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My Journey: Overcoming C.Diff. & Fear

May 7, 2016

**Please know that I will be very open and vulnerable in this post. If you are not keen to reading about sickness and things that surround it, then please do yourself a favor and don’t read this.

**I am writing this in part to face my fear and let it be completely cut off.

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March 2015

Jason and I got engaged! Woohoo!!!

Due to some states’ law for STD testing as a pre-requisite to getting your marriage license, we decided to get tested (though we were both confident due to our abstinence thanks to the saving grace of God). (and we’re STD free in case you’re wondering now. I say that to avoid judging eyes^^)

Well, my test results came back telling me to come in for medicine for a bladder infection. That’s funny, I didn’t really have symptoms for a bladder infection. So, I went in and trusted the judgment of the doctor and the test results. Who wants a bladder infection? No one.

And that’s when it all started. With a round of antibiotics to clear-up a bladder infection. (An infection I would later realize I never had in the first place… faulty testing by the doctor. Don’t you love it when that happens?)

The “infection” didn’t go away and for some reason I started feeling like I had an infection.

Another round of antibiotics. That’s when the diarrhea started and the symptoms of a bladder infection really set in… burning, urge to pee every five minutes.

April 2015

Another round of antibiotics. Diarrhea continued. I assumed it was just normal from the antibiotics.

I later researched for myself and discovered that the particular antibiotic I was taking had a side effect that results in bladder infection symptoms (burning, urgency to pee). I sigh, knowing things would have been different had I not taken the doctor’s advice.

To be sure, he gave me another round of antibiotics. (Okay, this is getting ridiculous. And why I trusted the doctor? Oh right, because who else am I supposed to go to for professional, medical advice?)

At this point, I was beginning to be very concerned. I had gone to the regular physician at least four times. He referred me to a Urologist. I had to have a urine sample taken by a catheter. If you’ve ever had that done to you, you might know how scary it is!

I was researching and learning about bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. I tried talking to the doctor about it and he refused to listen. By my fourth visit he agreed to test for antibiotic resistance. Really? It took that long? Results proved it was not resistant. Finally, some good news. But, why was I still having symptoms? (Oh, right, it was from the antibiotics… but I didn’t know that at the time!)

Meanwhile, the diarrhea persisted.

I was reaching out to friends I knew who did natural remedies. I was reading up on all sorts of stuff.

At first subtle and then not so subtle, I had allowed fear to enter.

I have never been the fearful type. Pretty fearless actually. It comes with an adventurous spirit. Maybe I’ve struggled with fear of man. But that is an entirely different kind of fear than what I was dealing with now.

It started out as small, fleeting thoughts. Then it ended up in full blown-out anxiety attacks. Fear of death. (regardless of believing in an afterlife, I did not want to die of a bacterial infection). Fear that I had an antibiotic resistant bacteria causing an infection. Fear that I’d always have pain. Lots of fear. (This is the downward spiral of a melancholy temperament at it’s worst.)

Not only was fear subtly entering my life, but so was something so terrible I could not imagine.

 

May 2015

At this point, I was researching a lot. I did not know what was wrong. By now, I had successfully caused bacterial imbalance in all parts of my body from the antibiotics. I was living in some kind of nightmare.

Close to the end of the month, while preparing for Kindergarten Graduation, in one of my botch jobs to use self-remedies, I took a probiotic. Bad. Idea.

Over the course of a few days my stomach became extremely bloated. I came down with a swollen lymph node on the right side of my neck/ear region. I was not digesting properly and the diarrhea halted. Then I had stool with mucus in it. And strangely, it was sort of green. That had never happened to me before! I knew something was terribly wrong. I became nauseous from eating, and then I was overtaken with a fever and flu-like symptoms.

Tammi (my roommate of six years) pampered me during this time, making me chicken soup and buying me carbonated water. When the fever finally broke, I still had a swollen gut and lymph node.

At this point, I went to Severance Hospital. I had already spent 1,000s of dollars on doctors bills…what’s another visit?

Please do keep this in mind while reading… during this time, I was planning a wedding, across three time zones, teaching full time, and trying to enjoy my engagement.

