Confessions from a Patient with Behcet’s Disease

Living with a chronic illness, like Behcet's disease, may cause newfound grief and longing for “the old life,” but Leslie takes solace in the fact that things could be so much worse.

The day you are diagnosed with any chronic illness will be the day your life will change forever and will never again be the same! So many emotions will flood your mind, and you may see your life pass in front of your eyes.

Over the days, weeks, months and years, you finally realize that this is now your life.

Many people only see a doctor when they become sick with a cold, flu, a broken bone or a sprained muscle,.  Some may never visit a doctor. Their pain will be acute, and once the cause is treated, the pain will leave. The medicine they take will only be for a short time. However, those with a chronic illness have lives that are filled with doctor’s visits, medicines, tests, pain, exhaustion and grief for “the old life.”

As you move into the existence of what is now “your life,” you will find yourself losing the ability to even enjoy what you did in your old life. Spending time with others now may even feel uncomfortable. The ability to participate in activities you once did becomes more and more difficult as the days go by. You will then find yourself wishing for your old life, even wishing you could work. Wishing you could play sports, wishing you could go to the movies, wishing you could cook, clean and dance. All of these things become much more difficult when living with an illness.

Behcet’s disease is special; it has the ability to be so unpredictable as well as unrelenting sometimes.

I have a more severe form or a “complete” form, if you will. I live with most of ALL the symptoms associated with it. I have folliculitis on my thighs and back that never goes away, central nervous system/neurological (brain) problems with inflammation, partial seizures, headaches, neck stiffness of varying degrees most of every single day, confusion, coordination issues along with balance and vertigo problems, oral ulcers and genital ulcers bi-weekly.

It used to be a constant, unrelenting problem to deal with but since I have been on CellCept, they usually are less frequent and fewer in number. Up until April 2012, I would experience 30 to 50 ulcers in my mouth all at ONE time!! It was so, so painful.

I have gastrointestinal symptoms, ulcers throughout my GI tract, severe abdominal pains and chronic diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, eye inflammation— specifically Uveitis/Iritis, joint inflammation with severe body pain of varying degrees, lung inflammation— or Pulmonary hypertension, heart issues with increased heart rate, an episode of pericarditis, palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, thrombophlebitis (superficial blood clots in my veins) as opposed to DVT (deep vein thrombosis) which can be fatal.

Raynaud’s phenomenon, also caused by Behcet’s, is triggered more often when I am cold or stressed. During an attack, little or no blood flows to my affected body parts, which is typically my hands or fingers and, more often than not, my feet or toes. As a result, my skin may turn white and then blue for a short time. My toenails usually turn purple/bluish, and as blood flow returns, the affected areas may turn red and throb, tingle, burn or feel numb.

It is difficult to be confined to my home, to remember a former self who was bubbly, outgoing, goal-oriented and focused on my future. The comfort of a home that so many people look forward to during their days, sometimes can become a source of suffocation or prison for me. My personality and all that I identified myself as is now a fond memory for me to grieve about every now and again. That’s a normal response when dealing with such a life-altering reality.

My new reality is like standing on the edge of a cliff with a brisk breeze blowing every single day, tethering on the brink and knowing that there’s going to be one day that the breeze turns deadly and off the edge I go.

However, I have acquired a perspective in life that few healthy people will ever know. So many people are caught up with their lives and the busy coming and going, they do not realize how much is taken for granted. The ability to get to sleep at night, to wake in the morning and get out of the bed with ease, get their tasks and responsibilities taken care of without pain, to maintain focus and alertness as necessary. To have an appetite and eat what they choose and when they choose. To actually get dressed and be able to go out of the house because they have a career or place to be— and have it not be a doctor’s appointment or a trip to pick up medication.

Mostly, they have no idea what it is like to be me!!! So while my situation in life is unfortunate and I am very limited, I know things could be so much worse! I know that with my illness things may get worse! Knowing this makes me incredibly grateful. I can appreciate each day for waking up, and I can be happy for this even when my digestive system is in ruins, or my kidneys, liver and heart are doing just enough for me to function. I choose to stay as positive as I can and be as happy as possible with what does work for me.

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Global Genes Comments

  1. Thank you very much for sharing your experience. I am also diagnosed of BC before Christmas 2015. I have been suffering since 2010. Many of your symptoms I do experience as well. I have long experience list of different medications. Basic most of the time: Cortison (Prednison). I tried: Methotrexate, Imurek (Azathioprin), Colchicin, TNF blocker Infliximab (Remicade), Aprimilast (Otezla) and now Adalimumab (Humira). What drugs are you taking?
    I do wish you the very best for every new hour, less pain, less suffering, lots of positive views and happiness. Take care of you.
    Gabriela from Switzerland

  2. Hello everyone,
    My name is Miranda. I really have no idea where to start or what to say or do. I am almost 24 years old, and about 4 months ago, I was diagnosed with BD. Like I said, I’m not sure where to go from here. I am completely overwhelmed. I’m not sure why im asking this, but if anyone has any information they can share with me about anything that I can/should do, please email me. I am desperate.

    • Mary E. A says:

      Hi, my name is Mary. I have BD. I have been living with this condition for probably 25+ years. I just turned 50 and realized after all these years my flare-up occur in or around my menstrual cycle, but not every time. There have been years between flareups, but most recently since Nov I have had severe flareups every time. I’m suspect it may have to do with menopause. Though I haven’t officially begun menopause it maybe sooner than expected. I have short bouts of memory loss (of course that may be due to age) more frequent. I’m currently taking colchicine for my BD. I have been taking it for many years. Keeps the flareups to a minimum. The mouth ulcers don’t last as long and the amount of ulcers are few. I have had years without flareups, however that doesn’t seen to be the case now. In November i had one of the worst flareups the ulcers were so large, that walking was very difficult. After my 800 ibuprofen no longer helped with the pain I was taking codine (pain killer) to get through the day. The sores took about a month to heal and a week later flared again (menstral time) . Though this was not as bad but an inconvenience and yet again on my 50th birthday. (See the pattern) I am seriously considering a hisorectomy in hopes that it may diminish flareups. Yes this disease sucks, I’ve had good times bad times and really really bad times. The important thing is that my family is aware of my condition and are very supportive and caring. My husband is an angel. He tries so hard to comfort me . It seems that lately it’s been more of a burden for him but he never says so. In return I’m trying not to let my condition slow me down or keep me in bed no matter how awful I feel. Keeping inflammation to a minimum is also important. Good diet and exercise seem to help. Over exertion increases the chance of flareups so take it easy. You may want to ask your doctor about colchicine is works well. Limit your sugar and bread they cause inflammation in your body. There is an ebook called inflammation 101. Good read. Lots of information. Good luck and stay positive I know it’s hard to I’ve been there, but life is good and it is what it is, so make the best of it.


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