My Invisalign Journey (2): Consultation and First Appointment

If you haven’t already done so, read my first post about my Invisalign journey here!

So now that I had my consultation scheduled, I was really pumped. Normally the consultation would be free, which is great. However, mine was $75 since I did not have a panoramic X-ray of my mouth taken within the past year (or ever).

So when I walked in for my consultation, I met the technician (let’s call her Dee seeing as I don’t know how cool it would be to actually use names other than Dr. Jacquie. And Holliday.) that I had corresponded with over email and phone, and she was just as pleasant in person. I learned that she was planning her wedding for next September, so we bonded over that; we talked about planning and dresses and all that good stuff. She took my panoramic X-ray and then brought Dr. Jacquie to see me.

Now I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about Dr. Jacquie. Although all of the press about her was great, I was unsure as to whether she would be some fake and impersonal woman. I mean, who knows? Maybe she let the fame (she was featured on The Tyra Banks Show) and recognition (she’s an Elite Preferred Provider and in the top 1% of North American providers) get to her head.

But I was pleasantly proved wrong! The moment she walked into the room, she said she was glad to finally meet me, congratulated me on my engagement, and she was completely genuine! And she had a great smile herself.

Plus, she used creamsicle flavored gloves when she felt around my teeth and gums. Bonus!

She said that I had great teeth, my X-ray looked perfect, and they were going to not only straighten my teeth, but I had a pretty bad overbite. “You hide it well because your front top teeth are pushed back, so there isn’t the obvious gap between the top and bottom teeth.” She said it almost as a compliment…I was tempted to say ‘thank you.’ I mentioned that I had jaw pain and clicking a lot and she said that my bad bite is most likely the reason. Well, cool.

But I guess it could be worse. I could look like this dog with a crazy overbite.

So overall, my treatment would be 18 months; the first 6 months were mostly just to straighten and align my teeth. She said that they would be beautifully straight for my wedding in August! Then the last 12 months were going to focus on fixing my bite. She even explained to me how my bite had formed so unevenly using one of the fake sets of top and bottom teeth in her office. She was very clear and thorough about it and how the treatment would fix this.

Now, ironically, to fix my bite, she told me I would have to wear rubberbands connecting my top and bottom jaws. I have to say, I’m not as excited about the rubberbands as I might have been say back in middle school. I wonder if they make glow-in-the-dark ones…

They went over the price once my treatment plan was explained, including overall price and monthly payments. Now obviously everyone’s treatment cost is different based upon the length of time and necessary work. My whole treatment was going to be $7500 because of the extensive amount of time with my jaw needing fixing. They could just straighten my teeth, but without the bite alignment, the teeth wouldn’t sit correctly and this would compromise how straight my teeth would be in the end and could ultimately make my jaw pain worse.

She also said that since I was getting married, they would include a whitening treatment so that my teeth looked extra gorgeous for my wedding. And, they were going to give me an extra set of my last aligners so that I didn’t have to buy a whole separate set of retainers at the end of my treatment. Great!

I didn’t make the decision to go ahead right then and there; I wanted to talk it over with Tom before I just said, “Yeah, I’ll spend $7500 on myself.” They told me it was fine, that I could just call them after I had made the decision. So Tom and I talked and agreed that it would be worth the investment. I called the office right away and scheduled an appointment to create my aligners.

Fast forward one week to my first official appointment. Dee brought me into another room this time with a large computer-like contraption. This machine was going to take pictures of my teeth from all angles and create a 3D image of them. From these 3D images, Dr. Jacquie would determine how each tooth needed to be shifted, and how my bite would be fixed. The aligners would then be made using these images. (This picture is not mine, but that is the machine and how the images look during the procedure.)

How cool is that?! The procedure was a bit uncomfortable for a few reasons. First, it blows out cool air the entire time to prevent the camera from fogging up, so it dries your mouth out like crazy. Plus, I have some sensitive parts of my teeth and gums, so there were times when I wanted to cry out in pain because the cool air was killing me. Finally, your mouth has to be open uncomfortably wide for an extended period of time while they get every angle of every tooth. The molars were a killer to get good pictures of.

