I had my first attack in 1969, following graduation from high school in Western Massachusetts. Unable to determine the source of my distress from X-rays, I underwent exploratory surgery. I was then informed that I had regional enteritis. It was a few years and several bouts later when I heard my condition described as Crohn’s. I protested that I was told I had regional enteritis. “Same thing,” said the physician.
Although I continued to have one or two attacks a year (more often than not, for some reason, in the fall), I had been advised that my condition did not warrant the treatments reserved for the most debilitating cases - massive doses of steroids, an enterotomy, and a colostomy bag. I was told to avoid stress and eating roughage. For over forty years I continued to endure an occasional night of agony. On the relatively rare times when it got so bad that I began to dehydrate, I’d repair to an Emergency Room, to have my fluids replenished via an I.V.
In 2007 I relocated to Shanghai, and my Crohn’s attacks appeared to abate. I wondered if that had anything to do with the changes in my diet, which consisted of much less meat, and a lot more fish and vegetables. But after a period of time the attacks resumed.
When I saw an advertisement posted by a Gastrointestinal Hospital for a free consultation, I decided to see what they had to say. After describing my condition, they offered to take a look, then and there. (Not free.) Laying fully clothed, on my side, on a gurney, they had me bite down on a small capsule that released a cinnamon sweet fluid. According to my friend who accompanied me, a minute later I was snoring.
They snaked a camera at the end of a long tube down my mouth and took pictures. When I woke up, they said, “We can fix this.” Not “watch your diet.” Not “avoid stress.” “We can fix this.”
They told me I had a small sac attached to my intestine that was filled with years’ worth of crap, which they would snip off. And by years they meant decades. How this had eluded American doctors boggled my mind. They prescribed a schedule of two different kinds of herbal medicines, and I made an appointment to return in a few weeks.
The surgery was accomplished in the same manner as the initial look-see, by a kind of Roto-Rooter. Post-op, I sat awhile in a large room with other patients until the anesthesia had worn off, and I was sent home. I was instructed to renew my prescription for a month’s worth of medicine, and that was that. Total cost, for the surgery and medicine combined - about $800.
Over the next three years or so, I felt, two or three times, the unmistakable abdominal discomfort that signaled the onset of a Crohn’s attack - which presently faded and failed to go nuclear.
For reasons unrelated to Crohn’s, I took up Transcendental Meditation, and since then, even the occasional discomfort appears to have become a thing of the past.
To quote Samuel Beckett, “Make sense who may.”