2014 marks 19 years since my first ostomy surgery. The surgery that resulted in an ileostomy for six years, and 13 years since my reversal. I always tend to forget the anniversary date, but occasionally my mind will reminisce about the amount of time that has passed.
When I had my ostomy surgery, I was told that it would be just "temporary,” and that after three months of healing I would have a J-pouch. Well, that didn't quite go according to plan. Due to complications, I wound up with a permanent ileostomy and the surgeons told me there was not enough rectum remaining to reattach my small intestine. However, my rectum was kept in place and thankfully I never had any pain or issues with it, so I'm glad it wasn't removed.
I experienced a lot of anger and denial after ostomy surgery, especially when the complications started.
I hated my doctors, surgeons, hospital, and even my parents. I wanted them to all pay for what they had done to me. I was consumed by rage, and even became suicidal for several years after that initial surgery. I never accepted my stoma because deep down inside I knew I wasn't meant to live with an ostomy for the rest of my life. I believed it fervently, I hoped for a miracle obsessively.
Then six years later I go in for a routine colonoscopy, and my doctor all of a sudden says there might be enough rectum to attempt a straight pull-thru procedure. He referred me to a colorectal surgeon, and I could hardly contain myself at the consultation. It was a long shot, but I had to take it.
I knew my life was about to change with this reversal, but I was also terrified that I'd wake up after surgery to find out it failed. My parents agreed to give me a thumbs up or thumbs down as soon as I opened my eyes from anesthesia, so I would know the result right away. I wasn’t sure how I'd react if it was thumbs down and feared that I'd break down immediately. Fortunately, it was a thumbs up and I was able to relax and drift back into a drug-induced sleep.
The honest truth is that most of us do not cope well, and don't talk about our feelings for fear of criticism.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lifesaving surgery and it can greatly improve your quality of life. Ostomies are nothing to be ashamed of. Not to mention, improvements to ostomy products over the years have been amazing. But despite all of the positives, some of us still have an extremely difficult time with acceptance—I was one of those people.
Fortunately for me, I was able to have my ostomy successfully reversed. That's what I personally needed because I was fixated and trapped in a world of rage. Looking back, had it been a thumbs down, I hope that I'd eventually be able to find self-acceptance and love my life with dignity, just like so many ostomates I know and admire.
This post originally appeared January 31, 2014 on Life's A Polyp.