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About Me

Eric over Cape Town 2016

Random Facts:
I am Canadian, eh.
I was born October 18, 1980.
I’m left-handed.
I’ve been vegan since 2000. (That means I don’t eat, wear or use animal products)
Was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2008.
Had surgery for my permanent ileostomy on Aug 21, 2013.
Said bye to my rectum Nov 7, 2013.

My name is Eric, and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2008 when I was 28 years old. My diagnosis came about a few days after my 28th birthday and I had no idea how dramatically my life would change.

My first symptoms started in about 2007 with discomfort around my bum. Not pain, but a slight burning. After this went on for over a year, I decided to see my family doctor when the burning became intense.

She couldn’t tell me much from the brief physical exam she gave, other than she noticed the beginning of an abscess.  I was put on antibiotics and was given a referral to get a colonoscopy to see what was going on inside.

I had my scope done in early October 2008 and a few weeks later I was in to see the surgeon to find out what he saw – “It looks like you have Crohn’s Disease”.

What disease? I’d never heard of Crohn’s before and I was asked if I had any trouble going to the bathroom or had abdominal pain. I shook my head, as I didn’t have anything like that – yet.

So I was sent home with a steroid enema and anti-inflammatory drugs to see if we could manage the pain. I started doing research and found people getting better with lifestyle changes.

At this point, I’d been vegan for about eight years, but I was a junk food vegan. My diet consisted of colas, beer, chips, some healthy food on the side, but I decided to change all that.

I went on a raw food (and gluten-free, grain-free, legume-free) diet for close to a year. It seemed to be working until about 4 months in when my symptoms came back with a vengeance.

Loose stools and stomach pains were becoming normal. I abandoned raw foods to go search for other options.

By the end of 2009, I was seeing a Naturopath, but my symptoms were getting worse. I had been getting more draining around my anus (fistulas), painful abscesses, more frequent bowel movement, and much more pain.  In spite of all that, I was still productive and functional.

We did a lot of unconventional stuff to see if something might help. Things like homeopathic remedies (which I now realize is just expensive water), dream analysis, a special diet, etc.

Things were better off and on, and I felt that perhaps I was healing inside. By this point, my only concern was the frequency of my bowel movements, which was about 11 times per day. Everything else was manageable as far as I could tell.

Someone had seen an ad in the paper for an IBD talk being given and a “natural cure” which could help. The talk was free so I thought “what the hell, let’s see what’s it’s about”.

So I went to the talk, which was given by a Chiropractor who was giving case after case of people he “cured” using spinal manipulation. I was impressed and booked a visit to his office.

I was to go for “adjustments” 3-4 times a week, and in about 6 weeks I would be a new person. Well, I certainly was, but it wasn’t for the better!

Shortly after starting the therapy, I noticed pain in my thumbs. I mentioned this to the Chiropractor, who thought it might be a lack of protein (yeah, right). He advised me to increase my protein with some powders and see how that goes.

Well, things continued to get worse, and soon those thumb pains became hand pains, then wrist pains, then ankle, and foot pains. It got the point where I had to stop seeing him because I was unable to drive with all the pain!

Over the summer of 2010, I went through the worst flare I’ve had in the 5 years following my diagnosis, and my joints were screaming in pain.

The simple action of turning a doorknob or walking was unimaginable. I began to get sores in my mouth – 10+ at a time and was barely able to speak. My stools were now liquid, often bloody and extremely urgent.

I had to use the bathroom 20+ times a day and every time I went, it would cause me to scream in agony. I stayed in bed for 3 months and hoped that I was either going to get better or dead. I dropped 40lbs and weighed 108lbs (I’m 5′ 10″).

I began to do more research and found another naturopath who said they could help. I was put on special supplements and we did acupuncture, but they were of no use.

So I found a GI doc who specialized in holistic treatments. He was based in the US, so I did phone and email sessions while he prescribed his “99% effective” treatment plan.

This plan involved thousands of dollars worth of supplements. And believe me, he wanted to sell me everything under the stars!

