“Obviously this is clickbait”.
Let me bring you back to a time when my future was uncertain; when I didn’t know if I would survive the turmoil my body was pushing me through.
As a young child, it was difficult for me to understand that I had a ‘diagnosis’. After hearing “She’s got Crohn’s disease” at the age of eleven, the only concern I had was if I needed surgery or not. When I asked my doctor if this was a possibility, I asked thinking the only answer would be “Of course not! How ridiculous of you to even ask!”. Instead, my naivety was met with the high likeliness of future surgery. My body was attacking itself, and my intestines were the victim.
I soon fell into pace with the disease. Sure, it was hard, but you get used to it. The medications, the tube feedings, the scopes. Every hurdle that came to pass was higher than the last, and it became more difficult to catch my breath between each one. I weighed a whopping sixty-five pounds as a high school freshman and spent a fair portion of my time in the bathroom catching up on my reading. You will never meet a more well-read person.
Somehow making it to my junior year with little intervention, it finally came time for the surgery I once dreaded. The funny thing about fighting your own body, however, is that you’ll do anything to get a little relief. We spoke with a surgeon who would take out a few highly-diseased areas of intestine. I was sixteen and so ready. I distinctly remember telling the surgeon to take it all out and to leave me some scars as proof. I should have kept my mouth shut.
Surgery went off without a hitch and I began my recovery in the hospital. I was sore but I felt good. I began to eat without the typical pain I would usually experience. We thought I was in the clear. Four or five days after surgery, the fire inside of me began. When my nurses and surgeon would ask about pain, I would deny it. If I didn’t admit to it, then it didn’t exist. It would go away. I could lie, but my vitals could not.
As my blood pressure plummeted and my heart rate sky-rocketed, a CT scan was ordered. It was found that I had literally fallen apart inside. The intestines freshly sewn together had broken apart like old piping, allowing anything passing through to travel around my abdominal cavity. My body’s natural instinct was to take the fetal position, another sign of the complication I had taken on — peritonitis.
I lost consciousness waiting for my surgeon to open me back up. A large incision was made down my midline as there was little time for the small, dainty keyholes made the first go-around. I got my stupid scars of proof I had wished for.
My memory picks up a few days after this. The room was dim as a nurse leaned over me, changing some sort of dressing on my belly. I immediately asked if an ostomy had been placed. She confirmed that yes, I was now living with an ostomy. For most, this confirmation is devastating, but for me — it gave me a sense of relief. I closed my eyes again.
In my case, the ostomy was a diversion of bowel. My small intestine was separated from my colon and brought to the outside of my body. An adhesive pouch was placed around this piece of intestine, otherwise known as a stoma, to collect stool. This allowed my most problematic areas with Crohn’s disease to rest — my colon, rectum, and anus. The only reason I knew about this type of surgery was from friends that had it done. I knew it was difficult to go through, but I was also aware of the relief it could provide.
I spent the next days, months, years working to accept and thrive with this ostomy bag. As you can imagine, a sixteen-year-old exploring the world and trying to find her place in it did not imagine this turn of events. I no longer went to the bathroom as a person typically would. I had a plastic bag attached to my side at all times, and now had to figure out how to move on.
At the one-month follow up, I begged my surgeon to reverse it. At three months, I asked if it could be reversed sometime in the future. At six months, weighing thirty pounds more than when I went in for surgery, I stopped asking. The pain I had experienced, the hours spent in the bathroom, the weight loss… they were all things of the past. It was my time to thrive, and I didn’t want to picture life without my ostomy.
I went on to work as a nurse in the very same hospital on the very same floor where I first started my journey. I dated boys, I went to college, I worked, and I recently married my best friend. Eleven years later, I am thriving. I haven’t gone to the bathroom in years, and I wouldn’t change a thing.