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My Muscles Atrophied, I Couldn’t Climb Stairs, I Lost it All… but I Learned How to be More Positive

“How are you always so positive?”

It’s a question I get asked often and not an easy one for me to answer. Truthfully, I’m not always positive. There are times when my health is in an awful place or something stressful is going on in my life and it’s difficult for me to be positive. In fact, I think the people who say things like “just think positive” can eat a bag of d… um, they can just shut up because it isn’t healthy to always be positive. Life is hard and it’s important to let yourself feel a wide variety of emotions as long as you don’t get yourself stuck in an unhealthy mental space. I can be quite negative because I have a past history of depression and self-esteem/body image issues and while that is hard to admit, it is not uncommon for patients living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Though generally speaking I’m a pretty positive person these days and there is a reason for that…

Stairs: They're My Reason

Taken after a couple weeks home and after gaining some weight back but still underweight. Finally manged to make it upstairs to my room

Three years ago, on December 22nd, I was released from the hospital after six months of being there. I spent those six months having 2 emergency surgeries, multiple blood transfusions, and months of TPN. I spent a weekend in the ICU after getting an infection from my PICC line and had all sorts of tests and procedures done that stole any dignity I had left. I was wearing adult diapers at night because I had no control of my bowel movements when I slept and I was in pain. The worst pain I had ever experienced ever. I can’t even describe just how awful those six months were, and all that was involved, but finally on December 22nd (I was admitted July 6th) I was released.

I came home at around 82 pounds which was terribly underweight for my 5’5″ body. The first thing I wanted to do when I got home was go lay down in my bedroom but I discovered that I couldn’t climb the stairs. 

Did you hear me? 


I had been so sick, had lost so much weight, and hadn’t used those muscles in my legs for so long that I physically could not climb the stairs. I broke down and sobbed right 

there. I couldn’t even do something as simple as climb the stairs and lay down in my  own bedroom. 

The next month was spent in the living room downstairs. We set up a “bedroom” for me in there and moved a TV into the room so I had something to occupy my time. My recovery was rough and it took awhile for me to gain weight because I threw up after almost every meal. I was still having accidents and was sleeping a good 15 hours a day but slowly all of those things began to improve. I built up the muscles in my legs by doing small tasks that people often take for granted and never think about, like walking around in a grocery store. Eventually I could climb the stairs.

Stairs are the reason for my positive attitude.

Stairs are the reason my whole outlook on life changed. 

Not stairs really, but what those stairs in my house represented to me after that. Suddenly simple things like taking a walk became the most amazing thing in the world to me. I would get these feelings of elation by enjoying the things that I had not gotten to enjoy in so long. It wasn’t just the 6 months in the hospital that I lost; I had lost so much time before that because I was very sick leading up to that point. I remember the year that followed this hospitalization very clearly because everything I did seemed like it was the most awesome thing I’ve done. I was having the best day of my life Taking a walk, going back to work, the wind in my hair on a roller coaster, watching my campers enjoy life during my first summer at Camp Oasis, and climbing the stairs. 

Losing the ability to climb stairs taught me to appreciate life. It gave me my positive attitude because I know that no matter how bad it gets it has been

worse. Today I watch people around me all the time complain about trivial things that don’t matter like how messy their house is, money, their job, the weather… and I just want to say, 

Smile. You can climb stairs!


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