Bowel Obsession: What Happened After My Colon Burst?

Updated on February 2, 2018
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A bad case of diverticulitis caused my colon to rupture, forcing me into the uncomfortable experience of living with a colostomy.

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My Symptoms

I had just spent 22 days working in Vancouver at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Three days later, I wasn't feeling well and went to bed early. The next morning, I woke up with excruciating pains in the lower-right side of my belly followed by three hours of projectile vomiting what looked like fecal matter. It was incredibly hard to walk, and I could barely stand up straight.

I managed to make it to a clinic. The doctor, amazed that I was able to walk there, said, "I think your appendix burst—you'll need to go to the emergency room straight away!"

My First Visit to the ER: I Had a Burst Colon

During my surgery, the doctors discovered my colon had burst, sending feces swirling around my abdominal cavity and filling it with puss that coated my organs. However, they couldn't find the perforation the first time around. They removed the puss, closed me up, and sent me home a few days later with some medications.

At the time, the doctor told me I had diverticulitis, a condition in which pouches form on your colon that can become inflamed and burst.

The following night, I started throwing up again. After five days of staying in bed—in pain and with nonstop vomiting—I went back to the emergency room.

My Second Visit to the ER

This time, when I got to the ER, they rushed me through quickly. They hooked me up to an IV, took some blood samples, and placed me on a heart monitor for the first time. The doctor came within 15 minutes and gave me morphine (it only reduced about 75% of the pain).

In order to better understand what condition I had, they took some scans of my abdomen. The on-call general surgeon had trouble interpreting the results, so she deferred to a gastroenterologist, a specialist of conditions of the digestive tract.

The scans revealed a whole mess of problems: damage to both my large and small intestines, an abscess on my esophagus, and what appeared to be a hole in my bladder. My abdominal cavity had also filled with pus again. Despite the severity of my condition, they couldn't operate right away—my body wasn't stable enough.

My Second Surgery

Ten days after getting the results from the scans, my body was ready for surgery, and I was nervous; at this point, I was aware that people with my condition can die. But I had a great doctor and a lot of faith.

My specialist and surgeon, Dr. Ahmer A. Karimuddin, sat down with me and told me that what I had was serious. However, he said he was confident in his ability but confessed that he wouldn't know exactly what was going to happen until he took a look. He started talking about stomas and what that meant—I was kind of lost and didn't understand what he was talking about. This is why, when you're a patient, it helps to have someone else with you to hear what you can't process.

These are ostomy bags—designed to collect fecal matter that is diverted to the stoma in your abdominal wall.
These are ostomy bags—designed to collect fecal matter that is diverted to the stoma in your abdominal wall. | Source

Post-Surgery: I Found Out I Had a Colostomy

When I woke up, there was a large bandage gently covering my left stomach area. I touched it, and it was kind of tender underneath—very soft. I didn't understand.

The doctor came in and told me that the surgery went well but that there were complications:

  • I was allergic to all the antibiotics they had been giving me, so they took some tissue samples and sent them to a lab. The results would be back in 12 days.
  • Two sections of my intestines were in really bad shape, so he removed parts of both my small and large intestines. He was confident that my intestines would heal, but for now, he performed a colostomy. He hoped to do another surgery within the year to reverse the procedure.

He pulled back the bandages to reveal the tender spot: a stoma. He hoped that it would just be temporary. I still didn't understand what I was looking at as he left the room. Then, a nurse came in. She was the ostomy specialist who would work with me for as long as I had this stoma. She was going to teach us—me and my husband—how to care for my new stoma.

What Is a Stoma?

As the nurse changed my bandage, she explained what a stoma was.

Simply put, part of my large intestine was now sticking out of my abdominal wall, channeling fecal matter to the stoma rather than the rectum. The fecal matter would then be collected in a disposable colostomy bag. I was shocked, humiliated, and terrified, to say the least—there aren't enough adjectives to describe how I felt at that moment. I couldn't imagine myself living with this for an extended period of time. However, over time, I learned to accept my condition and actually became really interested in it.

You can read more about my experiences with a colostomy bag later in the article.

Thankfully, I didn't have to live with a colostomy for too long. In December 2010, my colostomy was reversed. In other words, the surgeon reconnected my colon—I would be able to make normal bowel movements again! Once they determined that I was healing properly, I was able to go home!

Complications of Diverticulitis

The biggest challenge of having diverticulitis—before and even after the colostomy—was dealing with bowel obstructions, when you are unable to pass fecal matter. I had 18 bowel obstructions from May 2010 to February 2012 and needed extended hospital stays each time.

