I was born prematurely at 15 weeks gestation. Because of this, many doctors refer to me as being “undercooked”. I was not in my mummys belly for long enough to grow and receive all the vital nutrients that a full term baby does. So when I started to complain of stomach and bowel pain as a little girl, the doctor nodded at me and gave me different liquid medicines and powers to treat my constipation. The doctor said that I was okay and it was due to my prematurity. For some time the medicines did work and there actually became a time where I used it only as required.
A few years later around the age of 12, I began having episodes of stomach pain that were so bad I had to take days off of school. My bowel episodes would fluctuate between constipation and diarrhoea. As this was only short little stints of pain, my parents thought it may have been a stomach bug. Kept in the back of their minds, my parents monitored these episodes. Around the age of 14, these episodes began increasing in frequency and were also making me feel nauseous where I would actually vomit at times. I would also feel tired constantly. So back to the doctors we went. The doctor said that I was okay and it was due to my prematurity. We left feeling confused and concerned. Quickly after that appointment, my mum became frustrated with the answer we were given. So back to the doctor we went. I remember my mum sat down in the room and said straight to my doctor, “I must be killing my daughter with the food I am feeding her. This doesn’t seem right and I want tests done, we need a better answer”. My doctor was shocked. I was shocked. I remember feeling so sad at that time – being 14 and not having energy to run around with my friends and having stomach pain that none of my friends understood truly felt so isolating. My doctor listened and sent off a bunch of blood tests and scheduled me for multiple allergy and intolerance tests. We managed to find out that I was lactose, fructose and sucrose intolerant. Excellent! I had an answer. My parents and I were sent to a dietician to try out different diets and meal plans that steered clear of my intolerances. This worked for a period of time until my symptoms came back. I was booked in for an endoscopy and colonoscopy at the age of 16. It became evident that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Wooh! I had another answer. At this point, I did a truck load of research about IBS and it did fit to how I was feeling at the time. I became really conscious of my diet and understanding my body’s limits to different foods. At times, I would have discomfort and pain but nothing that was unmanageable. Thankfully, this worked for years!
Unfortunately at the age of 22, my symptoms returned angrier than ever. I was having constipation at times but the diarrhoea was bad. The urgency to go, the frequency and the bad smell was concerning. I would wake up in the middle of the night with severe bloating and excruciating pain which brought me to literal tears. I felt nauseous to the point where I wouldn’t want to eat. I was bed ridden with lethargy, pain and discomfort for days. It was concerning but it soon passed and I continued on. It then happened again whilst I was at work. I was standing up crouching over in such severe stomach pain that I felt I couldn’t breathe. I managed to get through the shift and drove home. I stepped out of my car at home and I uncontrollably vomited everywhere. I stumbled inside, showered and went to bed. Trying to sleep was horrible, my stomach was so bloated I couldn’t get comfortable despite the position I layed. The next day there was no improvement and my mum was so concerned that we went to the emergency department (ED). They gave me some IV fluids, sent some bloods and did an abdominal ultrasound which showed nothing. The doctor said that I was okay and it was due to my IBS. I knew this was not normal, in fact it was a joke. This wasn’t IBS and this wasn’t due to my prematurity. Sadly I was sent home and told to rest. After a few days I was better and I continued on. Of course, not long after I fell into a heap with my symptoms returning with vengeance. This was a continual cycle and I began feeling extremely worried with what my body was doing to me. I prayed for an answer. I called up a new doctor I had heard good things about and we had a chat over the phone. I explained my symptoms, my multiple admissions to hospital and my history over the years. The doctor was very concerned, she looked back on all my results and was alarmed that I was deficient in many vitamins and my inflammation levels in my blood was high – higher than normal. The doctor didn’t even have to see me physically to know that I was sick. I was referred to see a gastroenterologist immediately.
So off I went…