Probiotics, prebiotics, gum mastic, licorice, special fiber, glucosamine, L-Glutamine, flax oil, S. Boulardii (another special probiotic). On top of that, I was put on an extremely bland diet of rice and skinned potatoes.

I likely spent about six months doing this before I gave up. The results weren’t there and I had no money left for the expensive supplements.

It was Sept 2011 when I was off to see a specialist…

I was scoped again and the results weren’t good: Severe colonic Crohn’s with perianal disease. We needed to medicate. I was upset and frustrated.

All these years, I tried to stay on a more natural approach to healing, but that didn’t help. Changing what I ate, taking supplements, doing meditation, none of it was making a dent in this disease that had hijacked my life.

Foolishly, I ignored recommendations to go on Remicade, one of the “Big Guns” in treating IBD and I continued to suffer.

By the summer of 2012, my disease had been up and down again. Some days were barely manageable and others were spent in pain, but this became my normal.

To add to my troubles, I began to have frequent bouts of dry-heaving and sometimes would vomit the one meal I could manage to eat a day.

Things had to change, and the toll my disease was having on my wife and two kids were devastating. They were watching me die, and there was nothing they could do to help ease my suffering.

To give them a break, I moved in with my parents in Nov 2012, where I could be monitored more closely and have access to the digestive health association down the street from them.

I had blood tests done by my family doctor; the results were terrible. I was anemic from the bleeding and my inflammatory markers were through the roof. I was referred to another specialist, which would be the start of my recovery.

My first visit with him was tough. Walking from the car to his office door felt like a climb up Mount Everest. My anemia was so bad that my body was literally suffocating because not enough oxygen was able to circulate around.

When I stepped into his office, he was shocked. “I didn’t you know you were my patient. I thought you had terminal cancer. You look like a ghost”. I felt even worse…

He wasn’t gentle, but he told me what I needed to hear. “You won’t live to see your 40’s if you continue like this”. And with that, he asked if I’d be interested in enrolling in a clinical trial.

I didn’t agree to anything just yet.

When we got back to the house, my heart dropped. If this is what I had to do, then I have no choice. We called the office the next day and they got me ready to prepare for the trial.

Another scope was needed and a lot of paperwork was drawn up – questionnaires, consent forms, etc. We were approaching mid-December and I spent my holiday, including New Years, in bed – in pain, vomiting and unable to eat.

Soon after New Years 2013, I was put on the steroid Prednisone. For those who don’t know, Prednisone can do amazing things, but it’s also one of the most damaging drugs you can take for IBD.

I was about to find out just how bitter-sweet the next 8 weeks would be with it.

Within DAYS, I was feeling well. I was able to eat, and thanks to the monster appetite it causes, I was putting on weight fast.

Unfortunately, most of the weight you gain on this drug is water weight. Because of this, my vision was cut in half and my legs became stiff.

My face ballooned and I had trouble walking now because of joint pains. Insomnia was terrible and I often had the feeling of bugs crawling up my legs and arms – then came the mood swings.

I’ll be honest, the mood swings were the worst part. I’m sure the phrase “roid rage” came from someone on Prednisone because if there ever was a time to experience the Incredible Hulk, it was then.

I was taken off the drug, slowly, and by the time 8 weeks was up, my nails were peeling off… how nice. Next up: Humira.

I had been taking weekly shots of Humira, but my symptoms were returning. By July, I was ready for another scope.

Before going in, my doctor suggested that I may be able to get a temporary ileostomy to allow my gut to rest and my perianal disease to heal.

That thought quickly changed after the results of my colonoscopy came in – my disease was worse than expected. A temporary ileostomy was no longer an option and there were no other medications that could reverse the damage that was already there. I had to seriously consider a permanent ileostomy.

My initial reaction to having a stoma was shock and disappointment, but to be honest, I couldn’t be upset by this point. I needed this in order to not only save my life but to give me back some quality of life.

I expected a long wait to see a surgeon, but I was in the next week. I spent time online, feverishly looking for ostomy resources and trying to find out if my vegan lifestyle would be compromised because of it.

There were a lot of resources and blogs for ostomates, but none dealt with plant-based diets. I was frustrated, so I decided to create this blog.