Fear was stealing my joy. And the worst part: I let it. I fought. Oh I fought. And others fought for me and with me. I wept in Jason’s arms so many nights before we parted ways. I wept in my room. I wept with Tammi and Stephanie. They prayed for me, they counseled me, they hoped with me, they believed for me.

June 2015

I entered Severance Hospital with hesitation to trust doctors, but a desperation for a breakthrough and proper diagnosis.

The doctor was not fully believing me when I told her what was happening. (And previously I had one doctor tell me, “I’ve never heard of this so I cannot help you.”– well, that’s reassuring.) I was desperate so I wouldn’t leave until she took me seriously. I made her feel my swollen lymph node and made her examine my gut a third time.

She responded with hesitation, “I don’t think  you have this, but I’ll run a test just in case.” Well, that’s unsettlingly ambiguous.

Now, I was giving stool samples. Yay.

A few days passed. I received a phone call and email telling me to come to the hospital immediately. My principal graciously let me leave early.

The doctor referred me to a GI specialist. I met with her to discuss my results. Apparently I had Clostridium difficile. Also knows as C. Difficile or C.Diff. Or your worst nightmare.

Remember that “something so terrible I could not imagine” that had subtly begun that I mentioned earlier?

C. Diff. is what I was referring to.

The doctor told me that in order to get rid of this gut infection I had to get on antibiotics again. Hold your horses. What?! Again?! Everything in me wanted to throw the prescription in her face and tell her what her doctors in Korea had done to me already! Fear was rising up in me. Anger even! I was anxious. I was scared. I wanted to be home. I wanted a doctor who spoke English and had critical thinking skills! I wanted to be held. I wanted to know what this C.Diff. was.

My research ensued.

So what is it? 

Clostridium difficile.

Basically it’s a spore-producing, anaerobic bacteria that is found naturally in only 1-5% of people; however, it can be picked up anywhere. The spores lie dormant until they are ingested and then they can take over your gut. When they are active and overpopulated in your gut, they create an infection and release Toxin A and Toxin B (I have no idea what that means– except that it’s really bad for you). Your body responds by creating mucus and you get diarrhea, bloating, green stool, etc.  Many people get infected while in the hospital. It destroys your GI track and each year 15,000 to 30,000 people die from this infection. Yes, you read that correctly. This is not just some simple food poisoning. This is a disease that must be treated correctly and promptly.

Some strains of C. Diff. have become resistant to antibiotics. It’s becoming a much larger problem in hospitals. Because the spores can be anywhere it makes it more concerning.

Some C.Diff. survivors never have normal guts again. Some end up with IBS or Crohn’s or other awful gut issues.

I am thankful that I do not have any of those as a result.

I am hoping that this blog post will help increase awareness as it is still not well known.

For more information click here. 

So how do you get an infection? 

Good question. In my case, too many antibiotics killed off all of my good gut flora that normally keep C.Diff. at bay. When the good gut flora died off from the antibiotics, the C.Diff. took over and caused an infection.

How did I get it? 

No one can know for sure. I might have picked it up somewhere. I might have been a natural carrier of it. Who knows.

 

NY, NY, June 2015

I was in NY for a week training with the Writing Workshop Institute at Teacher’s College. PD that people dream of! And mind you, I had an amazing time and learned so much!

But I cannot cover up the fact that it was very difficult while I was finishing up my antibiotics and dealing with fear.

How did I recover? 

I reluctantly took the round of antibiotics. I took it for 2 weeks and stopped it a few days early because by this point my tongue had changed colors (yes, it really changed colors– apparently a side effect of this particularly strong antibiotic) and my stool was so messed up, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

My stomach was so gurgly and I could hardly eat anything without it going right through me. I reached out to my friends who are doctors and asked about my health. I continued researching.

Being in NY alone, aside from a few people I knew, was very tough. I so badly wanted those closest to me to be with me as I recovered.

At this point I had lost 18 pounds. These were not pre-wedding weight-loss pounds. These were pounds shed by my body simply because it was not absorbing anything. I was shakey. I was scared. I was afraid I was going to be another C.Diff. statistic.

When I was done with the round of antibiotics my digestion did not improve. I went to one of the emergency clinics (which is so convenient, professional, and helpful btw!) in order to have a stool sample to make sure I was C.Diff. free. (and…they don’t make you poo in your hand with a plastic glove like Korea! They provide a special seat to catch it! Just FYI).

