In the past, it seemed as though my life was relatively easy. I was born into a loving, well off family, good grades came easily to me, I was accepted into every college I had desired, and then, best of all, I was accepted into medical school. My life long dream came true and I was ecstatic. Although I was accepted into quite a few schools, I chose the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine because of its reputation and how close it was to where I wished to practice, Southern New Jersey. My dream school was UMDNJ-SOM, now Rowan-SOM, but I was not accepted there until August, after I had committed to PCOM and had my apartment leased. Nevertheless, my hard work paid off and I would be an osteopathic physician; I was more than elated, I was on could nine.
I began to feel ill, but there was almost no way to describe it. Simply, I didn’t know what was wrong with my body. I ached everywhere, I was very tired, I had episodes of sleep paralysis, and I felt like I couldn’t stay awake or focus on anything. My doctors ran many tests, checking me for everything from Lyme disease to depression. It became so hard for me to study; my body just couldn’t function normally. Then everything got much worse so suddenly; I lost three people very close to me all within three months. I was devastated and my body responded. I was having abdominal pain, cramping, would sleep all day and couldn’t sleep at night, and nothing felt right inside me. I went to the school counselor and he diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. My body got so bad that it came to a point where the school gave me a medical leave of absence to get well.
WORST YEAR EVER: BEGINS HERE
One week after I signed the papers to come back the next year, I felt the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life in my abdomen. I KNEW something was wrong because I decided to skip Valentine's dinner with the boyfriend at my FAVORITE restaurant, Buddakan. If Alyssa isn't eating, something is wrong with Alyssa. My parents took me to the emergency room and I had a bowel obstruction. I knew I had a bowel obstruction, but the doctor didn't check me for one, he actually didn't touch me at all and sent me home. I ended up back in the ER the next day, BEGGED for a CT scan, and the obstruction was confirmed. Within a week I was diagnosed with severe Crohn’s disease in my small intestine, large intestine, and rectum after a colonoscopy (fun stuff). What they thought was my brain and mind causing my body to ache and suffer was really a chronic autoimmune disease that was plaguing me from head to toe.
At first I was truly devastated, I didn’t want to be sick, let alone for the rest of my life. From this, however, I became strong. I used my experience to spread awareness in every way possible about IBD. I competed in a pageant, on a whim and won, and through this I was able to share my message and raise thousands for health and for Inflammatory Bowel Disease in particular.
After I won the title of Miss Ramapo Valley in the Miss America Organization (the best of the pageant systems in my opinion), my disease grew worse. In total I endured 12 ER visits, 10 hospital stays (averaging 5 days each), 10 obstructions, 2 ileuses, 2 fistulas, 1 fissure, 1 life changing sharing, and three bad ass (ugly) scars. I had NG tubes and endless injections, more CT scans than I could have ever imagined. I tried countless medications, and am still on the most painful of them all, Humira. If you ever injected flesh eating acid into your leg, then you would know how it feels to inject it. I have to do it myself, which is fun (lolz..), and I have to HOLD IT THERE FOR TEN SECONDS. Ten...grueling...painful...son-of-a-bitch screaming....seconds. Finally, in December of last year, I received the surgery that changed my life. One foot of my bowel was removed with my ileocecectomy and I have not had one obstruction since (knock on wood, cross your fingers, throw salt over your shoulder, pee on a cactus, whatever you can for luck). Although my body still has its excruciating aches and pains in my muscles and joints, I feel confident that with my medication I am on a steady path to the glorious state of remission.
My battle has been long, grueling, and the greatest challenge I have ever faced.
Even though this experience was the worst thing I have ever gone through and I wouldn’t wish this illness or its severity on anyone, I truly believe I have received the best clinical experience possible by being a patient. In my future as a physician, I will not only be able to sympathize but empathize and truly understand my patients.
With that said, it still sucks. It is a life long disease. It will be with me forever. It will increase my risks of colon cancer. I have an 80% chance of needing more surgery. I will have to be on special diets my whole life (getting better now after surgery). My weight will always fluctuate from a sexy slim size 2, to an overwhelming (for my frame) size 10. I will also have to deal with the bullshit from people who don't know the following:
- IBD is NOTHING like IBS. IBD (Crohn's disease and Colitis) stands for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and means your actual insides change, get ulcerations, paralyze, close up on themselves, etc.
- Whatever you read online about how to "cure" my illness is a complete and utter joke and don't ever bring it up to me. There is no CURE for this disease, although hopefully someday there will be.
- It is an autoimmune disease that DOESN'T just affect my gut. It cause fatigue, joint and muscle pain, eye complications, arthritis, inflammation throughout the body, malabsorption of nutrients, etc.
- Lastly, NO you DON'T understand because you have "diarrhea" or occasional stomach cramping. I KNOW what a 10/10 pain feels like, I hope you never do.
If you wanna see some really sexy pics of me in the hospital, scroll down for a pretty little slide show.
Love & Thanks,