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13 Reflections on 2016

2016, what a year eh?  The Cubs won the world series (!!!).  Donald Trump was elected president (???). We lost Prince and David Bowie and Mrs. Brady :( :( :(. People are saying it's the worst year yet.  But people say that every year, probably since the inception of calendars.

I'm going to go out on a limb that 1665 or 1863 or 1942 were worse years than 2016.  By a hair.

I don't like to bitch about an entire year because I know that we humans are programmed to filter out the positive and focus on the negative.  It's supposed to be protective, keeping us in tune with our environment so we don't get eaten by a predator. But in our non-predator based world this mechanism often just turns us into a bunch of Negative Nancys.  Nancies?  Whatever.  Nancy has a bad rap, anyway.

Today is the last day of IBD Awareness week, 2016.  I've enjoyed following all of the stories from people living with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis via social media, including inspirational stories and raw, post-surgical stories complete with pictures to show us just how awful these diseases can be.  I think we need these polar opposite stories, and everything in between, to not only lift us up with hope but also let the world know just exactly what this f-ing disease can do to a human being.

I'm excited to get to meet several of these IBD patient advocates on Saturday at the Advances in Inflammatory Bowel Disease conference in sunny Orlando Florida.  I'll be moderating a panel discussion on patient empowerment.  And I get to see my mentor of the last 12 years who moved to New York in 2016 to run the IBD psychosocial program at Mount Sinai in NYC.  AND it's not going to be 25 degrees with snow on the ground.

Plus, room service.

My participation in IBD awareness this year has been less than stellar and certainly lower than in previous years.  I did make a poster via Crohns and Colitis UK:


I'm not sure why I didn't do as much, but I'll go with it's just part of the natural ebb and flow of living with a chronic disease.  Sometimes you're all in and sometimes you just want to put it on the shelf for a little while and not look at it.  You can see the latter is the case based on my facial expression.

Plus, this past year I've been forced to focus on the upper parts of my digestive tract and figuring out this eosinophilic esophagitis thing.  As of today, I'm still on an elimination diet with a PPI medication.  I'll have my 4th upper endoscopy in the next month or so to make sure all the eosinophils are gone and the ol' esophagus is as smooth as a baby's ass. With no diaper rash.

That's such a poor visual. I'm sorry.

So if 2016 is a dumpster fire of a year, then I'd like to look at both the negative and positive that I've experienced this year.  The bags of trash and the marshmallows, if you will. You can decide which is which.

1) We got a puppy.  Her name is Annabelle and she's a Plott Hound mix who showed up in the local humane society from down state Illinois.  Evidently the Plott Hound, a breed of German descent, is the official dog of North Carolina.  Who knew?  She's better at not peeing on the floor but yesterday she chewed on a chair leg for about half an hour before anyone noticed.

2) First inpatient hospital stay is under my belt.  A truly eye-opening experience that showed me how helpless you can feel while at the same time showed me I have an amazing gastroenterologist who truly has my back.  That provides a sense of ease that I can't really put to words.

3) I lost 15 pounds from my symptoms and subsequent elimination diet.  Screw Slim Fast or Atkins.  Want to lose weight? Eliminate soy, wheat, barley, peanuts, almonds, tuna, sesame, celery, and apricots from your diet for 2 months.  Then take out dairy, eggs, all tree nuts, all fish and shellfish for another 2 months.  You're welcome.

4) I discovered I have a secret admirer.

5) I met with clients living with cancer, IBD, IBS, MS, mast cell disorder, EoE, congenital heart defects, obesity, post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, vulvodynia, bipolar disorder, cyclical vomiting, GERD, major depression, people hoping to undergo bariatric surgery, people who had bariatric surgery and it failed, and others, over 1,000 times. 

6)  I published a few research articles.

7) We have 2 post-doctoral fellows training with our practice.  One just filed her licensing paperwork and one is 3 months in.  More health psychologists!

8) Got my first iron infusion.  It worked in that it reversed the iron deficiency anemia.  It failed in that I did not become Wolverine.

9) Managed to stay compliant with Cimzia for a year, which for me is a victory because I sometimes like to go off my Crohn's medications.  Bad news is it's wearing off (probably because I've gone off and on the drug for the past 6 years because of pregnancies and being stubborn). I had to switch to 1 shot every 2 weeks rather than 2 shots once a month.  So far that strategy is working and maybe I'll get another year out of it.  Nobody knows and I'm not asking.

10)  I did not win the lottery.  I didn't play, either.  Suppose those 2 things are related.

11) The Cubs won the world-fucking-series!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

12) A close friend of mine with Crohn's had her 4th fistula surgery.  It worked but then at her follow up appointment with the surgeon they found another one.  Demonstrating just how cruel IBD can be.

13) In 23 days I'll have completed my 41st trip around the sun.  I'm alive.  The rest is secondary.

Happy 2017!

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