Monday, March 29, 2010

So THIS is what it's like to have a life.

Last Saturday was the MCAT, and ever since that's been over I've been almost confused as to what to do with my new allotment of free time. Seriously, I've gone from waking up, studying before work, going to work, coming home, studying, and then going to bed, day in and day out for the past couple of months. I've stayed in on multiple weekends in order to study. It's all I've been doing, and now I'm done. Well, until I get my scores back in about a month.

So now that I'm done with that wretched exam, I've been excited like a little kid to get back into running and training. I actually got up bright and early this morning and went for a little run despite the rain. Running in the rain never bothered me. It can actually make it kind of fun, because it's sort of reminds me of being a little kid when mom would kick my brother and I to go play outside, only to have us return hours later covered from head to toe in mud. For me, getting a little dirty has always been a sign of having a good time.

However, unfortunately there's been something going on with my knee. It's only my right knee, but I think there's something a little out of alignment. I'll have to figure it out. Something like this happened about a year or so ago, and I think what I really need (but of course don't want to do) is rest. Regardless, it's good to finally have the time to focus on my training, even if that means I need to take it easy for a while.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Missing out

Unfortunately I will be missing out on the team run this weekend due to taking the MCAT. I'm really bummed about it, but I know that I'll be stressed enough as it is taking my exam Saturday. It's crazy because I'm sitting here with just one more day before my exam, and there's nothing else I can really do. I've gone through all the material multiple times, taken 8 full-length practice tests, and know about as much as there is possible to know about bio, physics, chem, and orgo. Plus, the large majority of the test consists of passages containing new information or experimental data and then having to draw conclusions from the new information. So more studying doesn't necessarily correlate with higher scores. Regardless, I'm looking forward to Saturday so I can take the exam and resume my normal life again! I can't wait for next week where I can get up in the morning and going for nice long runs as opposed to waking up and studying. That will be a nice welcomed change of pace.

So while I'll be missing out on the run this week, I'll be back in action starting on Monday! I'll also try to post on a more regular basis to keep you all up-to-date on my training, fundraising progress, and everything in between!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Music. It's my addiction. It's becoming a problem.

I love new music. My iTunes collection of over 8,000 songs can attest to that. I'm always on the lookout for new songs, new artists, and new styles. And when I say I listen to everything I mean I listen to everything. But now that spring is in the air I'm working on my Spring 2010 playlist. My most recent addition to my brand-spanking-new mix is "Colors" by The Pass. It's got a great beat to it, and plus every team I hear it I just want to grab my shoes and go out for a run. Listen to it here:

If you're always looking for new music like I am, or if you enjoy Pandora but kind of hate how they limit you to 40 hours of use each month or whatever it is, then check out thesixtyone. It's an online radio station that has a bunch of lesser-known artists (if they're known at all). But you can listen to radio stations by mood (smooth, party, crazy, mellow, etc.) and add your favorites to a playlist to keep track of the ones you love. Oh, and you can skip a song if you don't like it, which always happens from time to time like any radio station. My roommate who's always current on cool new music suggested it to me and now it's my go-to every morning when I'm getting ready for work, or when I come home and I'm cooking dinner.

And if you have any suggestions for my Spring 2010 playlist let me know! Feel free to feed my addiction by leaving me a comment, sending a message, writing on my wall, whatever! I'm always open to new suggestions!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thanks to all of my donors!

I want to say a great big THANK YOU to all of my current donors so far!

The Carbones
The Conklins
Tom and Laura Falleni
Kristen Goodman
Laura Greehan
The Hoffmans
John Irvin
Chase Kinser
Gracie and Jiggs Koellhoffer
Amy Koppe
Frank and Ginny Lepore
Stephanie Ly
James Miceli
Brittany Murphy
Kim and Dave Utter
Nevin Vigneault
The Volks
Stuart Wall
Tachi Zhong
Anonymous (You know who you are!)

