November 18, 2020

Crohn’s Disease and Living with Chronic Pain

There are many types of pain.  We've all experienced acute pain, which for me includes a case of Scarlet Fever as a child, tonsillectomy, three vaginal births, one surgery to remove a grapefruit sized teratoma tumor and your typical bumps, scrapes and bruises throughout the years.  Then, there's emotional pain. The type of suffering that pulls at the heart strings.  The death of a loved one, a hard breakup, and all of the unexpected curveballs that life throws our way are all encounters of emotional carnage.  The type of suffering I never imagined having to deal with is chronic pain.   

I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in September of 2008.  If you're not familiar with this disease that (along with other IBD conditions) affects more than 3.1 million people worldwide, it's an inflammatory disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract.  There is no cure for Crohn's disease, and the symptoms, complications and manifestations vary from person to person.  Chronic pain just comes with the territory and is just something I've learned to deal with because what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger, right?  The pain is multifaceted in every nook, crevice and cranny of my body.  It takes on a life of its own, and shows no mercy.  

My back aches and burns because I have ulcers on my colon.  I have abdominal cramps because because of the inflammation throughout my digestive tract.  I don't absorb all of the nutrients from food, causing my intestines to twist and turn, creating a vicious cycle of what to put into my body and trips to the bathroom.  Certain foods exacerbate symptoms causing me to have loose stools in excess of 10 times per day.  This in turn, causes hemorrhoids both internally, and externally.  Furthermore, frequent irritation of the anal walls has also left me dealing with anal fissures from time to time, which are incredibly painful.  Imagine the feeling of broken glass in your behind.  Ouch!!!  I've always chuckled at the 1 - 10 pain scale in the doctors office.  Anyone who deals with chronic pain, knows our numbers are off the charts.  

When I don't have blood in my #2's, that's considered a good day.  I've never officially been diagnosed with arthritis (probably because I don't want to be prescribed another medication), but my joints ache so badly some days that lifting my kiddos is a challenge.  My eyes have also been affected.  My eye pressure has been in the low 30's at its worst giving me the label of "pre glaucoma suspect."  This intense pressure leaves me with halos of blinding light, and throbbing headaches.  I absolutely can't fathom losing my sight, and I hope I never reach that point. There is so much beauty to be seen in life, and I can't bare the thought of not seeing my children grow into the people they're meant to be.  These are just a few examples of what life is like on a daily basis living with a chronic illness, and chronic pain.  And, this is just my experience with Crohn's disease, and what is considered a mild case.  Many other people endure far worse complications, so I count my lucky stars each and every day because this disease is highly unpredictable, and at times untamable.  

How do I combat the chronic pain one might ask?  I am a runner, so it's important for me to keep mentally sound as well as physically healthy.  I've run four marathons, several half marathons, and want to do one more final marathon when the global pandemic is over.  I try to eat as clean as possible, and get as much sleep as my lifestyle permits.  I take 11 pills per day.  9 medications are to manage my Crohn's, and I added a medical grade probiotic to keep my microbiome as healthy and happy as possible.  Lastly, I focus on gratitude.  I am so incredibly grateful for my family, and the life that I have.  I've been blessed with 3 beautiful children, my husband, parents, sister and wonderful extended family. Remaining positive even in the worst situations has helped me maintain, and remain in remission from my Crohn's for 6 months and counting.  

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Written by: Suzy Burnett
My name is Suzy Burnett. I’m a strong, 41 year old woman, wife to an amazing husband, Ryan, and mother to three beautiful children (Lucy-5, Alice-2 1/2 and Guy-8 months). I’m an avid runner, foodie, travel enthusiast, book nerd, lover of life and one more thing…..I have Crohn’s disease. I started a blog as a way to cope with my condition, and to hopefully offer some support and inspiration to others who suffer from IBD. I invite you to join me in all the crazy beautiful things in my life, as well as share how Crohn's fits into all of this. Check out my blog at: Crohniemommy.com.

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