Kicking Butt with Colitis


Danna Bostwich explains her story of living with the wrong diagnosis for ten years and getting reacquainted with the right diagnosis in living a better life




About 11 years ago I was living in Hawaii with my mom, going to school for my Bachelor’s degree, working at a Jamba Juice in the mall. It was a pretty standard way of college living for a 19 year old girl. However, using the bathroom up to 30 times a day was not so standard.

At first I thought it was stress, but I was living in Hawaii. Was I actually that stressed? I finally went to the doctor and they confirmed that I just need to make sure I go for a career that is low in stress (like what?!), and manage my daily stress. Although managing stress is a huge party of coping and living, I needed something more. I moved back to Washington State and went to another doctor. They had diagnosed me with Ulcerative Colitis.

I started taking one medication and my symptoms got much better. But after a while the medicine stopped working. I decided ok, this isn’t working, so nothing else probably will either. This was really disrupting my life and made me anxious to do a lot of things. But I managed the diagnosis with eating gluten free as much as I could, even though there weren’t a lot of options 11 years ago, that I knew of anyway. Symptoms improved, but the urgency and frequency never completely stopped.

There were times when things got worse, but if I ate differently it seemed to help. It was like this for 10 years. Just last year everything got much worse.

I lost so much blood that I had to get a blood transfusion in January, and I was back in the hospital by June. That time I had to stay a week, which was the longest I’d ever stayed in the hospital for anything and it really scared me. At this time I was told that I actually have Crohn’s Disease. Funny, at the time I thought “What a relief! At least I know what I actually have now, and it can be better managed!” Only the first part of that was true. It’s been a little over a year and I still don’t have a protocol that works for me.

I struggle with this every day. My life is very calculated at the moment, because I cannot trust my body with how it will react. And I am so sensitive to almost everything I eat. But my life has improved in several ways.

First, I know that I need to be mentally right in order to fight this. If I let it get the best of me it will steal all the goodness from my life. I am so happy in other ways. I have an amazing husband who has been nothing but supportive. He just wants to steal all my pain from me, but his support is the best possible thing he could give me. I’m lucky that I have a great job and my company is supportive of me being healthy. And my family supports me by helping me get to the doctor, making sure I have food options at family events, they’re amazing. Especially my mom. And my dad understands my pain, because he has Ulcerative Colitis. Not as severe thank goodness, it’s hard to teach that old dog new tricks! My friends are always checking in with me so I keep them posted on my Instagram and Facebook accounts when I have something to update them on. Without all of this I would and could feel pretty lonely. You need a support system. Make sure you have that. And a good counsellor, too. For mental health this is extremely important. I found a counsellor through the CCAF website who also has Crohn’s so that makes appointments with her even better.

My life is also better because I am learning more and more about our food and what is in it. Bad ingredients are the true destroyers of our bodies and cause any autoimmune disease trouble. The documentary “Food Inc.” really opened my eyes to what I put in my body. I make much healthier choices now and I have learned how to read a food label which is such an empowering and important skill! I urge everyone (not just the autoimmune butt-kickers), to watch that documentary and learn. Even just learning about emulsifiers and additives changed how my body felt when I stopped putting them in it. You wouldn’t believe what our government allows in our foods. It’s just sad. So I use my voice on social media to get the word out! I like to do something with that information, like letting people know that those cookies that young girls sell for their troops are full of bad ingredients (sorry to break your hearts thin mint lovers)!

I’m choosing not to let Crohn’s run my life. I still don’t have all the freedoms I want yet, but I think I’ll get there with my amazing doctors at the University of Washington (even though I’m a WSU Coug!) and Harborview in Seattle. Always fight for good doctors if you have the ability. If your current people aren’t fighting with you, they aren’t fighting for you. I found the right medical providers and they’ve made a big difference in my support team, as well! And if Western medicine isn’t your thing, then go to a naturopathic doctor. They also provide clean and natural help. I am trying a combination of both.

And I cannot stress this enough…yoga is amazing for calming anxious nerves. Take classes, go on YouTube, get up and move. Don’t let your physical health get the best of you because of your disease. Because they all connect…Support – Stress – Medicine – Physical Health – I think they all assist each other in a healthier you.

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