My first small bowel obstruction...
So, I had my ileostomy reversed on August 10, 2020. Dr. Vrees, my surgeon, kept me on liquids for about two or three weeks, after which I slowly began to reintroduce real food. And it did not go very well. I never felt very good after eating and had lots and lots of belly pain. Then, in mid-November, the belly pain was so, so bad, that I had to go back to the Miriam ER yet again. This time I was diagnosed with a partial small bowel obstruction, or SBO for short.
Now, this may not sound like it’s a big deal, but let me tell you something about SBO’s. They hurt. BAD. And the pain comes in waves. See, the GI tract does this thing called peristalsis, which is when the muscles surrounding the intestines tighten and release down the tube, tighten and release down the tube, just like a wave. It reminded me of labor pains actually.
Ok, so I was in the ED and the big test for an SBO is a CT scan with contrast dye. Now, I had had probably 1⁄2 dozen of these tests over the last 18 months and never had any sort of issue, so I was not the least bit nervous about getting another. So, I got wheeled from my ER room down to where they do the scan. They have me move from my stretcher to the machine and I laid down. The nurse asked if I had ever had any issues with contrast dye, to which I replied, “nope”, and in the first injection went and they slid me into the machine.
Now, right away I notice that my arm pits start to get really, REALLY itchy. But I keep laying still until they took me out for another dose of the contrast. I told the nurse about my arm pits and she looked at me a bit concerned and asked me what I wanted to do. I told her, “Oh, we are finishing this test.” So, she gave me my second injection of the dye and I got put back into the machine. By the time I was taken out again, literally minutes later, my palms were super, super itchy too. So, I told her and now more people were in the room, looking me over. Apparently, I had started to develop hives and by the time they got me from the CT scanner back to my room in the ED, I was covered head to toe. I was having trouble breathing and I remember thinking about how I had promised my oldest before I drove myself to the hospital that I wasn’t going to die and how I was going to make a liar out of myself, over bullshit contrast dye.
But my nurse gave me a bunch of steroids and Benadryl and after what seemed like hours and hours, I was ok. And that is when I was told that I did indeed have an SBO AND I had developed some intolerance to contrast dye.
Ok, so, when someone has a bowel obstruction that lands them in the ER, they will likely get admitted to the hospital. This is done for two reasons. First, pain management. Because, as I said, this shit hurts. Second, when there’s an obstruction, they won’t let the patient eat or drink anything besides a few ice chips here and there. And this means that the body becomes dehydrated and blood glucose declines. So to manage that, they put the patient on an IV to keep things moving properly.
I ended up being NPO (ice only) for days and was in the hospital for about a week. My discharge instructions were basically, chew your food really well, and if this happens again, come back. But it seemed as though my body wasn’t really happy with the whole eating thing, so I decided, and Dr. Vrees agreed, that going back on liquids for a little while might be a good idea, just to give my GI tract some time to settle down. There was nothing that they could see structurally wrong, so my obstruction was attributed to inflammation.
Now, when you get put on liquids only, this means you can only eat things that are or will turn into liquid at room temperature. So, ice-cream and soup were my thing for a while. And don’t forget that my poop pipes were not yet cooperating with me, so I was basically unable to eat while also experiencing instantaneous needs to evacuate my bowels. And when that poop feeling would hit, I had about five seconds, no lie, to get to a toilet or I’d poop my pants. Yes, I, a grown ass woman, would poop my pants. It was the most humiliating thing I’ve been through. Covid masked just how bad it was, because, where I was I going to go anyway?
It was during this particular hospital stay that I began to do some research on what a permanent colostomy/ileostomy might look like and if it could be done without an appliance.
The adhesive allergy was so, so problematic and it made the idea of needing to use an appliance for the rest of my life pretty unbearable. Dr. Vrees had told me to give my new pipes six months to begin functionating properly and I was only three months in. But it was a bad three months and the idea of being on liquids for much longer seemed overwhelming.
But I stayed the liquid course the best I could. And each time I cheated and ate real food, I seemed to have a problem. Sometimes I was able to manage a small obstruction at home with rest, but not always. The second SBO that landed me back in the hospital will be our topic for next week.
Thank you for tuning in to my cancer journey. Please let this serve as a reminder that our bodies are delicate ecosystems and we should all get our regular screenings, whatever that may entail. Because you, yes YOU deserve to have a body that functions at its highest vibration.