Yes you read that correctly. I, Lauryn, battle with not one but two autoimmune diseases - Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Crohn's & Ulcerative Colitis and Celiac Disease... oh, and GERD (basically a fancy acronym for acid reflux). My medical journey history has not been easy, but here I go - to share in hopes that my story can help some of you not feel so alone.
When I was in middle school, I randomly came down with an eye infection while at the beach. It was so freaking painful that I started to not be able to open my eyes and was losing my vision. This is when I first was exposed to the world of doctor's offices and autoimmune diseases. To make a very long, painful story short, at age 11, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) that attacked my eyes - Uveitis and Secondary Glaucoma. What's cuter than a middle schooler wearing an eye patch and glaucoma sunglasses to school? Not to mention taking eye drops at the nurses office every two hours and being puffy from steroid medication. However, after about a year of amazing treatment, I was considered "cured" by the time I got to high school.
As time progressed and I began college, I started to start having "stomach issues." Meaning, my primary physician said "it's just IBS - take a probiotic" but it's never just that (if I had a dollar for every time one of my friends was told this... but I digress!). For whatever reason, any Baby Boomer's offspring have some sort of gastrointestinal (GI) issue, so during college, I battled extreme stomach aches, random bouts of not-so-ladylike GI issues, and started to watch my diet.
After undergrad, I decided to go to graduate school. During this time I was put in a very bad situation which caused a lot of emotional and financial stress. However, this moment shined light on what was actually going on with my stomach. In early 2106, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and Gastroesophagael Reflux Diseased (GERD, again). Basically, everything was beginning to make more sense. I immediately knew I needed to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet so that the villi in my gut could begin to heal and absorb nutrients (something Celiacs have an issue with). While there was an adjustment period, going gluten free was not hard for me. If anything, it taught me so much about nutrition, reading labels, and I started to feel good for once in my life. During this time, I really took to fitness. I was starting to feel amazing and I wanted to further this adventure (running, BBG, lifting).
Fast forward to late 2018 - I've been living in NYC for almost two years now - working my dream job(s), having fun socially, romantically, and personally. It was right before 2019 hit when I began to notice small changes in my gut health. I was feeling the urgency to use the restroom, was so uncomfortably bloated, began to lose weight, plus more. That is when I decided I must see a GI doctor. From there, I was scheduled for blood work, a colonoscopy/endoscopy (let's hope they don't use the same hose!) and CT scan to confirm diagnosis. The doctor (who has made this traumatizing experience, not so bad) let me know that I am formally being diagnosed with Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis (could impart be genetic), as these diseases are in skip patterns throughout my intestines. Not the news I wanted, but I am still here.
Now: I am currently taking the steroid Prednisone to stimulate my gut to better heath (though, I do not feel it's done sh*& to heal me). On February 15, 2019, I started my first dose Humira, a biologic injection. Humira is supposed to shut down the immune system and put an individual with Crohn's into remission (let's pray that happens to me). I am also eating a Specific Carb Diet (SCD), Low Fodmap/low fiber/gluten free/dairy free diet to lessen my Crohn's symptoms during this brutal fare up.
While this journey has not been easy and has tested all of my intrinsic strength, I would not trade my journey for the world. It is our challenges that don't define us, but build us into the people we're meant to be. Had I not endured these medical experiences, I might not be the loving, charismatic, empathetic, supportive friend, family member, HR professional, Coach, and girlfriend.
I repeat, it has NOT been easy. I also got hit by a car a matter of days after my diagnosis (um, ouch!). I have been tested a lot but I am grateful for my life. I am grateful for the opportunity to be on this planet, to hopefully be making a difference in each and every one of your lives as you read this.
I look forward to sharing more about my gut health journey as I begin to improve. In the interim, for those of you who are suffering from Crohn's, UC, Celiac, or any autoimmune disease or gut-related issue, just know you are not alone - and to please advocate for yourself! I am here if you ever want to chat!