Most people would be pretty upset to be diagnosed with an infection. My doctor and I were on the verge of cheering when the results came back positive, though.

My first stool sample came back positive for C. difficile. It is a bacterium that can infect the colon, usually of people with compromised immune systems (like me). It has the same exact symptoms of a UC flare up and is thus only distinguishable by the presence of the bacteria in a stool sample.

Upon reexamining the symptoms and evidence, my doctor and I both came up with the possible conclusion that what I’ve been experiencing is not a failure of my current treatments but instead an opportunistic infection that coincided with my sudden ramp-up in dosage of immunosuppresants. Immediately after starting the higher dosage of Humira, I was seeing great results and improvement in my symptoms. Then suddenly, everything changed, and I was almost all the way back to where I started a year ago.

There is a minor possibility that I actually picked up this infection in the hospital and, as it turns out, the medicines ARE failing and this is just another problem to deal with on top of it. However, even if C. diff. turns out not to be the source of my current problems, they do not want to perform the surgery until after the infection has cleared up. After the antibiotics are complete and we give things a week or so to settle down, they will perform another colonoscopy and we will go from there.

If, after the flight of antibiotics and diarrhea drugs, I am no longer experiencing the symptoms, then the drugs ARE working as intended and I may not NEED the surgery at this time, if ever.

If this is the case, at a minimum, my doctor wants to get me off of steroids completely and reduce my Humira back to a standard biweekly dose. If we can do that and stay in remission for a short while, this current nightmare will be over.

But then the decision becomes more tough.

At that point, I will have the option to elect to perform the surgery. They would rather I wait until I achieve stable remission before attempting a surgery if possible for a number of reasons. If the C. diff clears the current problem, that makes the decision easier for the short term. However, the long term question will need to be answered.

For someone with severe UC like me, the need for surgery is something on the order of 50:50. I can always choose to do the surgery, but I would not necessarily be forced into that situation medically.

That said, I am still at a fairly high risk for eventual colon cancer. Additionally, Humira and similar biologic treatment use long term increases your risks for blood cancers. Getting surgery early will curtail both risks by eliminating the source of colon cancer and reducing exposure to the blood cancer risks.

It was easier to make the decision to get the surgery when I was somewhat backed into a corner. But now that I may have a real choice, this is MUCH more difficult.

The good news, though, is now they can’t perform the surgery until next month at the earliest, so I have the luxury of time to really think things through. There is also the fact that I am definitely changing my current health insurance plan during open season at work, so I can strategically choose a plan that will benefit me most and then plan to have the surgery after the insurance transition. Planning is definitely the advantage of waiting a bit.

But at the current moment, waiting only a bit is the way I’m leaning. I think the benefits of the surgery outweigh the significant life changes associated with it, now that I have begun to accept them, and I will likely pursue the elective surgery.

At least I will probably get to ponder this at home over the next few days. If it looks like I am responding to the sudden shift in treatment to the infection, I may be released from the hospital as early as tomorrow and can recuperate at home (and eventually work) until the next appointments and colonoscopy in the coming weeks.

There is definitely a glimmer of hope in finally restoring my health in a much more ideal way. This ordeal isn’t over, but this news in itself is a major improvement in the situation. Perhaps those who had prayed for me or added me to prayer chains had something to do with that, if one chooses to believe so.

Thanks to all of you who have responded with the outpouring of thoughts, support, anecdotes, and offers of help. It means a lot to me to know that there are so many people there for me and thinking of me. Even more special to me are those of you in Houston that have reached out to me. I have struggled to feel at home in this city since I moved here, and your comments and reassurances and offers have helped me feel much more comfortable here. It helps me not feel so alone in dealing with this in such a crazy, still-largely-unfamiliar place.