You know that moment in Breaking Bad where Walter finds out he has cancer and the world just gets tuned out for a moment? Where everything around him becomes muted and all you can hear is a high-pitched ringing?
I experienced that sensation after my second flare of Ulcerative Colitis.
That’s when it hit me that I had a real problem. In that moment, I thought about all the bad choices I’ve made in my life, all the little things.
The doctor was telling me about all the things that could happen if I didn’t take proper care of myself: that I could get colon cancer and might have to have surgery to cut off my intestines and live with a colostomy bag…
I hadn’t been taking care of myself. Not even after my first flare when I was playing in the League of Legends Challenger Series with Cloud9. Back then, I was living on my own and, quite honestly, I didn’t know how to take care of myself.
I was learning how to do things that my mother had always done for me when I lived at home: it was the first time I needed to do my own cooking, cleaning, laundry. I know that all sounds bad. It makes sense to me why my parents were worried about me moving out.
They had gotten me a basement apartment in Vancouver that was pretty far away from everything. Even a trip to the store would take me around 30 minutes just to get there and rideshare services were outlawed.
Whenever I went to the store, I would just stock up on a lot of frozen food and just live off of that for as long as I could.
I think at one point I had eaten nothing but Dominos pizza for two weeks straight.
That lifestyle, combined with the rigorous schedule of practicing for the Challenger Series, hit me hard on the day I had to fly to LA for the playoffs tournament.
I saw a lot of blood that day, but I didn’t know what to do about it since I was already at the airport. So I just boarded the flight and went to the tournament.
Because of the blood loss, I was very low on energy. In response, I started drinking a lot of coffee to keep me going, which probably made the situation even worse.
I didn’t know how to live life; there was something I wanted to do and I was going to do it. I was going to pursue my dream and my passion, ignoring the obvious warning signs that something was very wrong.
I went to the ER when I was in Los Angeles, but they couldn’t really figure out what was wrong because I didn’t have time to get the proper scans.
I played that series half-dying. When I got back to Vancouver, I nearly passed out due to the blood loss and lack of food.
I was too tired to care about what the doctors were telling me. I just wanted to go home. That, clearly, was another of my many mistakes. I didn’t change my lifestyle. I didn’t learn about my problem. I thought it would just be a one-off thing, mainly because I felt fine.
And that’s the thing about Ulcerative Colitis. When you’re not experiencing a flare, you look and feel fine. But it’s always there, a specter, waiting for you to mess up.
It’s waiting for that moment when you eat Dominoes for two weeks straight.
I had to change the way I lived my life. I had to watch my diet and what I was picking out to eat every day. That was one of the hardest things for me to adjust to, changing my diet.
I know people change their diets all the time, for all sorts of various reasons, but being forced to felt really bad. I got over it, but it hit me pretty hard, I already had this health issue and now I had one more thing to worry about.
It pushed me into a pretty depressed state after that second flare.
Stress became a big issue in my life. I had always dismissed the notion of how mental stress could affect the body so much. Now, managing stress is an everyday part of my life and I understand how the two are linked.
No matter how much I sulked over all the problems I now had to deal with, nothing was going to magically change. I looked at myself and saw how negative and pessimistic I had become. I was blaming everything on my Ulcerative Colitis and it just wasn’t healthy.
This time around, I was really pushing myself before Stage 1 started. The team was practicing for that month leading up to opening day and I had to miss the entire stage because I didn’t take care of myself.
I’m normally very careful about caffeine, limiting myself to two to three times a week at the most. But I had this burst of motivation that made me want to keep going. It made me want to push myself and I knew that burst of motivation wasn’t going to last forever. I didn’t take care of myself and it ended up punching me in the stomach.
These days, I know what my triggers are and it hurts me that I can’t push myself to the limit when I want to. I have to take things slower than my teammates do, prioritizing consistency and balance over sprints.
The worst part is that we just don’t know much about the Crohn’s and Colitis family of diseases, and, I know this is going to sound really immature, but between the two, Crohn’s is the disease people pay more attention to.
Because of that, sometimes people don’t acknowledge Ulcerative Colitis as a serious issue and people with my condition get sidelined.
Let me tell you, when I’m lying there in the hospital, bleeding internally and in excruciating chronic pain that even morphine can’t stop, it frustrates me that those with Ulcerative Colitis don’t get the recognition that Crohn’s disease gets.
That said, the Gladiators is an amazing organization and has been very accommodating. The staff and my teammates really understand what I’m dealing with, even if my teammates joke about me looking fine when they come home from scrims and I’m just sitting there to greet them.
I know that they’re joking about it and that they understand what’s going on, but I still feel guilty staying home when they go to the office for scrims, especially since we didn’t have the best stage.
I’ve had Ulcerative Colitis for five years now, but when I was lying in the hospital this time around and getting all the messages from the fans, they were the most heartfelt messages I’ve ever received.
Even if I didn’t respond to every message, I read every single one. It made me want to get better faster so I could show you all that I’m better.
The only upside of sitting out Stage 1 is that I know all of my teams’ glaring weaknesses because I’ve been watching them all stage. I can help to fix those issues.
I’m motivated and I will catch up to my teammates, just as long as I take care of myself.
I’ll see you all in Stage 2.
Jeff Yabumoto assisted with the creation of this article.
Image Credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment