normal” with my health.
When I was 17 years old, I was so sick, and on the cusp of colon cancer, when the doctors decided to remove my entire large intestine and rectum. I underwent a total-proctocolectomy and was given a temporary loop ileostomy and an internal ileo J-pouch.
An ileostomy is when the small intestine is brought through the abdominal wall and waste is diverted to the outside of the body. This continence diversion allows for a person to expel body waste into an ostomy appliance on the outside of the body.
A J-pouch is an internal pouch using a portion of the small intestine made to take the place of the rectum and can be used to expel waste similar to any other person (minus the correct anatomy). My J-pouch was connected to a small part of my anal cuff left behind during surgery and left to heal.
I lived with my ileostomy for four months then had it reversed. Physically, I looked “normal” from the outside, other than the abdominal scars I had from surgery. Doctors opened my bottom and the concept was that the J-pouch would emulate a “mock rectum” and function as an internal reservoir for waste out of which I would be able to go to the bathroom somewhat “normally.” However, I wasn’t so lucky.
In the entire time I had my J-pouch, I went into what essentially would be considered “failure” and was terribly ill for the 20 month duration I had it. My surgeon was trying hard to save the reconstructed organ because he was trying to take my youth into consideration. He was working hard to avoid giving me a permanent ileostomy.
So, I underwent another surgery to go back to a temporary ileostomy in hopes of saving all the reconstructive internal surgery I had done and save my J-pouch. It was not successful.
After 10 months, I underwent testing to see if this extreme procedure would work, but the doctors determined that there was a lack of blood supply flowing to the J-pouch and my disease had attacked everything. There was really no chance to save the tissue and intestine.
The doctors then made the decision that my best case scenario would be to remove the diseased intestine, remove the J-pouch and give me a permanent ileostomy. I was 20 years old.
It Takes a Toll
It is difficult to describe to someone how it feels to constantly have your life interrupted by illness. Although I have incredible family support, it has been a difficult journey to take as I watched my brothers and my friends move on to college when my six attempts at college were detoured by illness, to the point where I just gave up trying. I watched them move out on their own, get married, work a job outside the home, and move forward in life.
For me, it seemed that for each step I took forward this illness tried it’s best to push me two steps backward. I fought back EVERY step of the way. I have tried a myriad of medications, holistic healing, naturopathy, homeopathic, and dietary measures to help myself. If you can think of it, I most likely have tried whatever method to stave off this disease. Up until recently, (as I now am preparing for another surgery and have been taken off of several of my meds in preparation) I was/am taking chemotherapy drugs, biologic drugs, probiotics by the bottle-full, vitamins, dietary supplements, and numerous other medications to sustain my life and existence as best as I can.
Even if from all outward appearance I look “normal,” the crazy thing about this disease is that it is invisible from the outside. I guarantee if you saw me from the inside, you would know how truly devastating this disease really is. I feel that over the years and after numerous surgeries, I have been pieced back together, that all my mismatched parts have been stitched back like an old rag-doll that has seen too many days of wear and tear.
Since my initial series of life changing surgeries, I’ve had to undergo many more as I sacrificed more and more of my intestine to this monster. Last summer, I had another 30 centimeters of intestine removed, and because of a prolapse to my ileostomy, I had my ileostomy moved from my right side to my left side.
Shortly after surgery, I began to experience incredible pain around my new ileostomy. After numerous tests, the doctors found a subcutaneous leak where feces were seeping into my abdomen. Upon further testing, they also found a large abscess at the surgical site in my abdomen. Another major surgery was performed to open me back up. It was so bad; they could not close my abdomen. They left the incision open and I underwent what is known as “healing by secondary intention.” I was put on a woundVAC machine, and my wounds were packed and treated until they healed. I spent more than a month hospitalized and another six weeks with home healthcare nurses taking care of me with the additional help of my parents.
The Journey Continues
Fast forward to this year, and I still have not had much luck conquering this disease. I have yet to get through a year without major surgery or to even have lengthy respite from being in the hospital. Even this year I have been hospitalized five times since January 2015.
Earlier this fall, I started to experience incredible pain in my lower abdomen. Several days had passed, and the pain increased. I had been home alone caring for my nephew when I knew there was a bigger issue than just typical Crohn’s pain. I called my parents, who were out in New York visiting my brother. My parents cut their trip short, left NY, and raced back home.
Upon arrival my mom rushed me to the ER. I was immediately admitted inpatient with an abscess. The problem was that the abscess had formed in my lower abdomen where my anal cuff had been left behind from my permanent ileostomy surgery, and they sewed up my bottom. The mucosa produced from the tissue, along with bacteria, had caused a critical situation, making conditions ready for this disaster to happen. The abscess was located in a very vascular area and was affecting other organs.
The decision was made to transport me to another hospital more equipped to handle the level of care I needed. I was taken by ambulance, and by the time I arrived at the other hospital I had gone septic. I ended up in the ICU for several days and had to undergo emergency surgery to place drainage pumps to get the infection from my abdomen out. It was a terrible ordeal, and it is remarkable that I even recovered from being that sick.
After a week in the hospital, I was discharged with the pump, drains, and tubes still inside of me. As long as my mom could care for my apparatus at home, I could continue treatment from home. So I went, happy as a clam to get out of the place I so ungraciously refer to as “The Joint.”
However, this doesn’t end here. This is the reason for the inspiration for this blog post. I had the drainage system in a little over two weeks until the doctors were able to remove them. Unfortunately, this could be a reoccurring problem, and they said I may not survive another episode if the abscesses come back. In order to prevent that from happening, I need to have the entire area removed. This will entail the complete removal of the anal area, the muscle surrounding it, the internal area where the disease is showing, and any of the area where abscesses may form.
At this time, there is no way to know how deep it will be or how much will need to be taken out. The best case scenario would be about a three inch diameter section of my bottom, but internally I am not sure. Needless to say, I am extraordinarily frightened.
Actually, that doesn’t even come close to explaining how I feel as this disease continues to ravage my 25-year-old body and continues to claim one piece at a time. From diseased intestines, surgeries, hospitalizations, blood clots, infusions, transfusions, PICC lines, infections, and a number of other challenges, this disease has truly tested every bit of physical and mental strength I possess and it continues to do so. Fear does not own me, but I can honestly say it is ever present through this journey.
I was told the recovery time is six to eight weeks for this type of surgery. Each one of these surgeries makes my situation even graver and more challenging for an already challenged body. There are moments when I feel like screaming out in rage and beg for an answer to the question “WHY?” Other times, I feel like I just want to embrace life and celebrate EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT. that I can. I choose the latter most often.
You Give Me Strength and Purpose
My surgery is scheduled for December 9th, 2015. I was able to obtain medical clearance from my doctors to travel to New York City for a few days before surgery to visit my brother, and I am really looking forward to that trip. I feel like having that to look forward will help keep my mind off the obvious event of surgery looming in front of me. Each moment to add good memories to my life canvas makes all the difference in the world! I am so eternally grateful for the many gifts in my life. I owe all to Allah, my family, Nate, my friends, my IBD family (Crohn’s and colitis patients and doctors), and you, my crochet family who keep me fighting when I feel weak.
I have shared with you before how much I value crochet. I have told you how crochet saved me, but you may not know what you have done for me every day that you showed up to watch my videos and work on my projects. You gave me purpose in an otherwise difficult time when I wasn’t sure of my value. You gave me reason to keep working, creating, and teaching. That is more valuable to me than all the medicine in the world. When I say, “I wish I could hug each and every one of you,” I truly mean it. Thank you so much for the contribution YOU have made to my life. Sometimes people say that I have impacted their life, well; it goes both ways. You have truly impacted so much of my life.
I will be taking time off from filming, but have managed to film a few nice videos ahead of time, to be released during my surgery and recovery. I hope to make a full recovery and get back to crochet and creating in no time! Please continue to share your work. I promise to keep checking back to see what progress everyone has made. As soon as I am able, I will be back, ready to hook my way into action!
Thank you for your patience and your continued support. There are no words that can express my honest gratitude.
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you will not see the shadows.” ~Helen Keller
Love and *Soft Yarn Hugs,*
Your crochet instructor, Nadia Fuad
If you would like to learn more about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, please visit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s website at www.ccfa.org