New Beginning 

Life is full of “New Beginnings”, whether it’s when you graduate from Elementary School into the new world of hormones, or from finishing grade 12, beginning a new chapter of education or entering into the workforce full time.  New Beginnings are all around us, every year, everyday, down to every minute. 
When my quarantine was lifted, I truly began to feel the gravity of my new beginning. The pain was far better managed, for the first time I could notice that deep seeded pain inside my abdomen was simply gone. It may have been the fact I had many new pains, although mentally I knew the pains I’d been experiencing for the last number of months would not be returning. I knew my life was forever changed. Knowing I was going to have a life was greater than any outward physical adaptation. 

The first few days with the Ileostomy, I did not look at it too much. The nurses would come in to check on it, empty it and ask what my pain levels were. Now outside of quarantine, it was my turn to start to manage it. At first, I simply would lift the blanket to look at it. I was still in pain which limited the movement I could use to have a good look. 

While in the hospital, post surgery, they use transparent pouches so it is easy to see the discharge ensuring there are no abnormalities.  I remember thinking to myself; 

“DAMMIT!!!!   Sure would have been nice to know BEFORE MY SURGERY!!!!”

I knew the surgery would leave me with what is called a “Stoma“. This is what the end of the Ileum {small intestine} is called after it is brought outside of the belly and sutured for the pouch to fit overtop.

Stoma from Ileostomy

Mentally I was not prepared to see it. In retrospect, I think this is why I wasn’t told it would be a clear pouch until I was to be discharged. If I had known, I would have worked myself up even more. I remember laying in bed catching a glimpse of it, only seeing red tissue with bile underneath. As you can see below, it’s not as bad as most people believe it to be. It is important to know that the Stoma has no nerve endings and therefore no direct feeling. Any pain encountered comes from the surrounding area. 

Not my actual Stoma but very close in appearance

It wasn’t long before a Physical Therapist was brought in to work with me. As with any surgery, it is important to get moving as soon as you are able. I will never forget the feeling of first standing up with an Ileostomy. As you see above, it’s a relatively lightweight appliance. Although post surgery, it felt like it weighed 50lbs!! I told the nurse “it’s falling off!!!!”  She quickly checked and told me there was nothing to worry about, it is just the sensation of the pouch pulling down on the surgical site. 

Alone in the bathroom, emptying the pouch for the first time, I broke down. I did my best to be quiet as my father and the nurse were just outside the door. I don’t know if they heard me, it doesn’t really matter. The reality of having this “bag” attached to me collecting my waste was clear and present. An overwhelming feeling of nausea and fear quickly took hold. 

“How was I going to do this? Why should I have to do this? What did I do to deserve this shit bag??!!!!!”
All of this while trying to not allow my father and the nurse hear me. 
When I was done, my dad came to help me out of the bathroom and back to my bed. I was in an incredible amount of pain after this first venture. The nurse then explained the cathider could now be removed. I was glad but very nervous at the same time as I would now have to walk to the toilet everytime again. Sounds silly but that is what first went through my mind. 
As with every thing else, there was a bit of a kink when it was time to remove the catheder, pun intended. Without getting to graphic, the catheder became stuck when they attempted to remove it. I would be lying if I said it was just uncomfortable, it hurt like hell!! The nurse said he would have to wait until I was able to calm down and the muscles relaxed. Yes, “wait until the muscles relax”. I don’t think there is a need to explain how difficult that ask was. He came back a short while later, said he would count to three and remove it. On the count of two he quickly removed it! He was very apologetic for doing so, I understood immediately why he jumped the gun. 
The days that followed were painful, the physical therapist was doing his best to get me up more often. I fell into a phase of poor me, it hurts too much & I’ll be fine everytime he reminded me of the need to move around after surgery. 

Then, something in my mind just clicked. 
I was alone in my room one evening. Thinking about what had happened within the last month. Then seemingly out of nowhere, I told myself to get the fuck up and walk! So I did. First to the bathroom, then to the doorway. I took a moment with a deep breath and continued into the hallway. Nearly every ward has a small sink and ice maker, I saw the one on my ward and made that my destination. A nurse slowly came my way asking if I was doing alright. Through the pain I told her I was okay and just getting some water. She smiled at me while standing close enough in case I lost my balance. She did help me back to my bed but we were both proud of the walk. 
The next morning I did the same, then again in the afternoon and the evening. When the therapist came back the following day, his demeanour was far more stern and assertive than he’d been in the past. I smiled and said, “don’t worry, I got this” the look on his face that followed was priceless. He brought a walker with him in hopes it would help me to get up and walk around. We both laughed and agreed it was not necessary and began to walk around the ward together. 

Looking back, this moment in time was the first, of what would become many times I would push through my own mental barriers. I don’t know what it was that clicked, I knew I had to overcome walking around. Not for the medical staff, not for my parents or girlfriend, simply for me. 

Life can be funny that way. We go from being our own worst enemy to our own best advocate in a heartbeat. 

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