So far all together we've raised $730 for Crohn's and colitis research, which brings me to 29% of my goal of $2500! That's awesome! Thank you for your support as I train for my first-ever half-marathon on June 27!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring is in the air!

There's nothing like coming home to a house full of fresh air after leaving the windows open all day. Mmm, fresh air after the winter months is a welcomed change of pace, especially after last weekend which left much of Boston flooded and the D branch of the Green Line washed out. But still, Team Challenge came out strong last weekend despite the cold, wind, and rain!

Team Challenge New England - Week 2!

This morning found me back in Southie at Carson Beach for our third Team Challenge New England group run. We ended up getting in somewhere a little over 5 miles, which for me was good because my 8-mile run earlier this week left my right knee with a little pain. But I'm going to be taking it easier this week because of, well, getting ready for the MCAT. I know I've gone through all the material multiple times, taken plenty of practice tests, and am prepared to take the exam, but I need to keep the material fresh for just one more week until next Saturday. So as far as this week goes, I'll probably just be going out for some shorter runs like 4, 5, 6 miles or so in the morning before work. I may make it to the group run next Saturday, but I'll probably let myself sleep in the day of my test. I'll probably have to skip anyway because I'll need to get to my exam at least a half-hour before in order to get registered, my ID checked, my fingerprint confirmed, and settled into my computer. Yay for modern testing. I think it'll be better for me to just get in a nice run, eat a good solid breakfast (Eagle's Deli anyone?), and get psyched for my exam. I'm serious when I say I'm kind of excited to take this thing. Sure it'll be exhausting, but I'm ready for it. Plus after I can focus more on my training! I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Waiting for the MCAT

I have to be honest. I can't wait until this MCAT is over! Everything I've been doing for the past two months has been focused on doing well on the MCAT. But now it's just a little over a week away, and I'm actually getting antsy to just take it. I just have a few topics I want to brush up on and two more practice tests to take before I'll feel completely ready for it, but that's about it. But I feel like I've been putting everything off until after the exam, which is understandable of course, but still. I want to really get into training, but can't really go full-force into that until I take this exam. But it's almost here, and not a moment too soon because the weather's getting considerably nicer out and if I was taking it any later I'd be seriously distracted by wanting to skip studying to go do something outside.

I'm really looking forward to after the exam when I can start focusing more of my energy on training. It's not that I haven't been training, because I went on an hour-long run the other morning in which I covered a little over 8 miles. I was going at a steady pace too, so I'm starting to think that I should be able to break 1:30 for my half-marathon time. But I'll have to wait until they actually come out with the course and see where it is and how hilly it's going to be.

But I'm feeling good and looking forward to the rest of my runs for the week. Nothing too big planned, just some morning runs before work and then the group run with Team Challenge New England this upcoming Saturday morning. I'm looking forward to it, especially since the weather should be so much better than last weekend!

In the meantime I'll be working on my training plan, thinking of a goal time, and working on some fundraiser ideas. Wine and beer tasting anyone? I'll work on that, but only after my MCAT!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The future is looking bright... and warm

I'm really starting to get back to feeling "normal" again, which is awesome because I hate being on prednisone. The stuff makes me so thirsty all the time. I think it's funny though how our one dog Jiggs gets prednisone for his allergies and we both get the same side effect. We're both thirsty all the time. Go figure. Anyway, I'm hoping that I'll be able to start tapering off the prednisone soon, but I know I have to be careful because I need to be fully in remission before I start to taper again. Luckily I'm not waking up in pain anymore or running to get to the bathroom, which is always a relief. But still, I just want this flare to be over!

Spring is officially rolling its way in up here in good ol' Boston, although right now that means some serious rainfall. Luckily we were able to get in a decent team run Saturday morning before the worst of the storm started to strike. It's not that I mind running in the rain, and in the summer when it's sweltering hot outside I actually enjoy it. (Plus there's that post-rain smell you get in the summer that's just delicious.) But when it's cold and I'm wet, I can be pretty miserable. I've already put my time in on the icy Charles River back when rowing for BC, and I think I deserve the right to say that I'm not a fan of the wet and cold.

