It started around 10 years ago.
I remember being in my friend’s bedroom, when I started having this agonising pain rip through my abdomen like I had just been run over by a 10 tonne lorry. I was doubled up in pain on her bedroom floor, to which the pain then subsided enough for me to get myself home.
Dad was in the kitchen cooking, Mum and Sam (sister) were both at work. Becoming increasingly worried I made myself an emergency doctors appointment and off I went.
The doctor examined me, and quickly determined that my appendix was about to burst and I should probably go to A&E to get it whipped out, and sharpish.
Off I went home, casually ate my dinner whilst speaking to Dad, to which I stated, “Oh by the way, the doctor said I need to go to hospital as I have appendicitis and need it taking out.” I was promptly put in the car and taken to Basingstoke A&E.
Fast forward to the hospital, there I was, sat in my flattering hospital gown discussing with the doctor what was happening. I needed my appendix out and they wanted to do it as soon as I said yes. Well, I was 14, just been told how serious an appendix bursting could be, with a doctor telling me how he was going to slice me open. Pushing me for an answer, the only words that fell from my mouth were, “I’m not going anywhere until my Mum is here!”
With Dad flapping, telling me to just go and get it done, me being a stubborn 14-year-old, and the doctor getting an increasingly worried look on his face, Mum bowled through the door. As any hardcore, grown up 14 year old is, I naturally burst into tears, but now tell them I was ready. Slung on the bed, cannula in and to sleep I went.
The only thing I remember after waking up from the anaesthetic is that I was opposite another lad the same age as me who had broken his arm. He had it in a plaster and had it strapped up to a pole to keep it upright. Out of nowhere the pole collapses and this lads broken arm hits the metal bed rail. I can still hear the screams now…
Fast forward 3 weeks. Stitches dissolved, appendix free, but the pain persisted. I went back to my GP, who said it was nothing more than phantom pain and it should subside within a week or two. If only that were the case.
Constant trips back and forth to the GP over the next 9 years, to be told it was nothing. It was what I was eating. It was growing pains. I was a liar.
Here I was, in constant pain, with a medical professional telling me I was a liar and I was doing it for attention. ‘Patient presenting with persistent abdominal pain, no obvious symptom, malingering’. That is what it read on my consult notes. Malingering. An attention seeker. I only wanted to know what was causing my stomach to feel like it was being ripped from my torso.
December 2015, change of GP, finally a referral onto someone to look into this. Investigation, tests and consultations. Booked in for a colonoscopy on 13th January 2016. Procedure took 15 minutes. Just 15 minutes to see what was causing me all this pain.
I was asked to wait in the waiting room after the procedure so the doctor could speak to me about what he had found. Thinking he was going to say there was nothing there, but nothing could have prepared me for what he was about to say.
“You have Crohns Disease.”
My world shattered. All I could think of was the constant pain I’d be in, operations, colostomy bags etc. The rest of that conversation is a blur.
I remember calling my Mum with the diagnosis, but I couldn’t talk. No matter how hard I tried to get the words to leave my mouth, they wouldn’t go. Darren took the phone and told Mum what they had found. I cant remember what she had said to him, more than likely words of comfort that fell flat when they came up against my anguish.
We travelled back to Bournemouth. Life returned to the way it was. Apart from one thing. I had a new friend. An entity. A demon living on my shoulder 24/7.
Words by Jack Sawyer