A few months ago, my colleague and blogging buddy Sarah suggested that I write a post about what I’ve learned as a result of all my struggles and setbacks, since I had already done such a good job covering how those struggles and setbacks made me feel like shit. Jayee’s also suggested I write a similar post a few times. As the worst calendar year of my life approaches its welcome end, I figured now would be an appropriate for such a post. So after the surgery gone wrong, the long stay in hospital, the tubes, the regrets, the sadness, the pain, and the anger, here’s some of the good I’ve taken away.
I have a pretty high pain tolerance.
I’m not sure whether this is something to really brag about, but anyway. The worst physical pain I’ve experienced to date was probably from tube I had stuck in my asshole for several days while I was in hospital. Since being out of hospital, I’ve had to deal with agonizing pain from my poorly constructed stoma. The tube pain was constant, and therefore harder to bear, while the stoma pain tends to come in sharp bursts and then subside. I managed to deal with the tube, and I still endure the pain from the stoma, and I think I complain about them less than some people do about a cold.
I don’t panic about things when they go wrong.
Over the course of living with ulcerative colitis, I had a few moments of panic that usually came about after wiping my ass and seeing bright red streaks of blood eating through the toilet paper. I would also panic after I having an accident because I couldn’t hold in a bowel movement. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had different kinds of accidents, and while they were infuriating and frustrating, I didn’t panic as a result of them. I was prepared for those accidents, and I managed to deal with them.
My body can take a beating and keep going.
I’ve been sliced open, I’ve had a major organ removed, I had my innards rearranged, I had a wound poised precariously between my penis and my belly button, I’ve subjected my skin to a myriad of adhesives, I’ve lost twenty pounds, I’ve had tubes shoved in several orifices, and I had my butt cheek punctured so another tube could prod my insides. I’ve been weak, I’ve been in pain, I’ve vomited black stuff, I’ve had green stuff pumped out of my stomach, I’ve been subjected to CT scans and x-rays and enemas. And I can still run up a downward moving escalator.
I know how to dress a wound and change an ostomy appliance.
The wound that opened up at my incision site is now almost entirely healed – it only took 8 months! I’ve learned a lot about different wound applications and bandages. I know how to clean a wound with saline, apply a strip of Kaltostat, cover it with a Mesorb pad, and keep it all in place with adhesive Tegaderm film. I’m also pretty good with my ostomy appliance and all of the adhesives and powders and wipes that come along with it. I detest the ritual of changing my ostomy appliance, but I can do it.
My complexion has cleared.
Since my official diagnosis of ulcerative colitis in 2008, I’ve been on prednisone at least once every calendar year, except for 2013. Without the constant barrage of steroids, the skin on my face and back look a lot better. A few weeks ago I bought a Lotto Max ticket and the clerk asked to see my I.D. because, in her words, “you look 18.” Five bucks well spent, even though I didn’t hit the jackpot.
I’m less afraid of living with an ostomy.
Don’t get me wrong, I would be initially devastated if I found out that I would need a permanent ostomy, but I think I’d be able to overcome that feeling and get on with a pretty decent life. Thanks to Jayee’s gift of the Stealth Belt, I’m more confident moving about and wearing clothes that can be challenging to wear with an ostomy.
Even top medical professionals can make mistakes.
At my last appointment with my surgeon, I received something I truly valued – an apology. It wasn’t an apology for the initial surgery going awry, because no one can really pinpoint what exactly went wrong in the hours or days after my operation. However, the second drainage tube I had inserted into my butt cheek to drain an abscess was not put in correctly. The tube found its way into my pelvic pouch and essentially prevented my pouch from connecting with my anus. Once that tube came out, the healing could really begin, and luckily it did. Things haven’t gone anywhere close to plan, but the doctors who handle my complicated body are always on the lookout for real solutions, and I’m very lucky to be in their care.
I can still enjoy the things I loved before all this horrible shit happened.
There have been times when some of my favourite things have been less enjoyable as a result of painful/depressing/frustrating moments. Arsenal’s first Premier League match this season felt humdrum, and I worried about going for walks because I didn’t want my ostomy bag filling up while I was far from a bathroom. I can’t say that I’ve turned some sort of corner, but now I get up for Arsenal matches, I enjoy going out for walks, I get excited when a new football kit leaks online, I dig browsing online stores for fashion ideas, and of course I still enjoy writing, even if my posts on this blog have become rather sporadic. There’s just one love of mine that I haven’t been able to return to, and that’s running. I miss it more than anything from my pre-op life.
So there. I suppose it’s not all bad news here in the life of Rasheed, but that doesn’t change the fact that 2013 sucked balls. I’m not so delusional to think that hanging a new calendar on my bulletin board will magically put to an end all of the hardship, but I really hope that the new year brings better… well… everything.
Image via Crudely Drawn Filler Material