Tuesday, May 22, 2018
I have IBD and everything in my life has changed

Ormond Beach, FL July 16th, 2016

This a story about an eight month weight loss journey that did not go according to plan. 

Since October of 2016, I have lost a total of 35 lbs. I became much more active in my life after being inspired by the YouTuber Casey Neistat who in a nutshell, lives every minute with intent. He takes every chance he gets to experience something great or capture it. Now most mornings you could find me in the park walking, running, long boarding, etc. The afternoons are often accompanied by fun outdoor activities with the kids as well. I wish I could say all of this is the reason to my weight loss.

This post was updated 5/19/17 to include an extra image of Diana and I, and links to the video I made Diana for her birthday.

What is that feeling?

Back in October of 2016, I weighed approximately 210 lbs and was considered obese per BMI standards (Body Mass Index). Throughout my wife Diana’s pregnancy, I ate to my belly’s content. This pregnancy was different. Baby number four was on the way. I felt the anxiety one hundred percent. I took care of that anxiety with food. Cheese Pizza for lunch? Sure! Pasta? Why not? Burgers? I’ll take a double. Meal prep? Yeah, let me “meal prep” this leftover lasagna I made today that was beyond delicious but also beyond rich in fat, cheese, calories, etc. I started focusing on my activities and not the food. Was I going outside to get fresh air and get my heart rate up? Yes. Did I have pizza that night? Sure did. Despite all of this however, I started losing weight. A lot of weight. I thought I had it all under control.

It is now March of 2017. I continue the same activities throughout Spring. My weight continues to decline but at a slower pace. I’m sitting at about 185 lbs. Down a total of 25. My eyes are starting to show dark circles and notice I often become light headed out of the blue. I wake up one morning however feeling fresh. I notice a minor ache on my right side. What is that feeling? No biggie I thought. Probably the way I slept or something. I continue about the day cleaning up the studio, running errands, editing photos, etc. when I felt a sharp and consistent pain in my right lower abdomen. I thought to myself, “This can’t be my appendix“. It was removed years ago. It erupted after completing a 5k in 2007. I expressed my concern to Diana and mentioned it could be my gallbladder. The pain did not let up. If it did not subside before days end, I had decided to admit myself in to the ER before it gets any worse. It is now 10:45pm on a Sunday evening. Kids already in bed, our day is coming to a close. The pain is the same, if not worse. I shower, pack my bag, say goodbye to Diana and drive myself to the hospital with the radio off. I needed time to reflect on what was happening and what could happen later on down the road. When I walk into the ER, it has about 3 people waiting and there are plenty of seats. They scan me in and get me admitted within 10 mins. Time for testing. First is the CT scan. Then the blood work. “For now, here is a little something for the pain” says the nurse. Two hours pass. The results. “We can’t seem to find anything wrong with you.”

Nothing showed up in the scan and my blood work did not show any abnormalities. I am released, prescribed dicyclomine and off I go. Told to follow up with my primary physician in the morning. That’s it. (That’s it?) That is it my friend.

Sophia Torres Mateo Torres

Mateo and Sophia after school

Death in a bag

I spent the next week or two battling something that is supposedly, not there. I made an appointment to see my GI (Gastroenterologist) doctor. (**Here’s where it gets ugly so if you’re squeamish, skip this paragraph I guess?) Diarrhea is now becoming a normal thing and I do not realize it. 6-8 times a day and sometimes grew 10-12 times a day easily. Maybe it was something I ate? But,  why has it not stopped? Why do my hands and knees hurt so much? Feels like pins and needles. Arthritis? How can that be? Is that a fever? Why am I so light headed all the time? My blood pressure is perfect I have it checked often. Wait a second, how did they not see anything in the hospital???

I’m in the office one early afternoon, wrapping up work. I leave the office to get a bite to eat. Nothing near by expect a what?! Go ahead. I bet you can answer this. Yes, a Mc Donald’s thats right. A stupid Mc Donald’s. This stupid person (me), pulls up to the drive-thru and gets two, yes two, quarter pounders with cheese. Death. Death was in that bag ladies and gentlemen. At least, that’s what it felt like after I ate it. (enter Jim Gaffigan) I was definitely eating my feelings of anxiety. After about an hour or two, a sharp pain starts to enter my right side again. I hugged my belly from the pain. It starts to become unbearable. I get down on one knee. I black out.

I wake up on the floor in the fetal position covered in sweat. I’m guessing I was there at least an hour. It felt as though I got hit by a bus. Also felt as though I was attacked. Seriously. When I got myself and my things together I made my way to the car still in a daze. I just wanted to get home. As soon as I stepped out I notice a little chill but nothing crazy. 50F maybe with some wind? (I live in FL so that is cold for us haha)  Halfway to the car I start shivering. It then becomes uncontrollable. My tongue turns white and numb, and I cannot stop shaking no matter how hard I try. I open the door, turn on the car, turn the heater on full blast and wait as I continue to shake uncontrollably. Minutes go by and it stops. “Goodness, what the heck was that?” The next morning I pulled up to my GI office building for my first visit. They went over the paper work from the ER and some blood tests they ordered and I had completed. Thankfully they cleared my pancreas for any issues but we needed to do more tests. A lot more.

No two persons can learn something and experience it in the same way - Shannon L. Alder Click To Tweet

Diana’s birthday

April 8th. Diana’s birthday. It landed on a Saturday this year and man was it a beautiful day. No humidity. Just pure sun and a cool breeze. We arrive to the park with the kids and my in-laws. We brought snacks, blankets, and a frisbee (a family favorite). I absolutely love frisbee so I played a lot with the kids and my father-in-law, Oscar. It was super fun. We spent the first half of the day at two different parks (because it was just that beautiful). We then headed over to eat Italian for Diana’s birthday lunch. I didn’t eat much. Heck, I didn’t order anything at all. That should’ve been a red flag right there. I mean, I used all this energy for 2-3 hours walking, playing frisbee, etc, and I’m not hungry?At all?! Oscar and I decided to have coffee so we walked across the street while Diana and her mother enjoyed their desserts. Walking back from the coffeeshop, hot coffee in hand, I get an extreme sharp pain. I tipped forward and grab Oscar’s arm to hold myself up. He had no idea what was going on. It lasted only a second or two but in hindsight, it was a warning of what was to come ahead.

We arrived home around 6 or 7pm. Since Patricia and Oscar were in town, they agreed to watch the kids while Diana and I headed into town. It was nice to walk with Diana alone even though it lasted a whopping ten minutes. I guess the impact of walking started to agitate my belly and sure enough this intense, paralyzing pain hits my lower right abdomen again hours later from the first time. It stopped me dead in my tracks. Diana grabbed my arm and asked if I was ok. I couldn’t do it. We had to turn back. Listen to this; it took us 2 minutes to walk from our car to our location. It took us about 5-8 mins to walk back the same distance. The pain was so gripping, I had no choice but to take it super slow. I looked like a person walking out of a hospital after surgery. The drive home was very bad. The pain. Then the silence in the car. I knew something was happening to me but I couldn’t put my finger on it. As I mentioned earlier, it totally felt mental and physical.

Alex Torres Meal Prep Mondays 4

Lucas and I at the park on Diana’s birthday

Diana noticed something was wrong and gave me time in the car to gather my thoughts. I needed it. I wasn’t upset or upset with her. We weren’t even arguing but the tension was there. I might’ve been upset with the fact that I could not walk with her on the night of her birthday. I started feeling as though I was a burden. Seconds later after Diana walked into our house, the feeling was that of a train coming for you while you’re on the tracks. You hear it coming and you cannot do anything about it. A rumbling started in my belly and a twisting and turning sensation began. I jumped out of the car and tip toed my way to the door to avoid aggravating it. “DO NOT call an ambulance Diana. I will let you know if I need one.” I make my way to the living room. Kids asleep in the next room. I am now crouched forward on the floor with my right hand on my belly and my left arm pressing against the wall to hold myself up. The pain is at its peak. The tears are just pouring down the sides of my cheeks as Diana and her mom watch in horror. They have absolutely no idea what is happening right now. They think I have a belly ache and I’m overreacting to the discomfort. The look on their face says it all. They have no idea how to react to the situation. They haven’t experienced this with me before. It’s all new to them.

IBD awareness

Diana took this photo during the start of a flare up

The experience

After suffering for a good 10 minutes with this gut wrenching pain, I remember the pills I had in the medicine cabinet. “Diana please. Please get the pills in the cabinet.” as I take a breathe in between every-single-word because of the chest compression and loss of air that comes with it. Pill in one hand, a glass of water in the other, Diana makes her way to the living room. Her face still an expression of confusion. The clock starts. “How long does this pill take to kick in?” At least fifteen minutes and yes, of course I’m about to tell you that the fifteen minutes felt like an eternity because it did feel like an eternity. There is no denying this. “Sit down. Lay down. Stop doing that.”. I knelt on the ground while I leaned on the couch or chair and they thought it might irritate my pain when in fact it was the opposite. It gave me some sort of comfort. Ten minutes pass and the pain wears off by 75% in almost an instant. Gradually the rest subsides and I was able to take a full breathe of air. Finally.

They stared. And stared some more as I stared right back in confusion. You could hear a cricket. “Wait a minute, Wait a minute. Do you guys think I was making this UP?!” The realization sets in as I predicted. They are so confused and don’t know what to say or how to say it, or what to do. I storm off to the bedroom but then return saying “you’re going to feel real silly when we find out whats going on, you watch”. I was in shock. I felt so alone. I just, could not believe they thought I was faking it.

The reward of suffering is experience. - Harry S Truman Click To Tweet

Back to back attacks

The next morning was all but normal. Awkward is the best way to explain it. The plans are to meet at my mothers house with family to cut a cake for Diana but first, I grab my bag, keys, and I head out the door. The pain is now “bearable” but I continue to walk like a zombie (slowwww). I arrive to the office and start wrapping up a video I made for Diana’s birthday. Footage of Diana, the kids, and our families. It was a very emotional but positive and up lifting. (video below) I guess a little too emotional. The pain starts again in the same exact location.

The pill; in the car. My cell phone screen; not working and can’t make outbound calls. The internet; straight connected to my cable companies public wifi system. Slow af. I stood up, walked around the office while holding my right side making faces like  I had just drank bitter lemonade. I walked as fast as I could to the car, grabbed the pills, walked right back inside and took the pill. Sad part is, it was too late. The pill takes fifteen minutes to kick in and the pain was almost at its half way point. I played yoga music on Youtube to calm myself down hoping the pain would pass. It still showed its ugly face. I crouched down to the floor then I laid on my side. Praying the pain passes. After a couple of minutes it feels like a battle between the flare and the pill trying to gain control. I am on the floor motionless. I reach above the desk, grab the iPad and attempt to text with one hand. After about 20 mins or so my nephew arrives to see me laying face first on the floor. “Don’t panic just let my pill finish kicking in”. I asked him to spark a conversation so that I can focus on something else to ease the pain. He talked about some girl he met at a club the night before, yada yada yada (jk Marc). It helped. Diana showed up minutes later and Oscar helped “crutch” me to the car while the girls Aliana and Sophia watch me from the other car. This was the day it really hit me. Things have changed. Diana insists we go back to the ER so we did. What were the results? Nothing found. But I think I know what’s going on. The signs are everywhere.

Information on IBD

What IBD means to you

Source: The Crohn’s Journey Foundation

Symptoms but no diagnosis

We are now in May of 2017. I weigh about 175 lbs and lost a total of 35 lbs. Eight months in and my symptoms continue to include the following:

and I’m sure I’m missing about 2-3 more. I went from having what I considered a “normal life” to all of what I mentioned above, almost overnight. Can you imagine what effect this has on the mind? On family? Marriage? Again, this is something physical and mental. It is a battle that is exhausting day to day.

Alex Torres Diana Ponce

Click here to see the video I made Diana for her 34th birthday.

Here’s where I am

The doctor said I most likely have an IBD but cannot confirm until tests prove it. An IBD stands for Inflammatory Bowel Disease which is very different from IBS. An IBD is a chronic and lifelong disease with no cure. It just so happens May 19th is #WorldIBDDay. This is my effort to bringing awareness to those who are going through this pain and thinking its just something they ate when in reality there is something wrong. Very wrong and it needs to be checked. If your doctor believes it to be an IBD, you might either have Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. Those are the two culprits and differ particularly in the bloody stools. I believe it shows up more in UC patients than Crohn’s but every story is very unique. I’ve had several CT scans, ultrasound, endoscopy, colonoscopy, HIDA scan, and specific blood work. My pancreas has been cleared and so has my gallbladder. The endoscopy and colonoscopy came back inconclusive and so has the blood work. I can have anywhere from 2 to all of these symptoms in one day. You just never know. It’s scary. Not even gonna lie. We just need to keep testing until we hit it.

Crohns Colitis Diagnosis

Source: www.ccfa.org

My Diet

This is going to be short since I just started eliminating foods from my diet within the last 3 weeks or so. I totally get that diet has a major role in this. I’m focusing on what I can eat, rather than focusing on what I cannot eat. The majority of dairy is gone especially cheese. You know what, I think its easier to tell you what I AM eating and drinking rather than what I have eliminated. I still eat eggs, toast, avocados, sweet potato, grass fed butter, coconut oil, plantains, homemade soups and broths, rice, chicken and some beef. I drink tea, lots of coconut water and kombucha (for its amazing Probiotic content but you should seek advice if you should drink this beforehand. sometimes it could have adverse effects), water of course, and occasionally orange juice (100% OJ). I definitely noticed that “gooey” cheese, is a huge no-no for me yet parmesan cheese hasn’t effected me the way the other one does. Go figure. Meal prep has helped me more than I thought it ever would by allowing me to think ahead and have snacks near by. I’m going to keep a journal to see what keeps me as normal as possible. This section will get updated again in the future I’m sure. Check back.

Compared to so many other people who’ve suffered some form of IBD for years, I am in the very, very beginning it all. There is so much I need to learn. The good the bad and the ugly I am sure. I’m happy to say we attended a local IBD group here in Orlando that meets quarterly and the folks are great. Its very comforting to hear other peoples stories and great to know some normalcy is possible.

Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food. - Hippocrates Click To Tweet

If you know someone who was recently diagnosed 

I most definitely cannot speak for all. This is something I would have liked done for myself so this is totally based off my experience. Time and understanding. These are the two things most crucial to me. Time. I need(ed) time to figure things out. See, IBD doesn’t just effect your intestines, it effects your skin, bowels, moods, energy, and so much more. You don’t see it happening to us, but we are processing it every minute of our life. We just want time to understand and thats what we want you to do also, understand as best you can. Understand that this effects us every single day, not just some days. We wake up and battle fatigue, arthritis, aches and pains, just to make breakfast. Every action is carefully thought out to make sure I use as little energy as possible. These are some of the thoughts we have throughout the day so please understand and please be compassionate. We are most definitely NOT doing this on purpose . I’m sure there is a lot more we’d rather be doing, like finding a cure.

Lack of understanding is always painful- Byron Katie Click To Tweet

As I mentioned this is an on going process. If you’d like to get updates regarding my progress in finding out more about these symptoms and diseases, subscribe below and I’ll keep in touch. (Your email is kept private always)

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Blair Elliott May 16, 2017 at 9:28 PM

thank you for writing this

    Alex Torres May 19, 2017 at 10:07 AM

    Thank you for taking the time to read it 🙂

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