Gareth Gates - Anyone Of Us (Stupid Mistake)
‘I Made a Mistake’: What Can Happen When You Quit Crohn’s Treatment
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Cynthia Hymer always followed the rules. But in her mid-20s, she was fed up with her Crohn's disease and got a little rebellious.
"I got angry and was just done because I didn't want to be on medication anymore," says Hymer, now 52, of Boise, Idaho. She’d been battling Crohn's disease for about a decade, and for the first several years before being diagnosed, doctors told her that she simply needed more fiber to be more regular.
Once diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, Hymer had about 16 inches of bowel surgically removed and was put on a treatment plan that involved large doses of a corticosteroid medication. She hated the side effects — particularly the excessive weight gain. "I was just 16, at the height of insecurity in high school, and I just ballooned," Hymer says. "That was probably one of the reasons I just didn't want to take a lot of medicine." Another medication made her hair fall out. So she stopped taking them altogether.
At the time, Hymer didn't notice much difference. “Even though it may have been doing something in my intestines, I wasn't seeing it,” she says. “But there's still damage being done to your bowel and you don't know it — you think you're just managing your symptoms."
After the loss of a dear friend, Hymer’s Crohn’s disease started to flare and she decided to go back to a doctor to start treatment again. But by then the damage was done and she needed another surgery to remove more diseased bowel and scar tissue.
Without Treatment, Remission From Crohn’s Disease Is Rare
With proper treatment, nearly half of all people with Crohn's disease can achieve remission, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).
But going without medication and relying on lifestyle changes alone simply isn’t an effective treatment to help achieve remission, says Amar Naik, MD, a gastroenterologist at Loyola University Health System in Chicago who specializes in treating Crohn's disease. "Lifestyle changes work as a part of effective and successful Crohn’s disease treatment, primarily as an enhancement to medical treatment," Dr. Naik says.
While it’s impossible to control Crohn’s symptoms without medication, it doesn’t mean that you have to suffer through a treatment plan that isn't working for you. There are many medications that can help manage Crohn's disease, and several types of drugs that work differently to prevent infection, suppress inflammation, and control the immune system's response, according to the CCFA. Medications can help prevent Crohn’s disease flares and protect your body from further damage. Even if you're in remission, maintenance therapies are necessary to help you stay that way.
If you're struggling with your Crohn's disease treatment, seek support to help you with the challenges you face. "I think it’s a great idea to have social support from a friend, family member, or significant other to cope with the illness," says Raymond Cross, MD, director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and co-director of the Digestive Health Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. "It’s also important to have such a person accompany you to doctor visits when complex decisions need to be made, such as changes in treatment or procedures, particularly surgery."
Evaluate Why Crohn’s Disease Treatment Is Important
Today, Hymer has two children and she says they provide her with major motivation to stick to her Crohn's disease treatment plan, which requires about nine daily medications and regular injections of a biologic drug. She has fewer side effects and knows that she can't risk skipping her treatment regimen again.
"I can't afford not to care for my body," Hymer says. "You think, ‘What would happen if I'm not around?’ I don't want to be foolish."
Hymer understands that it's tempting for people struggling to control their Crohn's disease to just give up on their treatment plan. "I think these are normal, natural thoughts," she says. "The expense, the frustration of testing, the colonoscopies — you get tired of being poked and prodded. I get it.
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