Have I told you about the time I got my current (and second) colostomy? I think I’ve told the stories in bits and pieces. In honor of my stomaversary (although very late), I thought I would share this tale.
Let’s go back to Summer 2014. Life wasn’t that bad. I was working, trying to be social, and even dating! You can read about some of those stories in my Adventures in Dating post. I was also training for a half-marathon with Team Challenge on the international team, I had my heart set on running the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in Dublin.
There are times in our lives, well those of us with chronic illnesses, that we tend to forget we are sick or suppress it. Just because I’m sub consciously ignoring my illness doesn’t mean I’m not sick. I had been in a flare-up and tried to continue with normal life. I didn’t realize that if I was home I was always sleeping, or that I skipped meals and paid no attention to it. Red flags. I kept on trudging.
You can only ignore your illness for so long. Eventually, you will lose the battle. It was Friday the 13th and I had a date. It was my third date with Coast Guard Boy from Tinder. The date was uneventful, we had a great time, blah blah blah. I stayed in bed all weekend, I was running to the bathroom non-stop. I first thought it was from the food we ate Friday night. We went to this awful place called the Drunken Taco in Ft. Lauderdale. Sunday came and I felt like death. I started to notice something during one of my many trips to the bathroom. The tell tale signs of a vaginal fistula. In case you need me to spell it out, I had feces coming out of my vagina. Awful.
I was aware of vaginal fistulas, and had already had experience with another fistula, just not vaginal, which was a nightmare. I lived with it for too long and there was no way in hell I was going to live with this one. Out of the question. I was also in pain and just all around miserable. The following morning I went to the ER because I needed instant relief.
I found out that I was severely anemic and in need of a blood transfusion and I was definitely in a severe flare up. No surprise, I was admitted. I received my blood transfusion later that evening, the team of doctors came by to ask me a million questions.
Both my GI and surgeon did not doubt me when I told them I had a vaginal fistula. However, there was a surgical resident who wasn’t buying it simply because he couldn’t see it with a CT scan. I rarely get angry, but when I have a young male doctor, who isn’t familiar with me and has only known me for five minutes, suggesting that maybe I don’t have a vaginal fistula, because maybe I’m not sure about my own anatomy, and then proceeding to suggest that many women continue to live with vaginal fistulas, yeah, well that will piss me off. I know the young residents are trying to prove themselves and I’ve had a lot of good experiences with them, but this one I wanted to punch. First doubting me and then telling me I could live with my vagina literally leaking shit. How would you like it if I told you to go live with a broken penis?!?
Anyway, this resident ordered a barium enema x-ray and I told him I didn’t want to do it. My surgeon knows I have a bad history with them and I only agree to do that test when it is absolutely necessary. The resident told me he would cancel the test. Great. Then an hour later I was taken down to radiology for that exact test I told him I didn’t want. The radiologist told me that the doctor is insisting I do the test. Not knowing that he was talking about the resident and not my surgeon I reluctantly agreed. The actual barium enema x-ray was not terrible, it wasn’t fun, but I got through it. It’s what happened after. The barium was so painful that they rushed me for a STAT CT Scan to make sure they didn’t perforate my colon. I spent all night throwing up and in severe pain, it was awful. The following morning my surgeon came in to apologize and I was told the resident had been put in time out, or whatever it is that happens to residents who make mistakes.
After I got through that ordeal I was sent home until my surgery was scheduled for the following week. I was able to go home and prepare everything for my recovery. Clean up, dig up my old colostomy supplies, take care of things at work before I had to take a month off, you know, the usual stuff.
The surgery was uneventful and I woke up in the ICU. I spent maybe 2-3 days there before being moved to the regular floor. Since the surgery wasn’t a laparoscopic surgery, I had a very large abdominal incision, which is incredibly painful. Do you know how often you move your abdominal muscles? Every. Time. You. Breathe. It fucking sucks to recover from these surgeries, I’m not going to sugar coat it.
I was in the hospital for about a week before I was sent home. They won’t discharge you until your bowels are working and you can tolerate food. It takes about 4-6 weeks for your appetite to come back, so you kind of have to force yourself to eat during this time. It’s not easy, and you always feel so weak, but it takes time.
Considering this was my second colostomy my adjustment was pretty easy. I knew what to expect. I did have issues with leaks in the beginning because I still had staples in my incision and everything was still swollen. I kept in contact with my stoma nurse and even went in a few times to see him for help. It was frustrating, but eventually, things got better.
The good news was my vaginal fistula was gone and I don’t regret taking drastic measures to take care of things. The doctors who didn’t know me kept asking me, “Are you sure you’re okay with getting a colostomy?”
Umm, hell yeah! Do you have any idea what it is like to live with Crohn’s Disease? An ostomy is not a cure, but it has been a total game changer. I won’t ever have a takedown surgery, there’s no point. Occasionally I’ve had some issues with my stoma, but I will take that any day over crapping my pants in public and all the many bathroom runs I made with my indoor plumbing. If you don’t have IBD you have no idea what that life is like. It’s miserable.
I originally wanted to write this post for my third stomaversary (June 27), however, if you read my previous post you can see why this was delayed. Short story is I got my second colostomy because I had a broken vagina and I lived to tell the tale. No regrets.
Oh, in case you are wondering (and didn’t read my Adventures in Dating post), Coast Guard Boy did not stick around after finding out I was sick. That’s okay because the guy I did meet not too long after this did stick around and he was worth the wait.