Welcome to our Flowly Feature with Cara from @cara_bowman12.
Each Flowly Feature will highlight a hero on their health journey so that we can get inspired, pick up a tip or two, and remember that we are not alone 💙
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
Hi! My name is Cara Bowman, and I am 21 years old. I am a full-time college student while also doing social media. I like to post lifestyle content while also shedding insight on living life with chronic illnesses.
What has your personal health journey been like?
Growing up, I always had some kind of stomach ache. However, it was never anything that hindered my day-to-day life. In May 2018, I started having severe abdominal pain, nausea, appetite loss, and fatigue, but it was very mild. By July of 2018, my symptoms had become debilitating. By October of 2018, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
For months, we worked with several medications, trying to find the best regimen for me. Although the medications worked for my Crohn’s disease, they made me extremely sick. My immune system was so suppressed, and that alone made me feel awful. Over the course of the next 2 years, I was diagnosed with several other autoimmune diseases, along with a severe allergic reaction to a medication that landed me in the hospital for almost 2 weeks total. I was diagnosed with POTS, arthritis, and fibromyalgia.
By July 2021, things finally started to look up. I was feeling good and getting ready to start my first semester of college. Within 3 months of being there, I was hardly able to attend class anymore because I began to have severe abdominal pain and nausea. After some testing, we found out my gallbladder was barely functioning, so I had it removed, but the symptoms persisted. After that, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, which meant that my stomach was partially paralyzed.
For months we tried to manage the gastroparesis, but things only got worse. At this point, my Crohn’s disease was in remission, so we knew that was not the problem. Due to the location of my pain and my symptoms, we started the evaluation process for MALS, also known as median arcuate ligament syndrome. For 6 months, I underwent test after test, for everything to be normal. By this point, my symptoms were much worse; I was becoming malnourished, and I was making frequent trips to the ER.
In February 2023, as a last resort, we went to see a surgeon who specialized in the condition. The surgeon did one ultrasound and immediately identified the compression. On April 24, 2023, I had open MALS release surgery. Although the surgery helped, I was left with an 11-inch incision across my abdomen. After the surgeon, the MALS pain was gone, but I was still having severe abdominal pain, appetite loss, and nausea. After more testing, we found out that my stomach motility was significantly worse. My gastroparesis is now to the point where barely any of my stomach contents move. We are currently awaiting a consult appointment with a surgeon to discuss surgical treatment for gastroparesis since we are out of treatment options. Until then, I am on a liquid diet to try and manage the symptoms.
Here at Flowly, we are all about cultivating a flow state. What does a state of flow feel like or look like to you?
For me, a state of flow means doing the things that bring me the most joy. I always feel the most "in flow" when I do things like cleaning or watching comfort shows and movies. These are the things that bring me the most peace and relaxation.
What would you tell the past version of yourself when you first began your health journey?
If I could tell my past version one thing, it would be to not lose hope because, at the end of the day, it will all work out. I would also tell myself to trust your gut and advocate for yourself. Because even if you have good doctors, you are your best advocate.
What resources have helped you on your journey?
There are several things that have impacted me and my health journey. The first one would be the movie Miracles from Heaven. That movie has always been one that’s been close to my heart, and then, as I went through the things that I did, it gave me hope, strength, and courage. Just like everyone else, I also love TikTok. Being able to distract myself while also spreading awareness has been amazing. On the sleepless nights or days when my pain left me bedridden, I would watch my favorite “comfort show,” which was Virgin River, to keep my mind off of the pain and nausea.
Where can we follow your journey?
You can find me on Instagram and TikTok at @cara_bowman12
Know a hero you think we should feature? Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org! 📩