Don’t feel sorry for Michael

He thought he had beaten it. Thought he had surpassed it and moved on.
But there was always that feeling something was wrong.
He wasn’t sure just how bad it was or if it was even back—but it didn’t feel right.
Then, lying down on the bleached covers of a hospital bed, Michael Simpson was told the news he had prayed not to hear. It’s back—your colitis is back—spoken to him like a possession that could not be thrown away or sold.
The stomach cramps started while Michael was playing catch with friends at the tender age of seven in his elementary schoolyard. It wasn’t until at least three weeks later, when the pain was quickly getting worse, did he tell his parents of the discomfort.
The local doctor didn’t know what was wrong with him, so he got referred to a specialist in the city, where he had tests conducted that made him uncomfortable.
Young Michael could not understand why his mom was crying on the couch after they left from the doctor, and he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t feeling better. He always thought that after you see a doctor, you would feel better, but he didn’t feel better; Michael felt worse.
Michael was suffering from a cross of Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease, which sees ulcers develop in the intestinal tract and causes blood to leak into the intestine. It affects one in every 100 people, but those numbers are rising.
As the youngest patient he had ever seen (the disease is most common in adults), the specialist was unsure just how to treat Michael. So he did the logical thing and treated him like any other adult patient and signed off a prescription for an assortment of powerful drugs.
Taking at least 20 pills a day, the side effects came instantly as the pills caused Michael to gain weight and earn the nickname—Chubby Checkers—by his schoolmates.
But the name calling never bothered Michael because the increase to his weight garnered dreams of playing in the NFL, where he could protect quarterbacks like his sports icon, Joe Montana.
And it was ironic how Michael was willing to protect others while his body was the one that needed protection.
Michael remembers learning he wouldn’t be able to play the last game of the season for his soccer team because, instead, he was booked for tests in the endoscopy unit, which had turned into a second home for the youngster who always had a smile on his face and never complained no matter how blinding the pain really was.
“How are you doing today?” they would ask.
“Same old,” he would answer.
But it was the last game of the season and he refused to sacrifice it. He told his parents. They had a faint smile on their tired faces and reluctantly agreed, like any loving, over-protective parent would.
The doctor gave him permission, but said Michael would have to play with a Hep-lock—an IV needle in the hand that is locked and protected with a cup and held steady with a pad underneath the forearm—and would have to return to the hospital right after the game.
Michael didn’t care—he would do it.
The game was like any other: unorganized, low-scoring, but it was filled with laughs and Michael didn’t want it to end.
But it did. It had to because he had to get back to his treatment, and the laughter quickly ended once he pressed for the fourth floor of the hospital and entered the children’s unit of the hospital.
Michael was always big into sports and had dreams of playing as a professional . It didn’t matter if it was as a basketball player or a ping-pong player—he just wanted to play.
Michael always has been a realist and knew he would never be a professional athlete, but it was a dream that made him smile whenever he thought about it. To make a cross-court pass to Michael Jordan, to skate along Wayne Gretzky, to run faster than Carl Lewis.
These were unrealistic dreams considering his condition, but they gave him something that anyone that is sick needs—hope.
Michael had to sacrifice everything in his life for his disease. School, spending time with friends, and everyday things that he couldn’t do while IV poles followed him wherever he went in the hospital.
His condition didn’t stop him from being well-liked, but he never told his friends about his embarrassing disease—and made up lies when they would ask why he wasn’t at school last week.
The only time he did tell his friends was when he made the decision to have the surgery. He’d had enough of the pills. Enough of the hospitals. Enough of being reminded what he could or couldn’t do.
And the choice was made even easier when the disease was coming near to spreading to other organs. And if it spread to other major organs, then medication or surgery would not help and his life would be in danger.
It’s been almost 10 years since Michael lay in a cold, steel bed while a crowd of observers saw his body sliced, his ribs spread open, and pieces of his intestinal tract removed.
A scar—about 10 inches in length—still remains and it is a lifelong reminder of what he’s been through.
The only problem is that he’s still going through it.
He remembers driving back from the doctor’s office, after discovering his relapse, a few years ago with a prescription of strong steroids in his front pocket. All Michael could think of was past memories that he had longed to forget.
Nothing is for sure in this world—especially when it comes to your health—and Michael still takes medication for ailments he has suffered because of the way he was treated when he was younger.
He’s a young man, but if it weren’t for those pills, he would feel like a 65-year-old man.
He’s a young man, but he has osteoporosis hips and arthritic knees, and though he still has many days in the hospital in store for him, and though there are plenty of other medications for him to swallow, he has dealt with everything with a smile and shoulder shrug.
There are people out there with some really serious problems, and Michael is well aware of that.
“Why doesn’t he have any hair?” Michael once asked a nurse.
“Because he has cancer and the medicine he takes to get better causes his hair to fall out,” she answered.
Once Michael discovered what cancer was, his feelings on life changed. If those kids didn’t complain about the pain they were feeling, then what right did he have?
Michael feels pain every day. He feels it every minute of every day, but there’s only so much time one has and it would be a waste to spend that time complaining.
You may feel sorry for Michael; but never forget that he never has—and never will—feel sorry for himself.
The number of people affected by Crohn’s and Colitis is not shrinking; it’s growing. To check on the disease, please see www. ccfc.ca for more information.

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