A 33-year-old woman has spoken of six years of devastating symptoms from swollen joints and stomach pain to chronic fatigue and passing blood whenever she went to the bathroom. And she has said she sometimes needs to use the bathroom 30 times a day.
At first Catherine Hopkins felt too embarrassed to tell doctors about her symptoms. But she eventually caught help and after numerous assessments, she was diagnosed with Ulcerative colitis, reports MEN. Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease which can cause frequent diarrhoea, stomach aches and needing to go to the toilet a lot. The incurable disease is lifelong and can have a significant negative impact on the quality of life.
“I noticed there was a lot of pain in my left side, especially when I was going to the toilet,” Catherine, known as Cat, said. “Quite a lot of blood started to come out. I was pretty embarrassed so I hid it for about a year but it got progressively worse.
“I went to the doctors and it was a slow process because it can be so many different things. I do a lot of weight lifting so they thought I might have a hernia – then they went down the avenue of Crohn’s, Colitis or otherwise.”
Following her diagnosis, Cat tried a variety of different treatments but nothing seemed to ease her discomfort. At one point, she even stopped taking her medication as she was in denial about her chronic illness.
Over time, Cat was forced to adapt to a new “normal”. Life with the condition made her worry about simple things others take for granted – from grabbing a takeaway, going for a walk and even dating.
Her illness means she has no control over when she needs the toilet and can find herself going up to 30 times a day. “You’re that tired you can fall asleep anywhere,” Cat continued.
“You have no control over the time you go to the toilet – sometimes it’s not even to go and pass, it’s just to let blood out. It’s stressful; I have to reorganise life.
Catherine is currently undergoing several treatments (Image: Catherine Hopkins)
“I applied through Crohn’s & Colitis UK and they gave me a disabled toilet key. That’s a help if you’re out in a park and you can dive in somewhere. I tried to organise going up Scafell with friends but it’s a stupid idea because I will just be ill all the time; my mates will have to carry on and I’ll have to go back down.
“Initially it upset me quite a lot and I used to get down about it. I try and make a joke about it. I keep going with anything; I’m always quite chipper and I’ve had to change my diet and lots of things, I’m moving forward with stuff.”
Cat says her condition means she frequently spends all night going to the bathroom – something that leaves her with chronic fatigue. “It makes you feel like you can’t put one foot in front of the other,” she continued.
“There are things I can’t ignore like the hospital trying to talk to me about new medication and letting on to me that there might be operations. That’s quite stressful because I never thought I would get to that stage.
“It’s not going to go away and it’s the realisation that it’s always going to be there. I can always push forward and have a mental attitude with stuff but there gets to a point where I think, what is my future? It’s quite daunting and knocks the wind out of my sail.”
Crohn’s & Colitis UK has helped support Cat through her role as a firefighter. Anyone seeking similar help can visit crohnsandcolitis.org.uk for information.