Gut Wrenching Story: One Woman's Struggle With Ulcerative Colitis

How A Colon Surgery Changed This Writer's Life

Thinkstock

By Linda Kriger

Published August 06, 2013, issue of August 16, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

How shall I put this delicately? When we speak about the work of our gastrointestinal tract, which we rarely do, we use euphemisms. Nevertheless, I will plunge into precarious territory by being frank: I never had a friendly relationship with the toilet.

From early childhood, my stool looked like hard pebbles. I was chronically constipated and my mother insisted I sit until my bowels moved. I felt trapped. Suppositories and enemas were administered frequently throughout my youth. I felt humiliated and utterly stripped of power over my body.

I felt similarly out of control when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at 16. In my 20s, the symptoms intensified. I experienced severe stomach cramps coupled with a frequent urgency to evacuate. My red blood count plummeted due to rectal bleeding and I lost 20 pounds in a month. I struggled to work as a newspaper reporter. I never talked about any of this to anyone.

Click to see the rest of the section, Click for more stories about genetics.

When I became too sick to function, I took a leave of absence from work and returned to my parents’ home to rest. At the time, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease were not yet understood as autoimmune disorders. So without any information, my mother was convinced I could banish the disease if only I ate better. She also observed that if I cared more about other people and less about myself, this wouldn’t be happening to me. I got the message: My disease was caused by my inadequacy. I felt utterly desolate and alone.

After years of constant irritation, my colon was removed in 2000 because of precancerous cells found in the same place three years in a row. I now function happily with an internal “J pouch,” fashioned from the end of my small intestine, which substitutes for my colon.

Linda Kriger at 17.
Courtesy of Linda Kriger
Linda Kriger at 17.

The surgery transformed my life. Without my colon, I was suddenly completely healthy. True, my stools are liquid, but after a lifetime of constipation, I’m fine with that. I know I am fortunate. There are those who undergo J-pouch surgery and then live with continued discomfort from an inflamed pouch. I have escaped that post-surgical misery.

I am now surrounded by loved ones. I live with my husband and two sons, along with three stepchildren and twin step-granddaughters. I exercise, stay in shape, eat and drink anything and take no medication. My life is full.

Still, the scars from my illness and from those years of loneliness and isolation remain just under the surface.

To pay homage to that time and to transform my experience, I decided, more than a decade after my surgery, to write a book based on interviews with people who were diagnosed before age 30. It will detail the various ways young people cope with school, diet and alcohol; toilet issues such as urgency; parents, siblings, work, dating and intimacy, and other aspects — including the upsides — of inflammatory bowel disease. I am also speaking with parents, siblings, spouses and significant others to discover how Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis have affected their lives. My hope is that people with IBD and those who love them will gain insights into how people deal with their disease and, as a result, feel less confused and isolated.

Linda Kriger is a freelance writer in Philadelphia and a former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She is interviewing people 30 and under for a book about the emotional side of IBD. Contact her at krigergutfeelingbook@gmail.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.