Monday, May 13, 2013

First Time

     The first time I heard the word "colostomy" it was very casually & quickly preceded by the word "permanent". I remember bracing my arms on the examination table & shaking my head from side-to-side like I was trying to get water out of my ears. I looked up to find the eyes of my parents & Chad focused on me; they all knew what I was thinking. PERMANENT COLOSTOMY?! My mind split into a thousand pieces & scattered in every possible direction. PERMANENT COLOSTOMY?! An awkward laugh escaped my mouth because I was certain I misheard Dr. B. I HAD to have misheard him. I was 26, a dancer, &, a newlywed. My body was so much more than just my "shell"; it was my art, my passion, my therapy, & at the time, my job. This was, without-a-doubt, going to change my life in a very substantial way & I wasn't 100%  positive I was ready or willing to make that change. The next thing my surgeon said put all the doubt, the reservation, & the uncertainty in perspective; he looked at me & said: "I'm not going to feed you any false hope -  because your tumor is so large, your sphincter is also completely compromised which means this is irreversible. You will have this for the rest of your life BUT this will give you the rest of your life". Since diagnosis, I was desperate for something that could ultimately help me beat the statistical 25% survival rate I was facing & Dr. B had just hand-delivered a new hope in my fight so there was no question as to if I would do this. It was time to start preparing for another battle, this time perhaps with the most challenging opponent of all: myself. 
     I tried my best to not let the charm of internet lure me to it's lair, but inevitably it did & I have to admit it was extremely hard to not let the fear creep back in while looking at pictures, watching videos, & reading articles about my impending transformation to an ostomy life.  Seeing as my first go'round with Dr.WWW had provided a false positive, I knew any research we would do couldn't be entirely what I would envision for myself or my ostomy; however fear, uncertainty, & anxiety made it's best attempt to creep in & I, in turn, made my best attempt to keep it at bay until it was time.
     My first six weeks of chemo & radiation came & passed by much quicker than I had anticipated &, ready-or-not, I found myself face-to-face with August 19, 2010. 2 days after surgery I had my first look at my stoma (the opening made on my lower-left abdomen) in the ICU when my Ostomy Nurse, Robin, came to talk Colostomy-101 with Chad & myself. It was very-much sensory &  informational overload with words I couldn't pronounce, let alone comprehend & never-ending options as far as the stoma could see. I somehow managed to keep my composure until Robin left the room & then instantly let my guard fall. It was like someone cued the waterworks & I was ever-ready to hit the mark; I cried heavy tears: tears of anger & fear, of uncertainty & nervousness. I cried for the "me" that existed before cancer, before tumors, & before colostomies. I cried so deeply for the 26-year-old who wanted so badly just to live a normal life. Then, something clicked - Dr. B's words replayed in my head: "you will have this for the rest of your life BUT this will give you the rest of your life". What was wrong with me??? I was still breathing & my heart was still beating. I was still alive. I quickly made the decision to allow myself to mourn my old life for 10 minutes. I could cry, be mad as hell, & hate the world for 10 minutes & believe me, I definitely did. On the very-eleventh minute, I wiped my eyes, took an extremely deep breath, looked down at my colostomy, & whispered: "thank you".
     Life post-colostomy is so incredibly less dramatic than I had ever expected. Stella (yes, she most definitely has a name) is a part my battle & I am thankful for her existence everyday. My colostomy allowed me to celebrated more birthday's, anniversary's, & Christmas's with the people I love so much. I'm able to wake-up next to my love every morning & say "sweet dreams" to my family every night. Life is beautiful & I can't wait to experience every tomorrow that comes my way. 25%?? PLEASE. I SO have this.

(Photo courtesy of  CNN.com)


2 comments:

  1. I understand how you felt. I felt the same way when I was told I needed to have a permanent colostomy bag because the cancer destroyed my sphincter muscles...but my dr. also told me that the bag would give me a good quality of life. He was so right! No more adult diapers for me...My ostomy has been the *butt* of many jokes...that rascal loves to *toot* at the most inopportune times. I call my bag my *whoopee* cushion. Ostomies are part of our new *normal* and its really a small price to pay for being well again. I see you took 5FU...me too. Did you lose your hair? Did it affect your nerves...numbness and tingling??

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  2. "Enjoying the ride"..? In a way I do, because of the recognition, like commenter above. The feelings you write about were somewhat the same though I'm many times your age (a tiny bit exaggerated)live in a different country and my mother's tongue is a different one too.
    I'm waiting to get a second stoma now.

    All the best. You're doing great!
    Josi

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