Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Review of the Year

That, then, was 2007. A year of ups and downs, mostly, it has to be said, for my trousers.

Little did I know what awaited me just around the corner. If I had known, I may well have concentrated all my efforts on inventing a time machine, and whenever 1st February approached I would set the dials for 1st January 2007, and forever live in that peaceful, illness free month.

The Return of the Blood, Part III. I assumed everything would sort itself out in a couple of weeks just as it had on the two previous occasions. It didn’t. But up my sleeve I had a secret plan of attack that couldn’t possibly fail; I would ignore the problem until it went away. Oh, the naivety.

For my birthday I had a trip to New York planned, and not wishing to take my ulcerative colitis along as a traveling companion, I finally went to the doctor. So, armed with mesalazine I looked forward to a Guinness or two on St Patrick’s Day in NYC. I had my Guinness, but I also had a mouth full of ulcers, night sweats, crippling fatigue and the usual bloodbath in the bathroom. It was starting to feel like I was fighting a losing battle.

The month the full force of my Flare Up rode into Tum Town looking for trouble; all outlawish swagger, lock-up-your-daughters menace and tobacco chewing bravado. I shat meself I really did, both metaphorically and literally. Mr Bottom was starting to get a little too acquainted with Mr Toilet-Seat. They met up about 10 times a day, with Mr Bottom doing most of the talking. Meanwhile I ping-ponged back and forth between doctors, growing weaker and more frustrated with each visit. I ended April in hospital.

The NHS released me back into the wild, or as the London A – Z prefers to call it, Walthamstow. Looking back now it seems crazy that no one really sat me down and gave me the UC version of the ‘Birds and the Bees’. I was as much in the dark about ulcerative colitis as ever. Google to the rescue, I started to piece together the jigsaw and a picture emerged of what life with this disease might be like. It was odd to think of myself as someone with a chronic illness. Arrogantly I had always considered myself a bit too rock and roll, windswept and interesting for something as mundane as a long-term health problem. Turns out I was wrong. (And according to my girlfriend I’m deluding myself about the rock and roll, windswept and interesting bit, too.) Ego firmly in check, I began making a record of my daily doings. I find there’s nothing more grounding than writing down how many times a day you do a poo.

Back to work, but otherwise living life at a pace more suited to a remote Scottish island than London. Even the smallest of tasks sapped my energy. I became the local mini-cab firm’s number 1 customer. Life was little more than work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep. On a positive note, I was making fewer trips to the toilet, but I was also making fewer trips anywhere. I made Howard Hughes look positively sociable. Boring, boring, boring.

Messing about on my computer one night, and without really thinking about the consequences, I lost my blogging virginity. The name of my blog was the first thing that came into my head; I thought I might change it to something wittier at a later date. Clearly that never happened. I had no grand plan, other than I was going to write about my life with ulcerative colitis and just in case anyone were ever to read it, I should probably try my best to be honest.

Coming off prednisolone was my goal. As my pred intake reduced, my visits to the bathroom increased. It became clear the drugs merely kept the symptoms in check. I had to come to terms with the fact that I might be dependent on medication for quite some time to come. Things pottered along and popping pills became as much part of every day life as brushing my teeth and cursing London Underground.

My girlfriend and I took a 2 week holiday in the Italian countryside. My ulcerative colitis tagged along for the ride, but pretty much kept a low profile and didn’t spoil a single sun-blessed moment. I had my first beers in 5 months, though I rationed myself to 2 a day. We swam and walked and read and listened to music and ate nice food, and I think all 3 of us thoroughly enjoyed our break. Unfortunately my UC decided after much deliberation, that nice though Italy was, it’d prefer to return home with us.

I tried and failed to come off the prednisolone. I think it was my 2nd or 3rd attempt. I had hoped that if ever I were to become addicted to drugs it would be something marvelously decadent, literary and mysterious, like opium, administered by a snaggle-toothed Chinaman called Ming, but no, I get my fix from a grandfatherly man in a white coat on the High Street. Pete Doherty I am not.

I’m not saying the doctors have chucked pills at me willy-nilly, but at times their eagerness to dish out new tablets has been a bit billy-nilly, willy-nilly’s slightly less slap dash cousin. And so it was I came to be prescribed azathioprine. Only time will tell if it’s a success, but if nothing else I’ve learnt a new word.

The season to eat, drink and be merry. Throwing caution to the wind I have indulged a little in the festivities, resulting in, rather appropriately, quite a lot of wind. Though I somehow doubt I’m the only one trumping profusely at this time of year. So, it’s been a funny old 12 months, really. My body has had me reeling at times, on the ropes I was, bewildered and befuddled and bloodied. But despite all the pain, confusion, worry and stress, I wouldn’t say it was a shit year per se. A year of much shitting, granted, but there have been many positives too. I no longer abuse my body in such wanton fashion, I’m far more respectful about what I put inside myself, and without wishing to get all evangelical and ‘born again’, ulcerative colitis has made me reevaluate my life. I have a better understanding of what’s important to me than I did this time last year. (Don’t tell anyone, but I think I might have grown up a bit.) And finally, without my UC I would never have started this blog. I’m quite proud of the fact I’ve written something like 27,000 words, mostly about poo. Before Christmas, I got speaking to someone who has written and published a book, and thinking he might have some advice that might help me write this blog, I asked him if he had any tips. He said the most important thing is to edit ruthlessly and cut out all the crap. I thought, that’s alright for you to say, mate, but if I cut out all the crap there’ll be bugger all left.

Happy New Year from Switzerland.