After half a dozen admissions with a bowel obstruction, the enterostomal therapist, or ET, talked to me about making dietary changes. She made it clear that I needed to control the types of foods I was eating; nuts, seeds, chips, popcorn, and carbonated drinks were off limits if I wanted to heal well.

I started to strictly control my diet. In addition to her list, I added milk and wheat to my list of foods to avoid because I noticed they cause me discomfort after digestion. I can now detect a problem well-enough in advance to adjust my diet quickly. I haven't had any bowel problems since Feb 2012.

Eating right helps you heal better and avoid unnecessary complications.
Eating right helps you heal better and avoid unnecessary complications. | Source

My Tips for Recovering From Diverticulitis

I monitor myself very closely and adjust what I eat according to how my body feels.

Here are some tricks that have helped me:

  • Drink lots of water
  • I control loose stools by eating a banana or mashed potatoes (more fiber).
  • I control stomach tightening or extremely hard bowels with Senekot, or another stool softener, and watermelon.
  • Finely cut salads help keep me regular.
  • I listen to my body and adjust way before there's the chance of a problem.
  • I to responsibility for my health and healing path. When I go to the doctor for a problem, he listens because he knows I know my body best.
  • I listen to my doctor and take someone with me 90% of the time for an extra pair of ears.

My Experiences With a Colostomy Bag

Having a Colostomy Bag Changed My Life

My husband was unbelievably good with the whole mess. He said it was like cleaning a baby's bottom and never complained once.

On the other hand, I still couldn't even look at it. The site of this bright, pink, round, skinless flesh was a reminder of the reality that my life was never going to be the same. It haunted me and made me mad.

All dignity had left the building. I needed regular bag changes, and at first, I relied on my husband to help. There was an unpleasant smell that leaked out when the bag needed to be changed. Even changing clothes was humiliating at first.

After about four months of wearing the bag, I started to become curious. I started watching instead of looking away when my husband changed the colostomy bag. I slowly became comfortable with the process and was finally ready to embrace it; well, as much as I could.

As I became more comfortable with my new situation, I became obsessed with my bowel. Yes, obsessed with what was happening in my bowels. I started watching how the stoma moved. All the time. It was better than live television.

The stoma would protrude out of the opening in my skin—sometimes as far as an inch or three. It was still bright pink and glistened in the light. When it decided to tuck into the opening, it lay flush with my skin and appeared wrinkly.

During bag changes, its actions were unpredictable. Every so often, some feces would come out during the change; a slow stream of solid, about 1 centimeter in diameter, would start pushing its way out. It wasn't as messy as I anticipated; it was easy to wipe away with a tissue since it was always a soft solid. It was a crazy process to watch, and I learned that there was a lot of things I couldn't control with regards to my body.

I Learned What My Body Actually Digests

My curiosity led me to look into my colostomy bag to see what came out. I made sure we used clear bags that I could see through. It sounds disgusting, but it was actually quite interesting.

  • Tomato skins were rolled up into little tubes and stay whole.
  • Seeds came out completely undigested, and it takes a long time for them to get through our intestinal tract.
  • Gummy bears and gummy worms come out undigested (I've only tried this once!)
  • Long strands of fibrous food that were not ground or chopped well before I ate them came out in long strands.

One day, I accidentally swallowed a cherry pit. That sent me into a slight panic, so I tried to ease the anxiety by turning it into a game with my kid. We tracked how long the cherry pit took to get through my body. 42 hours later, a cherry pit popped out into the bag, and I was relieved!

The First Time I Changed My Colostomy Bag by Myself

My husband patiently retaught me how to deal with the bag myself. He was amazing.

I'll never forget the first time I tried to change it myself. I was laying in bed watching a movie when my bag filled up. It got so full that it started to leak. I knew I was going to have to do this myself because I was on my own.

I sat on the toilet and removed the bag. Then, I stood in front of the mirror so I could see more clearly. As I cleaned around the outside edge of the stoma, I nicked it and started to bleed. I panicked. There wasn't a lot of bleeding, but it was still bleeding. I held the towelette tightly between my skin and the edge of the stoma. Thankfully, it stopped after a minute or two.

I carefully got a new bag on and never cut myself again.

The First Time I Went Out in Public With a Colostomy Bag

One of the most horrifying experiences with my colostomy that I'll never forget was the first time I went to a public event with the bag on.