The run with the rest of the Team Challenge New Englanders was awesome. I've never really gotten out to run anywhere around Boston other than the Brighton area and the reservoir (aka "the res"). I really need to get on that, especially with the nice paths along the Charles River right in my backyard. But anyway, I actually really liked running around in Southie along Carson Beach. I always love running along the water, which maybe is why I don't exactly hate running multiple 1.5-mile loops around the res every now and then. It's scenic, and in the morning I can catch the sunrise come up over the Prudential and John Hancock buildings. It's a pleasant sight, which is why catching the sunrise is always a little motivation for me to get out of bed in the morning and get running. Yes, I actually enjoy catching the sunrise. I know it's a little crazy because most people always try and catch just a little more sleep, but I'd rather sacrifice a little shut-eye to witness something only a small handful of other runners, walkers, and cyclists catch in the morning. I'll try and grab a picture sometime in the near future and post it. It's a gorgeous site, but right now the rain and clouds are preventing that from happening. In the meantime, this is a picture in fall of 2008 down on the Charles.

Sunrises are underrated.

But anyway, I've just checked the weather outlook for the upcoming future, and I'm seeing temperatures in the 50s! Yes! I'm pumped. I love that kind of weather. It's not too hot, not too cold. In fact it's just right. Unfortunately, I do most of my runs in the mornings, so I'll still be running when it's in the 30s or low 40s. But I'm totally fine with that because those temperatures still beat the 10s and 20s of the not-so-distant past.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On my way to remission and back to running!

So I went back up to 40mg/day of prednisone for the indefinite future. I'm feeling so much better it's not even funny. I had to take a sick day this past Monday because I knew I would have been absolutely miserable if I had gone into work, but that one day of good ol' rest and relaxation really helped me out. No more waking up in the middle of the night in pain and running for the bathroom. I'm still keeping the bland diet and avoiding fiber at all costs. But I'm just glad I'm on the road back to remission. I just need to be careful not to taper off the prednisone too fast and to actually be confident that I'm fully in remission before I start tapering. It's a little tricky, but I think I'll have a better idea of what I'm doing this time around.

But the good news is I'm running! I just got my new shoes in the mail, and I love them. I tried them out for the first time just recently, and within the first few steps I yelled out, "OH MY GOD THESE SHOES ARE AMAZING!" The lady walking her dog thought I was nuts. But they're like running with pillows on my feet compared to my older pair. Mmm, nothing like new running shoes. I was running in an older pair of New Balance 1062's, and they did their job. But I decided to upgrade to the newer model, the 1063's. Sure, they're an older model (New Balance came out with the 1064 just recently), but I don't exactly feel like shelling out $125 for a pair of shoes that will last me around 3 months or less. I have to turn them over after around 500 miles or so, depending on how they hold up, which could be in about 2-3 months. If I really like these shoes after a week or so, I'll go ahead and buy another pair and break those in so I can easily transition from my first pair into my second pair.

This weekend will be my second group run with Team Challenge! I'm pumped. Last week was a lot of fun, and this week we'll be running in Southie around Carson Beach. I have to say it's really nice getting out of Brighton to go for a run somewhere other than around the Reservoir, down Beacon Street, or up Comm Ave. I'm really looking forward to it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Relapse is back in full force

Relapse. Yup, it definitely sucks. I was coming down from my flare in January, and I was doing fine. However, when I was tapering off the prednisone I guess I wasn't totally in remission like I thought I was because recently I've had all the typical symptoms again and the pain is excruciating. I'm waking up several times a night in crippling pain, and during the day I find myself momentarily paralyzed at irregular intervals. I have to plan doing things like running to the grocery store down the street around whether or not I think I'll need to use a bathroom before I get back. It's annoying, to say the least, but for me it's just a way of life right now.

