Alright guys, this post is going to be a bit heavier than our other ones so strap yourselves in.
By now, some of you probably know that I have good ol’ Crohn’s disease. If you’re not exactly sure what that entails, in short, it’s an autoimmune disease that triggers the gut and causes a lot of gut discomfort/pain, frequent and urgent bathroom breaks (my favorite), exhaustion, weak immune system, and other symptoms. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
A lot of people suffer from Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis (very similar symptoms), and in today’s world, more and more people are coming down with similar symptoms that doctors diagnose as Crohn’s or UC.
Don’t worry, this post isn’t all about the dirty details of Crohn’s. I wanted to write this because a lot of people have health conditions or personal ailments that may hold them back from some things they want to do or pursue in life. And of course, some conditions are more hindering than others, but I believe we can all find ways (big or small) to overcome some aspects of our current situations.
Here’s a brief overview of my situation:
Prior to our travels in Southeast Asia, I had some extensive gut issues which almost postponed and potentially canceled our trip altogether. A last effort of an alternative medical procedure (fecal transplant anyone?), worked magic on my gut and within days I felt almost back to normal. Throughout the 10 months spent in foreign countries, I never had any stomach issues, something that still remains a mystery to doctors. I thought the Gut Gods had cured me from whatever problems I was having. And then boom, four or five months after returning home it hit me again, but this time it was a lot worse.
I was in denial that my gut problems were back so I kept on my daily life for two or three months and didn’t tell anyone of my symptoms…smart, right? Nope. Apologies for the dirty details, but at this point I was going to the bathroom (numero dos), around 30 times a day, had pain in my gut that felt like a knife constantly stabbing me, and I couldn’t sleep more than 30 minutes at night without getting up to sprint to the bathroom.
My body finally began to shut down and I ended up in the Emergency Room. I was admitted for 7 days while my body started to regain strength from the medication I was receiving. Some consults later, it was determined I had Crohn’s disease and I was put on steroids. Fast forward a few months, the steroids weren’t working and I started Remicade infusions; a dose of medication given through an IV every 8 weeks near my hometown, Madison, WI.
Taylor and I have always talked and dreamed about traveling and working in different countries after graduating college. Our hearts were set on getting a work visa for New Zealand and spending a few years working and traveling in the beautiful country. This is when it hit me. Graduation was only a few months away and I had just started my routine Remicade infusions, which held me to a specific location.
This is the point where I started feeling like this disease was going to keep me from living the life I had always envisioned and dreamed of. And much worse than that, I felt like I was holding Taylor back from the life we had been excited about and planning. It took a while for us to give up the fact that this type of lifestyle wasn’t in our immediate future. I spent a month or two feeling down and pessimistic at the thought that I might always be confined and held back by my health conditions. A long story short, we proactively started thinking of ways we could still pursue a lifestyle of travel that could coexist with my Crohn’s treatment. Drumroll…this is exactly when we became obsessed with the Vanlife lifestyle and community!
Disclaimer: I am VERY, VERY, VERY grateful that we live in a time and place where we can seek medical professionals who have the knowledge and medicine to manage diseases and treat symptoms.
This is where I have to talk about my unconditional love, mad respect, and gratitude towards Taylor. Throughout all of this, she was always optimistic, maintained a positive perspective, and never had any uncertainty that our lives would be any less adventurous than we had always talked about. To this day, she is still 100% supportive. She is understanding and patient when my symptoms come back, when I have frequent hospital visits, and what my disease means for our traveling lifestyle. I’ll put it simply, I'm so damn lucky to be with this beautiful and loving girl.
Can traveling with Crohn’s be uncomfortable and tough? Absolutely! I’ve had 3 sinus infections in the last 45 days because my immune system can’t fight infections as well as a healthy immune system can. I have to be back in Madison, WI every 8 weeks until another Crohn’s treatment is discovered. And let’s be honest, having to urgently “go” when driving down the highway isn’t the most glamorous feeling.
But the thing is, it would be just as uncomfortable and tough living any other lifestyle. I’ve made a decision not to let my health condition take control of the way I live my life. Of course, I’ll follow my treatment plans, live as healthy as possible, keep an eye on my symptoms, and find medical attention when I need it. But in my eyes, our quality of life stems from many different conscious decisions we make on our journey, and this is one I’ve decided to make.
I wanted to write this blog post to shed positive light on the things that seem to hold us all back in life. Each individual situation is different, some more hindering than others, but it’s about taking each situation and twisting it to still live a life that excites us. It can be easy to let these conditions take a hold of our lives and control the way we live; I almost let my Crohn’s disease do that to me. But before writing things off in life, I believe we should look at it from a different perspective and challenge the standard or "easy" option.
I’m not advocating or saying that people should live any certain way. I’m just saying, try not to let your situation take complete control of your life.
What are the things that you feel hold you back in life?