But it was cool seeing my two sets of teeth as 3D images on the screen when she was finished. It was annoying because they looked even more crooked and uneven without my skin to cover them up. But then again, they will be straight and pretty soon enough; that’s why I was there!

She then took a bunch of pictures of my teeth and bite with an old-fashioned (old-fashioned in comparison to the large contraption I just had prodding my mouth) digital camera. I assume those will be the “before” shots for the before-and-after pictures. I can’t wait to see how much my teeth change! 

Dee said that it would take anywhere from 3-6 weeks to get the first three sets of aligners, but as soon as they arrived they would call me and get me an appointment so I could start my treatment ASAP.

Next post will talk about getting my aligners; I’ll include the actual 3D images of my teeth, too! Get excited! I know I am!

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My Dream Wedding (Literally)

So I had a very vivid and clear dream last night. It was about my wedding. And it was not something I would hope will happen on the real day…

I got in the car and the policewoman said, “I’m going back to the station, do you want a ride?”

I don’t know whose cat I was holding in my lap, but it was trying its hardest to get out of my grasp. I glanced at the clock on the dashboard of the cop car.

1:35. My wedding was at 2. “I better not seeing as I am supposed to get married in 25 minutes.” I was surprisingly calm despite the fact that I had less than half an hour before my wedding was scheduled to start.

I exited the car, let the cat go, and was on my way. Luckily I was already at my venue, so there wasn’t any travel time to worry about. No one ever gets married on time, so it won’t be terrible if we start a bit late.

When I got to the bridal suite, which was more like a wooden canopy that would double as the altar, two of my bridesmaids were waiting for me. They were going to style my hair, except I remembered I hadn’t had a chance to shower yet and I’m pretty sure I had worked out earlier, so my hair was in need of more than just a curling iron and hairspray.

“I was hoping to at least use some dry shampoo,” I said. But there was none available, so I just had to deal with what they were able to do.

The next thing I knew, there was a golf caddy letting us know that it was tee-time. Tom and his groomsmen had planned a golf outing before the wedding. Shouldn’t they have done that much earlier? Maybe it was busy and it had to be pushed back? Hmm, I hope they play quickly and are back in time for the ceremony.

The masseuse/makeup artist then came by to my “suite”; he seemed very fabulous, although his face was kind of scary. He went over the pricing of the treatments he suggested for me, put some foundation on my face, and was quickly on his way elsewhere.

Well I guess today is all about simplicity, I thought to myself. Today is about our marriage. I guess my hair and makeup don’t have to be too much. But at least I know my dress will be gorgeous.

Speaking of, where was my dress? I glanced to my right and saw it crumpled on a shelf. It still looked clean, so hopefully no one would notice if there were a few wrinkles.

All of a sudden, I saw my whole family walking into the canopy. My whole dad’s side of the family was able to come, which was something I had been unsure of since the wedding was a 7-hour drive for most of them. I was so happy and started greeting them with hugs and “I’m so glad you could make it.”

I then came to the sinking conclusion that my mom hadn’t been able to make it. I don’t remember telling her where the wedding was going to be, and therefore I don’t remember her saying she would be there. I felt terrible.

At this point I was all set to go; I had my wedding dress on and all of a sudden I heard the processional music begin. Oh my gosh, I’m not even in place! Tom can’t see me until I’m walking down the aisle!

So I grabbed my dad’s arm and we walked around the back of the wooden canopy so that the guys could get in place at the altar. As we made our way around, there was a whole marching band that had set up on the porch of the main building and started playing and singing a happy song to get me pumped about my wedding. They were holding a banner too, although I can’t recall what it said.

Wow, this is so nice! After all the chaos of the past 25 minutes, things are going pretty smoothly. And I’m excited to finally be getting married!

I glanced down at my dress as we walked. I think it looks nice! And I’m glad I worked out earlier because it fits great!