I was C.Diff free! However, I was afraid of having a false negative result, as I heard that this happens sometimes. So, when I arrived in Boston and my digestion still was not better I went to another doctor and was tested again.

C.Diff Negative.

July 2015

And if that wasn’t enough, I went to a real GI doctor. But this is worth noting: it’s VERY difficult to get an appointment with specialists last minute. Almost impossible. Dr. Trey was booked all the way until August as well as most of the other GI specialists in the area.

However, Jason found an opening for me! One that worked with my schedule! It really was a miracle! This is when you can see God working behind the scenes.

When I went to see him, it was very cathartic. I literally cried the whole time as I told him everything that had happened in Korea. I told him specific antibiotics I had taken, my symptoms, everything imaginable. I told him my current symptoms. I told him I was getting married in one week. (and I didn’t even have a wedding dress that fit! But I honestly didn’t even care. I knew God would help me find the perfect dress– yet somehow had so much fear that God wouldn’t keep me alive…).

He was so gracious. He was professional. He was an expert.

He took some samples, ran many, many tests. And he even offered to do a colonoscopy before I left for Korea if results indicated that I needed that. Bless him.

Results were negative for everything. Praise. The. Lord.

So what now? 

Dr. Trey told me that it would take 6-8 weeks to gain my water weight back and up to 6 months for my gut to heal.

I am now at 9 months since I was C.Diff. free and I still have soft stool and there are certain things I cannot eat, but overall, I am doing so much better.

I have had two scares. In some cases–a very small percent of people– will have relapses. I have been holding on to fear that I would relapse.

I have especially been scared that I will have to take antibiotics in the future for some kind of infection and relapse. I am learning to trust God.

Since last July I’ve had two bouts of diarrhea and both times I freaked out. This last time, my very good friend, Lisa, told me, “Dyanne, God doesn’t want you to have fear and freak out every time you get diarrhea. It is normal to get it now and then you know. He’s letting you get it, so you can be tested and let go of this fear.”

Boom.

I have slowly been surrendering this fear and trusting God with my life. It is HIS after-all. Never have I ever had to deal with health issues like this before. And never had I ever had gut issues. I’ve always had a stomach of steel.

I have such a deeper sympathy for those who suffer with long-term health issues. I have been learning how susceptible I am to fear and just how desperate I am for God to grow my trust even deeper.

I am still healing and believing for my gut to heal 100%.

I am severing fear in my life.

I am letting God’s love conquer all fear.

If I can offer any advice: 

On the medical side of things:  do not take antibiotics unless you absolutely need them! And certainly don’t over-do it. I wish that I would have understood the danger of antibiotics and that I would have used my own judgement rather than just blindly trusting the doctor.

And regarding your heart:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

“Do not be afraid, only believe.” Mark 5:36

“May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” Psalm 29:11

Until you are in a situation where you have to trust, you can’t say how you will react. I would have thought that I would have trusted more. But I was so afraid. I am learning how to actively lay down my fears and to trust.

I am thankful that God is gracious. Throughout this journey, He has given me several symbolic dreams to confirm my healing and the severing of fear. He has given me loving support from close friends and family.

For some of you, this is new news. I am sorry if your feelings are hurt that you did not know. Because I was dealing with so much fear, I only wanted those closest to me to know. I did not want the fear of others to be creeping in as I battled with the fear. It was not meant to be selfish by not sharing– had it gotten very bad I would have shared with you.

This journey over the last year has been very hard to say the least. I still ask WHY? I still want to know why it had to happen to me…why it was during my engagement… In the end… I might not ever fully know. But I do know this, on the other side of my whys, I found the sweet presence of God who comforted me in every moment of fear and despair.

My heart goes out to those of you who are battling illness. Take heart in the one who cares for you. Take heart in the one who can heal you. Take heart in the one who can give you peace and cast out all fear. Take heart in the one who will walk through your pain with you.

In the end, our lives are not our own. When there is nothing left to hold on to, we have HIM to hold on to. And when we can’t, He will hold us. 

——————

This song helped me during this journey (along with many other songs I put on repeat during this season).

 

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mary Post permalink
    May 7, 2016 3:16 pm

    So happy you are better now! Love you Dyanne! Thanks for sharing!

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