I was never ashamed of my stoma. I was never ashamed of the bag that I wore every day for 9 months. Sure it made getting dressed a lot harder and sure, I’d had moments when I cried and felt sorry for myself. No one is immune to the “why me” questions. No one is immune to self-pity. There were days when all I did was cry but the rest of the time, I knew that without my stoma, I’d be dead.
The start to my son’s life brought with it a lot of joy and happiness but it also brought a lot of the unexpected. I didn’t expect the complications, I didn’t expect to have endometriosis and I didn’t expect to have a burst appendix and a ruptured colon. I certainly wasn’t prepared to lie in hospital for almost a month fighting for my life. Yet here we are. Ten months later, it’s all over.
In total, over the course of 10 months, I had 6 surgeries. Deciding to get the reversal surgery wasn’t as straight forward as it should have been. I was mentally drained, I was exhausted and I knew the risks. Worst case scenario, I could die.
Originally I had been told it would be three months to a year before I could even consider having a reversal surgery. Obviously I hoped for 3 months but when that deadline came and went, I started to think maybe I’d be better off living my life with the bag. After all, I was starting to get used to it and the thought of another surgery seemed too draining on my already fragile state.
8 months in, I met with my original surgeon and discussed the upcoming reversal. He informed me that because of the nature of my surgery and also my history, it was best if I had a specialist do the operation. I didn’t want to even imagine anyone else going near me. This man kept me alive. But more than anything, I trusted his judgement and I knew that he wouldn’t be sending me to anyone but the best. So hesitantly I went to see my “new” surgeon.
I didn’t NEED this surgery. It was an elective surgery and I was putting my life at risk. I could have lived a long and happy life with my stoma but I thought about my future, going to the beach, swimming with a colostomy bag, playing with my son. I thought about the hernia I was already living with and how at some point, I’d need surgery to repair that anyway. I just had to take my chances with getting back to me. To the me I had been before all of this had happened. I told my surgeon there was nothing to think about, I was having the surgery.
A couple of days later, I was back in his room prepping for a colonoscopy. This is a delightful procedure when a camera is inserted up your rectum (and through your stoma if you have one) to look at the state of your intestines and determine if you’re suitable for a reversal. I was terrified but it was over quite quickly and the great news was that he saw no reason not to go ahead. My surgery was booked for a week later.
I remember thinking to myself that a week wasn’t enough time to wrap my head around it. Turns out that was the longest week of my life. Every second I was awake was spent thinking about the risks involved in the surgery and what this all meant for my future. I told my husband all the things he needs to tell my son if I don’t make it. I needed my son to know I loved him more than anything. Everyone else was really positive and tried to reassure me but after everything I had been through, I was truly and honestly terrified. I just needed the day to arrive and to get it all over.
The day of my surgery
The day of surgery finally arrived and I was booked into the hospital. My surgery was scheduled for 1.30pm and my original surgeon had promised he would scrub in. At 12:30pm, an hour earlier, I was being wheeled into the operating theatre. I tried my very best but I couldn’t contain the tears that kept pouring out my eyes. I was sobbing. I was so afraid that something would go wrong and that I was choosing death.
The anesthetist made me sit on the edge of the operating table. In nothing but my green gown. That room was freezing and everywhere I looked there were technical machines around me. I was overwhelmed. As I sat on that table, clutching a pillow while the epidural needle went into my back, I thought of the life I’d be leaving behind and I sobbed. As the anesthetic started to take effect, I remember the kind anesthetist telling me that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. For some reason, this kind stranger’s words meant the world to me and I drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up a few hours later in ICU, my surgeon was mumbling something to me about the operation and how well it went. He said words about things being easier than he had expected but I struggled to stay awake and listen to what he was saying. I was just so drowsy, if only I could sleep a little longer everything would be fine.
Later that day, I woke up and my family informed me that everything had been a huge success. They told me that the surgery had actually been easier than expected as my Endometriosis and lesions from previous surgery wasn’t as bad as they expected it to be.
The next few days were pretty tough but I woke up every morning with a smile on my face. I kept lifting the covers and looking at my flat (though very swollen) tummy. There was no bag there anymore. It was just how it used to be. Yes, my tummy was covered in scars. I’d never be able to look at it again without seeing a constant reminder of what happened to me but what I’d be seeing in those scars was my survival. I went to hell and back and I survived.
My life is so different because of everything I went through and it showed me who I really am and what I’m capable of. I stayed positive through all of this, and I came out of it feeling like a warrior. I’d faced the hardest battle of my life and I’d won it. I look in the mirror and I don’t see someone who suffered a tragedy, I see someone who survived against all odds.