Thursday, March 27, 2008

Food for thought for lunch

French Frank has pulled up a chair and joined us at our table. He’s about fifty, with a coiffured Gallic moustache and is about the same compact size and build I’d imagine Asterix to be, if Asterix were a real person. Neither I nor my lunch companion have met French Frank before. Until two minutes ago I had assumed French Frank’s was just the name of the cafĂ©. I hadn’t realised there was an actual French Frank. But there is, and right now he’s leaning into the table conspiratorially, lecturing us on how to run a business. I had ordered a jacket potato with tuna thinking it would come with a side salad. I wasn’t expecting complimentary business advice as well. As Frank expands on his pet theories my friend and I surreptitiously exchange quizzical looks. Frank begins to draw a diagram on a napkin to illustrate a particular point. Cue more quizzical looks. He draws a cliff, which falls away into a deep ravine, before rising again on the other side. It looks like the letter U. He then explains that when a business is in financial trouble, it’s like a man clinging onto the edge of the cliff, hanging on for dear life. That man will hold on for as long as humanly possibly, but he is only delaying the inevitable fall. Frank’s point is, rather than hang on for months or maybe even years, it’s far better to just let yourself fall to the bottom of the cliff straight away. The theory being the sooner you hit rock bottom, the sooner you can start to climb back up the other side. Like a clichĂ© French Frank shrugs his shoulders, as if to say ‘c’est simple, non?’ and leaves us to contemplate his genius. Seconds later he’s back behind the counter slicing a cucumber.

What has this got to do with ulcerative colitis? Well, Soraya left a comment yesterday about someone she met who has just been diagnosed with UC, but because he didn’t respond to any of the drugs, he had to have his bowel removed. Which is just awful. It isn’t all that uncommon though, because according to statistics about 25 to 40 percent of ulcerative colitis patients must eventually have their colons removed due to massive bleeding, severe illness, rupture of the colon, or risk of cancer. Now I don’t think my UC is so severe that I fall into that 25 to 40 per cent. I hope so anyway. But there are people out there who are unfortunately heading towards surgery. And perhaps they’ve been fighting against it for years. I’d do exactly the same in the circumstances. Which brings us back to French Frank’s man clinging onto the cliff. Rather than suffer years and years of pain, discomfort, disruption and debilitating illness, would it be perhaps better in the long run to have the op sooner? I sincerely don’t wish to be flippant, nor am I being deliberately controversial, but maybe Frank’s cliff analogy could also apply to some of us with ulcerative colitis? If the operation can rid us of our symptoms and give us back our old life, then it may well be wiser to let go of the cliff.

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 3.7

Yesterday was a funny old day. It got off to a promising enough start, because unusually I didn’t need to go to the loo as soon as I woke up. But then one or two things happened throughout the day, and it all went to pot after that. So for today’s WDOAT I’m going to go into a little more detail than usual. In the name of investigative blogging I’m going to fill in the blanks between my poos. I’m going to note what I was doing prior to each bowel movement in the hope it will provide some answers.
Wednesday 26th March:
For lunch I had spicy dumpling noodle soup from Itsu. Sprinkled over the top was a generous handful of sunflower seeds...
2pm Firmish stool, gassy
I receive a call from my mortgage broker. The mortgage provider wants to see all my tax returns. Urgently. I leave work early to retrieve the tax returns from the fire hazard that is my filing system...
4.15pm Firmish stool
England are about to kick off against France...
7.20pm Firmish stool, gassy

6 x Mesalazine 400mg
3 x Azathioprine 50mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg

Comments: So, what, if anything caused my day to go awry? Was it the lunch from Itsu with all those pesky sunflower seeds? (Remember what happened to Mr Litvinenko after dining at Itsu?) Or did I fall foul of the meddling mortgage company? And what about the prospect of watching another poor England performance, could that have got my tummy in a twist? What would Holmes do in a case like this? He’d get to the bottom of it, I’m sure.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I wonder