As of right now I'm back to my starting dose of prednisone, on a super-bland diet of bananas, applesauce, and toast, but I figure I'll also eat some eggs and maybe some chicken to just get some kind of protein source. I really need to try not to lose too much weight (again). It sucks because I know I need to eat because my body needs the calories, but when I eat it hurts as the food passes through my system. I mean, it hurts incredibly, horribly bad. When the pain comes all I can do is try and get in a comfortable position and wait the 5-10 minutes until everything calms down and the pain goes away. But it's impossible to predict when the pain is coming again or when I'll need to sprint for the bathroom.

I'm hoping that the prednisone starts taking its effect soon and that I'll be feeling better in the morning. I just wish that it would all go away overnight and that I'd be fine in the morning, but I know it's going to take longer than that and that I'll just have to wait. That's all I can really do right now - just wait. I just hope that it will all be over soon.

First run with Team Challenge New England!

I had my first group run with Team New England bright and early this morning up in Lexington. It's absolutely beautiful outside, so there was no better way to greet the morning sun with a nice little 40-minute light run. I mean it's BEAUTIFUL outside. We've had rain and snow all week long and now it's bright, sunny, and (get this) warm.

I was a little worried about going today, and I was even thinking of skipping out. I've been having trouble getting over this past relapse, and I'm back up to 40mg of prednisone a day again. I'm kind of bummed about prolonging my time on prednisone, but frankly I just want to be feeling better again. It sucks waking up several times in the middle of the night in pain and having to run to the bathroom. But I figured that I always feel pretty good in the mornings, so what the hell, I'll give it a shot.

I hitched a ride from the awesome Adriana, one of the mentors for Team Challenge. In a word she's great. All of the people that I've met on Team Challenge are great. Everyone is running the race for a reason, whether it be that they themselves have Crohn's or colitis and want to prove something to themselves, or they know someone close who suffers from one of the diseases and they just want to help. It was comforting being around people who totally understand where I'm coming from and what it's like going through a flare-up, but at the same time it's also humbling to see people running who have ostomy bags. But it really hit home with me today that we really are a team in this together. Nothing matters more than the fact that we're all in this to beat Crohn's and colitis. There's nothing but positive attitude and commitment throughout the team, and I can't wait to cross that finish line in June.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease - Relapse and the Future

Continued from yesterday's post...

Relapse. Everyone that suffers from Crohn's and colitis fears it. It's the point in time when you go from feeling fine to feeling like crap, and it can happen in what seems like a flash.

My last relapse was this past January, and I went from normal to crippling pain in about 24 hours. My co-worker had recently quit making me responsible for her share of work so I was stressed out, I hadn't been sleeping well, I hadn't been exercising like I normally do, and my diet went down the drain because I had been busy. Not realizing it at the time, but that's a recipe for relapse. Stress + lack of sleep + general inactivity + bad diet = relapse. When I had some initial symptoms and I knew immediately it was going to be a long weekend. Of course it had to happen over a three-day weekend with MLK, Jr. Day and all, and of course I had to wait until Monday to hear back from my doctor about what I should do. I probably could have pounded a few prednisone and gotten through the weekend alright, but he had mentioned to me the possibility of getting a barium X-ray. My last gastro didn't have me get one because she only wanted to do the colonoscopy, but the barium X-ray can give at least have given me a good picture at how extensively my small intestine is affected during a flare-up.

So there I was, curled up in bed, crippling in pain from abdominal cramps every ten to fifteen minutes or so, losing weight drastically fast because I couldn't handle eating anything. The pain was almost like I was back on Asacol again, which I explained before was a complete nightmare. All I could think was, “What the hell is happening to me? Why won't this just stop?” I was practically living in the bathroom going up to 15 times a day. Even though this was stressing me out even more, I knew that I had to just try and stay calm until Tuesday when I could get in contact with my gastro.

