Take Control of Your Ulcerative Colitis

How I Got My Ulcerative Colitis Under Control

Leigh Stein, 33, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when she was 23 years old. The diagnosis was overwhelming and couldn’t have come at a worse time. Feeling sick and weighed down with graduate school finals, Stein, who lives in Pittsburgh, eventually landed in the hospital. Slowly she found the right medication and lifestyle changes to get the disease under control. Back on her feet and in remission, she now gives back, volunteering for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). For Stein, reaching out to others is healthy and healing, as is running half-marathons and taking part in other fundraisers for ulcerative colitis research.

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 1999. I was in graduate school when I began feeling sick. I was losing weight, and all of a sudden food did not agree with me. I was constantly running to the bathroom—sometimes 20 to 25 times a day.

I knew I needed help so I went to see a gastroenterologist. When my gastroenterologist figured out what was going on, he wanted to admit me to the hospital as soon as possible. I explained that I wanted to finish my last semester of graduate school and that finals were less than one week away. I struggled through finals week and as soon as I finished my last one, I was admitted to the hospital the next day. I dont think I realized how sick I was.

After my initial admission, I was in and out of the hospital and was on and off prednisone for a few years. Unfortunately I had some bad reactions to the first medications that I was given, but I began to improve. Presently there is no specific cause of ulcerative colitis, but there are many things that can trigger a flare-up. Stress played a part in aggravating my symptoms while I was in graduate school.

I had to make some major lifestyle changes. I learned to have a plan and be prepared; now I always know where the bathrooms are when I go out. My doctor told me that I actually have a relatively mild version of ulcerative colitis. I had no idea how bad this disease could be. Even with a mild case, I had to use the bathroom dozens of times a day before I got the disease under control.

I take medication every day
I have been in remission for about eight years. I have a flare-up here and there, but nothing like the symptoms I had immediately before and after being diagnosed. A flare-up can occur at anytime out of the blue. I can feel fine one minute and then realize my stomach has a mind of its own and I have to run to the bathroom.

Prior to my last episode, I had my gallbladder removed. The doctors said it was so inflamed that they couldnt do the minimally invasive surgery and I had to have the more invasive type of surgery in which they open up your abdomen. The good news is that I found that my ulcerative colitis really improved after the surgery.

My ulcerative colitis is now under control with the help of 10 pills I take daily, as well as changes in my diet. I watch what I eat and go to the gastroenterologist every six months. I am active and healthy and I know much more about the things that trigger ulcerative colitis flare-ups, and how to avoid them.

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As told to: Tammy Worth
Last Updated: December 22, 2009

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