Through her blog, Eats and Exercise by Amber, and by becoming the face of the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Outcome Study (IBSOS), Awareness Ambassador Amber has worked to raise awareness of IBS and encourage hope and perseverance in all those suffering with the disorder. Check out her blog. And, watch her interview with local news channel WIVB4.
IBS – three letters that used to control my life.
I always had stomach issues. In elementary school, I was notorious for throwing up in class. At seven, I got my first endoscopy and missed two weeks of school because I was so sick. Growing up, there was a lot of throwing up. Waking up in the middle of the night, getting sick, and then being fine in the morning with no explanation. At fifteen, I got my gallbladder taken out but the random throwing up continued. I was told that I had IBS, was given a prescription for Nexium and lived off of Pepto Bismal. While feeling nauseous wasn’t fun, my symptoms were manageable. I could eat what I wanted, as much as I wanted, and never had to think twice about my bathroom habits. IBS was just something I had, and up until my sophomore year of college, it wasn’t so bad…
2011 was when my IBS symptoms spiraled out of control. I don’t remember how it started, but the next thing I knew, my stomach was the size of a beach ball and an X-ray showed that my intestines were completely filled with stool. I didn’t understand how I was constipated; I was still going to the bathroom. I was told to take some Miralax and thought I had found the solution to my problems. Little did I know that this would be the start of my struggle with my completely out of control and chronic flare-ups.
Over the next three years, I was poked and prodded at like a science experiment. I had countless endoscopies, colonoscopies, biopsies, a colon pressure exam, the Smart Pill test, as well as a slew of blood work which all came back inconclusive. Slow transit time, a loopy colon, weak sphincter muscles, but nothing was found to be the root of all my suffering. I cut out dairy, but that didn’t make a difference, and despite being diagnosed with Celiac Disease, going gluten free did not alleviate my symptoms. Slowly, my medication totaled 10 pills a day, yet I was still experiencing flare-ups every two weeks. In addition, I developed unbearable stomach pain that sent me to the hospital twice, only to be sent home with pain killers for “stomach pain, cause unknown” and “colic.” I sat teary eyed in my doctor’s office saying I couldn’t handle living my life like this. The extreme bloating and distension coupled with constipation raged on. I developed hemorrhoids that needed to be laser treated from trying to go to the bathroom so much.
I constantly looked as if I was a few months pregnant. For this period of time, my IBS consumed not only my body but my mind as well. I lost track of all the college/life social events I declined because of my symptoms. I was missing out either because I was at home writhing in pain, bloated beyond recognition, or chained to the bathroom due to the constant laxative cleanses I had to endure. I began to hate my body and became afraid of food, because anything I ate would send my intestines into distress. In a desperate attempt for relief one summer night in 2013, a Google search led me to a clinical trial in my area. I completed the clinical trial for my IBS and since then have continued to work hard to pull myself out of the dark place my digestive condition was dragging me into.
My entire outlook on my condition has changed which has helped me with managing my symptoms. I have a laundry list of foods I have to avoid (gluten, wheat, lactose, and FODMAPs) as well as a routine I need to follow to keep my irate intestines appeased, but I don’t mind because this is the happiest and healthiest I have ever been. I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but it does not have me. I am in control of my life, not my chronic condition. I am beautiful, bloated or not, because my self worth is not set on my reflection. I thrive with my symptoms, not merely survive.