When Tuesday rolled around the first thing I did was call my doctor, who just told me to go ahead and start the prednisone. Thank God! I ran to get some water and instantly pounded some pills the instant I hung up the phone. Relief at last! It was just going to be a matter of time after I took those pills that I would start feeling better. But it really took me about a week to get back to near-baseline. It was the longest week ever. Over the next few weeks I started tapering off the prednisone from 40mg/day down 5mg/day every week. I got all the way down to 15mg/day when, unfortunately, symptoms started coming back. I thought a mild amount of profane words to myself and started myself back up on 20mg/day for a week, which leaves me at where I'm at today. I'm still getting abdominal cramps without warning, and after a week on 20mg/day they're still not getting any better. Looks like I get to call the doctor tomorrow and see if he wants me to go back up to 30mg/day or all the way back up to 40mg/day. I'll just have to wait and see. My guess is that I relapsed during my taper because I was tapering too fast, but we'll have to see. I just hope that I can get it under control soon so that I can just get back to feeling normal again.

All in all, my relapse has only served to remind me that this disease is for real, and it's not going away anytime soon. While remission can last indefinitely, relapse is just around the corner to sucker punch me in the gut. So as I look to the future there's a lot to think about. I mean, I have to think about my stress levels, my diet, staying active, and all that good stuff. I also have to think about being more or less prepared for a relapse in the event that another one happens. But I also need to think about how I'm going to live my life with a chronic disease. I personally want to keep staying active and pushing myself to the max in everything that I do, whether it be my upcoming MCAT, work, my future MD-PhD training, or training for the 13.1 Boston this June, I don't want to slack off in any of it. But now I just need to be more responsible and careful. I need to learn how to let myself take a break and relax when my life gets busy. I also need to learn to appreciate the times that I spend in remission just a little more, so that if and when I relapse that I won't feel like I'm missing out on life.

But the future also holds a lot of hope, and the foundation of that hope lies in Crohn's and colitis research. There are always developments being made, whether it be in understanding how these diseases arise and how the progress to drug design and development. If the advances that have been made in the past few decades is any indication of what's to come, then I think we have some good things coming our way. Better therapies, better surgical options, and potentially even a cure. I can't imagine what that day when a cure is discovered will be like should I live to see it. I mean, over the past year and a half I've grown accustomed to living with a disease. I'm reminded of my condition everyday by the six to ten pills and supplements I take every morning. I just can't imagine what it would be like to suddenly have all of that just stop and go on living a normal and healthy life. Quite honestly it would be unbelieveable. I can only hope that that day comes soon enough.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease - Remission and Living with Crohn's

Continued from yesterday's post...

I've been doing pretty well since starting my regimen of immunosuppressants. Although, I did recently have a relapse this past January and am pretty much back to baseline. This past relapse was particularly intense because it took me a full week or so before I really started feeling normal again. And now even though I've been feeling pretty good and am halfway through tapering off the prednisone, the symptoms have been creeping back recently. Luckily, they've been subtle, but it's still annoying to go from feeling normal to feeling ill in just a short moment. I've been doing alright though, and have been trying to keep my stress levels down. I've found that when I get intensely stressed out that it either forces me to relapse or makes my current symptoms worsen. It's a challenge because being sick makes me stressed out, and the stress just makes me feel worse. It's quite the vicious cycle.

But all in all, life have moved on pretty much like normal, I guess. I still eat pretty normally like before I was diagnosed, although now I tend to try to keep track of how much fiber and raw foods I consume. But basically I just try not to over-indulge in any one particular item, whether it be spicy foods, dairy, raw veggies, Mom's banana bread (which I just got in the mail yesterday!), anything. I also try to steer clear from caffeine because it just makes me feel sick.

