Being told that you need to have an organ removed is a pretty scary prospect. I wasn't particularly attached to my colon - it had been at the root of all my health problems for the last 2 years, but that didn’t stop it from being daunting.
A month after my diagnosis, I’d learnt about stomas and everything ostomy related, and was firmly against surgery. I thought it would be the end of everything. I couldn't see how removing my entire colon could be a positive thing. I dug my head in the sand and vividly remember saying to one of my best friends that surgery meant I’d failed. I’d let my illness beat me.
But, 1 year on and colon-less, I can see just how wrong I was. Having my large intestine removed doesn’t make me weak and it certainly doesn’t mean I failed. Ulcerative Colitis sapped all the light from my life but my stoma has given me the opportunity to live again.
Pre-op I was in such a pickle!
I had 6 days in hospital before the surgeon and his team liberated me from my devil colon; they poked and prodded me, and had me jump through what felt like a million hoops in order to make sure removing it was the right thing to do.
I had X-rays, CT scans, 7 blood transfusions, IV steroids, an endoscopy, a sigmoidoscopy, and I was constantly on IV fluids.
With each day of tests I just got worse and worse…
The night before and the day of my surgery was a blur. I went down to theatre around 2.00pm on the 2nd January 2018 and woke up 4 hours later in ICU with a million tubes running from all sorts of places. There were a bunch of nurses to my right and my parents to the left. I felt like an animal being studied in a zoo – they were those people who just stand, staring at the animals hoping they’ll move or throw something at the glass. I could barely muster enough strength to turn my head to my mum and smile, never mind throw anything.
I probably looked like I’d been in a fight - all swollen and puffy, with an NG tube up my nose, a central line in my neck, multiple cannulas placed all over my arms, and an artery line in my wrist - but less than 24hrs after they'd cut me open I felt better. It was probably all the IV morphine but I’d like to think removing my diseased colon had something to do with how relaxed I felt - my whole chest just relaxed. I couldn't feel that grinding tense pull in my stomach anymore and I just felt like myself again! Now I'm writing this, I'm pretty sure my head was in the clouds with all the pain medication they were giving me!
I spent the next 6 days in hospital and it was pretty tough. I didn't have the worry or pain of UC anymore, but I was so swollen and stiff from all the surgery that I had to get a nurse to help me up every time I needed to pee… still so humiliating!
It was a real joy to get out of the hospital!
They soon sent me home and I actually managed to walk out - a huge achievement considering I couldn't walk in just 12 days earlier, and even though it was an icy winter’s day in the middle of January, feeling that bite of cold fresh air on my face for the first time in 12 days was utter bliss! Even the smell of petrol was welcomed as we walked to the car! I hadn't been able to walk more than 3 feet without feeling like I was going to collapse for 2 months and here I was 6 days after major surgery, walking all the way from the ward to the carpark!
I got into the car and for the first time in 2 years I could sit there and not worry about having an ‘accident’!
Car journeys with colitis were always so stressful, what with the lack of bathrooms in a convertible Mercedes! So to be able to just sit there the whole way home, not stressed or in pain was incredible!
Surgery was one of the toughest moments of my life, but from that moment on, I could see just how positive it was.