I couldn’t wait to see Tom’s face when he saw me. And see how handsome he looked in his tux. We made it to the aisle and started the processional. But then, about halfway down, my dad started speed walking. I tried holding his arm tighter and saying, “Whoa, where are you going? Slow down.”

He broke free from my grasp and ran the rest of the way, leaving me stumbling the rest of the way. When my dad moved out of the way, I had a clear view of Tom. He was lounging in the chair I had been sitting in earlier. And he had his everyday clothes on. Jeans. Sneakers. Striped blue and white polo.

“Are you serious? Why aren’t you dressed up?” I asked.

“I was just golfing,” he replied. I was really upset at the fact that he wasn’t taking this seriously. I then realized that my dad had been wearing a flannel shirt, cut-off shorts, and sneakers this entire time.

This isn’t a freaking hoe down! This is my wedding and I can’t believe no one is treating it like one!

Without saying a word, I just walked away. I walked around the back of the canopy, the way we had gone earlier to make it around to the aisle. The band and singers were all still set up on the porch, probably waiting to play some celebratory tunes when the ceremony was over. But they realized that this was not a good sign, that I was walking away without my groom in tow. They started chattering inaudibly, probably making up scenarios as to what had happened.

I walked down the busy road in front of the venue in my wedding dress and heels. God only knows what those in the cars passing by were thinking of me. I probably looked like a tragic mess. Greasy hair. No makeup. A wrinkly wedding dress.

I continued walking until I came to a beach. I went and stood in the sand and the water. Something was going on there; a bunch of large machines were floating on the water. They weren’t boats but more like large metal boxes as large as buildings. A crowd began to gather, so I decided I should probably leave.

I walked back down the road toward the venue thinking that hopefully the day could be salvaged. A few speed bumps shouldn’t completely bring this special day to a screeching halt. As the wooden canopy came into view, the dream ended.

Thank goodness.

My Invisalign Journey (1): Yes to Invisalign and Finding a Provider

I started using my first set of Invisalign liners yesterday! I figured I would document my journey with them so maybe I can help someone decide they want to give them a whirl. And also because I’m so pumped to see my teeth and bite transform and improve and become beautiful!!

So let’s start from the beginning: my choice to get Invisalign and the process of finding a provider.

I’ve been wanting braces since I was in middle school. Back then, everyone was getting them. But they were expensive and I never had dental insurance, so it was not an option. I guess I would say my teeth aren’t horribly crooked, but they aren’t straight. And my two front top teeth are noticeably larger than my other teeth because of the crooked way they are positioned.

Aside from their purpose in straightening teeth and correcting bites, the other great thing about those braces were the fun rubberbands. Do you remember how cool the rubberbands seemed as a kid? I was always jealous when one of my friends came to school with a new set of colored rubberbands! They usually coincided an upcoming holiday (green and red for Christmas) or they were the person’s favorite color. And don’t even get me started on the glow-in-the-dark ones!

And then, in high school, people started getting their metal braces taken off, revealing straight teeth and beautiful smiles. As if the rubberbands weren’t enough, the end product of years with braces made me even more jealous.

Since middle and high school are deemed “normal” times to have metal braces, after graduating from high school, the idea of metal braces was out of the question for me. I know there were those “tooth-colored” ceramic braces and they have come a long way over the years, but they still weren’t ideal.

I remember a teacher in elementary school with these “clear” braces, but they actually made her teeth look really yellow. And they still had the metal wire, so there really was no concealing the fact that she had braces. Nowadays the ceramic braces come with white wires to make them less noticeable (see comparison below) but they’re still kind of obvious.

Luckily within the past 10 years, the creation and improvement of clear aligners makes straight teeth without metal or an off-white appearance an option.

Except it’s still expensive. I have encountered a few people throughout the years who have been able to afford the multi-thousand dollar service and have said that it was totally worth every penny. But realistically I just could not afford it. Other than improving my self-confidence, they didn’t seem necessary.