Even though back in college when drinking was a part of campus life, and now in my young 20's when going to bars is a regular weekend activity, I've learned that I really need to tone back how much I drink. I'm not supposed to drink while on 6-MP anyway, so it's not really too great when I do. Although I'm at least a little smart because I take it in the morning and so when the evening rolls around, the large majority of the drug has passed through my system. But I'm not going to go to a bar and order a Sprite. Instead I'll order a Tanqueray & tonic and just take my time with it. If anyone's ever shared a drink with me, they'll know that I love my gin & tonics with a passion. What? It's a classic. But I have to say, not pounding drinks left and right like some of the other bar goers has its upsides. I'm not hungover the next day, I'm up early, go for a run, have breakfast, shower, get some work done, and all before anyone else even wakes up. It's a nice lifestyle, and I feel much better not drinking then when I do.

But all in all, I'm still able to do the things I want to do. I mean, I'm training for a half-marathon, and I'm training competitively with a goal time in mind, although I'm still thinking about how fast I think I can finish. But even though I have a chronic disease I'm a normal person. It's just weird when I tell people that I have Crohn's how so many of them apologize, saying something like, “Oh, that's too bad I'm so sorry.” It's kind of weird. I mean, I don't think of myself as some diseased patient, although those who suffer from Crohn's disease are technically “physically disabled.” Screw that, I'm not going to live like I have a disability. Instead I made a (cheesy) New Year's resolution to do more things that I want to do. It's pretty simple. If I think to myself, “I want to do that,” then I'll make the effort to actually do it. It's actually been a pretty awesome year so far. I wanted to run the 13.1 Boston for the CCFA, so I'm doing it. Even this upcoming spring and summer I'm planning on skydiving with some of my friends this summer (yes Mom, skydiving), going to more small concerts throughout Boston, whatever I want. It's been a great way to appreciate life rather than sitting back on the couch watching some trashing MTV or VH1 reality show marathon.

At the same time I enjoy all that life has to offer, I have to be careful and always think in the back of my mind that I have a chronic disease that can relapse any day. Crohn's disease is a part of my life now, and I've grown to accept that. But I'm definitely going to let it change who I am or make excuses because of it. That's just lame. Instead I'm going to just keep on living, enjoying life, and when that relapse occurs I'll deal with it then.

To be continued tomorrow with Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease: Relapse and the Future.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease - The Drugs

Continued from yesterday's post...

Well, I quickly found out that Asacol was definitely not the drug for me. Soon after I started taking it my symptoms worsened tremendously. I was having abdominal cramps so severe that I would lie in my bed in agonizing pain unable to move. I like to think I have a high tolerance for pain, but this was unbearable. The only way I've ever been able to even come close to describing the pain has been to compare it to someone aggressively pureeing your entire abdomen from the inside out. Sound painful enough? It's been the worst pain that I've ever experienced in my entire life by far. I had to skip several of my classes and stay at home and rest while the rest of my friends were being normal college seniors and going out in the city. What made everything even worse was that I didn't want to eat because eating just made everything hurt more. As a result I lost about 12-15 pounds over a period of about two weeks before my doctor told me to stop taking the Asacol.

I finally started recovering and was back to normal about a week or so after stopping the medication and being put on prednisone. Ah prednisone, the miracle drug. I say prednisone is a miracle drug because it has the ability to work quickly to stop the symptoms of Crohn's disase. However, the side effects of prednisone constitute quite a long list, including rapidly gaining weight, being excessively thirsty, breaking out with acne, hallucinations, mood swings, and many, many others. I've personally experienced all of these, with the only difference that my hallucinations were incredibly vivid dreams. I don't normally dream, nor do I remember what I dream. But these dreams, which happen about two to three times a night, are like I'm wide awake in some fantasy land living a second life. As I taper off the prednisone the dreams occur less frequently and with less detail. And the reason that I have to taper off the prednisone is because it's a steroid, and it's extremely dangerous to just stop taking a steroid after exposing yourself to a high dosage. But at least the prednisone allowed me to recover from my flare-up and get back to feeling, well, normal again.

