Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Free And Diseasey

On the morning of my surgery, 3 years ago today, I was playing a wonderful game of make believe. I was carrying out an Oscar- worthy performance of 'being OK'. All for the benefit of my loved ones.
But also a little for myself.
Mainly to attempt to conceal the stomach churning terror I was feeling.
The truth is, no matter how cool a customer you may think you are, when the realisation hits that you are about to undergo surgery- all reason tends to float out the window, along with any ounce of courage you may have held onto. Undergoing a procedure that will, at best; change your life, or at worst; end it, is a prospect just a shade above horrific.

There are several little bits of the whole event you possibly won't expect, (and will quickly forget after you've been doped and sliced).
For example, shortly after being welcomed into hospital, waving a shaky-handed farewell to your relatives, you'll most likely be left to your own devices in a cold room while surgical stockings attempt to cut off your circulation. You'll be bombarded with sometimes graphic information, on what's about to happen then asked to place your unsteady signature on a piece of paper that informs you amongst various other side effects the following procedure may proffer; death is also a distinct possibility. SIGN ME UP!!
You'll wait. And wait. And wait. The longer the wait the less resolve to remain calm you'll have.
And then, finally after hours of playing every possible scenario over and over in your fuzzy head, you'll be whisked through to theatre.

I remember only snippets of my own particular scalpel-based episode. I mainly recall internal freak outs with external, almost Buddhist like, serenity. I was almost proud of my other worldly fa├žade towards the outside world, I thought the doctors and nurses would be mightily impressed at their brave patient. Perhaps even give me a gold star at the end of it, or a morphine flavoured lollipop. Preferably the latter.

The last thing I remember before going under was lying on the operating table and being asked what operation I was about to have.
I went blank. I started to cry.

"I can't remember the name of it!? Oh god!! Something to do with my bowels! Oh god please I'm sorry!" 

I started to weep and panic (I cringe now thinking about it) and the nurse laughed his proverbial socks off at the state of me. Reassuring me he just needed to know I was 100% aware of what was about to happen.

I was never more aware of what was coming than in that moment. The sheer panic at the mere idea that I would be denied that surgery, reminded me exactly why I needed it in the first place. Because I wouldn't be alive if I DIDN'T have it.

The surgery isn't the hard bit. The fear is. Fear of the unknown. But the unknown is a better place.
I was there, shivery and terrified in my surgical stockings, for a purpose. To save my life.
And what could possibly be scary about that?

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Everything I Crohn

Hello again. It’s almost 3years since I had life-changing surgery for Crohn’s Disease. Around the start of 2011 as a new year had begun, for me it seemed like the end rather than a new beginning. I was utterly hopeless and the idea that I would have to go through horrific surgery with the possibility of months of recovery, a colostomy bag and a life-long scar was almost too much to bear.
By the arrival of my operation I was seriously ill. I had, within the last 6months prior rapidly gone downhill. I was not eating (it wasn’t physically possible) I was in gut-wrenching agony every day (no form of pain relief could touch it), I couldn’t sleep, or walk further than a few steps without almost passing out, and most vitally; id mentally given up.  Now don’t get me wrong here, I was depressed yes; but I hadn’t given up on life. At least not on the lives of others anyway.  I was completely in love with my partner and adored those around me to the point of stalker-ism, there was absolutely no way on Earth I would have considered doing anything to cause them heartbreak or upset.  What I mean is that I had reached a devastating point of acceptance. I had come to see that nothing would change for me – no medication or treatment had worked, in fact things had escalated to the point I couldn’t bear getting out of bed in the morning, so I couldn’t see what the point in moaning about it was.  This in my mind, was my unfortunate life now and I simply had to get used to it.
The pain was unbearable and frequently reduced me to tears, I felt I had to try and find a way to fit my life around my illness – get to and from work, hold down my job and maintain some semblance of a social life, all the while trying to hide the fact that I felt that something was slowly but determinedly ripping my insides out from the inside.

Everyone knew. I was and always will be; a hopeless liar.

I gradually came round to the idea that not only was this operation essential; it may actually serve to make me feel better. This seemed such an unlikely resolution that I chose not to focus on it and instead worried intensely how I would cope with a potential colostomy bag and how brutally unattractive I’d be with a massive scar down my front. I really needn’t have worried; on either front. I didn’t end up with a colostomy and my scar hasn’t put my partner off the idea of jumping my bones on a regular basis no more than perhaps having my head and limbs removed might. (That wouldn’t either).  I’ve come to accept my scarring as a part of my body now, much like my long and decidedly repulsive E.T style toe. (Although that particular toe-acceptance took more than 3years).
I relay this story to mainly remind myself that giving up never solved anything. I have felt low since, and I’m sure I will again, but accepting those feelings is where I will always fall down. And stay down. Myself, and anyone else in my similarly diseased boat must remember never to give up hope. It may feel that you are fighting a losing battle with your body but try not to think of it as a fight – that way you are constantly setting yourself up for a fall. Crohn’s is an incurable disease – it will always have the upper hand, but YOU have a functioning mind and, (depending on your religious persuasion), soul; if you choose to use them positively they will always win out.