The Good, the Bag and the Ugly: Part One

Dear intestines, we are never, ever, ever getting back together. 

I’m going to be frank about life with an ileostomy: it sucks.

But it’s worth it…

Let me tell you why.

The good

Since I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, it had been an uphill battle. It was a guessing game I never seemed to win, where each guess may have resulted in temporary relief, but none ever lasted.

With everything I ate, I never knew how it would affect my symptoms. I had completely avoided particular foods: whole grains, most dairy products–especially milk–tomato sauce and other acidic foods and drinks, etc. No matter what I ate, when or how much, anything could make my symptoms go haywire. It was, again, an entirely unwinnable guessing game.

I’ve already described the multiple medicinal avenues I took before surgery. Each came prepackaged with a side of hope–like some microwavable meal. But, like nearly all microwavable meals, they were a letdown. They were either terrible for my body, didn’t work… or both.

After surgery, however, none of these symptoms–bleeding, cramping, diarrhea, urgency, etc.–came back.*

  • The * is important there. You see, my surgery is either two or three stages. The first was removing my colon. Next up will be removing my rectum, creating the “J pouch” and reconnecting everything so I can go to the bathroom normally again. The key word there was “rectum.” I still have it, so some bleeding and urgency still remain, albeit on a much lesser scale. And, no, it isn’t stool that comes out when I have the urgency. Since my rectum is still inflamed, it’s mainly, well, blood. But enough about that gross red stuff, though, and on to some less gross red stuff… 

Obviously, my diet wasn’t completely back to normal the first day without a colon. Heck, it won’t be normal probably until after my second surgery. However, as weeks of recuperating went by, I weaned back into a regular-ish diet. I could have most things, but, to this day, I’ve avoided extremely fibrous and tough-to-digest foods like whole grains, nuts and popcorn.

I will never forget the first lunch at the hospital after surgery No. 1.

  • This is the part where you look back to my list of foods I avoided at all costs. 

After the food services employee came in with my tray, we slid the table closer to me and I made myself comfortable enough to sit up and eat. I grasped the lid, felt the steam push against my hand as I lifted it away and unveiled one of my arch enemies over the last two years.

It was tomato soup.

I can’t quite explain what went through my mind then and there. There was confusion and fright and nervousness; but, as I took my first spoonful, and then another, and another, those frantic thoughts dissipated.

Afterward, there was no pain or cramping or discomfort. I was able to enjoy my meal without any ramifications. It was nice, but certainly not the only perk of being sans colon.

The most rewarding thing, of course, isn’t simply the ability to eat regularly again. It is to finally be free of the physical and emotional toll colitis had taken on my body. My physical body was no longer deteriorating and my stomach–for lack of a better term–wasn’t constantly irritable; meanwhile, a weight of anxiety and embarrassment that stemmed from those physical symptoms was lifted from my mind.

Unfortunately, though, another embarrassment has temporarily filled that void.

Up next: The bag


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