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Saturday, November 14, 2009

A month after being disemboweled

So... it's been a month!

I'm so glad that I had surgery. I honestly don't know where I'd be if I hadn't. I didn't blog about this, because it unsettled me, but during my hospitalization before surgery, my GI talked to me after the scope showed some signs that my colon was beginning to heal in places. He said, "If you want, we can try to wait until December to do surgery. We can pump in IV steroids, IV cyclosporin, give you nicotine patches, we can infuse you with Remicade every couple weeks and try to keep you nourished and hydrated. Maybe you can make it for a few months."

Now, I am NOT a quitter. I've never been a quitter. But I knew that my body had been through the wringer, and I thought it would be wrong to pour a bunch of poison into my body that might or might not actually help. My doctor speculated that even though my colon was possibly healing, the nerves were so damaged from the inflammation that it could no longer work properly and just caused pain. They can't really treat that. I didn't think I would be a good steward of my body to take the chance of tanking my other organs just to try to put off the inevitable for a few months. What would my quality of life be like? Before surgery, on morphine and pills, I was still in so much pain and in the bathroom so much that I couldn't sleep and any attempt at eating was near disastrous. Add into that the IV steroids, and I get a little crazy. Add in the high doses of cyclosporine, and I'd be throwing up, and be lookin' at kidney and liver damage. Remicade makes me feel pretty worthless for a few days, too, and no one really knows what the effects of getting it that often are. Nicotine patches? No thanks. Not looking for a carcinogenic addiction. And I would be needing continuous rehydration, since my body couldn't hang on to anything I ate or drank. My goal of having surgery in December was so I could finish the semester. Sounded like I'd have to be dragging an IV pole and a puke bucket to class with me, if I could get out of bed.

I'd had enough. It was time. I knew my body just couldn't do it anymore, and God had given me a total peace about going forward with surgery. My GI has always been fantastic about laying out every single option I have, which I appreciate, even if the options are scary or something most doctors wouldn't suggest. He just wanted to let me know he wasn't giving up on me. That if I wanted to hang on to my colon for a little longer, he was willing to fight and give it a last-ditch effort. But I was ready to get the failing thing out of my body before I got any sicker. He always supports my decisions, so he let me know that the surgery might not fix everything, but it did need to happen, and he thought sooner was certainly better than later.

I'm a month out, and I still have some issues going on, but it's still early in the recovery process. My surgeon said that it will take a year after the second surgery for me to fully recover and reach my new level of functioning. It will be exciting to see where that is. I just need patience to wait that long and allow my body to rest and heal. I had written out some little whiny things about the small post-op issues and trials I'm having, but I'm saving those for another time. Today I just want to be thankful. No, things aren't perfect. They never will be. I'm missing half my digestive tract and my immune system is still tanked and my adrenal glands are asleep. The last two things will gradually improve and get better. In a year or so, my digestive system will learn to sort of compensate for the lack of colon. But no, I will never be "normal." That's fine with me. I'm content with being able to function, eat, and have so much less pain. Normal is so boring anyways.

I feel like God has given me a new shot at life. It's like a mini-picture of salvation. A month ago, I was not dead, but I was pretty darn sick. Now I'm alive, abundantly alive, and able to do things I never thought I'd be able to do again, like go eat out with friends (instead of just watching or eating, then getting sick), or climb up stairs without pain, or not have to rush to the bathroom a dozen times a day, or fall asleep without curling in the fetal position with a heating pad on my stomach.

It's a new life, and I'm unbelievably thankful for it. But while life is good, this experience has taught me to not get overly attached to or enthralled with life. Our life here may be pretty good. But it's not our home. We shouldn't get too comfortable here. That's why God sends trials. I've been so blessed to have these trials. They have given me a new and incredible level of intimacy with God. Many verses have garnered new meaning as God etches them into my soul through painful times. I am much more in tune with the Spirit and I'm amazed at how clearly and incredibly I can hear, feel, and see how He communicates and works and moves and reveals His will. I've come to know Christ in His suffering. I cling to the Father and trust with faith as His child. I've learned a lot about what life is NOT about, and a lot about contentment, thankfulness, true faith, and dependence. I don't believe I'd have seen the depth and richness of knowing God without being sick. Trials are like a spiritual growth spurt. The pain of trials is like growing pains and stretch marks -- not pretty or fun, but necessary so that you reach a new level of maturity.

Hannah ;)

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