On August 21st, 2013, I had my ileostomy done at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. My surgeon, Dr. Robin McLeod, and her team were AMAZING.

I had complete confidence in her knowledge, experience, and skills before I went in, and I can’t thank her enough for what she’s done for me.

My hospital stay was rough. My body doesn’t like the anesthesia, and I was drowsy and “drunk” during my six-day stay at the hospital.

This feeling wouldn’t wear off for weeks after getting home, but my recovery was steady (other than a small hiccup when my incision opened up on my lower abdomen).

And here I am, waiting to have myI had my rectum removed Nov 7th, 2013 and I want nothing more but to share my experience and offer support to those who are about to get an ostomy or who already have one. I welcome everyone and hope that we can all share and learn together.

I’ve been invited to speak in three different countries to share my experience and knowledge about living with IBD and an ostomy, and I’ve been featured on various websites, magazines, newsletters, and events.

I’m married with two kids. We share a house with rescued animals. I love science and technology, roller coasters and hiking.

Thanks for stopping by!

Eric

Eric portrait presquile May 2014

27 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Thanks for telling your story. As someone who had colitis for 13 years, I understand the struggle. I only just got my ileostomy 9 days ago and will be going for the j pouch. I also got my surgery at Mount Sinai in Toronto but it was from Dr. Helen MacRae. They are so great over there. Man, life is so much better getting rid of that disease!

  2. Hi Eric,
    I’m a colostomate 9 years years now, due to anal cancer diagnosed on my 45 birthday. I’m doing fine, living a full productive life. I mostly irrigate now, but on days I don’t I’ve been experiencing “pancaking” and the vacuuming effect since Conva Tec started putting filters in the pouch I was using. I had no idea other ostomates were dealing with these same issues until I happened to come across your site and video on the topic. Thank You for this site and sharing your experiences!
    I also appreciated your video in the parking lot of the amusement park dealing with an unexpected leak. I’ve had leaks happen at the most inopportune times and had to retreat to my car to do an emergency clean-up and pouch change. Nice to know I’m not alone. You gave the best advice, keep calm and try to have a sense of humor about the situation because “shit happens” : )
    Again, great site. You are providing a useful service to new and old ostomates.
    Best Regards,
    Christine

  3. Eric,
    Want to thank you for a great resource and helpful site. I had an emergency colostomy after a perforated diverticulitis in December 2016. I am a nurse and had great resources from the hospital staff, but it was still very challenging and I had lots of questions that only someone who has ‘been there, done that’ can answer. I used your suggestions for swimming using a belly band, made my own seat belt protector after looking at the suggestions you gave, was helped with packing for a vacation across country, got thru a hospitalization for a complete bowel obstruction (while on that vacation 1000 miles from home!). So I really appreciated your ideas. I was blessed to have the colostomy reversed in June and am grateful to be doing well. Thank you again for your very helpful and caring site.

  4. Thank you so much 4this.. Had ileostomy with full surgery in May and its been difficult. Came across your site yesterday and have to say it’s the best one yet 😊 I live in Ireland west and apart from the stoma nurse , there’s very little info/support. My biggest problem has been my back pain. Was in surgery over 6hrs woke up with terrible back pain which I now have physio for. Noticed in other forums that a lot of people have back problems afterwards.
    Your info in the food has really helped and going keep you as my go to now when I need info. Ate a chocolate mousse on Friday night and boy did I suffer for few days 😊 really have to stick to the diet 😎
    Find it hard.
    Anyway thank you for your site

  5. Susan Mills…I am also 63 but my ileostomy is only 2.5 years old. I have read LOTS of blogs, comments, etc trying to find someone else who has an ileostomy AND still has their rectum and anus as I do…so thanks so much for your story! Seems like most ileostomates have Barbie (or ken) butts. WELL NOW… I have reread your post and I’ll just bet yours is a colostomy since you still have some colon..anyway I’ve never been scoped. Currently I can eat anything as long as I chew chew chew. Anyway, I’m glad you found Eric online. I can’t imagine going through all this without his website!

