How to Cure Ulcerative Colitis: What Happens After Your Colon Is Removed
Can You Cure an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?
There are only two types of inflammatory bowel diseases: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. They are both very similar and fairly prevalent, affecting one million people. A half million having Crohn's and a half million who have ulcerative colitis. I had ulcerative colitis. I say had because I had my colon removed. Does that mean an IBD can be cured?
Well, yes and no.
Ulcerative colitis can be cured since it only affects the colon. Believe it or not, we can actually live without a colon, so if we have the colon removed, we are essentially healed of the disease.
Crohn's disease, on the other hand, can never be cured. Crohn's essentially can affect your entire digestive system from your mouth to your anus. Even if only a portion of your digestive tract infected, if you have that portion removed, another part could easily flare up with the same disease. Therefore, you can never truly be cured of the disease.
The Deceptive Truth of Curing Ulcerative Colitis
I am cautious to recommend anyone having their colon removed in order to cure ulcerative colitis because, in some ways, you are trading one illness for another set of digestive issues. The first couple years after your colon is removed, your everyday life will be impacted by the removal.
1. You may have to eat differently due to scar tissue caused by the surgery. Scar tissue may cause blockages in your intestines. Blockages cause the most horrendous pain you have ever experienced, continual vomiting every few seconds that can't be controlled or suppressed, and it's not an intermittent pain that comes and goes, it is a continual stabbing, severe debilitating pain that puts you on your knees with tears in your eyes. As long as you are cautious adding new foods, you can avoid having this happen to a certain extent. My blockages were caused by pears, popcorn, and one other time that I cannot pinpoint a food.
2. You will go the bathroom numerous times in a day and your stool will always be somewhat loose. At first, I went around ten times a day. This was a step better than my 20 plus bathroom trips before I was hospitalized and had an emergency colectomy, but it was still not pleasant. As my j-pouch (a created pouch to work like a colon) adjusted, I went the bathroom less and less. Now, I probably go six times a day or less and none of them are urgent!
3. Your stool will be loose. Honestly, I rarely ever hear a Kerplunk in the bathroom. I know TMI, but if you suffer from this, you probably won't either. This doesn't bother me most days. Early on it did because my bottom would sometimes have rashes that I had to put Desitin on (these rashes are often referred to as butt-burn because your butt burns). Some of the less severe butt-burns made me imagine being one of those dogs that drags their butt on the ground. Don't' worry, I never did, but I always itched.
Butt-burn took about two years before it was not a daily occurrence, and probably three before Desitin stopped being a staple in my house. Now, I only use it when I have a stomach flu, and my normal soft stool becomes water. The worse part about watery stools is that your body cannot detect watery stool as a stool when you're sleeping. It thinks it's gas, and you can literally mess the bed. So if I know my stomach is off, I wake myself up periodically and sleep on a towel usually separate from my husband. It's gross, but it's part of life. Someone seriously considering this choice, needs to know the gross and the uncomfortable.
Becoming Disease Free
The bottom line is, I don't recommend you having the surgery to cure your ulcerative colitis, unless you are suffering from a severe case. For me, severe meant 20 plus stools, constant vomiting, and an emergency visit that turned into a month long hospital stay, and the doctor saying, "If you don't get this surgery now, you could die." Maybe you shouldn't wait that long.
If you do go under the knife, don't expect to wake up and be completely healed. Your body will never be normal, but sometimes slightly abnormal is better than perpetually sick. Also, there are a lot of complications that can be caused by having the surgeries, here is a small sample of my side-effects of the surgery (severe scar tissue, causing infertility, numerous abscesses that led to three of my surgeries, blockages, fear of sleeping with the stomach flu, 6 bowel movements a day, butt-burn, pulmonary embolism).
Do I regret having the surgery, of course not, I wouldn't have survived otherwise. Am I thankful for it? Yes! Do I wish I had gotten it sooner? No, because if I had gotten it before my disease got severe, I may have felt there was no real improvement, and being upset at myself for losing my fertility.
If you have any questions and are considering this procedure, feel free to ask me anything. I'm pretty open about it, and not afraid to answer the TMI questions!
Living With an Ostomy
Living with an ostomy can be embarrassing at times. I had one for only six months of my life, and it was one of the hardest parts of all my surgeries and illnesses, but I made it through, through the help and advice of others. Some of these are for all of us who have undergone the surgeries even if we have had a reconnection surgery.
© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz