Oct 28, 2019 Latest post:
Nov 12, 2019
My name is Melissa Schalm. I am a dear friend of Annie's. She and I are opposites in many ways but are absolutely kindred spirits. She and I both knew this the very moment we met in 2012. Since our first encounter, we have shared all the highs and lows this life offers. She has asked that I update this page in the days ahead to help keep you all informed and to allow her Mom - Mary Jo, her sister -Julie and boyfriend - Dave some additional spare moments because she insists she will keep them all busy...in tandem!
Now a bit about Annie's Journey so far:
As many of you know, Annie was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease more than 10 years ago.
Over the past year, she has become increasingly more public by posting about the disease on her social media sites. It is Annie’s wish to spread awareness of this incurable disease that has taken from her-she no longer desires to remain silent. Her hope is to somehow help others that have been in or are currently in similar shoes. Her choice to remain private in the past was driven by multiple reasons. Mainly, embarrassment of discussing personal details of the disease as well as not wanting to cause undo attention that would cause others to believe she somehow felt sorry for herself. Annie believes every person has a “mountain to climb” in this life and Crohn’s Disease just happens to be the mountain assigned to her.
This disease has been somewhat of a full-time job since she was diagnosed in 2009. Medication management, dozens of blood tests annually, trips to surgeons, gastroenterologists, The Mayo Clinic, dealing with nasty medication side-effects, chronic pain, vision changes, and joint inflammation are some of the things that became Annie’s new normal upon diagnosis. In 2015, she had her first major surgery...some of you may remember a closed Facebook page that chronicled Annie’s progress. The surgery consisted of 5 major steps ... relocating organs and realigning her colon.
The greatest life-altering part of this surgery was that she lost her ability to carry future children. The surgeons had to take her uterus to make space for surgical interventions that would allow her to regain normal function that was lost as a result of this disease.
To put it mildly, this was a complete and sudden shock for Annie. Crohn’s has taken many things from her but losing her ability to conceive future children was not something she ever expected would happen. Nevertheless, the surgery and recovery occurred. Acceptance of this is still something she is working through.
Here we are in 2019 and Annie is facing her second major surgery scheduled for October 31st. As mentioned above, her care team attempted to surgically intervene 4 years ago to restore the function Crohn’s took from her. This solution proved to last much shorter than all had anticipated. Over the last 2 years, she has struggled greatly in most areas of her life because of chronic pain and her deteriorating condition.
Annie’s specialists have determined she now requires a colostomy because her colon no longer functions properly and all surgical interventions and therapy treatments have been exhausted.
Typically, Crohn’s patients have an ileostomy (at the end of the small intestine) but because Annie has had precancerous polyps in her recent scopes her specialists need the ability to monitor her colon which they wouldn’t be able to do with an ileostomy. They also don’t want to fully remove her colon because there will surely come a time when the colon tissue is needed to compensate for diseased tissue.
The single greatest struggle during Annie’s journey has been experiencing complete powerlessness over the disruption this has caused her son, Seth. He has had to witness his mom receive infusions every 6 weeks, prep regularly for scope tests, dart for a restroom faster than one could blink, feels the need to tell every stranger they meet that his mom has Crohn’s Disease because he feels that’s a way he can “stick up for his mom” (such a sweetheart), witnessed his mom being taken in an ambulance more than once, making multiple visits to the hospital to visit his mom, and experience the overall uncertainty that this disease has forced him to accept as a part of his daily life.
Seth and Annie are both working hard, together, with their care teams to process all that has happened and to prepare for uncertain times that inevitably will occur in years to come. They are learning to cherish the beautiful moments instead of fearing anything negative that may be around the corner.
Undoubtedly, this latest news was another difficult step in Annie’s journey with Crohn’s Disease. She was terrified of the thought of having a colostomy but after doing lots of research and learning of support groups (even attending one meeting so far) - her fear has turned into joyful hope!!! She has a new understanding of this treatment option. This surgery is going to allow her a new freedom that she is anxiously awaiting.
She wants to share her deepest gratitude with every one of you that has prayed for her and stuck by her side during these turbulent times-you all have carried her and she is forever grateful.
It’s been decided to begin a Caring Bridge page so that we can keep everyone up to date during Annie’s surgery and recovery. She plans to continue this page in the future (or a blog of some sort) to connect with those out there that can relate to her experience.
Let it be known that Crohn’s has had a stronghold over much of Annie’s adult life, however, she adamantly refuses to be a victim by allowing this disease to keep her down any longer than absolutely necessary. It’s the love and support so many have freely afforded her that allows her to stand tall and hold her head high even when it feels overwhelming - you all mean the world to her.