My featured story of the week is about a woman with great courage and bravery. This beautiful woman is my mother Carla Jefferson, and she has been living with Crohn’s disease since 1982. She was diagnosed with this life altering disease at the tender age of 23. Carla began having issues with nausea and severe diarrhea on a regular basis. Knowing that this was more than a common illness, Carla began seeking out medical help. Since this was a rare disease and the doctors had limited knowledge about this condition, she went misdiagnosed and untreated for six years. After six years of searching, in 1988 Carla found a specialist that was finally able to explain her condition.
For those who do not know, Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammation of the intestines that can lead to very hurtful and painful blockages. These blockages are actually food that can no longer be broken down and they become lodged in the small intestines. This makes it very difficult to pass nutrients on to the rest of the body. Because there is no way for the food to move, it acts the same as a clogged drain. Like water, the food has to go somewhere; this is what causes the vomiting. As for the diarrhea, this is the body’s way of trying to fight off the illness. The combination of both is what leads to weight loss at a very rapid and debilitating rate. Carla’s case was so that she dropped from one hundred fifty-five pounds to a mere ninety-five pounds in months. She had to undergo six surgeries over a course of ten years to remove the blockages. Thankfully she did not have to lose all of her small intestines, which would have resulted in the lifetime use of a colostomy bag.
There is no cure for this disease; but treatment and medication have both come a very long way. Thanks to Carla’s wonderful team of doctors, she has been surgery free for the last 11 years and in remission for the last 15 years. But some credit is due to Ms. Jefferson herself, she has had to totally change her diet and eliminate some tasty food and treats from her diet.
Even though I am very knowledgeable about the disease, I still marvel at the courage that displayed by my mother. I asked her what impact the symptoms had on her life. She stated, “It was challenging to keep going in an out of remission because you feel good for a month then the next three months you are sick. Crohn’s became a hindrance to my life because the diarrhea was so severe it kept me from everyday life. I did not want to go anywhere, because I was afraid that as soon as I did, I would have to run to the bathroom. The pain was so aggravating, and it seemed like it would never go away.”
Despite the previous challenges, Carla is now living a full life. She now has a small baking business and she loves to travel. In her own words, “I am grateful to be alive, and the disease has become very manageable and livable. I do have a little advice for those who may have similar symptoms or what are already diagnosed:
Please go to the doctor: Find a specialist. No need to have someone experimenting on you or making matters worse.
Take your medication: Follow all of the doctor’s orders precisely, if you could treat it then no need for the doctor.
Eat right: You will have to make sacrifices, but it is for your own good
Be happy: The disease is livable, but you have to want to live.”