To be honest, I've avoided writing this post for several months.
Because while I was rejoicing over my son staying in remission, he was building up to another flare - which began a couple of days before Christmas.
Stress & More Stress
Looking back it's hardly surprising. In fact, I'm amazed it didn't happen sooner. He was under enormous stress, despite not eating any 'forbidden' foods, and as any UC sufferer knows, stress is a huge cause of flaring.
As an aside, I'd like to add that a new study suggests that our gut flora changes in winter and we have less of the good bacteria in our intestines then. This would account for many people flaring in winter, whereas they can keep their UC under control the rest of the year. (Of course, I can't find the Tweet that included the link to this study, but when I do, I'll share it!)
My son had just accepted a new job in Chicago, then driven fourteen hours straight to look for apartments in the Windy City. After a bitterly cold and busy week (the cold is no friend of UC, is it?) he found a place and signed a lease. He was now under obligation to pay a large amount of rent per month.
Next he had to buy a new Jeep. His old one needed a new catalytic converter but wasn't worth putting the money into.
On top of that, the new vehicle developed problems that weren't being fixed properly by the selling garage. He now owed money for an SUV which might be a lemon.
He also knew that he wouldn't be able to take his dog, Fly (pictured above) with him for the first three months, as he'd be working 16 hour days plus Saturdays. That gave him no down time to spend with his beloved animal.
Thus, as I said, it is hardly surprising that he flared two days before the celebration of Our Lord's birth.
I was devastated. I had so hoped for a flare-free Christmas!!!
But he had to start his new job, flare or no flare. I felt so sorry for him. Piling my truck high with his belongings, I drove to Chicago along the same route he'd set out on a few hours earlier. He would need to make many more stops than me along the way and needed the head start ....
A Miserable Trip
It was snowing, sleeting and slamming down freezing rain all the way there - over fourteen hours. I still don't know how he managed to make it, as I was having a horrible trip!
But make it we did. Once in Chicago, between his bathroom trips, we unpacked our vehicles and got him settled into his 24th floor apartment.
Then I cooked him foods we knew he could tolerate and hunkered down to let him rest for the next few days before he had to go to work.
While he tried to sleep, I was on a big research gig and found studies on how Chinese medicine has been found to help with ulcerative colitis. Further investigation pulled up a Chinese practitioner not far from us. My son agreed to work with him.
In the meantime, he was also using the BEMER lent to us by a friend. He didn't feel it helped with the flare itself, but last year he went into a flare with what turned out to be a torn rotator cuff and the inflammation spread across his shoulders and down his arms.
He couldn't lift anything or write.
It eventually caused bursitis in both knees and he could only walk with the assistance of two canes if he kept his legs straight. It was HORRIBLE!
Once again, this time around he started his flare with a stiff shoulder. Yet it disappeared with the help of the BEMER. If not for that, my son would have gone through the same muscle misery as last time.
We visited the Chinese practitioner in Chicago. He performed acupuncture and gave my son a tincture called Irritease. (Use this link as other sites will only let you buy it if you are a practitioner.)
If you pull up studies, you'll find that anything used to help UC sufferers takes around eight weeks to work. My son's flares are usually for two months anyway, so it's hard to say whether the Irritease was helpful.
Yet now that my son has come out of his flare (more about that later) he's not taking it anymore because he doesn't want the opposite problem - constipation. To me that suggests that the tincture does help!
And here's another reason I think Chinese medicine is worth trying.
After the first two weeks of diarrhea in January, the practitioner told my son to get a saline IV as he was severely dehydrated. He was so weak that I had to take a 45 minute Uber to his office and drive him home from work that evening. Thank Goodness I was in Chicago and able to do this!
Back at his apartment, I gave him some food then drove to the local hospital ER where they could see he needed help. As he lay on the bed being prepared for his IV, the nurse took a nose swab in a routine precaution to make sure he didn't have flu.
But how were we going to get that temperature down? He can't take NSAIDs and Tylenol just rips up his intestines.
They wanted to keep him in hospital overnight 'for observation' but what good was that going to do? The doctor had already looked inside his mouth and declared him 'not to be dehydrated' - so we had zero confidence in her!
I drove my son home, and emailed the Chinese practitioner.
Watching my son writhe in agony that night, I prayed the Rosary over and over again, begging God not to let my son die. It was so awful!
The next morning his temperature was still high. I'd received an answer from Dr. Tim and rushed over to get another tincture, this time one against fever.
The concoction is called Quell Fire and I immediately started administering it to my son.
You'll remember he started at over 102 F degrees. Shortly after he took this tincture, his temperature began to drop and two days later it was 96 F degrees - below normal! What a result! He didn't need to take that anymore!
He was still flaring badly, and had a bad cough from the flu, but we were grateful that the fever had broken at least.
My son is a fighter. Sunday came and he had to drive himself and a colleague four hours to the location of a client in Michigan, where they would stay the week, come home o Friday, then return on Sunday.
One big mercy is that Depend underwear for men look like normal underpants and you can get them in three different colors. My son took a ton of those with him, and if asked why he wore them, would simply say "Why do laundry, if I don't have to?"
(When he was first diagnosed with UC he refused to wear these briefs, but understands the virtue of them now!)
During those weeks on the road he would have very little control over what he ate as he couldn't take food with him.
Miserable and worried, I flew back home to Maryland: there was nothing I could do for him anymore except pray and pray and pray. He is not a believer at present, so I'm very careful to keep my talks with God private.
The other thing I did was buy one dark chocolate bar after the other, consuming large chunks of them whenever he was out of the room! I've read that chocolate increases one's level of serotonin and boy, did I need that!
The first indication he was improving significantly came when he texted me that he was planning to go on a one-day ski trip with others in his apartment building. He explained that he now had more control over his bathroom trips.
Imagine my joy when, at the end of the day, he sent a group photo of the skiers - with him in it! And this, despite not being able to eat strictly in order to get over a flare.
This is why I believe the Irritease and acupuncture did help him. Previously he has gone back into an even worse flare if he wasn't completely disciplined about his food intake and we'd become used to two or three flares in a row, each worse than the one before.
Earlier I mentioned that it was hard on my son not having his beloved dog with him. Every night I sent a short 'good night' video of her.
Then came the day, six weeks after his flare began, when he asked if his dad and I could bring Fly to meet him somewhere on the route to Chicago. I knew he must be feeling a lot better if he judged himself able to take care of his dog.
That was two weeks ago. We took Fly with us and met our son in Toledo. Their reunion was so touching! Fly jumped up and down for joy at seeing her owner again.
We went out to dinner at a restaurant our son had picked out. Imagine how happy I was when he rode with us, ate dinner and rode back with us - all without needing the bathroom!!!!!
The next morning we parted ways and that evening were sent the photo of Fly looking out of the window in her new abode.
I was sent this photo:
This showed me that, yes, the Chicago River is dyed green, but more importantly that my son is out and about with his dog - and that Fly is helping him enjoy life again.
Thank you, God, for this Easter gift!
I leave you with a link to this inspiring article:
Scaling New Heights with Ulcerative Colitis
- St. Jude & Ulcerative Colitis
- Ulcerative Colitis: Stabat Mater Dolorosa
- Ulcerative Colitis: A Natural Approach
- One Man's Ulcerative Colitis Diet
- A Different Kind of Milk