I can remember from a very young age constantly being sick. My stomach always hurt and many foods would cause me to vomit or be in extreme pain not long after eating. At first, my parents just thought that I was simply an anxious child that didn’t want to go to school but then they started noticing that I also would avoid doing the things that were supposed to be fun or exciting as well. They took me from doctor to doctor but all the tests would find nothing wrong, so the doctors would send me away with little to no answer as to why I was sick – let alone any way to actually fix it. I did my best to avoid foods that I had previously gotten sick on and eventually started to feel a little better.
By the time I became a teenager, I was thriving rather well considering. I was a competitive swimmer, a dancer, involved in nearly every club and organization at school, and had many friends. Shortly after I turned 14, though, the stomach pain came back with a vengeance. This time around, no matter what I ate or drank, I was in terrible pain. I felt my only option was to completely stop eating altogether. At one point, I was even hospitalized due to low body weight and having blood in my stools. More tests were run, but, once again, answers were ever found. On Christmas Eve that year, the hospital doctors decided to finally let me go home on one condition – I had to eat a full plate of pancakes from the hospital cafeteria. I was too sick to keep the food down, so my mother (being overly frustrated with the doctors) choked it down for me. Although the abdominal pain stayed pretty consistent in the years following, they slowly started to disappear again and I vowed to never visit a doctor again.
A few more years went by and everything seemed relatively normal. Although I would have stomach aches here and there, as any normal person would, but nothing came across as alarming or worrisome. I moved away to Florida for college, joined a sorority, was captain of my college cheerleading team, went surfing all the time, and worked as a lifeguard supervisor for the entire county that I lived in. Life was pretty great. Then one day I began experiencing excessive amounts of fatigue and nausea, and the abdominal pain after eating started to creep back in as well. It’s like it came out nowhere. At the same time, I also had more chronic infections that normal and eventually got diagnosed as having Mononucleosis – only I never got better. I was dizzy all the time and would even faint at times. Once again, no explanation for my symptoms. Then in 2004, while still in college, my mother passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack. Unfortunately, this set off a two-year downward spiral for both my physical and mental health.
About 6 months after my mother passed, new symptoms appeared that I hadn’t felt before (in addition to the chronic pain and nausea that I was now experiencing each and every day). It first started with severe heart palpitations and then my menstrual cycle went all out of whack. I also began having ongoing and debilitating panic attacks because I always felt like I was going to either pass out or throw-up. It wasn’t long until I was diagnosed with panic disorder with agoraphobia. I just assumed that the doctors were right given the tragedy of my own mother dying right in front me. At the same time, though, a couple of the doctors also kept hearing what sounded like a heart murmur. But again, they would order tests and everything would come back normal as usual.
After years and countless hours of psychological therapy, the panic attacks themselves eventually went away. However, I was still having these extreme bouts of abdominal pain on and off. Everyone, including me, thought it was still the anxiety. I had managed to put my life back together and was functioning normally by living on my own – only now in Denver. Although I still had constant fatigue, I was working 80 hours a week to pay the bills so I wasn’t surprised at all that I was always tired. When I met my husband in 2009, I moved down to Colorado Springs to start a life with him and was happy that things finally were back to normal. However, when we went to visit his family down in Texas in 2010, I came down with some kind of awful stomach bug or food poisoning that made me violently ill. After a few days, the sickness seemed like it had run its course. We flew back to Colorado Springs and I went on with my normal routine. Not long after, the abdominal pain came back again – only it never went away this time around 0 and I was still feeling extremely fatigued all the time, even though I had changed over to a normal 9-5 job. After coming down with yet another infection that required emergency care, I knew that I had to make one more attempt to find the out what was causing all of my chronic stomach issues over the years.
Since 2010, I have been on an ongoing search for these answers as my symptoms continually get weirder and more debilitating with time. Just now, I’m slowly uncovering the reasons for why my symptoms stumped multitudes of doctors and it won’t be long until I’m officially the DIAGNOSED WARRIOR.