  6. I could have told your story 40 years ago, diagnosed when I was 22 and had my ileostomy 6 years later at 28. Still going strong at 63! I’ve been fairly healthy over the last 36 years with only a few bumps along the way. My PCP referred me to a gastroenterologist and he wants to scope me through the stoma which is what led me to look and see if there was anyone on the internet who has had that done because I’ve never had it done before. I was left with several inches of colon and my rectum, which in the last year or so has had frequent discharge so I’m actually thinking that it might be time to have it removed. Anyway, this site is now in my favorites and I will be back to read more!

  7. You have gone through so much. I think it’s worse for crones symptoms. Although I’d been going to visit docs for about 3 years with a pain in my left groin I had trouble with bowels, constipated or loose. Doc said I had pulled muscle cos I did a lot of cycling, sit ups: 100 before work and jogging. But I had so much rumbling in my tummy and didn’t do much poo. I was finally diagnosed with bowel cancer they took out tumour I had 6 months of chemo and an ostomy bag fitted for twelve months that was then reversed.

  8. Hi Eric… just wanted to let you know how grateful I am for the information you are sharing on this blog. I am four weeks post-surgery and learning to adjust to my permanent colostomy (due to rectal cancer). Knowing there is a supportive community is greatly comforting, especially now as I learn to live with my new reality. Thank you for your advice and information. PS I grew up in Toronto — Go Leafs Go!

  9. Hi Eric

    I found your site 2 days ago and I wasn’t going to read it as I am not a vegan. However, this is the best information that I have found since having a proctocolectomy and ileostomy 10 days ago. Your story is so similar to mine. I was diagnosed in 2013 at 57. I thought I had bowel cancer as my father had died 17 months prior of bowel cancer. Silly me was happy to get a Crohn’s diagnosis. Over the next 4 years I have sometimes wished it was cancer and I would have been cured! or at least in remission. The last 14 months have been the worse I have been, 4 hospital admissions, every new drug under the sun all to no avail. Finally, doctor said I’m not going out of the hospital without the operation, I wouldn’t make it. So from someone who wouldn’t take prednisone to having my colon removed and bum sewed up is quite a journey. I am so glad that I found your site. I am in Sydney Australia. And thank god for our health system, the bags and paraphernalia cost the patients nothing! just a society membership yearly. I am setting up a blog to chart my journey, nothing there yet, but it’s (link removed) when I get up and running.

    • Thanks for writing, Poppy! Hindsight about the sugery and our illness is really something, right? I hope that your recovery goes well and that you continue to be positive about it.

  10. Eric, I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am that I found your website. I had a colectomy and ileostomy a little over 2 months ago and have already had a blockage and stoma revision. I have been struggling to find a site like yours with so many great reviews and resources, especially concerning diet. I am sorry to report that I am a carnivore (especially since I wasn’t able to tolerate meat for years). I have been scared to introduce plant-based foods back into my diet, but after reading about your experience I am now willing to try. I have been doing much better in the last few weeks and have even returned to work full time. Thank you again for creating such a wonderful site. I plan to visit regularly. Best wishes, Helen

  11. I am over the moon excited to have been introduced to your blog. I’m a new ostomate (surgery was August 13). Four months prior to surgery I had adopted a plant based diet which left me feeling incredible, but have since been told that isn’t possible to continue, as my stoma and gut need to rest and heal right now. The processed foods and meat are making me feel “gross”. I miss my veggies and I’m scared about transitioning back into that diet, for fear of the gas pain and obstruction. I look forward to reading and learning more on this blog!!!! Thank you so much :). Jenni-Rebecca

  12. Thankyou so much much for setting up this site! I can’t tell you how much it has helped me as a fellow vegan after having an emergency ileostomy as a last resort.
    The stoma nurses at the hospital are excellent but none of them even knew what ‘vegan’ meant so I was panicked when thinking about my diet. That’s when I found your site and found it very reassuring.
    Thankyou again, Philippa

  13. I am in awe of your struggle. I sincerely thank you from my soul to yours for your honesty and transparency in educating us through your example. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  14. Eric, great site and great shirt – “No colon…still rollin'”. It’s so helpful to see what you have tried, what has worked and what hasn’t worked.

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