My doctor, however, wanted me to try Asacol again because she thought that perhaps before it was just my Crohn's running its course. So even though I was feeling better and was tapering off the prednisone, I still needed to be on a maintenance medication to help keep my body in remission. Well, it turns out that it wasn't my Crohn's just running its course, because when I started the Asacol tmy symptoms came back with a vengeance. So my doctor finally switched me over to 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP), an immunosuppressant. Immunosuppressants act to, well, suppress the immune system. Basically Crohn's can be thought of as an autoimmune disease, where my body over-reacts to a pathogen or some stimulus and then starts attacking my own cells. So by kicking my immune system down a notch, my body should behave normally.

The only problem with taking the 6-MP is that it would suppress my immune system, so I would be significantly more likely to catch a cold from an ill classmate and take longer to fight it off. Moreover, I would become categorized as a “high-risk” individual when it comes to getting the flu and swine flu vaccines because my immune system would be suppressed. So while the 6-MP has been good for treating my Crohn's disease so far, it's still a dangerous drug. To let you know exactly how dangerous it is, some patients suffering from leukemia receive 6-MP as part of their chemotherapy regimen. It's also so dangerous that the drug label tells me to wash my hands before and after handling the medication.

However, so far the 6-MP has been doing its job and keeping me in remission. Well, for the most part. I've had one significant relapse since my initial diagnosis in 2008, but this relapse was so violent that it required me to go on double the dosage of prednisone just to get my body to calm down again. Also, while in my first flare-up it only took about a day or two for the prednisone to get me close to feeling normal again, this time it took double the dosage almost a full week to get me feeling almost back to normal. So in a way I'm worried that my Crohn's disease is progressing and I may have to advance to the next level of drugs, the biologicals.

The biologicals are the next class and the newest class of drugs availabel to treat Crohn's disease. I almost consider them to be the “sci-fi” drugs because these are the kinds of ideas for drug treatments that you see on the news and think to yourself, “Now wouldn't that be cool.” Well, they're starting to become real. These drugs consist of antibodies given by injections or by an IV drip in a hospital. Antibodies are proteins that are extremely specific for the things that they target, and they are so specific that they usually only target one particular thing out of the hundreds of thousands of things floating around in the cells of your body. The idea behind these drugs is that they target specific factors associated with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Not only are these drugs extremely expensive at around $1000 a month, but they still don't cure either disease. So in a way the drugs can be extremely helpful and keep many patients in relapse. But at the same time these drugs can be dangerous, expensive, and have costly side effects. But with time and further research we will improve treatments and come closer to finding a cure.

To be continued tomorrow with Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease: Remission and Living with Crohn's.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease - The Colonoscopy

Continued from yesterday's post...

The night before my colonoscopy I had to “prepare” by taking excessive quantities of laxatives and drinking only clear, non-red liquids and eating Jell-O. I still remember that I had to take an entire bottle of magnesium citrate, followed by four Ducolax tablets before I went to sleep for the night, and then another bottle of magnesium citrate in the morning when I woke up. If I remember correctly, that's a combined 8 times the recommended dosage for the stuff. I remember taking the first bottle of magnesium citrate and thinking to myself, “Huh. That's not so bad. I don't know what the big deal is,” only to be racing for the bathroom moments later. My roommates just laughed and thought that the whole scenario was downright ridiculous.

Well, there I was the following day getting a full-on colonoscopy. Was it awkward? Definitely. And I get this question all the time: Did it, well, hurt? To be honest I was knocked out and off somewhere in lala land, so I had no idea what was even going on. The next thing I knew was that the procedure was over and a nurse was getting me some juice and asking me for my name and date of birth. I was still coming out of the anasthesia when my doctor approached my bed and told me the news. “You definitely have Crohn's disease," she said. "You can see by the pattern of inflamed tissue on these pictures that there's sections of healthy tissue dispersed between sections of inflamed tissue. That's a clear sign of Crohn's disease. We took a few biopsies while we were in there to run some tests."

