A Letter to My Pre-Surgery Self
Hi, 2014 Julie,
I know you are scared. I know that surgery is the absolute last resort when dealing with your disease, but you have put it off long enough, and now it is time to move forward, reclaim your life, and see that this partial colectomy is not the end of the world as you thought it was.
In fact, it is just the beginning.
Right now, you are probably sipping on Pedialyte, trying to get as many nutrients in your body as you can via liquids since that is all you are allowed to ingest. All of the years of suffering from hospitalizations, flares, and failed medications are going through your mind.
Remembering life before surgery
Remember that time you had to cut your vacation in Miami short because of a flare, and then you went directly to the ER from the airport? And remember when you almost missed your best friend’s wedding (where you were Maid of Honor) because of a flare but talked your doctor into letting you go a few more days without hospitalization?
Remember how tired you have been, and how skipping dinner in favor of going to bed extra early has been the norm. Think about how long it took you to pack up your apartment before moving just because an hour of work would lead to napping for the rest of the afternoon.
This is about to all be over.
Sure, it is major surgery, and one that will require some serious recovery, but here are a few things that I want you to know before surgery that will put your mind at ease and get you excited for the future:
Things to know before surgery
1. Don’t talk to other patients prior to surgery
They will only freak you out and cause you to panic with their horror stories of spending two weeks in the hospital and having the morphine pump cut off, yet still needing it. You will only be in the hospital for 48 hours and manage the pain with Motrin.
This is your journey, and you need to know that everybody is different, and while your case will also be an anomaly, your recovery will be (relatively) easy so get those negative thoughts and stories out of your head.
2. The first meal you eat after surgery will be glorious
As you feast on your first real meal not only since surgery but since the liquids-only diet started two months prior, you will feel like a new person and finally “normal.” This may seem like a long way off, but trust me, when you get it, it will all be worth it.
3. Your new “normal” will make you realize how un-normal your life was.
Once you stop going to the bathroom every hour and finally get some energy and life back into you, you will realize that the shell of yourself that was walking around the past year was not normal.
You will look forward to future events and actually get to attend them without canceling. You will enjoy going out and having fun with friends without worrying about the bathroom line at the bar.
Going to work and then the gym will become easy thanks to your newfound energy, and you may even have some energy left afterward to make dinner. You will regain the life you lost and while it feels like you haven’t had it in forever, you will begin to forget what life was like before surgery.
4. No one will care about the scar
As your surgeon, Dr. Bar, put it, “Any guy who cares about the scar isn’t worth it” and he couldn’t be more right. The first time you show off your scar on Memorial Day Weekend while at the beach will be empowering, for it is your battle wound, the reminder of the Crohn’s Warrior that you are.
Your friends won’t mind it, your future husband (who you meet 3 weeks after surgery—but that’s a different story) loves you for it, and the c-section scar you get when you have your daughter makes it a perfect pair. But, one word of advice...apply sunscreen to the scar when exposed to sunlight—you will thank me for that.
5. Life will only continue to get better
I know this was honestly the last thing you wanted to happen and fear that it means your disease is out of control, but this is what has to happen in order for a medication to finally work, for you to see how important it is to take better care of your overall health, and for you to finally put this disease to rest.
In two years, you will be in remission, and in six years, you will be celebrating the 4th anniversary of that remission with your loving husband and daughter, thankful for this surgery and all that came with it.
I will tell you that the first couple of weeks of recovery will be difficult, as you will not be able to walk quickly or stand long enough to blow dry your hair (something that you will successfully accomplish a few weeks later) but it will all be worth it, and you will absolutely rock this.
Does exercising regularly help in the management of your symptoms?