Sometimes, often late at night, as I lay in bed listening to the distant wail of police sirens, watching the helicopter search lights dance across my bedroom walls, I get to thinking about where I stand in the grand scheme of things. Not so much ‘why am I here?’ Although that is a very good question. But how bad is my ulcerative colitis? Compared to my fellow sufferers, I mean. Where do I sit in the UC league table? Riding high at the top, like a title contender, milling about somewhere in the middle, or clinging to the bottom? I’d like to put my situation into some sort of perspective. None of my doctors have ever said how severe or mild my disease is. In films doctors often say things like, “In 25 years of practicing medicine I have never come across a case as bad as yours, you’re a walking miracle. Would you mind keeping your trousers down while I fetch my colleagues. And a camera. Do you want me to get a priest while I’m at it?” But I haven’t got a clue. Not even an inkling. Out of 10, am I a 3 or a 6? So I was quite pleased when I came across this handy little guide on the worldwide web.

The severity of ulcerative colitis is determined by certain criteria. Ulcerative colitis can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe.

People who have mild ulcerative colitis may have:

Fewer than four stools per day.
No bleeding or a small amount of bleeding with stools.
Normal or mild elevation of erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR).

People who have mild ulcerative colitis do not have fever, rapid heartbeat, or anaemia.

People who have moderate ulcerative colitis have:
More than four stools per day.
Cramping abdominal pain and an urgent need to have a
bowel movement.
Mild elevation in erythrocyte sedimentation rate.

People who have severe ulcerative colitis usually:

Have more than six stools per day (constant loose stools).
Have frequent bleeding from the rectum.
Have fever, rapid heartbeat, and anaemia.
Have an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate.
Feel very ill.

Flare-ups can be so severe that they require hospitalization.

My question has been answered. Now I know exactly where I stand. According to these criteria I have mildly moderate severe ulcerative colitis. Depending on how things are going I could find myself at the top, middle or bottom of the UC league table. How very Manchester City. But at least now I have some sort of gauge. Now when I find myself listening to those police sirens and watching the search lights all I need to worry about is did I lock the front door?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Regular Ulcerative Colitis Poll One Person Voted Against, No.3

A scenario for you.
You’re about to start a new job.
A new job means new people.
New challenges.
New responsibilities.
New opportunities.
It’s a fresh start.
But it’s not just you that’s starting a new job.
Your old mucker UC is joining you too.
Because wherever you go, it goes.
And unfortunately that includes your new job.
So what are you going to do?
Do you tell your boss about your illness?
What about your new colleagues?
Do you tell them?
You’re a newbie.
You want to make a good first impression.
“Hi, I’m Martin and I shit for Britain, pleased to meet you.”
might not be the best introduction in the world.
So how do you handle it?
It’s a tough call.
But you’re going to have to deal with it sooner or later.
What would you do?
Over to the poll, then.

The Regular Ulcerative Colitis Poll One Person Voted Against, No.3

When do you tell your new work about your UC?

In your interview
As soon as you start
After your 3 month probationary period
Only when things become so bad you have to take time off

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 3.6

It's Thursday; slap bang in the middle of an average Wednesday and Good Friday.
Wednesday 19th March:
6.10am Loose stool
2.15pm Firmish stool
7pm Gassy, nothing much
10.20pm Firmish stool

6 x Mesalazine 400mg
3 x Azathioprine 50mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg

These spots on my back are doing my head in.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wishful thinking

Yesterday’s post about the state of the loos in the Irish pub reminded me of the signs in the toilets at my work, which say ‘Please leave these toilets as you’d wish to find them.’ Hmm, leave the toilets as you’d wish to find them. That could be a bit tricky, because I’d like to find them with heated toilet seats. And soundproofing wouldn’t go amiss. I’d like a library containing all the Asterix books. Air freshening that smells of freshly cut grass. A flatscreen telly in the back of the door showing Only Fools and Horses would be nice. Whatever bog roll the Queen uses. That’s bound to be good stuff. Royally strong, royally soft and royally very, very long. I’d also appreciate a Smythson notepad and a pack of Edding 55’s. My pen of choice. Only ever black ink. A telephone with an anti-echo gizmo, so whoever you’re talking to won’t know you’re sat on the bog. This bin would be a nice touch. In a nod to Brian Wilson, I’d like the whole cubicle built in a sand pit. With a scaled down planetarium ceiling. A voice activated locking device would be handy, so you don’t even touch the door handle. And if there has to be graffiti on the walls, let it be Banksy. That’s how I’d like to find the toilets. Is that too much to ask for?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