But through the years, I knew that I wanted to have straight teeth for my future wedding, whenever that actually happened. So when I got engaged this summer, it was time to seriously contemplate whether I was going to take the plunge and get Invisalign. Tom and I talked about it and agreed that I should do it, so I began doing my research of local Invisalign providers.

“Coincidentally,” Groupon actually sent me a deal for a certain amount off an Invisalign treatment. As tempting as that was, I figured it would be a good idea to look further into this “deal”. I found a bunch of negative reviews and “buyer bewares” from people:

  • the provider offering the discount was not a recognized Invisalign provider (Invisalign “trained” instead of “certified”)
  • the provider offering the discount was new to the field and was pretty much trying to get more patients
  • treatment might not even use Invisalign liners
  • provider might try to push other services before actual Invisalign treatment is allowed

Check out this article I found about avoiding Groupons for Invisalign treatment. Among other things, the author explains that “it’s illegal for orthodontists and dentists to engage in fee-splitting activities…”

So I decided against the Groupon thing; these are my teeth and I don’t want to mess with them just to save money. So I went to the Invisalign website and looked at New York City providers. Providers are rated based on how many Invisalign patients they have treated (Elite, Premier, Preferred, and General Provider) as well as whether they are included in the top 1% of North America Invisalign providers.

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I chose one of the best: Dr. Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling. She is an Elite Preferred Provider as well as in the top 1% of providers, so I figured if anyone could give me a great smile, she could. Plus she had multiple offices throughout the NYC and Long Island area, so I figured that multiple locations meant that this lady knew her stuff and was doing really well in the world of orthodontia.

Further research of her proved my assumptions: everyone had nothing but great things to say about her, her team, and their successful treatments.

I contacted her office and scheduled my consultation with her midtown office. So (as long as I felt good about Dr. Jacquie and her team, the price wasn’t too extreme, and it seemed do-able) I had a provider!

My next post will be about my consultation and first official appointment, so keep your eyes posted!

Closing the Waist Gap

Calling all smaller-waist girls with a curvy bootay! If you’re like me, you hate shopping for bottoms – jeans, capris, shorts, trousers. Nothing ever seems to fit right.

Disclaimer: I debated for awhile whether I wanted to include pictures. I mean, it was kind of uncomfortable taking pictures of my butt from different angles with intention of posting them on the internet. But, I decided to include them because I know that I appreciate seeing pictures rather than just reading about how great something fits. I understand all bodies are different, but I thought the pictures could give you a better idea. So please don’t judge me and my round toches. That’s Yiddish for bum. Thanks!

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s continue.

The 2s (3/4s in some brands) fit great around the waist but everywhere else feels restricted. These could be my laying down and not moving pants. That would probably be the only activity (or lack thereof) that I could reasonably do in them.

If I get a pair of 4s (5/6s in some brands) to fit my butt’s circumference, there is that huge annoying gap either in the front or in the back because my waist is too small. Why must I always wear a belt to actually keep the extra junk in the trunk?

And wearing belts all the time for functionality rather than fashion gets really uncomfortable. Not to mention it always makes for a lumpy midsection. Exhibit A: I am in the center of the picture and my belt is extremely obvious. Side note: aren’t we cute?603807_10152781694520203_1574156246_n

Plus, because of my round derrière, I can’t get low-rise pants because I don’t quite feel like flashing everyone if I drop something and need to bend down. Don’t even think about sitting down. But then, when I go for mid-rise, the jean designers put the pockets so high that my butt looks like it’s half-way up my back.

Not cute. Or anatomically correct.

On top of this, I am a little taller than what jeans in my size usually come in off the rack; I’ve bought size 7s in the past just to compensate for my height. So I usually go for the jeans that come in different size and length combinations, going for regulars or longs, depending on how they fit. And it’s frustrating because these are the pants that are never on sale!

Can you say first world problems?

Seriously, this makes me want to go around pant-less. all. the. time. But that is not considered acceptable in this part of the world. Although I have seen some questionable outfits worn by girls here in New York City: Shorts so short I see butt cheeks. Leggings worn as pants without a long shirt to cover the bum. And I saw one girl running down Broadway wearing a skirt with a see-through overlay…the non-see-through layer was mid-thigh length and the overlay was floor-length…except when she was running, she was holding up the skirt so she didn’t trip…which is smart, except she was also holding up the bottom layer…so she was totally exposed…and she was totally wearing a thong. But that’s a whole different issue.

