Back in March, at my husband’s request, I went to see a surgeon specializing in Crohn’s related problems. This simple request set off an unexpected chain of events that have led me to where I am today.

The surgeon said I needed major, life-altering surgery, but my gastroenterologist disagreed. He believed it to be too drastic for someone as healthy as me (healthy being a relative term when you are talking about Crohn’s Disease).

So, after much discussion and emotional turmoil, I decided to see a specialist – one of the top gastroenterologists in the country specializing in Crohn’s Disease. I wanted fresh eyes and A LOT of experience looking at my situation to give me some insight on what to do next.

The specialist didn’t think surgery was appropriate, as my therapeutic options had not yet been exhausted. I was elated. But, he did send me to yet another surgeon for a second surgical opinion. Disappointingly, but no real surprise, the second surgeon echoed the opinion of the one I saw in March.

All of these consultations spanned a period from March to August, so that is five months, four doctors, two completely opposing opinions, and no real answers to show for it.

Its times like these when you really, REALLY understand what “be your own advocate” means, and it has led me to realize that there comes a point in our lives when we have to stop listening to all the noise that comes at us from all directions and figure out what’s best for ourselves.

The truth is I don’t want the surgery. Not now, not ever if I can avoid it. It’s not because I’m afraid, or even naive, it’s because I don’t believe it’s the right path for me.  

What does all this mean? Where do I go from here?

For me it means embarking on a Healthiness Project. I’m taking all the things that I’d been haphazardly trying to achieve over the last year or so and melding them together into what I now realize will be my most important project – a much healthier me.

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Earlier today the phrase “early warning signals” popped into my head, and being a certified Google-holic I had to type it into the search bar. I got 2,200,000 hits in 0.39 seconds. Wow.

According to my good buddy Mr. Google, there are early warning signs, signals, and systems for just about topic that one can imagine. If you think about that for a moment, it’s extremely reassuring. There are signals that warn you of a problem in advance. You just have to be open to receiving what the signals are telling you and then take action.

This is significant to me because over the last couple weeks I’ve been receiving my own personal early warning signals. I’ve felt a little off, I have woken up just as tired as when I went to bed, I have had aches and pains that I don’t normally have. After asking myself for the millionth time “What’s wrong with you Donna?” I put the question on the back burner of my brain to stew up an answer and thankfully it did.

The answer wasn’t pretty, but it was truthful. I’ve gotten slack. I’ve fallen out of the routine of healthy habits, and I’ve allowed a number of significant stressors in my life weigh me down creating a vicious cycle of more stress and less healthy habits. I have Crohn’s Disease so being vigilante about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing my stress are (and should be) my top priorities, yet every once in a while I get too comfortable in my current “healthy” status and develop a case of the lazies. 

The early warning signals that I have been experiencing the past few weeks are my body’s way of telling me to stop, regroup, and get back on track before I throw myself into a flair up of my illness. 

I’ve had Crohn’s for about ten years now. Early on I went through a period of denial and ended up paying for that attitude with a sixteen-month nightmare. Educating myself about Crohn’s and realizing that my situation could always be worse were the first steps in the path to a healthier and happier lifestyle. Since then I’ve stayed mostly on track.

Today started off badly, but now that I’ve recognized what is going on; I know what steps I need to take to correct my path. I’m grateful that my body has its own built in Early Warning System and that I’ve finally learned how to interpret its signals.