I’ll probably never be able to explain why I was universally hated by my nursing school class. I’ve tried to explain it before, but it makes so little sense to even me, that I give up after awhile. It’s not like I’m a hate-able person (who really thinks they’re hate-able anyway?), quite the opposite, actually.
But I started nursing school and was promptly dumped into a class of people I didn’t know, who knew each other, and who didn’t like infidels infiltrating their elite ranks. Or something. Whatever.
Looking for any port in a storm, I sat next to a girl who had been in my statistics class, whose name was Melissa. She was a nice girl, a single mother as well, and we hit it off decently. She had another friend who was a bit closer to my mother’s age, high strung as hell, but seemed like a nice person. It wasn’t exactly who I’d have chosen to hang with had the pool of candidates been any larger, but we all managed.
Until midway through the semester when things got…weird.
Now here’s the part I need to be pretty careful in mentioning properly, because as pompous as I can appear, it’s not really who I am. Bush-beating-around isn’t something I do very well, so I’ll just go ahead and say it the way it is.
I’m a good student. I’m an excellent test taker, and I’d never wanted to be a nurse: I’d wanted to be a doctor. I changed career paths when my son was born, and I found the nursing classes to be frightfully simple while many of my classmates floundered. This, I’m aware, angered many of my competitive classmates who were both aware of my dislike of my new profession and the fact that I reliably beat their test scores.
While I didn’t exactly tell them that I’d beaten their scores, the word would travel like syphilis and pretty soon I’d be getting the death stares I’d gotten accustomed to.
Melissa and her friend were no different. And they seemed to take particular issue with my habit of occasionally skipping lecture sessions to sleep in. The “lectures,” if you can call them that, were all on Powerpoint and downloadable off the web, and were literally read by the teacher. For 4 hours a day.
Pointless, yes. I could read them easily on my own and manage just as well, if not better.
But this angered Melissa and her friend, whose business it was not, and I began to notice a distinctly chilly vibe when I’d greet them. It was clear that they were angry with me and my obviously irresponsible actions, and so I began to steer clear of them. I mean, I’m not a sadist.
During the summer between my junior and senior year, I received a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, which, while certainly not cancer or anything quite as deadly, is not something that at the age of 23, you really want to hear. Knowing the words “colostomy bag” and “bowel resection” are in your future doesn’t exactly inspire one to smile broadly and save some kittens from a burning building.
It’s an ugly disease, and it’s easily found in a book called “100 Diseases You Don’t Want To Get,” right up there with Ebola, SARS and HIV. It’s not something I often talk about because it makes people uncomfortable. It’s a gross subject, that’s for sure, and it’s not one that is easily worked into polite dinner table conversation, so for the most part, I didn’t and still don’t often mention it. People don’t exactly want to hear that you’re shitting 20 or more times a day and in constant pain, especially when there’s no real cure, nothing that really makes it go away.
It’s led me to the pearly gates of our local ER more times than I can count, due to mismanagement on the part of my former GI, the one who gave me my initial diagnosis. At the time I was diagnosed, the only drug that helped was not covered by my crappy student insurance, so I just grinned and bore it. I couldn’t afford the medicine back then, so I just rode the wave.
Pain management was laughable as my GI “didn’t want me to get addicted,” so I had to hit up the ER on the days when I just couldn’t handle it anymore. And some days, the pain is simply unbearable. Chronic pain, to those of you blissfully unaware, is exhausting (especially when you have no real means of relief) and wears on your soul in a way you’d never imagine. I’ve had to lay in bed to recover from a particularly bad flare up because I am so exhausted that I cannot stand properly without wobbling.
Crohn’s is, of course, not a diagnosis that is easy to come by. There’s no definitive test for it, only a gathering of data from a multitude of different yet humiliating tests. Let me tell you why I have little to no shame: I have shat in buckets. Many buckets. I have had to carry said buckets around collecting stool for days on end. Then I have had to drop these buckets off at labs where some poor soul is stuck fishing around in my poo.
I have had to have a camera shoved down one hole and up the other (let’s hope he changed the tubing, eh?). I have had to shit my pants because I couldn’t make it to the bathroom.
No one marches for a cure or sells stuff with pink on it in honor of it. I don’t know of any corporate sponsorship or nifty slogans that people can say to say that They Support My Disease (which is likely to lead, one unlucky day) to colon cancer. I’m not angry about having it any longer, but I’m not exactly enveloped in new research or treatment options, nor can I tell most people that I have it without explaining it in more graphic detail than anyone wants to hear.
It’s glamorous, as you can see. It’s the sort of diagnosis a girl would simply KILL to have.
Because I can’t think of any other reason that anyone might imagine I’d lie about having it.
I came back to my senior year in college, and word spread like herpes that I had Crohn’s disease. Which, to a bunch of nurses IS somewhat interesting. It didn’t impact my studies too often, and I didn’t have much call to talk about it. Again, it’s just something I deal with, not something I define myself by.
One day, a couple weeks into that semester, Melissa’s friend, who hadn’t spoken a word to me in ages, as I was now Public Enemy #3 (number 1 and 2 being syphilis and herpes, naturally) turned around during one of our breaks and spoke to me all accusatory-like:
“My STEP-daughter has Crohn’s disease. And she’s had it since she was 11. And now I’m wondering how YOU got it so LATE in life.”
Her ‘YOU’ was drawn out like a finger pointing directly at me. Accusing me.
I reminded her that Crohn’s is normally diagnosed in patient’s twenties or thirties, but she just wouldn’t let it go. And as she ranted on and on about how it stunted HER growth and how much WORSE her step-daughter had it than I did, it dawned on me: that bitch totally thought I was lying. I’d hung with them long enough to know that this was how their brains worked, Melissa and her friend.
She totally thought I was lying about having Crohn’s disease. Which is either funny or sad, depending on how you frame it.
Because if I was planning to lie about something, I assure you that I would choose something FAR cooler to do so about. Like maybe tell you that I was, in fact, born in the Congo and had a monkey as my best friend as a child. Or that I was actually descended directly from royalty and was just going to college to “see how the other half lives.”
It was then when I learned just how strange people can be. I still cannot imagine what would lead them to believe I was in any way faking this disease. A) I’m not that clever and B) I don’t really like pity.
I was thinking back to those days today, after I finally put a phone call into my OB’s office about what can only be called a flare-up of my Crohn’s disease. I’ve put it off for awhile since I have no active GI doctor and no failsafe treatment plan. I’d planned on going back in for the battery of tests once Amelia is born and getting some real sort of treatment going, but things have gotten to dire for me to do this safely.
In a shocking turn of events, not only was I able to get the phone nurse to get a real answer for me, but I was able to get an appointment with a brand-new GI doctor for tomorrow. Which goes to show you just how bad things have gotten if I can get in next-day to a doctor I’ve not seen before WHILE I’M PREGNANT. Most doctors hate dealing with pregnant ladies due, I’m sure, to the incredible level of lawsuits they might get if they mismanage care.
And I’m hoping like hell to get something, anything, to stop the pain and spasms and bleeding, lest I go insane.
But even if I do go insane, I highly doubt I’ll accuse anyone of lying about having a disease. Because that’s just fucked up.