So since it’s not my style to go without bottoms, I usually just suck it up, keep trying on jeans, and hope to find a pair that I could deal with for an entire day, uncomfortable no matter which size I choose. Then, once I’m out of grad school, I’ll consider moving to a nude beach or somewhere that’s too hot to wear pants. all. the. time.

I know there are some brands that sell jeans made for curvy women. The problem? Well, to be blunt, as a graduate student I’m not willing to pay a lot for a pair of jeans. I’m looking at you Levi’s Curve ID (ranging from $50 to $100) and Eddie Bauer’s Stayshape jeans ($70-$80), to name a couple.

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Arizona flare, Arizona skinny, dENiZEN modern boot cut

I haven’t bought jeans in over a year, so I’ve been relying on the same 4 pairs of jeans (2 flare, 2 skinny), and it’s frustrating. I have to wear a belt with all 4 of them because of the stupid waist gap occurrence.

The other day I went to Target to grab a couple things. I figured I’d look at the jeans (just look, seeing as there’s no way I’ll find jeans that will work with my body) and maybe try some stuff on. I tried modern fit, slim fit, and curvy fit. And hated them all for different reasons.

Slim fit did not give enough coverage when I bent over. Modern fit was okay, but there was that damn waist gap, even though everything else fit nicely. Curvy fit is made for girls with a little more everywhere – it doesn’t work with slimmer waists. Isn’t that just plus size? But, I digress.

AND THEN! I found a great gem. Enter dENiZEN (that’s how the brand is written, don’t ask me why) Essential Stretch Modern Boot Cut Jeans. These jeans are from Levi’s. And they’re stretchy. And they’re only $27.99!

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Arizona flare, dENiZEN modern boot cut

They aren’t jeggings but they feel amazing. I got a size 4 Medium; the 4 Long was excessively long. I don’t need a belt with them, and they don’t cut the circulation off in my butt or thighs. Plus, they aren’t like some mid-rise jeans that come to my belly button and make my butt look weird. It’s a win-win!

This brand does come in a skinny jean style, but I didn’t like how they fit. They’re still stretchy, but the legs were a bit tight at the bottom. I’m not a skin-tight skinny jean gal. I am so glad I found these, and (bonus!) just in time for Back To School shopping.

Not only do I like the way they fit and look on me, but I wore them to work one day and my female coworker told me my butt looked great! Plus, Tom likes them too! Approval from both sexes. Score! Hence why I went back to Target this week and picked up a second pair.

Update: Since I originally wrote this post about 2 months ago (I’ve been busy…and debating whether or not to include the pictures…), I just wanted to say that I think I would grab a Long version of these if I were to purchase another pair. I have a 33-34″ inseam and I like my pants to be a bit long; numerous washing and drying has shrunk them in length a bit, so I would definitely go for the 4L next time.

Wedding Update: 10 Months to go!

A little less than 10 months to go! As much as I would like to write about all of the things we got done this past month, there honestly hasn’t been many changes since my last post. But with good reason…

Long Island knows how to do weddings. I mean, it’s like a wedding factory down here. And not in a bad “get in, get out, bring on the next one,” wedding-a-minute type thing. But down here, it’s so competitive that they are all ready to offer you as much as they can, all in one place, to make your wedding and life easier. I mean, who wouldn’t want that?

Some of my friends that have gotten or are getting married upstate were/are so stressed dealing with so many different vendors because each aspect of their ceremonies and receptions was being taken care of by a separate entity. Our venue is our ceremony and reception site, is our caterer, and will be taking care of linens. So it was so exciting getting to check multiple things off the to-do list just by booking our venue.