17th March

Ruddy nosed men jabber and joke and wink and swear. They have sprigs of green pinned to the stained lapels of their shapeless black suit jackets, which have long since parted company with the trousers they once matched. Worn beneath the jacket is the ubiquitous V-neck jumper or GAA jersey: the insignia of Wexford, Kilkenny, Clare, Limerick are just a few on show. I’m wedged between the bar and a gang of four hollering away in their mother tongue. One tufty-eared gent peels away to gobble down his boiled bacon and cabbage, washing it down with savage gulps of lager. Dennis Taylor is greeted with a boozy cheer as Irish sporting heroes of yesteryear flash up on the big screen. A large group of girls wearing green ‘Kiss Me’ t-shirts sit in front of the stage, breaking mid-sentence to fend off amorous advances from all-comers. One girl leans forward revealing a shimmering emerald thong rising patriotically from the arse of her jeans. With a final swig the band strike up and we all sing along to The Fields of Athenrye. Shoulder to shoulder we sway, which has as much to do with the Guinness as it does the music. If you hadn’t already guessed, it’s St Patrick’s Day. And I’m in an Irish pub in Finsbury Park. Just as I’m thinking about going to the toilet Belle of Belfast City jolts the dance floor to life. Draining my glass I weave my way through the kicking feet, past the unsmiling landlord keeping a watchful eye out for trouble at the end of the bar. My nose wrinkles the instant I step into the toilets. I push open the door to the cubicle. The toilet seat is down and liberally sprinkled in wee. As is the floor. I can only assume whoever is responsible was attempting to draw a shamrock in the toilet bowl. There’s no way I can use this toilet. The clean up operation required would be on a par with those after the floods of last year. I fear sandbags might be necessary. These Irish may know how to throw a good party, but they sure as hell can’t piss straight. I’m going to have to go home. I make my way back through the bar as the band begins to play Dirty Old Town. How appropriate I think to myself.

The Loodle Gallery

'Able Bodied, Self Centred'
Ink on Toilet Paper
70 x 110mm

Friday, March 14, 2008

The post about stress I did want to write

So, 59% of us believe stress definitely has an effect on our ulcerative colitis and a further 33% think it might have. And 9% thought it was a load of old codswallup. As a fence-sitting ‘maybe’ I’m genuinely surprised at those results. 59% is quite high. If 59%, 33% and 9% were the results of the ‘ask the audience’ lifeline in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, I’d be going with 59%, please Chris. But it’s not Who wants To Be A Millionaire and I’m not sitting opposite Mr Tizwas. I’m still sitting firmly on the fence. In my experience I can’t definitely say stress affects my UC. I’ll admit the first signs of my ulcerative colitis did coincide with a time of worry, upset and general grimness, but in the 2 and half years since I’d be hard pushed to say what makes my UC worse; whether that be stress, diet or naked trampolining. Maybe I haven’t lived with ulcerative colitis long enough yet to detect any trends? Or maybe nothing stressful has happened to me for a while. How do we define stress anyway? I guess it’s different for everyone. Obviously there are some situations that will cause us all stress; no matter how cool-headed we think we are. You know, the biggies, like death, divorce, debt and supporting Manchester City. Then you’ve got your everyday stresses, like work deadlines, commuting, money troubles, family hassles, kids, health, moving house, changing jobs and things like that. Unfortunately the list goes on and on. Now I’m not for one minute pretending to be some sort of Fonz-like character who saunters through life without a care in the world, but I’m no Woody Allen either. Some things bother me, but I don’t lay awake worrying at night, tossing and turning and getting myself all twisted up in my duvet. So I’m really interested in what kind of situations cause the stress that 59% of the voters in the poll think definitely affects their UC? Are we talking big life changing things or smaller things like making a speech or something? I guess what I’m asking is how much or how little stress does it take to make your UC worse?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 3.5

