Corrie + Colitis | The Journey Continues

Those of you who know my family and/or have been reading this blog for a while are aware that my youngest sister, Corrie, has spent the past 6+ months with major health issues: going in and out of the hospital for extended periods of time, constantly having scans and scopes and all other sorts of tests, and dealing with almost every possible medical complication along the way. We haven't shared every single update during that time, simply because that would've meant about 4893 updates that all seem to contradict each other.

Corrie's condition and the doctors' opinions are constantly changing, and the latest developments in her case are bound to be old news in 24 hours. It would be crazy to drag everyone along on the seemingly never-ending roller coaster of "this is the diagnosis and the treatment" immediately followed by "just kidding, this is the diagnosis and the treatment." BUT (cross your fingers), things seem to be rather stable at the moment. In fact, there haven't been any changes to the current situation in four days, which might just be a record.

Everyone loves a good lull on a roller coaster after six months of whiplash-inducing ups and downs.

Ulcerative colitis is incredibly similar to Crohn's disease. (Colitis affects just the colon, while Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive tract... including the colon.) There isn't a simple test to confirm the diagnosis; instead, a team of people with medical degrees analyze each case and make a determination. Of course, if problems persist in areas other than the colon, it's easy to rule out colitis and diagnose a patient with Crohn's. However, if the problems persist only in the colon (like in Corrie's case), making a diagnosis is more difficult, since it could still be either one.

With me so far?

There were aspects of Corrie's condition that pointed to colitis, aspects of her condition that pointed to Crohn's, and aspects of her condition that could go either way. After removing her colon (and appendix) last September, the doctors made the decision to go with colitis. Since colitis only affects the colon and Corrie had her colon removed... a diagnosis of colitis meant that Corrie was essentially "cured." (There is no cure for Crohn's disease... only the possibility of remission with treatment/medication.) Of course there was still a long road to recovery, but colitis meant she wouldn't have to deal with hospitals and medication for the rest of her life.

While recovering from surgery last fall, Corrie developed a few infection-filled abscesses in her abdomen. Most individuals with medical knowledge say that this is rather common after major abdominal surgery, and if it weren't for those abscesses, Corrie wouldn't have still been in the hospital when she coded, so we'll file that under "blessing in disguise." Corrie had a few drains inserted into her abdomen to remove the infection and was well on her way to recovery when she was discharged from the hospital last October.

However, the abscesses returned the day after Christmas and Corrie spent the end of December and first week of January back in the hospital. There was a very small chance the initial abscesses were never 100% cleared up and just got reinfected. However, the doctors felt there was a much better chance that the abscesses were a result of inflammation or even a small tear in her small intestine... which led them to consider the possibility of a Crohn's diagnosis.

Still with me?

Crohn's meant long-term medication. Crohn's meant surgery to turn a temporary ostomy into a permanent ostomy. Crohn's meant the disease that took my sister's colon was attacking (and would continue to attack) other parts of her digestive tract. Crohn's meant my almost-19-year-old sister would deal with more complications and hospital trips during future flare-ups for the rest of her life.

And most of the doctors were pretty convinced that Crohn's disease was the new diagnosis.

Nothing could be definite, however, until the abscesses were completely cleared up and the doctors could perform another scan. If the scan showed any fluid or inflammation (or tears) in her small intestines, Corrie would be diagnosed with Crohn's. So the wait began. And finally, this past week, Corrie went in for her scan, determined to prove all the doctors wrong...

...and she did!

celebratory ice cream & brownie after receiving the no-Crohn's diagnosis (!) and Paul the Snowman who also lost his colon and proudly shows off his ostomy, because my sister is the greatest person ever like that

Corrie's scan showed that her small intestines are 100% clear - absolutely no fluid or inflammation to be found. The doctors have told us that it is impossible to have Crohn's with such a perfectly clear scan, so (in their words) Corrie either (1) had ulcerative colitis all along and the most recent abscesses were just a bizarre complication from her surgery more than three months prior, or (2) she is a picture of the power of prayer, because she actually did have Crohn's and simply doesn't anymore.

Either way, this means that Corrie will have surgery in May to "reverse" everything! The doctors will take a portion of her small intestine and form it into a pouch, and that portion of her small intestine will function as (and actually begin to take on characteristics of) her colon. This entire procedure will allow her digestive tract to work normally, and we'll all say goodbye to her ostomy.

Thank you to everyone who has asked about Corrie and prayed for my family during this time. As always, there's still a long way to go, but we're excited to celebrate such good news with all of you :)