Plus, down here most venues are partnered with photographers, cake bakeries, florists, etc. whom they have worked with and trust enough to recommend. We have an appointment in a couple weeks with the photographer they recommended, so hopefully they fit our vision. Since they have worked at our venue many times, they know all the good spots for pictures. Bottom line: nothing corny. Like these.

Pricing down here makes much more sense, too; at some of the upstate venues I looked at, it was if you were casually eating out at a restaurant and had to pay for everything separately. And I mean everything. You want chicken? That’ll be $5 per person. Steak? $9. Choose your sides: you want potatoes? That’s going to be another $4 per potato-eating person. And so on, and so forth.

I realize that’s not how all places are up there, but there is nothing that complicated down here. You get a menu that lays out every single thing offered: you get to choose 8 hors d’oeuvres from a list of 20, then you get to choose 3 entrees (usually you choose chicken, beef, and fish) which all come with sides, you choose whether you want an open bar or just the beer/wine/signature drink choice, and so much more…and you get all this for one flat rate per person depending on what month you are getting married.

Note: June-October are the most expensive. Obviously. If you’re looking for a bargain, get hitched in December or January – it’s about $30 less per person! But personally I would not want to be trudging around in the cold with the possibility of snow.

So needless to say I’m extremely happy to be saved from all the stress that I’ve heard and seen others go through when planning their weddings. The biggest thing on my mind lately has been my dress, but I guess I wouldn’t say it has been really stressing me out. Of course I want to look amazing on my wedding day, but I knew I would find one that I liked. Plus, we have 10 months; I was told to find one no later than 9 months before the wedding in order to allow time for fittings, alterations, etc.

I have been scouring websites and building up my ‘Love and Marriage’ board on Pinterest with dresses for a couple weeks now. Plus, my friend and maid of honor Courtney had been planning to come down this week so that we could go dress shopping with my future mother-in-law, so I wasn’t too worried.

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And I’m happy to say that I found my dress!!!!!!!!

There’s an awesome story behind it, but I think I’ll wait awhile to tell you. It’s actually one of the dresses on my Pinterest board, so that’s fun! I thought it was pretty when I saw it online, but it’s so hardto know how a dress flows and what it feels and looks on you until it’s actually on you.

All I know is that as soon as I saw it on me, I was so overwhelmed with happiness. And there were tears. I didn’t get this way with any of the dresses the first time I tried some on, and I was kind of unsure as to whether I would have a teary reaction at all. But I know myself and if there wasn’t a tiny bit of water works, it wasn’t the dress.

And it happened. I cried. Mrs. Harrigan cried. Although she had tears for pretty much all of the dresses I had tried on previously 🙂 But that’s to be expected.

I originally wasn’t much into the idea of a veil, but when the lady at the bridal salon put one on me, it all just fit together. After awhile of ogling at myself, she asked if I wanted to try other dresses on. I was kind of unsure. I figured since we were already out, why not? But when she asked what style I wanted, I just looked at myself, still wearing the dress, and said, “This.” She smiled and said, “So is this your dress?” And I said, “Yes, I love this.” And that was it!

The biggest thing for this next month is to get the wedding website all set and looking pretty so that people can actually start using it. I’ve been putting content on there and trying to make it look nice, and Tom has to do more functionality stuff to make things work better and so that people can RSVP on it. Other than that, this month has been smooth sailing.

It’s been nice without added stress of having to take care of so many things this past month. Especially since I wasn’t with Tom (other than short Skype chats here and there) for 3 of the last 4 weeks. With work, school, my friend visiting from out of town, and Tom going to Amsterdam for a weeklong work trip, it was very hectic for both of us. But then we got to spend last weekend (and it was a long weekend for me with Columbus Day!) together, and it was wonderful. ♥

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My Year With Crohn’s Disease

I realized yesterday that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease exactly one year ago. Happy Autoimmune Disease Birthday to me! It took me awhile to write and edit this post, so it’s not exactly to the day, but it’ll do. I figured I would write about my journey with this disease – from flare-ups, finally being diagnosed, medications, and now, one year later, how I’m dealing.

