My Colostomy . . .
So Dr. Vrees and I signed off on the paperwork for my permanent colostomy on February 10, 2021. The endoscopy camera was still stuck inside and I therefore had to continue on liquids until surgery. But, Dr. Vrees is a busy, busy guy and getting a date with him is kind of tough.
After signing off on the consent forms, the next step was to get “marked” for my colostomy by my ostomy nurse Mary. Now I knew Mary pretty well because she had been my ostomy nurse since day one and had talked me off the ledge more than once. I trusted her and trusted that she’d determine the best possible placement for my new poop bag.
A few days after that I was FINALLY given a date for surgery and was scheduled for March 1, 2021. I thought this was very apropos seeing as how March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month.
I had to get my millionth covid test on February 25, the Thursday before my surgery at about 3.30pm. Now, I had noticed that I hadn’t really been pooping and that I wasn’t feeling that awesome. My belly was starting to hurt, and I was really, really nauseous. And all I thought was, “that fucking camera…here we go again…the weekend before surgery.” By the time I got home, I was doubled over in pain, fists clenched, jaw locked. And I knew I was obstructed. I had begun to vomit profusely, which is unusual for my blocks as I usually only barf once or twice, so I knew this was a bad, bad situation. I called the surgeon, told them what was going on, and that I needed to go to the ER. Normally I’m able to drive myself but there was no way I was able to this time as I literally had a bucket between my legs. So, my husband, and three children escorted me to the ER on the Thursday night before my surgery scheduled for Monday. I brought all the things I would need for a hospital stay as I was pretty sure they were just going to keep me. And keep me they did. They did all the normal SBO tests, confirmed I was obstructed, gave me plenty of pain meds, and had me NPO. I got one of the nicer rooms in the hospital, which was a single, and then I just sat and waited all-day Friday and all-day Saturday and all-day Sunday, knowing that I was going to have my third major surgery in just over a year the next day. I was anxious and antsy and felt so weird. I knew my life was about to change but while I hoped it would be for the better, I really didn’t know for sure. There are so many variables with surgery, and with the GI system, and with appliances. So, I was scared. And while I would like to think my family was scared too, by this time I had had so many ER visits that this was nothing new. They were used to me being gone for 7-10 days at a time. So, this wasn’t much different.
Monday March 1, 2021 finally arrived, and I was sent down for what was supposed to be a laparoscopic procedure. But when I woke up in my room hours later and finally looked down at my belly, I literally lost my breath. There were tubes and bags everywhere! I had my new poop bag (which was expected), I had my pee bag (also expected), and two drains with tubes coming out from my belly as there were some pockets of stuff that the docs didn’t like the looks of. Oh, and it looked like Dr. Vrees had put a zipper from my pubic bone to about 3 inches above my belly button. My belly was puffy and red and angry, and I just sat there in shock.
I remember when I was looking for funny images for my fundraising page, I accidentally stumbled across someone with what must have been a similar surgery. Naturally I freaked out when I saw it and showed it to my partner, who said, “why the fuck are you looking at that! Cut it out!” So when he came to visit me at the hospital and he saw my belly for the first time, I said, “Hey, I look like that one picture from when this all started!” And he couldn’t do anything but agree.
I was sent home six days after the surgery, which was longer than expected. But given how weird my body had reacted to just about everything, I wasn’t surprised.
To be honest, I felt amazing. I felt like a huge chain had been taken off of me and that I could go live life again…without being feet from a toilet. Dr. Vrees said that he had never seen me look happier. It’s so weird to say but I was thrilled, honestly thrilled with my poop bag. I felt like I had been given my life back. And I was ready to start living.
In fact, I was so ready that I agreed to be interviewed by ABC regarding the importance of colorectal cancer screenings on Wednesday March 10…three days after I got home! And after people saw it, nobody believed that I had just had major surgery ten days prior. See, I was excited, and I felt empowered, and I was ready to share my story with the world. It was Colorectal Cancer Awareness month and I had gotten a number of opportunities to advocate for the cause. There is so much power in advocating and it is something that I love to do. And I was so excited that I COULD do it because I wasn’t afraid I was going to shit my pants at any moment.
And that’s my story. You have walked with me step by step through my Stage III Adenocarcinoma of the Rectum. And I thank you. Because it is you, all of you, along with my family and my friends that got me through this. I knew that there was a purpose in all of this, and the purpose became very clear by the end of 2020. Part of my mission is not only to teach people to mine their light, but also to help raise awareness to the importance of all medical screenings, to help raise awareness to how insurance companies do not really have our best interest in mind, and to help raise awareness to the fact that the cancer journey does not end at survivorship status. It is a journey that a survivor stays on forever. Because with every twitch, with every bump, with every unusual or unfamiliar pain, we wonder.
Thank you all for walking down memory lane with me. Thank you for letting me expose myself and my butt to you in a way I would have never considered before being diagnosed with ass cancer. And thank you for trusting the story and letting it hopefully help guide you in some of your medical decision making.
You, yes YOU are wonderful and amazing, and deserve to move around in a well-tuned machine.