I had been housebound for months and had missed out on numerous adventures with my family and friends, and although I didn't mind, my daughter did. So, I decided it was time to venture out. My daughter had a dance recital coming up, and she really wanted me there, so I agreed to go. I rushed to the mall and tried on dress after dress until I found one that could hide the bag.

When the big night came, I carefully got ready and was actually excited to go. We arrived at the theater and went to our seats, which were fairly close to the front and center of the stage. Her performance was scheduled for the midpoint of the program.

About 20 minutes into the show, I smelled gas. I didn't give it a second thought until I noticed that it didn't go away. Then a horrifying thought came into my head: could it be me?

I subtly reached under my dress and felt the seam where my bag met the stoma. It was wet. It was a true OMG moment.

I leaned over and whispered to my husband that I was in trouble and needed to go to the washroom. I left, leaving a trail of terrible odour behind me and quietly panicking.

When I got to the washroom, I discovered that the glue was not holding my bag in place, and the feces was pushing it away from my body. The bag was also full.

I emptied the bag into the toilet—a skill I had gotten quite good at—then looked at myself. I was glad that no one walked into the washroom as I quickly tried to come up with a solution.

I reattached the bag as well as I could and found a couple of staffers to ask them if they had a first aid kit. I was looking for tape. They informed me they couldn't help me without calling an ambulance, but they'd be happy to get one for me. We discussed my situation a bit, and I convinced them to give me some masking tape. I wrapped the colostomy bag around my waist with the tape. What a sight!

I slipped back into the theatre and watched my girl's dance recital from the side aisle behind a post. It took a while for me to go back out in public again. When I did, I made sure I had back up supplies with me at all times.

You have nothing to be ashamed of, and you are definitely not alone. Do whatever is necessary to regain your health.
You have nothing to be ashamed of, and you are definitely not alone. Do whatever is necessary to regain your health.

You Are Not Alone

After what I've learned and experienced, I guarantee that someone you know, is suffering from a form of colon or bowel disease, whether you actually know it or not.

Most likely they either have, had, or will have to wear an ostomy bag.
You won't know unless you are very, very close to that person or that person has completely dealt with the emotional and mental issues that come with the diagnosis.

Those issues are hard to get past.

It took me 4 months to be able to look at myself.

For those of you experiencing or who have experienced what I have I leave you with this.

You will get through it.

It will change who you are but you will still be you in the end.
It's an unbelievably horrific process to go through, but you will come out the other side a strong, humble person who appreciates life in a whole new way.

This is where the saying "if it doesn't kill you it will make you stronger" really is true.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is not a substitute or replacement for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician or alternative healthcare provider before taking any herbal supplements, home remedies, new products, or changing your health regime. Even though we are responsible for our own health, we need the guidance of trained professionals.

Do you know anyone who has or has had to wear a colostomy bag?

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© 2012 eye say

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    • profile image

      sharon 13 months ago

      Brilliant, very helpful. Thank you for sharing

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      eye say.......I can't help but feel for you when I read of what you had to go through. However, it is heartwarming to know how well you managed to cope and that your husband stepped up as a hero. Bless his heart.

      I do not blame you in the least for being extra vigilant. I wish you healthy days. UP+++

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 4 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for reading, I hope it does help people to think twice about what they are eating; I have now gone to eating very healthy - fruits, veggies and I make everything form scratch. It has been just over a year since my last bowel obstruction and I believe that I am on a healthier path for my bowels ...

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      What a horrible thing to go through. I am sure it was a very brave thing to share this, and may it help many. Foods really are important for so many things and I write about those sometimes, probably not near as much as I think about them. Each time I hear a problem I think of something to help it or want to research to see what will because usually there is, well I think always; whether I find it or not.

      Interesting read.

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      thanks billybuc, no one really knows what's going on with the person next to them do they?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      That was incredible! Your attitude is incredible! I am humbled by the way you presented this and I hope that someone who is having a hard time handling a similar situation reads this. Well done my friend!

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      Organic Mama: boy I can't stress chewing enough OR overeating, I just had another obstruction caused by eating too much which means too much pressure... Chew your food and stop eating when you are full! Thanks for pointing out how important that is!

    • Organic Mama profile image

      Amelia Walker 5 years ago from Idaho

      Wow. Thanks for sharing. I'm glad that you stress chewing. It is amazing how important that is!

