A little over a year ago I began having extreme stomach pain accompanied by severe diarrhea (I know this is probably TMI, but it’s a C. Difficile story; we’re just scratching the surface). I figured I had a stomach bug, and I stayed home and was miserable.
Just as a warning, this post may feel a little bleak, but for anyone suffering from C. Diff, whether new or tenured, will know this is a tough and often unfair battle. It’s worth mentioning there’s times of hope and times of discouragement. I went through a lot of both.
In the beginning, the ‘stomach bug’ was mostly just uncomfortable and didn’t really offer relief. One week passed… two weeks passed… still no signs that this bug planned on vacating any time soon.
I figured I was probably at the point where I could use some help. I went to the doctor where she determined I was severely dehydrated, and sent me to the IV clinic. They decided to run some tests, and told me to go to the IV clinic every other day until it subsided.
When I got to the IV clinic, and they realized my history with IVs (I’ve had a TON due to very difficult pregnancies), they decided not to remove the line so I could just reattach when I came back.
The IV helped stop the pounding headache, but it didn’t help the symptoms. A few days later a diagnosis came through as C. Difficile.
C. Difficile: basically a bacterial infection that lives in the intestines and inflames the colon. It’s most common symptom is persistent diarrhea. It’s totally treatable my doctor said, so I started a round of antibiotics.
The doctor was a little baffled; I mean, I don’t even fit the normal C. Diff criteria (older, recently hospitalized, recent round of antibiotics). She began thinking outside the box. (I love my doctor for this especially since she is a total advocate for natural remedies and lifestyle adjustments.)
The treatment helped, and I got my IV line removed, life seemed good again. That’s when the first roller coaster moment hit me. As I physically felt better, I started gaining back the 16 pounds I’d lost during the weeks of illness.
And then, the weight came with friends.
I also gained an additional 10 pounds; you can imagine I started to panic. The scale didn’t seem to be stopping, so I did something I promised I would never do, and I started a “crash” diet, The Dukan Diet. It seemed harmless as it promised to aid me in keeping the weight off after losing it.
The only problem is after 10 days on the diet (where I dropped 13 pounds), my diarrhea symptoms started up again– worse than ever. I was spiraling again, and I found myself back in the doctor’s office.
My doctor had a few theories as to what might be happening, so I went on another round of antibiotics.
I like to avoid medical intervention whenever possible, but I felt I had no choice, because (to make matters EVEN BETTER) a few days later my family and I were going camping for over a week.
This time the symptoms didn’t improve.
During camp, I had to clean the porta potty after every use or risk infecting my other family members. And keeping C. Diff discreet is pretty difficult when you consider being around family 24/7 for several days.
When I returned to my doctor and things weren’t getting better, she thought maybe I had been misdiagnosed and started suspecting maybe my pancreas was having trouble. She told me to drop fat out of my diet completely. This proved to be a miserable time for me. I began to have a very foggy brain, and zero energy. It also didn’t seem to be helping, so I reintroduced the fat.
This is when a friend told me she and her family was participating in a “Whole 30” challenge where you eliminate all problem foods and slowly introduce them back until you figure out what your trigger foods are (It’s very similar to the “Paleo Diet”) .
My husband bravely agreed to do it with me, and we began. It was difficult getting started, since it basically eliminated every food my taste buds agree with (my husband missed his Doritos with cottage cheese worse than ever).
Even as we got into a groove with the diet, my intestines acted like nothing changed. They still hated me.
The Whole 30 book suggested we keep going even if we aren’t seeing the desired results– so we gave it a little longer.
I didn’t feel vibrant like I was supposed to, and mostly I just felt sick. (Note: a diet based mostly on vegetables and fruit is also extremely expensive!)
It was then I felt I was out of answers, and I went back to my doctor who referred me to a gastroenterologist.
Unfortunately of the few available, I picked the worst one. To sum up my visit, after listening to my issues, he told me to take a mild depressant (for the foreseeable future) to calm my bowels down. If you know lazy doctor lingo, basically just hide the problem rather than deal with it… inspired.
I said ‘no thanks’ and left. I mean, I wanted to find the root cause, not just put a bandaid over the symptoms. I wanted to see a different gastroenterologist since Dr. Do-Nothing wasn’t a help. But (and yes, ANOTHER curve ball– seeing a pattern?) I wasn’t able to go to a different gastroenterologist because they had a “non-poaching” agreement.
At this point, I was frustrated beyond belief; and to top it all off, we had a high deductible; All the doctor visits were adding up.
With the beginning of the year approaching, we decided we didn’t want to try to meet our deductible yet another year, so we started looking at other options and the prayers continued.
Around the beginning of the year, my prayers were finally answered.
I connected with a dear friend who I discovered was going through the same thing only she was in her 60’s. She had become frail and thin as this disease wracked her body. I began calling her sobbing, and she helped me mentally through. She said what I needed to hear: “It’s hard, but you’re not alone”.
I decided to do more research and started on a good probiotic (I get it from my doctor, and in addition to being a fantastic healthy bacteria, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg). To give my body all the firepower it needed, I started taking my vitamins more consistently.
I aimed for excellent nutrition without eliminating whole food groups (except gluten of course). I started seeing a light at the end of the tunnel; I started feeling good again.
But if there’s anything predictable about C. Diff, it’s that it hates everyone and their happiness. So prepare for an unfair fight.
As I was getting healthier and feeling better, I started gaining weight again. I decided that first priority would be getting my health back on track– the weight issue would have to take a backseat for now.
Now I am fighting back from all these issues. I feel my health is almost better off due to these challenges; I mean, it has helped make me the crazy crunchy lady I am today. For as much as it’s been kind of a roller coaster of emotions, I can say with certainty I’ve grown more going through this than I ever expected.
I care deeply about my health, and I constantly try to improve. I know I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for these ups and downs.
It’s not all doom, it’s really not. But I won’t lie and say it’s a happy ending and a sunset either. It’s actually more about the marathon– taking it a mile at a time.
I am slowly dropping the weight that has clung so desperately to me for many months, and I am feeling truly healthy again. I am still careful with my stress levels and my health because I still have small bouts with c. diff. when I get run down.
It’s a double whammy, but it keeps we working and finding answers. I realize now that my years of very difficult pregnancies, and a traumatizing and life-threatening miscarriage at 16 weeks had left me with depleted stores, and I am working to build this all back up now.
This journey is far from over, but it is manageable, and maybe someday will even be a thing of the past. For now, pushing on.
FOR AN UPDATE ON MY C. DIFF STORY, CLICK HERE