• Gastroenterology Patient Stories

    Back to Her “New Normal”

As a 14-year-old, Ann Strom understandably had knots in her stomach about starting her freshman year of high school.

These knots, however, did not go away.

Following several weeks of abdominal pain, Strom and her parents began to suspect that her upset stomach was more than the result of nervousness or flu.

After a series of tests conducted by her family doctor came back negative, Strom was transferred to a specialist at a University Hospital. Several more rounds of tests, including Strom’s first colonoscopy at the age of 14, ultimately diagnosed her with Crohn’s disease in Oct. 2003.

Throughout high school, Strom alternated between several different medications in an attempt to control her symptoms. At one point, she was taking 14 pills a day. One in particular had terrible side effects, including feeling jittery, shaking, an elevated pulse and a red, puffy face.

“It’s kind of hard to deal with,” said Strom. “High school is a lot about appearances, so sitting there with a puffy, red face isn’t really fun.”

As Strom transitioned out of pediatric care, she began to consider other medical facilities for treatment. “I decided, after my mom had a doctor at Mayo, to switch my care to Mayo,” said Strom.

Upon arriving at Mayo, Strom met Dr. David Bruining, who recommended an aggressive re-assessment of her diagnosis. This time her testing was felt to be most suggestive of ulcerative colitis, not Crohn’s disease, as the cause of Strom’s condition.

“For patients like Ann, it is important to seek out help as they are not alone in their struggles,” said Dr. Bruining. “There are many treatment options available for patients with IBD.”

Though hopeful that this diagnosis was the correct one, towards the end of her freshman year of college Strom was still plagued by fatigue and abdominal pain.

“I was kind of at the end of the line when it came to medication options,” said Strom. “I could go back on high dosages of medication that caused really bad side effects that I hated in high school, or another option would be to have surgery.”

After much deliberation, Strom chose surgery. She completed a series of three surgeries, with a final take-down procedure in Oct. 2009.

Since then, Strom is back to her “new normal.”

“I’ve been feeling the best I’ve felt since I was 14 years old,” said Strom.

Here’s a video of Strom describing her journey through diagnosis and surgery:

This post was submitted by Lauren Rothering, a summer intern in the Mayo Clinic Department of Public Affairs in Rochester.

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