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      @weezychannel: nice to meet you, spreading the word on these kind of issues is so important, I think there are a lot of depressed people hiding inside not realizing there really and truly are not alone. My husband got me writing the day after I returned home from an obstruction 4 months ago and it has freed me to be able to have room inside of me to breath, move on and start to be able to move forward slowly, but forward none the less. If you start a hub of forum I'll join in ...

      thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    • weezyschannel profile image

      Lisa 5 years ago from Central USA

      I am a colostomate as well and share everything you are can through. It's tough, especially with the obstructions. I write hubs to help pass time as I've had quite a few problems myself so similar to yours. Voting up and I would be more than happy to follow you and more than happy to start a support hub. Anything to help us God Bless

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      @picadilly: wow thanks for your support, it sounds like get it, and now so does your partner, thanks for the encouragement to keep writing about it, I too believe that our "poop" issues need to be discussed!

    • picadilly profile image

      Priscill Anne Alvik 5 years ago from Schaumburg, IL

      Eye Say..you are so brave!!! I love your article!!! It flowed, was full of emotion and facts!

      My partnered told me I was sick when he learned I poop within 30 minutes of eating. He on the other hand pooped every 2 days. Finally after much debate the doctor gave him the scoop on the poop and set him straight. I was the healthier individual!!!

      Please continue to write about your experiences..the world needs to be educated and what better was to do it then from someone who has experienced the adventure!!

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      @Rachel, brave isn't the word, you get dealt a hand and have to play it, it's been tough but I'm starting to come out of the weeds so to speak...

      thanks for your positive comments; uplifting they are!

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      @ Amy: it's scary how stress can affect us; I had news of the brutal murder of my cousin a couple of months ago and the vomiting started all over again, but I refused to go into the hospital that time, sure it would settle and luckily it did, but my bodies reaction was the same as an obstruction.

      With so many possible illnesses these days it's hard to understand why anyone in the medical field would jump to the conclusion of hypochrondiac, that makes me so mad; it sounds like it was his "go to response" when he couldn't figure it out, instead of continuing to test. I went from a size 16 to a size 6 now, and will never put that weight back on; small bonus.

      When it rains it does pour and I'm glad you have moved ahead and I hope are managing with your own challenges; nobody ever said life would be easy, I so I do treasure those moments that are;

      Thanks again for sharing such powerful experiences.

    • profile image

      Rachel 5 years ago

      You are so brave, hats off to ya. You have had your fifth bowel obstruction, ouch... I also admire your strength, and positive outlook, which shines through in all that you write. Once again, hats off to you girl. Always wishing you the best.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Dear eye say, The most difficult part of my digestive involvement was the length of time it took to find it. When standard testing didn't show the problem, the doctor began looking at me as either a closet eating disorder patient or malingering hypochrondiac, possibly struggling with a more manageable condition, IBS. When my weight loss became alarming, he took me seriously and pushed for the Pillcam. The vitamin-sized camera traverses the whole digestive tract, records photos and revealed the problem that he was unable to visualize with colonoscopy and endoscopy. Although I take an army of drugs to control the symptoms, I will always be eternally grateful that my issue is not Crohns, which could have resulted in multiple surgeries and eventually the possibility of a colostomy. Autoimmune disease is very unpredictable. Stress worsens the outcome. The night my brother called me to say our dad had suffered, what 24-hours later proved to be a fatal stroke, my symptoms kicked in. I no sooner saw my comatose dad at the hospital and I had to find a bathroom. I've not been the same since. Looking back, I realize I'd lived with a degree of malabsorption since my teenage years, but had considered it my "normal". It explains my osteoporosis and 80-year old bones at 38. It is so frustrating to be sick and have to struggle to get the doctors to "listen". Autoimmune disease leaves many patients "looking well", but feeling bad. It took massive, rapid weight loss from my normal sized frame to get the medical specialist and co-workers to believe me. Unfortunately, when size 4 was getting baggy, I was feeling too ill to enjoy it!!!

      After reading your journey, eye say, I will continue to thank my lucky stars that the suffering of surgeries and never knowing when more surgery may be necessary, is not part of my experience. I left an unhappy marriage two-years ago and then was laid off from the job I'd held for 13-years two-weeks later. I'd stayed in the marriage too long due to the unpredictable nature of my illness and my worst nightmare (losing my job) happened. When it rains, it pours. Like you, we all must forge ahead, despite what life hands us. I admire your strength and perseverance. Once again, thank you for your realistic and inspirational read.

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      @ Amy: I'd say you are braver than I, 9 years is a long time to deal with a health issue that has affected you so profoundly.

