By ‘diagnosed,’ I mean as he lay on the clinic bed after his colonoscopy the gastroenterologist pronounced, “You have ulcerative colitis. I’ll put you on some medication,” then walked off.
That was it: no explanation of what this would entail for my poor son and no bedside manner whatsoever.
He took the medication and was immediately worse. Which is not surprising, since one of the side effects of Lialda is ulcerative colitis.
I marched into the gastro office and demanded an appointment, using tears when all else failed.
He told us the disease had nothing to do with food but we knew differently. Shortly thereafter the prednisone didn’t work anymore, either.
I have since discovered that our gastro story is common among UC sufferers.
As you will know if you’ve been reading this blog, my son and I were now on the desperate search for a protocol that would improve his quality of life without the drastic problems that UC medication brings with it.
It is an ongoing process and he is constantly fine-tuning his routine. But the one he’s been following over the past few months has kept him from having a flare for the longest time ever: 9 months.
For the past five years – every Christmas since his diagnosis – he has flared either in November or, in 2017, two days before the Nativity of Our Lord. He dragged his skeletal frame to a couple of Midnight Masses, but it was painful for me to watch him struggle to participate in this important Christmas event.
The past two years he couldn’t even think about coming.
So, as Christmas was approaching this year, my prayer and fasting for his sake went into high gear!
He arrived at our home on 22nd December, still doing well, but I wasn’t going to let up until he’d made it through the 25th and hopefully beyond.
We arrived at 9:30 p.m. to the beautiful strains of a small orchestra playing carols before Mass began. As I sat next to him, my heart swelled with enormous gratitude to God. At the back of the church, on either side of the tabernacle, stood a huge lit fir tree, and a massive nativity scene rested at the foot of the altar steps. Red and white poinsettias added life to the scene, and I could feel God smiling down on us all.
Even though he doesn’t fully believe at present, my son recited all the prayers with me, held my hand during the Our Father and walked down the aisle for a blessing when I received the Eucharist.
I thanked him profusely and let him know that my Christmas was now complete.
How I’d longed for this day!
Many of you will want to know what my 26-year-old son is doing to maintain his current level of health. With the important caveat that this may not work for everyone, I outline his typical day below.
He is working crazy hours as a CPA with a big firm in Chicago, so his daily routine is pretty grueling. During the week he aims to get to bed between 8 and 9 p.m.
He wakes up between 4 – 4:30 a.m., goes to the bathroom (he’s sleeping through the night without needing to get up – hurray!) then returns to bed and rests his laptop on a pad on his knees and writes in his journal for 30 minutes.
Then he takes his dog for a 20 – 30-minute walk and feeds her when they get back. She (and our dogs, too) are on a raw food diet.
For ‘breakfast’ he takes a teaspoonful of CBD (hemp) oil and two teaspoons of MCT oil, followed by a highly absorbable Turmeric/Curcumin Supplement with Boswellia Extract.
At the gym he has a 12-minute sauna followed by a completely cold shower. This latter is from his research into the Wim Hof Method and its health benefits, particularly for strengthening the immune system.
When he first moved to Chicago, the cold really got to him and triggered his symptoms. This fall, as the temperatures started to drop, he wore less clothing than was comfortable to acclimatize his system to them.
He has found that this, plus the daily workouts and cold showers have helped to stave off a flare.
On his return home after the gym, he dresses and goes to work. His stomach is essentially empty so he doesn’t have to worry about sudden urgency on the way there or at the office or client.
Lunch is his first meal.
His diet consists of: beef, chicken or turkey; broccoli, carrots, brussels sprouts, asparagus, green beans and cauliflower. For something sweet he eats dark chocolate with no dairy, or sorbet. Since he can’t drink coffee, he finds that dark chocolate is great for waking him up in the afternoons when he starts to nod off.
He absolutely cannot eat anything spicy.
Once or twice a month he’ll have a glass of red wine without ill effects.
Rinse and repeat.
As already noted, to date he’s been able to stave off a flare. About once a month there’s blood in his stool (but still no diarrhea) or he feels a little ‘iffy.’ When that happens, he goes on a water fast for 24 hours or until dinner the next day. So far, so good.
Fasting is a powerful anti-inflammatory. You can find a ton of information about this online.
This regime works well when he’s alone and in full control of his diet. It’s tougher in social situations which involve a lot of eating out.
He looks for simple items on the menu, such a steak, grilled chicken, broccoli and cauliflower. He even managed to eat carrots which had been smothered in butter (he is lactose intolerant) without ill effect!
He ate sorbet for dessert when it was offered, and I found some coconut milk ice cream and coconut milk ices for him to snack on back home.
As the years go by, his self-discipline regarding food has sky-rocketed, spilling over into all other areas of his life.
He reads extensively and listens to such interesting podcasts that I’ve developed the habit of doing the same thing every morning when I get up. I find uplifting podcasts and YouTube videos, and highly recommend those by Bishop Robert Barron and Dr. Jordan Peterson. They set a positive tone for the rest of my day.
Whenever I feel down, I think of my son and how valiantly he is coping with his situation – and realize I have no right to be unhappy. He doesn’t like his job, either, but is continuing to do well in it until he can find a better alternative.
I feel such pride in the fine young man he has become!
To cap it all, he and I are now in active dialogue about God and Christianity.
Things are good, and I pray they may continue.
I wish you a very Happy New Year. I hope this helps you and that you, or anyone you know who has ulcerative colitis, might soon find relief.