In a world where most people only speak about the “good”, it can sometimes make you feel alone when you’re experiencing the “bad”, abnormal, weird, and scary things within your natural body. I know I have felt alone and questioned, thinking that I was the only one to had ever experience these things. One morning, in 2008, I woke up to a strange, shiny, hard circle on my left bicep. Scared and alarmed, I went straight to my mom. Neither of us had ever seen anything like it so I went to a dermatologist and got a biopsy, where they cut a piece out, and tested the skin to see what it was. They found out it was rare skin disease called granuloma annulare and told me it would go away within three years. Here I am, in 2018, with the same circle on my left bicep along with many more now, but all over my body. But on the bright side it doesn’t give me any trouble, just a lot of questions from the public eye that I have no answers for, because they remain unanswered for myself. I’ve had them for so long now, that although at times I wish they weren’t there, I also almost can’t imagine myself without them. They are like a part of me that makes me who I am; and in addition to that, what’s the fun in having normal skin anyway?
That’s not where it ends for my bizarre health conditions though, and this one I feel far less comfortable sharing, so let me warn you now… It will get graphic and it won’t exactly be appealing, but I am sharing this in hopes of comforting others that may be able to relate. A little over a year ago in November of 2016, I began having rare experiences. I started noticing blood in my stool, and a couple weeks after the first appearance, I woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating stomach pain and immediately started vomiting. Taken that I had been embarrassed, this was the first time I mentioned the blood to anyone. I went to the doctors the next day and was told it was hemorrhoids. So I continued my life, semi-normal. I kept having blood in my stool, as my conditions progressively worsened. I started having uncontrollable bowel movements, where I would have to carry a second pair of clothes with me, times when I was so close to the restroom but not close enough, and times I was incapable of going to the gym, afraid I would have an accident during one of my tumbling passes. I went on like this for months without saying a word to anyone, terrified of not knowing when it would happen again. I also had a really hard time using public restrooms, (which because of my urgency, is not really an option for me anymore), since I found that most of my bowel movements contained loud gas and had completely changed consistency. The intolerable stomach pain hadn’t appeared in a few months, so I kept hoping all my problems would soon go away. However, right after the school year ended, when I had only a few hours to move all my stuff out of the dorms and catch a flight, the pain came back full force. It felt like someone was stabbing my stomach and I couldn’t stop vomiting. At this point, I knew something was significantly worse than I had previously thought. I knew I needed to find a real solution and finally scheduled a colonoscopy. Scared and mortified, I did what most people would do, and searched the internet for a possible diagnosis. I found that I had all of the symptoms pertaining to colon cancer. I immediately broke down into tears and entered a world of confusion and silence. After testing, the results came back as ulcerative colitis. This is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. From there I had to figure out how to adjust to my new “normal”. (the right picture shows the blood in the deep corner and the inflammation lining my digestive tract)
While organizing my thoughts for this post, I had a conversation about what “normal” is with my coach, Chris. He explained to me that normal to him is experiencing the different emotions that come with specific events in our life and learning how to adapt to them. That is exactly what I had to do. Of course at times I found it mentally difficult to grasp the fact that one second, I could have a completely normal stomach, and the next, a completely destroyed one. Yet, I have learned to enjoy the process and learned more about how to make my stomach–and therefore body–the best it can be. I still have flare ups that have made it undeniably clear how much stress affects the stomach. And while experiencing all of this, I had an extremely difficult time retaining food, which resulted in a decent amount of weight loss this past year. This weight loss was so evident that I had plenty of people commented on it, saying how good I looked and how skinny I was, which should be a compliment, right? But I guess everything comes at a price. There is no normal, we just don’t talk about the abnormal. We are all experiencing something, it’s just a matter of looking beneath the surface. You are not alone.
13 Replies to “Living Normal Abnormally”
thanks for this
Oh Kate! You are so unbelievably strong in every single way possible! You are beautiful inside and out and don’t let anyone ever tell you any different. You should not be ashamed of these conditions. Besides, they just make you stronger and more beautiful than you already are! Keep doing you and don’t change for anyone! Love you Kate! ?
Have courage and be brave love. Last year my lung collapsed due to pneumonia and I felt that I had lost any chance I had in pursuing my career as a Firefighter Paramedic. At one point, i thought i was dying.All I could say to my self was to have courage and be brave. Fast forward 6 months, I’ve made a recovery in what felt like a lifetime. From not being able to breathe, depending on daily medication and treatments to now having normal blood pressure, breathing under control and finally being healthy both mentally and physically. Thank you, for being brave and sharing your story, stay golden. I believe in you.
Normal is just a setting on the dryer. (Erma Bombeck)
Thank you for sharing this. I admire your strength! You are sending an important and much needed message. Indeed, you are not alone and there is no normal.
I’ve been a fan of you ever since I saw you do a full on beam years ago. And now I have a whole new respect for you. Thank you for sharing this. I know it couldnt have been easy, but it will help many people gather courage to help themselves. I know what its like to have chronic illnesses, and i hope you’re proud of yourself for fighting for a diagnosis and taking action to be better (while being a student athlete, nonetheless). It’s scary, but worth it.
I wish you good health and all the best, and will be rooting for you next season.
I’m in tears as I compose this reply. It’s so difficult to verbalize this, even after having written a book about the experience (Grip, (my name is Adex)) but I completely relate to having to adapt to a “new normal”. I was once 512 lbs and after the initial weight loss, I was hurt to learn that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy having a flat stomach or “normal” body. You see… Everyone encourages and berates one to lose weight, but no one tells you about the loose skin. To this day I have to deal with loose skin that it almost discourages to even maintain the weight I’m at. So, thank you. Thank you so much to reminding me that my normal is mine, and no one else’s. It’s hard to keep that at the forefront as opposed to doing the easy – dwelling on the negative. You’re such an inspiration.
Your posts are very inspiring, and your courage is to be admired. I was inspired by finding and reading your blog which I found through your Instagram account. Thank you for being a strong voice.
I have learned some knowlege which I think could empower you and your support circle in managing your condition. Many of these things were verified by a trusted medical professional I see, who is also a former foreign neurosurgeon whose knowledge of non North American medicine included some really eye opening knowledge granting me a greater understanding about management of inflammatory bowl diseases such as ulcerative colitis. I trust in his knowledge because my father, who suffers from IBS and MS, regularly follows the principles he outlined and his health has been the best it can be for a long time. I also have a friend who perseveres through ulcerative colitis.
I’ve learned that both knowlege and happiness are rare in that when they are shared with others, they are doubled. So if you find learning more about your condition to be empowering, it would be my pleasure to share and I would encourage you to contact me by email.
I know this one you tuber named Hannah Wilton who has had ulcerative colitis and she would be a very good person to watch/reach out to for advice on the whole process!
I experience a very similar condition to colitis and for a very long time was also embarassed and ashamed to talk about it. I’ve never heard anyone in the public eye speak about it so thank you so much for being so open about it! I really admire you and how open you have been about talking about your struggles.
Thank you ❤️
I admire your honesty, writing, skill.
Be healthy, love, live.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis about 8 years ago. Luckily at this point in my life I feel in control more often then not, but I have struggled for so long figuring out what my normal is. I really admire your strength not only in sharing this but your perseverance in gymnastics and training while managing your symptoms and fatigue. ❤️
You really are very inspiring. On the floor you always manage to smile proudly and cheer up the whole crowd like magic. But if any of us were in your shoes we’d only be able to manage a grin just to keep people from asking. You are more than normal, Kate. You are super and extraordinary for everything you are.
Keep inspiring and keep on fighting, for all of us.❤