*Just a warning, there are some gross parts, so I apologize if you don’t find it appealing, but this is what happened. Also, it’s kind of a long story…it’s been a long time coming and it felt like even longer when I was actually going through it all. I warned you. So if you’re still willing to read, let’s proceed.*

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November 2010 – My roommate Becky and I

Okay, so I have had two flare-ups in my life, but it wasn’t until the second one that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s. I have no doubt that my flare-ups have been stress-induced. To start off my first flare-up, let’s take a trip to my senior year at Geneseo. Fall 2010 began pretty rough: my 6+ year relationship had become very rocky, I was going to college full-time, working at Walmart part-time, and on top of this my mom’s Multiple Sclerosis was a constant worry.

My health decline started with stomachaches that would not go away no matter what I did. If I was in my dorm room, I would lay down for the 5 or 10 minutes it took for the pain to go away on its own. There was no pattern to them – I thought maybe it was something I ate, but then they began happening before I ate as well as after. I then began noticing little bumps on my legs one day when I was shaving; they looked like whiteheads or ingrown hairs, but they seemed a little more on the green side than on the white side. Weird.

By the end of October my relationship ended, my schoolwork was getting more difficult, and it seemed I never had time to relax, let alone sleep. I was constantly feeling alone and left out because none of my friends had to worry about working and school, so they were able to enjoy their nights watching TV, going to dinner together, just hanging out. But I didn’t have a second to stop and chill.

And eating? Forget it. I began feeling nauseous at the thought of food because the stomach pains had become so intense and unbearable. I quickly began losing weight and by November, I was down to 112 pounds; my normal weight at that point was around 124. I mean, we’re talking my butt was becoming flat. Obviously something was wrong.

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December 2010 – I was completely exhausted here and at my lowest weight. But I had to support the Sabres!

Throughout this time, those small “pimples” on my legs grew and became large open sores. At one point, I would try using a cotton ball with either hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to clean them, put some Neosporin on them, and cover them in band-aids every single day. No matter what I did, though, they never got better. I mean they were getting so deep and wide that I had craters in my legs. Yeah, gross.

I also was getting swollen joints – I wore a knee brace under my pants because I couldn’t bear all of my weight on my knee without it feeling like it would buckle. Up until this point, I had really only had my nauseous episodes while in my room, so it was easy enough to just lay down for a bit to let the feeling go away. But then it started happening at work; I almost passed out a couple times during my shifts at Walmart because of the pain, nausea, and lack of nutrients.

Wow, what a mess I was!

Okay, so by this point you’re probably asking, “Why the hell did you not see a doctor?!” Well, you see, I did not have insurance. I had just turned 21 in August and my dad took me off his plan. I didn’t have money to pay for my own plan, let alone a bunch of medical bills. I was in the process of enrolling in a state-funded insurance but that takes forever, so unfortunately I never saw anyone for this until it was well-developed.

I ended up going to the ER, though, over winter break because I just couldn’t take it anymore. Something had to be wrong and things were still not getting better, even after being home on break from school and work. Because I did not have insurance, they were not willing to do much for me. I mean, the doctor tried to give me a pelvic exam – I think she thought I was either pregnant (I assured her I was not) or had cysts. After a long and frustrating night, I went home with no more answers than I had entered with.

I eventually got approved for insurance and started making appointments with a doctor in my hometown as well as the doctor on campus. Cultures of my sores were taken but showed no signs of what they were assuming would be strep or staph infections. Antibiotics and corticosteroid creams were tried but nothing was helping. Strangely though, everything just sort of went away on its own by about mid-March 2011; I wasn’t taking meds or applying any creams at that point, so my mysterious condition was still very mysterious.

It left some pretty mean scars on my legs, so I was extremely self-conscious with the warmer weather, wanting to wear things that would show my legs. But lo and behold, my skin was healing and I could eat again! Without knowing why, my condition was gone!

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May 2011 – Thank goodness I had gained my health back in time to participate in the IV Powderpuff game!

Or so I thought.

