Conquering Ulcerative Colitis: How a Colectomy Changed One Woman’s Life

After most treatment options failed, Chelsea Freeman found relief through surgery.

Loading the player...

When Chelsea Freeman was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis (UC), she immediately began trying treatments for UC. For many people with UC, these treatments can bring relief from UC symptoms like frequent and bloody diarrhea, and can help them reach and maintain remission.

Unfortunately, the medications didn’t work for Freeman. She tried every possible treatment for UC and found no relief—and even worse, she suffered unpleasant side effects in the process. According to Freeman, the disruptive and painful bathroom issues became her “new normal.”

“When Chelsea first came to see me, she had severe ulcerative colitis which was deeply affecting her quality of life,” says Sergey Khaitov, MD, a surgeon specializing in colon and rectal surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “She required multiple medical treatments, which unfortunately did not work well enough, and after very extensive discussion with her, we [made the] decision to proceed with an operation.”

The operation was a colectomy, or a surgical removal of the colon. By removing the large intestines, UC is essentially cured because there’s nothing for the immune system to attack. Learn more about Chelsea’s colectomy here.

After the surgery, Freeman had yet another “new normal” to adjust to. “Everything just took a lot of time and patience,” she says. But that patience paid off: “I don’t have to worry about going to the bathroom. I can go to the bathroom whenever I want. I don’t have to be controlled by it.”

Now, Freeman only has small scars on her abdomen where her ileostomy was, and from the surgery itself. She regularly has follow-up appointments with Dr. Khaitov and her gastroenterologist to ensure everything continues to go well.

Although Freeman struggled with the surgery, she’s thrilled with the results. “I had the best possible outcome I could have had for my surgeries. I couldn’t have wished for a better outcome for myself.”

Freeman wants others who may be suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases to not ignore or shrug off their symptoms. “I know that going to the bathroom feels like an embarrassing thing [to discuss with a doctor], but it’s a real medical condition,” she says. “It’s serious, it affects your life, and how you feel about it is valid.”