I’m not sure how I’ll categorise 2019 when I look back on it. Best year of my life? Or the year that I was diagnosed with an incurable chronic illness that will forever shape how I have to live? That’s a legacy of the most stressful year of my life? That is something that will always be on the back of my mind and prevent me from being the carefree person I used to be?
It’s just over two months since I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and Iron-Deficiency Anaemia, the double-whammy which I now lovingly refer to as Maud. To all intents and purposes life has gone back to normal. I can go on train journeys, plane journeys, be fairly active, without having to worry about staying near a toilet. I don’t wake up in the night anymore, or at least it’s rare rather than the norm. Do I feel grateful? Yes. Do I feel bitter as all-hell? Yes.
The truth is I believe we make choices in life. Choosing to be happy no matter what shit is thrown our way. Choosing to see the positive, to learn from experiences even the negative ones. And for the most part, this gets me by just fine. I thank my lucky stars every day that my UC isn’t so bad as others have it. That my UC isn’t a more debilitating chronic illness. It could have been cancer Lins, it could have been cancer.
But it IS still an illness. Which there isn’t any cure for. Which no-one probably apart from Pete and maybe my loyal bunch of Instagram followers will every truly understand how it impacts me. One of the by-products of UC is my separate anaemia diagnosis which despite taking iron supplements for and managing very well, does leave me physically much more tired than I used to be. I have to think about my week ahead and try to alternate busy days with quieter days and that those quieter days, instead of pottering about the house, may have to be spent in bed.
Then there’s the food impact. Again, I’m luckier than most because I’m used to giving up food groups right? I mean, I’m vegan so out has gone meat, fish, dairy etc etc. It’s not about that though, it’s about the fact that I love being spontaneous. That if I want to gorge on burgers, chips and ice cream (all vegan obviously) then I should be able to. And I can, and I do. But there’s now a price to pay where there wasn’t before. That could be anything from feeling a bit bloated for a few hours to be in crippling pain which has me crying in agony on street corners. I have to think about whether I sacrifice the “fun” and live on extremely healthy food for the rest of my days or pay the price for living a little.
On the positive side it really has made me consider everything as I approach 40 in just a few months time. It’s made me think about not just what I put in my body but on my body too and I’m starting to transition all my hair and body products over to natural ones. It’s terrifying to realise you can’t even pronounce a word and yet we freely assume it’s good for us. I also categorically know more than ever how important exercise is and it’s time to make it a critical part of my days rather than an afterthought. So that’s life with Maud two months in. If someone had said to me at the time when I was bedridden and unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel that I’d be able to function fairly normally in the not too distant future I’d have been overjoyed. And I really am. But there’s definitely part of me that’s still searching to understand what the bigger picture in all of this is for me. What lesson is this meant to be teaching me, what am I supposed to learn? Because nothing that I did caused this. There’s got to be a silver lining somewhere and hopefully one day I’ll be writing a blog post about just what that is.