What Does Disease Look Like?

Post-CN Tower ClimbThat’s me on the left.

Do I look sick?

Do I?

My hair is black and curly, thick at the back, thin at the front. My complexion is reasonably clear. My eyelashes are like a mile long, which I’ve been told is a good thing. I have big brown eyes, full lips, and gargantuan nose. My arms are skinny, my legs are long. My stomach is anything but toned, it even protrudes a little, but I’m 5’11’’ and 160 lbs., so my Body Mass Index falls within the “normal weight” category. I’m hardly a prized specimen of the human race, but I don’t look awful. Some might even say I look… good. I don’t look sick.

I’ve had symptoms of ulcerative colitis since 2007, and received an official diagnosis of the inflammatory bowel disease in 2008. I’ve dealt with stomach cramps, joint pain, sleepless nights, weight loss, mood fluctuations, fatigue, soiled underwear, and lots and lots of bloody diarrhea. Yet since 2007, I have worked as a radio broadcaster, graduated from university with high distinction, made friends, wrote and published a book, dated some lovely ladies, found one superphantastisch lady (she’s standing beside the panda) who bests the others, finished 10K runs, and took the stairs to the top of the CN Tower (which is why the panda wanted to hug us).

Do I look sick?

Do I?

I’ve tried to combat this disease with traditional and alternative measures. Mesalamine pills and suppositories, immunosuppressants, corticosteroids, diet changes, homeopathic medicine (a.k.a. water), naturopathic remedies, and TNF inhibitors. Success has varied, but never lasted.

In the spring of 2010, I took a course called Science and Writing at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. In that course I researched ulcerative colitis more than I ever had before, and it was then that I first looked intently at the option of surgery. I knew about it, even gained some confidence in it, yet I didn’t think I would need it.

I’ve only been admitted to hospital once in my life; I was about eight years old and I had a seizure while playing a video game. I don’t remember much except a rainbow painted on the white wall of the ward in which I stayed, and that I was fine after a few days. On May 9, I will be admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and I will undergo a four and a half hour operation to have my colon and rectum removed. A temporary ileostomy will be created, meaning I’ll have a poop sack on my abdomen.

Roughly three months later, I will undergo a second operation. This one is to hook up an internal pelvic pouch, or “J-pouch.” The pouch is actually the end of my small intestine sewn back onto itself to form a J-shape. The pouch is then connected to my anus, the ileostomy is closed, and voilà! No more colitis!

It’s an unconventional plumbing system, but one that can work quite well. The hope is that with the pouch I’ll have to defecate about six times a day, which may sound like a lot, but compared to bloody diarrhea 30 times a day, sounds rather heavenly. When you think about it, it’s really quite amazing that medical knowledge has advanced to a level where people can live without their colons. It’s the result of bold human beings who have cast aside superstition and pseudo-science in search of what’s real.

So I’ll have to shit in a bag for a few months.

Do I look sick?

Then I’ll have more “conventional” bowel movements about half a dozen times a day.

Do I?

My hair will still be black and curly, my eyelashes will still shoot out like a mile. My arms will still be skinny, my legs will still be long. My eyes will still be brown, my lips will still be full, and my nose will remain gargantuan unless I can convince my surgeon to give me a two-for-one colectomy and nose job. Well, maybe he should just focus on my digestive system while I’m under. I’ll do the same when I awake.

This is the first blog post I’ve written for this site, and I do plan on creating more as I go through my surgeries and recovery periods. I left my last job to focus on my health, but as I make progress in my post-operative state(s), I’d be happy to take on some freelance writing/editing/announcing gigs. So please contact me if you have any such gigs to offer. Thanks!

About rasheedclarke

Award-winning author. Marathon runner. Exceptional dresser. I'd like to be all those things.


  1. I’ve been there. Suffered with UC for 8 years. Had my first surgery March 15th. On my way to a j-pounch, and loving it!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Mary. I hope your recovery has been smooth and successful, and that the takedown (if you haven’t had it already) goes off without a hitch!

  3. Pingback: Rasheed 3.0 (currently in beta) | Rasheed Clarke

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