Surviving Surgery

May 24, 2016

Surviving Surgery

Lately I have been reflecting on my journey through a life changing illness and how I started on the journey towards health and vitality.  Last week I wrote about resilience through loss and the blessings that come from those tough times in our lives.  At that point in my life I was just recovering from a flare up and Crohn's disease diagnosis.  

Once again I am sheltering in the car as my big boy trains for a hockey carnival that is coming up.  Not wanting to waste time, I figured it is a great opportunity to calm my mind and organise my thoughts.

Three years ago I was hospitalised after a second flare up.  Unfortunately this time my health couldn't be managed at home and I had to be admitted to a hospital 250km away from home and my beautiful children. I couldn't look after them anyway at this stage so I was definitely where I needed to be and I knew my amazing Mum would be doing everything for them that they needed.

However at the beginning of this flare up fear and condemnation crept in to undermine my emotions.  What have I done this time?  What did I eat?  What didn't I do?  What didn't I eat?  The state of my health was so wrapped up in my own actions, how to eat, what to eat, what not to eat.  I was so convinced that I could avoid all medical intervention through my diet and lifestyle.  Three years later I am so grateful for these experiences.  God showed me so much grace in my weakness and taught me how to completely rely on Him.  Again He had to remove so much from me for me to listen.  Is a pattern forming here....stubborn perhaps comes to mind.  Insert a loving parent He gently waited for me to listen.

My doctors were amazing, no condemnation for not taking a drug they wanted me to take.  Now they'd get their way though, I was finally on that chemo drug I had tried to avoid among other drugs in huge doses.  But I was sick, I was very sick.  I had lost so much weight, I didn't know what to eat.  Hospital food is not really conducive for health and I really didn't have an appetite.  I remember at one point I was only eating liquids because there was a blockage in my large intestine so food wasn't going to get through anyway.

After about 10 days in hospital, the doctors were getting ready to send me home, Mum had arrived to pick me up and I took another turn for the worse.  I really believe this was God working in me.  My specialist was raised in the south west and he understood the difficulties of accessing medical attention in a rural community.  Luckliy he decided to keep me in hospital.  My health was deteriorating quickly at this stage.  The inflammation that had been thought to be under control flared up and was not able to be managed.  I broke out in a rash and fever, most likely a reaction to the huge amounts of drugs and steroids that I was taking.  

I remember the night before my operation I was in and out of consciousness, there was a nurse checking on me regularly throughout the night.  Because of the steroids that I was on, I was unable to sleep, I was exhausted but couldn't rest.  I played worship music through my earphones constantly, it was the only peace I could find.  I couldn't talk, but I felt God's presence with me during this suffering.  I felt his angels holding me up and reassuring me.

The next day a nurse came into talk to me about a procedure the surgeon was going to perform.  It still wasn't guaranteed, they wanted to watch me and see if I would decline or improve.  I really don't remember that conversation, I do remember being so sick and almost wishing I could die.  I was in so much pain.  That evening the surgeon rang my family, the decision had been made, I was having an emergency operation.  I had no idea what this procedure was, I just knew if they didn't do something soon I wouldn't see my children again.

This is the part that I always start to cry when retelling this story.  All you mumma's pull out your tissues.  I remember speaking to my mum and brother, I could hardly talk but they reassured me the boys would be ok.  I couldn't even speak to them, I was so unwell, I could barely talk to Mum, she just reassured me that everyone was praying, that I would be ok and that I would see the boys as soon as I was better.  

Meanwhile I am wondering if I will ever see them again, but in so much pain that I couldn't think about them.  But through all of this emotion and pain, I had God's presence comforting me, even though I wondered if I would ever see them again, I also knew He was with me and them.

So off I go to surgery, and the moment I was asleep, no pain.  It was such a relief after all this time to finally not be in pain.  But, wait for it, I had to wake up sooner or later.  Oh my goodness the pain was excruciating.  I woke up in the intensive care unit, I could barely move because of the pain.  It was a different pain, but wow it was intense.  The surgeons had made an incision in my abdomen roughly 10cm long through my belly button and there were staples holding it all together.  Not that I knew any of this at that stage.

One of my brothers had just returned from a 6 month overseas holiday with his fiance and he visited me in ICU. Because he's a chiropracter he speaks the medical language, so he explained to me what had happened and reported back to Mum.  Can you imagine how difficult this must have been for Mum.  Here she is 250km away looking after my babies, and all she wants to do is be with me in hospital looking after her baby.  My Mum is a trooper, she is definitely someone you want in a crisis, and she did really well throughout this whole difficult time.

So what had happened to me, what had been removed and what happens next?  I honestly wasn't asking any of these questions, I just wanted the pain to GO AWAY!  As I started to recover, I was able to communicate and not be so drowsy.  I learned my entire large intestine had been removed and now I have a bag attached to my abdomen.  This medical procedure is called a complete colectomy and ilieostomy.  Complete colectomy, meaning the entire large intestine has been removed.  Ilieostomy is where the ilium, which is part of the small intestine, and also called a stoma, is attached through the abdomen and a bag placed over.  I can honestly say that I couldn't care less, even though I was in pain, I was alive!

After a few days I was moved back up to a ward and the real work began.  My colour immediately returned and I had an appetite.  It was almost a miraculous recovery so far.  Yes there was still a long road to travel, but I was alive, and that was all I cared about.  There was some discussion before the surgery about the bag, but I honestly couldn't care less at that stage, I just wanted to go to sleep and feel no pain.

I was eating and already the doctors were reducing my pain medication, actually most of my medication was already being reduced.  I was no longer diseased. Effectively the surgery had put me in to remission.  I had a visit from the dietician, I was on a low fibre diet and I now had to learn how to eat not just what to eat.  So white bread and bacon was the suggestion.  WHAT!  And guess what I didn't care at this stage.  God had just saved my life, I figured He also knew what He was doing with food.  I had to make sure I ate a low fibre diet because of the potential blockage through my stoma, but for now I was healthy, I was going to deal with food later.

After all of this trauma, God had spoken to me, He reassured me, He made promises to me and even now sometimes I wish for that hospital bed where God reached me and I had to listen.  

When we are in the busyness of life, routines, kids, bills and committments it's so easy to forget where we have been and how we survived the difficult days.  

Take a deep breath, take a step back and look back for a moment.  Sometimes the only way we can take another step forward is to look back and see how far we have come.  

Whether you have a faith in God or not, it's the same.  You are a survivor, you have survived and you will contiue to survive.  For me my faith in God is where I find my hope.

Helping busy people create change in their health through food.