"Wait," I said, half-drunk on the anastestics, trying to understand everything she was saying while I was coming back to full consciousness. "I have what now? Crohn's disease? Are you sure?"

"Yes. Here's a prescription for Asacol. Take 3 pills, 3 times daily. Here's some information on the disease and medication from the CCFA website. Get some rest and then make an appointment to see me as soon as possible so we can discuss everything."

Awesome. Crohn's disease. I had no idea what this meant at the time. Well, I had known about Crohn's disease but I didn't know all the details. So I went to CVS, got my prescription, went home, ate the biggest sandwich of my life, and started looking up information about Crohn's disease and my medication. In all honesty, I was lucky that the CCFA was there to help me out. There were all kinds of information available to me as well as a forum where I could post any questions that I had about getting diagnosed or my medications.

To be continued tomorrow with Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease - The Drugs.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease - The Symptoms

Back in early October of 2008 I was just a month into my senior year at Boston College. Life was going pretty well for me. I was happy with all my classes, I was starting to get back into rowing after a back injury the previous summer, the football team was doing well, and my buddies and I were having an absolute blast. Everything was going just fine until one day I noticed some peculiar symptoms. So naturally I called home to Mom and told her all about it who told me, "Call the doctor." So I made an appointment with the student health services for sometime the following week, and when I went I was referred to a gastroenterologist for an appointment about five or six weeks later. Not being in any pain and just having some peculiar symptoms I didn't really think too much about it.

In the meantime I naturally resorted to Googling my symptoms and trying to figure out for myself what was wrong with me. I skimmed the list of possibilities—colon polyps, colon cancer, hemmorhoids, Crohn's disease, peptic ulcer, stomach cancer—but in the end I just thought that I couldn't possibly have any sort of chronic disease or something as life-threatening as cancer. After all, I was 21 at the time and in good health, so none of this made sense. I knew that I would just have to wait to visit the doctor to see what they would have to say.

A week or so had gone by and my symptoms continued, and another week had gone by and slowly everything started getting progressively worse. I began to grow concerned when my left and upper abdomen really started to ache. With my appointment with the gastro still four weeks away, I called see if I could see them as soon as possible. Luckily I was bumped into an open slot for the following day.

Let me just say that I was truly lucky that I was able to sneak into the open appointment that day, because when I woke up in the morning I knew that I would need some immediate attention. The pain on my side was getting worse, and the amount of blood that I was seeing was enough to make me really worry. So when I finally got to the gastro I told them absolutely everything that had been going. She told me with a straight face that I needed to get a colonoscopy to figure out what was going on.

"I need get what now? A colonoscopy?" I thought. "Are you serious? But I'm only 21? Oh my God, my friends are going to laugh their faces off when they hear this one."

My doctor could tell I was wary. She explained, “Yeah, well, with you experiencing pain in your upper abdomen, I'm going to need to do an entire colonoscopy rather than the sigmoidoscopy, which would only allow me to see the lower portion of your colon. It's a relatively simple procedure and should take less than an hour or so. And don't worry, you'll be under anastesia.”

Darn straight I'm getting anastesia! Oh man, I hope she's right that she's on to something here, because I didn't want it turning into one of those situations where doctors run tests to eliminate the possibility of something. I didn't want to get a colonsocopy to find out that it wasn't something. If I was going to get a colonoscopy I wanted to get some definitive answers as to what was going on with me. Well, she gave me the information for the preparation for the colonoscopy, which is essentially a regimen of a severe overdose of laxatives. I thought to myself, “Oh boy. This is going to be so much fun.”

To be continued tomorrow with Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease – The Colonoscopy.