      As far as meds, I've been on a roller coaster path. At the moment I am prescription free for 5 days now since getting out of the hospital, but I can feel the morphine crawling it's way out of my body.

      I have been looking to alternate health for help.

      At the moment I am working with Ayurvedic practitioners who specialize in digestive disorders. This means I have been put on a diet that is suitable for body type and needs as determined by their testing process. Warm, soft foods and liquids, fish oils, L- Glutimine, spirolina, and aloe vera, and replaceing all oils with Ghee is my basic diet at the moment. It also includes acupuncture, which although beneficial has caused some side effects as the toxins escape my body.

      Changing my diet has been my main focus, and although difficult and confusing at times I am relying on fresh whole foods to help my body transition through this process.

      As far as going out, I too became a recluse for a long time. The first time I went out it was to my daughter dance recital in a beautiful theater and my bag broke; it was a nightmare and I found it really hard to try it again. Eventually I did and just became extremely careful to be prepared for the worse at any moment.

      I have had a reversal now, but unfortunately the bowel obstructions continue, so I am paranoid about what I eat and often won't eat. That's not good and the daily battle I am fighting presently; I have become afraid of food.

      In the end you are right, we all live with unpredictability so I try to swing with it as best I can.

      I feel bad for my child and husband who also have to deal with that unpredictability; My daughter now freaks when I have to go into the hospital, she scared I won't come out.

      What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, I can only hope so.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, it brought me to tears and made me recognize that there are many people with far worse experiences than mine, like yourself. I hope you too are feeling well and that when it's bad you remember what it feels like to feel good; that always helps me.

      Keep well and thanks for reading and your comments, they are appreciated so much.

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      @cloverleaffarm; thrilled to have the opinion and support of a clinical herbalist, thanks for your input!

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      @ Cardissa: I wrote in hopes of helping others; I don't know if my starting to open up is brave or cleansing; maybe both, but I do believe this needs to be put out there so others can realize what diet is doing to our bodies.

      Your input is always appreciated, thanks for taking the time to read.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I have autoimmune disease and about 9-years ago it affected my small bowel. I developed unremitting diarrhea and lost 30 pounds in 2 months. Making the 1-1/2 hour morning commute was miserable. The specialist initially found nothing despite a colonoscopy and endoscopy, and every available test. He decided I had IBS. Wrong! Finally, the insurance o.k'd the $4,000 PillCam test, which showed massive inflammation at my jejunum. Although it behaves like Crohns, it is not. I have been taking high doses of Pentasa for 9-years now and still have some issues, but it is better. In fact, my bone health has improved some due to better absorption.

      eye say, I must say you are far braver than I. I realize no one would choose to experience the life-altering health issues you have had to endure, yet you are matter of fact. I admire your frankness in your willingness to share your ordeals, as most people feel they ARE alone when something so difficult comes uninvited into their life. Your advice regarding thorough chewing and abundant intake of water offer simple, no-cost preventive measures for everyone. I am curious if you must also take regular prescription medications? I know that my issue made me nearly phobic about leaving the house. When I did not have to work on the weekends, I was relieved to be a recluse. How do you manage time away? I hope you are feeling well now. I realize you live with unpredictability with your disease, but in essence, we all do. Take care and stay well.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      I'm a clinical herbalist....I haven't seen it all...but a lot...lol. Good health to you.

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      @prasetio: I'm sharing the info to help and basing it on my own experience makes it really important for people to understand that this is actually happening to more and more people; it is a reality.

      thanks for reading.

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      @cloverleaffarm; diet is paramount with bowel decease prevention, thanks for reading and not being grossed otu!

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 5 years ago from Jamaica

      That was some experience! Sharing this along with your tips will definitely be of help to others experiencing the same or similar. Your bravery in sharing this will certainly be encouraging to others.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      You helps many people by share this information based your own experience. Thank you very much. I hope everything goes well and back to normal. Take care!

      Prasetio

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      Very interesting hub. I do hope it helps others. Most people don't think much about their bowels. There are diseases you can prevent through diet. Thanks for sharing your story. Voted up, interesting and useful. I know many people will be grossed out, but they need to read!

    • eye say profile image
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      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      @Barbara; I hope this helps someone, and I fear intestinal disorders are just beginning. I had no idea though that Crohns started so long ago,

      thanks for daring to read!

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 5 years ago from USA

      I am sure this hub is going to help someone. I agree with you that intestinal diseases are becoming more common. Crohns was a rare disease just 30 years ago and now you hear of all sorts of people with it or ulcerative colitis and other problems.

    working