…My name is Brooke Abbott and I have IBD.
I realize that most of you reading this are new to the Chronicles and so the time has come for me to re-tell my tale. What you may find is that it’s similar to yours, or yours and perhaps yours too. I was sick, unlike anything I had experienced before. I was diagnosed and my life changed dramatically. But what are the sorted details? Why did I start advocating? Why the heck do call myself the Crazy Creole Mommy?
On September 11th, 2001 I was a week into my first semester of college. I was also working a seasonal job at Party City to help pay for the expensive major I decided to take on. Our whole world shifted that day, the week following that awful day changed my life forever. Second week of school, biggest terrorist attack I’ve ever witnessed. I started a brand new job. I was trying to figure out the delicate balance of being 18 and still living in my mother’s home. And I caught a virus. My temperature spiked to a temperature of 106. What was happening? It just seemed like everything that could happen, was happening within a span of 12 days. And although I knew that college, the job and the aftermath of a terrorist attack would drastically change my life. I had no idea what that fever of 106 triggered inside of my body.
For weeks after my illness I felt tired. Weeks turned into months & months turned into a year. Somehow I never really recovered from being sick that was also compounded by the fear of another impending attack. I briefly spoke to my mom about it and she immediately loaded me up with vitamins and wheatgrass. That’s right, wheatgrass. You guys don’t understand, my mom was a single mom for most of my life, she didn’t have time for sick kids. Especially ones who had autoimmune diseases like asthma and eczema. Whenever one of us started sneezing or coughing, we made an extra trip to a local Los Angeles health food grocery store, Mrs. Goochs’ (what is now, Whole Foods) for shots of wheat grass, freshly squeezed orange juice and echinacea goldenseal tonic drops. Going into my second year of college, my mother wanted to make sure I didn’t catch germs from the other little college kiddies in class. No sharing my juice boxes! She also wanted to make sure I wasn’t wasting her tuition money by falling asleep in class.
But I was falling asleep in class. I was dosing off after having had 8 hours of rest. I was dosing off after hours of studying. No matter how much sleep I got or how much wheatgrass I drank, I was exhausted! I was also going to the bathroom…A LOT! And no matter what, I had to poop. I would urinate and still have to poop. I would eat and immediately have to poop. I would drink something and have to poop. I would wake up in the middle of the night and have to urgently poop. I was tired and pooping more in a day, than I ever did before. As college went on, I noticed weightless, hair thinning, sensitive gums, and I was now falling asleep as soon as I sat down somewhere. I was nauseous every single day. Sometimes all day. My bathroom trips became more and more urgent and painful by the day. Then one day, blood. I didn’t freakout, I just figured it was something I ate or I had wiped too hard. It would go away. It didn’t go away. The blood didn’t stop for another 2 years.
By the time I was 24 years old, I had a toilet bowl full of blood and I was feeling like I was gonna faint every single time I came out of the bathroom. I was late for work & class. Oversleeping almost every single day. Disappearing several times a day to the bathroom. I was let go from two different assistant jobs and one production job because I had missed important deadlines or was frequently late for work. But I was late because I spent most of my morning in the bathroom feeling like I was dying, taking a shower and then having to get back on the toilet. I was not good at my job because I spent most of my days in so much pain, I was barely functioning, let alone moving at a production’s pace. Most of the people around me thought I was a frivolous 20 something year old, who was smart but had no drive or ambition. I appeared lazy and inept. I was sensitive and snappy. And I was just so damn tired all the time. But in late 2007, I was given the break of a lifetime through my mom’s really great friend who needed a production coordinator on her new series she was executively producing. She brought me on board as a PC. But in a short amount of time I proved to be an actual producer, much to my own surprise. I helped steer her show, booking amazing musical guests, acted as Assistant Director on set, shot & artistically directed the promotional items and found sponsors. But my health was rapidly declining. I had lost 15lbs in 2 weeks and one day passed out in the arms of one of my family members who was getting her hair done by mother. I spent the next couple of weeks after the Christmas holiday on my mother’s couch. I was told I had IBS and because I was having some issues with my asthma, I was given a low dose of prednisone. After the new year, I went back to work.
Friday, February 8th 2008. We were interviewing, Patti LaBelle. Patti was gracious and kind. She talked to me about my mom and how much she loved her. We chatted about a dear mutual friend, she and my mother shared, Sami McKinney. We shot her segment and Patti went off to the airport. We began to do some pick ups without her, when I suddenly had to go the bathroom. I cut and ran off set. Came back to start again. Looked down at my phone and saw an urgent text, “I’m so sorry everyone to tell you like this, but I can’t make the individual 20 phone calls. Our beloved Sami, has passed on.” A man I had loved and known my whole life had dad the very day I had been laughing with someone about how he took me and my brothers to Disneyland for the first time. I asked for a moment to gather my broken heart that had broken in pieces. We started again. I had to count down. I didn’t get to three, before I passed out in the camera man’s lap. Three weeks later I was sitting in a GI’s office hearing the sentence, “You have Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” I specially something had, ulcerative colitis. Left sided ulcerative colitis. He was talking, my mom was listening. I just stared out the window. The sky was so blue that day. I thought if I could just concentrate on the blueness of the sky, I could tamp down the panic building in my chest! I was just starting my life, this wasn’t suppose to happen. I had been a super healthy person. This couldn’t be happening. I had never heard of ulcerative colitis. I had heard of Crohn’s Disease. My cousin had Crohn’s Disease. Her disease was awful. I wasn’t as sick as she was. Maybe ulcerative colitis wasn’t as bad as Crohn’s. Yea, everything is okay. The doctor didn’t seem panicked. My mother didn’t seem panicked. He’s still talking. Something about surgery later on in life, maybe. Okay, it’s not so bad. I won’t ever be as sick as my cousin.
I was wrong.
…To Be Continued…