Wednesday is named after the Anglo-Saxon god Woden. The word diary comes from the Latin meaning ‘daily allowance’. And Thursday is derived from the Norse god Thor. So here is the decidedly Anglo-Saxon-Latin-Norse flavoured WDOAT.
Wednesday 12th March:
6am Firmish stool
9.20 am Firmish stool
1.15pm Firmish stool

6 x Mesalazine 400mg
3 x Azathioprine 50mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg

I only did one poo on Monday. Jealous?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The post about stress I didn’t want to write

This was going to be longer.

I was hoping to write about the results from the stress poll.

But work got busy.

And something had to give.

So this is going to be a little on the short side.

In a way it’s still about stress though.

Because one way of the ways we can manage stress is to prioritise things.

That’s one of the things it says here anyway.

Right, I’m off for a bubble bath.

Then bed.

And I’ll write the post about the stress poll when things aren’t so, well, stressful.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bath time

Recently I have rediscovered the joy of bubble baths. I am now what you might call a keen bubble bather. Of course, it being 2008 and not 1978, they’re no longer called bubble baths. I believe they’re called foaming baths now. Or herbal baths. There’s even the somewhat catholic sounding Plunge and Purify Bath Soak, if that floats your (toy) boat. And these days they all have exotic fragrances, like mango, coconut and papaya. Which I imagine is a bit like pouring a carton of Um Bongo into your bath. My bubble…sorry, foaming bath of choice goes by the name of Radox Stress Relief Herbal Bath. It contains rosemary, which apparently is renowned to relieve tension and restlessness and leaves you feeling calm and relaxed. The label boasts that it’s proven to reduce stress significantly better than a bath without Radox. How they qualify this I don’t know? For instance you could argue having a bath with Scarlett Johansson in it and no Radox might relieve a certain amount of tension. I think I can safely say that I’d step out of that bath with deep-seated feelings of inner happiness. Back to my stress busting Radox bubble bath. Also on the label is a bar chart. The tallest bar is blue and indicates ‘Tension level before a bath’; the second bar is two thirds the height of the blue bar and indicates ‘Tension level after an unfragranced bath’; then the last bar is smaller still, about half the height of the blue bar. This indicates ‘Tension level after a Radox Herbal Bath’. So Radox are claiming you’ll be 50% less stressed after one of their baths. That’s a pretty impressive statistic if it’s true. And with all this talk of how stress can play havoc with your UC, it’s something that definitely interests me. Which is why I’ve been sloshing the stuff into my bath every night for the last couple of weeks. And to think this time last year I used to relax by sloshing Guinness down my gullet. Oh, how times have changed.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Quick on the draw

If you ever find yourself in a public convenience and you’ve got a pen handy, but like me, you’ve been far too well brought up to ever graffiti a toilet wall* allow me to introduce the next best thing: loodles. Loodles are simply doodles you do whilst you poo. Consider a sheet of Andrex your canvas. It’s an opportunity to express yourself. To be creative whilst you crap. A chance to make a statement about life with ulcerative colitis. Some of the best art has been a result of suffering, after all. So if you’re a budding Botty-celli, why not send me your loodles and I’ll post them up. We can even have a Loodles Gallery. It could be a whole new art movement. Or maybe arse movement is more appropriate?

*Although I did once daub ‘MOSTLY I AM WRONG’ in 12-inch high letters across my office wall after a difference of opinion with the management of a company I was working for.

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 3.4

Did you know that every general election in the UK since 1935 has been held on a Thursday? There isn't a general election today, so we'll just have to make do with WDOAT instead. Here it is.
Wednesday 5th March:
6.05am Loose stool
2.50pm Firmish stool
7.30pm Firmish stool

6 x Mesalazine 400mg
3 x Azathioprine 50mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg

Boring stuff: I ache a bit/feel ancient, still got a load of spots on my back, shoulders and chest.