Facing the Unknowns of Surgery
This week marks two years since I had 18 inches of my intestine removed. I’ll always remember the apprehension and fear I felt in the days leading up to bowel resection surgery. For some, surgery is something that happens all the time and is no big deal. But, when we all think back to the first time we ever went under the knife we all face that feeling of uncertainty.
The emotions are difficult to deal with
It reminds me of the feeling of grieving the death of a family member or friend, you have moments of lightness and laughter and then moments of darkness, worry, tears and despair.
Here are some of the questions I wrote down in a journal that ran through my mind in the days leading up to my bowel resection:
- What’s it like to drive to the hospital and know the next morning when you wake up you’ll be getting prepped for a surgery that entails taking out more than a foot of your intestine?
- How can I try and compose myself when I say goodbye to my family and I’m scared out of my mind but don’t want them to know I’m scared?
- How does the surgery actually work? I keep waking up with the thought of my intestines in a gowned man’s hands and them slicing it apart.
- What is my incision going to look like? Will there be staples?
- How am I going to react when I look down and see a big incision and scar on my belly for the first time in my life? I keep staring at myself in the mirror, almost in awe of what I have right now—knowing that the days of my clear smooth stomach are dwindling before my eyes. I keep grazing my hands around my belly button so I can remember what it was like before this.
- How is the pain going to be post-surgery? Is it going to be excruciating? Will I even know what is going on?
- What’s it going to feel like to stand up for the first time, to walk, to pee, to sneeze, to laugh, to cough. I’m scared for it all.
- I fear any complications post-surgery—like infections, even the Lovenox shots (I’ve given myself injections for years, but it’s different—because it’s the unknown and a complete stranger will be giving them to me).
- I’m independent and don’t like the feeling of needing other’s help to do mindless tasks like brushing my teeth and walking to the bathroom. I feel like such a burden sometimes. I see how exhausting it is to be a caretaker.
- Hundreds of people have told me they’re praying—I wonder if they really are. What are they asking from God? Will their prayers be heard? Are my loved ones in heaven aware of what’s going on and are they watching over me? Before I go to surgery I envision my family praying around me—and I hope they do, but I worry if that will be too much for everyone else to endure. Will it be too much for me to handle? Do I ask?
I had been sent home from the hospital following a bowel obstruction for 10 days so I could build my strength up before surgery. Those 10 days were difficult, but now two years out I can tell you that bowel resection surgery was the best thing that I ever did since I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 12 years ago. It provided me with a fresh start. At the time, a decade of disease was cut out. I was able to get married, have a healthy pregnancy and bring a healthy baby boy into the world.
If you’re reading this and have never had surgery and you are scared, that’s completely normal. But trust in the fact that in the majority of cases people end up feeling so much better once they heal. Short term pain, long term gain. And just like anything in life, once you go through it once…you’ll be able to tackle any future obstacles that much easier.
What type of IBD have you been diagnosed with?