A ‘flare up’ is the term I use to describe the periods of time when the ulcerative colitis symptoms kick in and I’m not going to the toilet normally. I’m not sure flare up is strictly speaking a medical term, but doctors seem to understand what I mean by it.
In the two years I’ve been suffering from ulcerative colitis I’ve had three flare ups. Of course I didn’t know my first flare up was a flare up. A flare up of what exactly? One day I was doing my business in the same old bog standard way, the next the toilet pan resembled a scene out of Psycho. Obviously I was slightly alarmed. Facing up to my new found problem like a true man I vowed to cut down on the Guinness and let nature take its course. After two weeks off the black stuff and still only red stuff in the toilet, I conceded to nature and finally took myself off to the doctors. The doctor asked me lots of questions, some of which I answered truthfully, some I didn’t (I told a bit of a white lie regarding my fondness for Guinness). The doctor then examined me. Rubber gloves were involved. I seem to remember ulcerative colitis being mentioned and something about Crohn’s Disease being bandied around all rather casually. I was sent on my merry way with a prescription for Mesalazine tablets and a referral to the gastroenterology department at the hospital. The tablets soon did the trick and everything was back to normal. All tickety boo. So tickety boo in fact, I didn’t even bother going to my appointment at the hospital. Why should I? After all, I was cured, wasn’t I? Wrong. About eight months later, right out of the blue, the water in the toilet was red again. Flare up number two. This time I went straight back to the doctor for the magic Mesalazine tablets and a stern ticking off for not keeping my appointment at the hospital. Again, the pills quickly cleared everything up and another date was arranged for me to see the gastroenterology doctor at the hospital. Taking things slightly more seriously this time I kept my appointment. The doctor asked me lots of questions, all of which I answered truthfully. I hadn’t lost any weight, it didn’t hurt when he poked me there, I didn’t feel tired and I hadn’t lost my appetite. Fit as a fiddle, really; strong as an ox, you could say. A strong ox that just so happened to poo blood from time to time. No big deal. Still, the doctor decided he’d like to stick a camera up my bum and have a nosey around anyway. An appointment was made with the Endoscopic Department and despite knowing full well some sort of camera device was going to be inserted into my anus remarkably I actually kept this appointment, too. The nurses said the procedure was going to be uncomfortable more than painful and reassured me that any time I wanted them to stop, they would. So with me apparently holding the reins the tube which housed the camera was slipped up inside me. I could watch its progress on a small colour monitor. It’s not everyday you see your guts on telly, so I was glued to the screen. I saw that the walls of my intestines were blotchy and red. This was ulcerative colitis apparently and the camera wormed its way through more angry blotchiness for a further 50cm before finding some nice healthy stomach lining. I cried ‘whoah boy’ at this point and just as the nurses had promised the camera came to a halt. On the return journey the camera stopped every now and again and I watched in near horror as a mini robotic claw reached out of the camera tube and tore a bit of flesh from my stomach lining. The nurses had failed to mention beforehand that they might be ripping chunks out of me, which thinking about it now, was really quite clever on their part. So, with a slightly sore tum I left the hospital kind of thinking I might have ulcerative colitis. Whatever that was? But as I wasn’t passing blood any more, I put the whole thing to the back of my mind in a box labelled ‘Weird Bum Experiences’, forgot about the whole ulcerative colitis business and got on with life normally. Until February this year, that is. That’s when my third flare up flared up. And this time it was a bit different.