Fast forward to 2012. I had been accepted into Columbia University for graduate school in July and decided to defer admission until spring 2013 because there was no way I could go with such little time. And since my mom had been in the nursing home for over a year now, I had been spending my time alone in my house except when I was substitute teaching or working at Walmart. So I was pretty stressed. Add on the fact that I had just gotten a long-term substitute job for a maternity leave for the first 10 weeks of the 2012-2013 school year. I was so excited to get more experience teaching middle and high school kids, but man oh man did the stress get to me.

By the first week of September, my symptoms started coming back. The pain. The nausea. The extreme weight loss. The sores. Everything was back. And with a vengeance. I mean, I was literally waking up in so much pain all over my body, I had to hobble like a 90-year old woman. At one point, I was hardly able to put my shoes on because my one ankle was so swollen. The sores started as painful lumps under my skin before they actually opened. Again, gross, but that was my reality.

Luckily I took action much sooner this time, although it was really frustrating. I went to my general practitioner multiple times without getting answers. During my third visit, I broke down and cried telling her how stressed out I had been and how much my health issues were making things worse. She prescribed me a low-dose anti-anxiety pill. This did not do a darn thing.

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School ID as a teacher. Looking kind of gaunt. Cool.

She finally referred me to a GI specialist and wanted me to get a colonoscopy. Because of my age, the GI specialist decided to “simply” perform a sigmoidoscopy first. Tom came up to stay with me for a few days and take me to my appointment since I was going under anesthesia and would be in no shape to drive myself home. Apparently I was very persistent in trying to share my cookies with him once I woke up after the procedure. Unfortunately I missed a day of school for this test and it showed nothing.

Two weeks later, I ended up in the ER again. This time, because I had proper insurance, the doctors ran a whole slew of tests. Blood tests and cultures, a CT Scan, and a chest X-ray. Around 2:30 a.m., after about 5 hours of being there, the doctor came in and said that all tests pointed to either Crohn’s disease or colitis, but to get a definitive answer I would need to get a full colonoscopy. Until then, she gave me steroids, antibiotics, and mesalamine (anti-inflammatory meds for those with ulcerative colitis flare-ups). Good. Great. Grand. Wonderful.

Within the next few days, I felt much better. I went to Baltimore with my friends as planned the following weekend and boy did I enjoy eating food again! I can tell by the pictures of that weekend how skinny I was! I mean, look at my face! It’s usually a bit rounder than that.

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September 29, 2012 – Baltimore with Megan

The GI specialist received my ER tests and made an appointment within the next week; obviously something was wrong or they wouldn’t be so quick in doing this. So on October 8, 2012, I went in for a colonoscopy and came out with a definitive answer: I have Crohn’s disease.

I continued taking the steroid Prednisone to help with the inflammation (since Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease, my body was attacking itself, causing inflammation and bleeding and all that good stuff in my intestines). Unfortunately, steroids are known to cause “moonface” – puffiness of the face due to fat depositing in that area after long-term use of the steroids. I obviously began gaining weight because I was finally able to eat again, which was a great feeling. Except I felt like my face was getting very fat and puffy. Everyone kept telling me I looked great and that I didn’t look fat. All I will say is they all lied. Just take a gander at my passport photo which was taken after a month of being on steroids. Thanks everyone.

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November 2, 2012 – Moonface Holliday

Since that day, things have been great. It sucks that I have to take 12 pills every day (I take Delzicol, if anyone’s wondering: 6 with breakfast, 6 with dinner) but I would much rather deal with that than with the excruciating pain I was in. I’m back to a healthy weight and I haven’t had any problems thusfar with my medications. I try to be a little better with my diet, but the doctor has not restricted me in any way. Many people ask if I’m not allowed to have nuts or seeds, but my GI doctor said, “If you like it, it tastes good, and it doesn’t bother you, eat it.” And I have. And I do.

I even emailed the doctor at Geneseo with my story (a bit more condensed) so that maybe if he ever comes across these symptoms again, that person won’t have to go through this huge mess like I did. I feel like I should be on that show Mystery Diagnosis. That could be interesting…