Diseased, but Not Defeated

Updated: Jun 28

| This is the 333rd story of Our Life Logs |

From a young age, I was eager to work hard, stay disciplined, and pursue my dreams. I couldn’t wait for the day I graduated from college, became a teacher, and had my own classroom. The world was at my fingertips…until…it wasn’t.

I was born March 26, 1998, and grew up in Maine with my two supportive parents, one brother, and two sisters. My time was spent at the church my dad pastored, at the private school I attended, on the volleyball court, or in the gym training.

As a high schooler, I was passionate about being healthy and staying fit. I felt strong and confident getting in a three-mile run every day and lifting weights. And then, there were very few things that made me come alive more than when I was on the volleyball court, playing in high school and college. Game days were the best days, especially since they were spent with my best friends.

After graduating high school, I decided I wanted to branch out of my hometown so I started looking for colleges out of the state. One particular school, Crown College, was the most appealing to me. I fell in love with the campus and my teacher education program. At this point, my life looked brilliant and the small buzz of hope was in my every step.

All smiles at a sports banquet.

As time went on, I began to meet a few minor inconveniences. I started experiencing digestive issues and migraines. But as school progressed I couldn’t brush off my symptoms. Like, I would be running on the treadmill and have to jump off for a few minutes to get sick then come back to finish my workout. But still, in my head, I thought it was normal, and honestly, I just wanted everything to be normal. I didn’t want to worry anyone or be a bother. I was strong and would push through the pain as I had always done. It was just that simple.

I came back home after my freshman year of college, fully intending on going back in the fall. But every time I thought about going back, something didn’t sit right with me. A week away from the first days of classes, I broke down crying. I had been packing and immediately stopped organizing my socks and shoes in my suitcase. I didn’t know what I was doing anymore and just sat there with my face in my hands. Soon I was spilling my thoughts of doubt with Mom. I didn’t tell her about my sickness yet, but everything else.

My parents weren’t happy about me not wanting to return to school and thought it was because of my current relationship. They were hesitant that my boyfriend wasn’t the reason I wanted to stay, but backed off a little about it. I stayed and just like I thought, everyone assumed I stayed back in Maine for the wrong reasons. I couldn’t even explain myself because even I didn’t know what was going on.

I dropped college courses that semester. While my plan was to work a semester to get a job, save money, and finish school in town, it looked like I was spiraling down the drain.

Meanwhile, my symptoms progressively got worse. I was getting sick more and sometimes not eating because of it. It was starting to affect my work and everyday life. Mom started picking up on my health decline around this time, but I reassured each of her concerns. I’m okay. I’m okay. But in February of 2018, I had my first day that just completely wiped me out.

In the seconds between the pangs of the migraines and the sluggish daze that plagued me for hours a day, I just wanted to know one thing. Why was all this happening to me?

I woke up on my birthday, March 26, 2018, and I just couldn’t shake an awful migraine. It controlled me. Over the next few, became violently ill. I had no idea what was just around the corner.

Mom became very concerned about me; my skin was gray, I couldn’t hold anything down, and I was rapidly losing weight. A paramedic neighbor came over to look at me and could tell I needed fluids immediately. I finally went to a clinic, but the tests came back normal. I hadn’t been to work or anywhere this whole time. My fever had been 102 and I couldn’t get warm.  I was so weak.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do, but I can’t sit here and watch my daughter die before my eyes,” I remember overhearing my dad say. Dad practically carried me to the car and insisted we rush to the ER.

Upon one inspection, the results were in. I was dehydrated. My colon was inflamed. My organs were failing.

I began taking almost 16 pills a day plus Tylenol to ease the pain and weariness that still crept in, along with blood infusions every three weeks. The medications and steroids were so strong that my feet and legs would swell so badly that I couldn’t walk. So, I would lay flat and still on my couch, doing little to nothing. I wasn’t sleeping at all because of insomnia. After a month and a half, I had lost 40 pounds. Three months into this intense sickness, I felt done. If my life was going to be like this, I just wanted God to take me.

After several appointments at the Boston Children’s Hospital, the doctors told me that I had Crohn’s disease, that this regime wasn’t doing anything to heal my body. It was just simply prolonging the inevitability of surgery.

Exhausted at Boston Children’s Hospital.

This was all to say that I didn’t have much of a choice. I was either going to have my colon removed or I would be dead in 24 hours. I begged God to give me peace about this life-altering decision, and He did.

• • •

Just a year before surgery, my biggest concern in life was making sure I ran my three miles that day so I could stay slim. Never in my life as an active runner and athlete did I think I would be sick, bedridden, and unable to do the things I was so passionate about.

But in the moments before my body was to be changed forever, all I could think about was missing out on life. I had suffered so much constant pain that my only concern was when I would be able to see my friends and visit my sister in college. I was tired of being chained to exhaustion.

So, on that day, the surgeons took my small intestines and put a small part of it outside my body by an inch. It is about an inch and a half Around and a small bag covers it, acting as my colon. The bag is smaller than my hand, and I just have to change it every few days. If you saw me today, you wouldn’t even know what had happened if I didn’t tell or show you.

Recovering after surgery.

Since having my ostomy bag, Olive (yes, of course, I have named her!) I can now sleep through the night and eat a full meal without being in pain or getting sick. I’ve been able to enjoy the taste of foods that I haven’t had in six months. I was finally able to drink a glass of water and eat scrambled eggs and not get sick. I couldn’t help but cry as I ate; not because I was in pain, but because no words could describe my happiness. Every day got better from there.

Olive, my colon bag and new life partner!

Crohn’s disease came very close to taking my life. I don’t want sympathy or pity because my life is different now. I don’t need to hear statements that ring, “your life must be so hard now.” Why? Because having this little bag on my hip just made life get a whole lot easier. It’s not over; I’ve just had to find a new normal. I don’t regret the last year of my awful, painful health issues or the surgery. Without my life shift, I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am today. I have been able to mentor other people because of this, along with share my story online and in person to hundreds of people.

I thank God every day for Olive, my ostomy bag, and the new life she has given me.

Cherith, 2018.

This is the story of Cherith Ball

Cherith, 21, grew up in Maine with a passion for sports and teaching. However, she started experiencing awful health issues and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. This forced her to put her dreams and ambitions on hold. Because she was not physically able, she had to give up sports, teaching, school, and life as she knew it for months. Once she found the answers she desperately searched for and had her colon removed, she was able to begin her life again.

Cherith knows how close she came to losing her life and wants to now impact other people’s lives even more. Having a bag on her hip has changed her life, but she’s so happy to have a second chance at happiness and a new normal. She has gone on to coach volleyball, teach high school full time, continue to pursue her Bachelors in Education, and give others hope. She is inspired by other fighters, her faith, family, and friends all around her to live each day to the fullest. She isn’t letting Crohn’s disease own her but instead letting it motivate her to pursue her dreams.

This story first touched our hearts on January 29, 2019.

| Writer: Miriam Simpson | Editor: Colleen Walker |

#USA #healthscare #ostomybag #inspiration #crohnsdisease #fight #colon #colondisease #crohns

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