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Looking in the mirror and seeing a black shadow.

A Hard Life (Part 1)

After my first J-pouch surgery, life was pretty complicated. It took time to adjust. Life with an ostomy was a big adjustment. I felt a lot of relief really soon after surgery. I didn’t have the pain and not nearly as much urgency as what I was used to. Within a month the urgency was gone as well, but what happened over that month was the hard part.

This was my first major reconstructive surgery. I’d had a few smaller things in the past, but never anything like this. I couldn’t imagine what life would be like afterwards. In some ways it was easy. The worst symptoms of my condition seemed to subside pretty quickly, but unfortunately new issues arose.

Besides the fact that I’d never had an ostomy before, and that I knew nothing about how to order supplies, change a bag, what to eat, what to avoid, or anything ostomy related for that matter. I also didn’t know how much surgery would take out of me, what recovery really meant and the effects everything would have on my body.

A Hard Life

After surgery, my body wasn’t the body I once knew. I’d already found it hard to love myself because of the internal complications I’d faced, but now I was forced to deal with external ones too. I had scars. Scars from my drain, from my ostomy, from my colectomy. When I looked in the mirror I could barely recognize the person I saw, the women I’d become.

Although things were hard, at the hospital I had help. I didn’t need to rely on anyone I knew personally and in a way it made things easier. Oddly, I’d rather have a stranger looking at the body I didn’t recognize than someone I know, someone who loves me. I didn’t want people to judge me. I didn’t want people looking at me like a victim. Healthcare providers don’t do that. On the rare occasions they did I didn’t let it bother me. I knew they meant well. Besides, I understand how they see me. A young, seemingly “healthy” woman. I know it’s an awkward situation for them too.

After coming home it was just me. Me and a few family members. I remember the first bath I took. As I sat on the new shower seat my grandad bought for me, I began to feel relief. I’ve always loved water. It’s always been so calming for me. Unfortunately, the relief didn’t last long. It was accompanied by pain and frustration. As badly as I wanted to be independent, I just wasn’t ready. For a while, I sat and cried. Washcloth and soap in hand. Ostomy belt around my stomach. I didn’t know how to bathe and it didn’t matter. Even if I did know how I just couldn’t. Physically I was stuck.

The pain made it nearly impossible for me to move. I was so ashamed. I didn’t want to ask for help, but if I didn’t I’d be stuck in that tub forever…

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.