Fear, Fighting, and Forward Together: Part III in the Colostomy Series

What a difference two weeks makes. On January 20, I published a blog explaining how I had avoided getting a life-changing colostomy because of my nervousness at the procedure, and of my perception of how the procedure would be received. Two weeks later, there are hundreds of “likes”, reposts and supportive comments on the blog, the related fundraising, and the announcement of the date. People are expressing joy. Not only are they expressing support, but more than 200 people have collectively given me more than $30,000 to support my recovery, and my subsequent return to self-sufficiency. I am blown away by this generosity, some by old friends and some by those I have never met.

If this is not an expression of the powerful, wonderful, people that are out there to support us when we share the things that we are afraid to share, I do not know what is. If you are wrestling with a decision, medical or otherwise, not because you do not know what is right for you but because you are worried about the response of others, all I can say is take a leap of faith. Some will no doubt be as bad as you worry, and some will be more supportive than you can imagine. You never know till you try.

So you probably saw buried within that paragraph of generality and celebration that I have a date for the surgery. On February 21, I will have a colonoscopy and endoscopy, both because they are overdue and to clear me for surgery. On February 22, barring any unforeseen complications, I will have my surgery.

Now, anyone who read the first blog in this series knows all of the reasons why this is a wonderful thing. In fact, once I made the decision, I have routinely said to my caregivers, as I suffered through a routine that will soon be a thing of the past: gosh, why cannot it be tomorrow. I am so done with this.

Even the last big uncertainty, that of how I will support myself through the surgery and through the big changes that need to come afterward has been answered by your generosity. It is unequivocally positive, right? Sure.

And yet, surgery. They are gonna put me under anesthesia. They are gonna cut a hole in my abdomen. All those things that I see in the surgery shots of the medical procedurals that I enjoy are going to happen to me. My first surgery of any kind since I was 20. My first surgery with a real incision (laparoscopic, but still) since I was 10. My first surgery to alter my body, rather than remove an invader, since I was four. I am scared.

And recovery. I am gonna be in pain, to some extent. I am going to have to learn new rhythms around eating, sleeping, hygiene and care. I am going to have to deal with surgical recovery in the hands of my friends and trusted caregivers, all of home will be living as new and experiences I am. I am scared

And life with the bag. I wrote in the first post in this series that my friend had convinced to me that my concerns around life with the bag were far outweighed by the benefits, and he is right. But now that it is real, the concerns are still there. How many times will I spill it before I learn to change it properly? What if we are wrong and I cannot do it myself? How many times will I misjudge the changing schedule and end up with a mess? How will I experience intimacy, or even just to swimming pool or even learn to make simple excursions with a bag of my waste in front of me? The fact that these questions are insufficient to change my mind does not make them inconsequential. I am scared.

I am scared, and because the purpose of this blog is for you to go through the experience with me, I have to leave it there. I am not looking back at this in retrospect, and cannot assure you that it will all work out, regardless of what I might hope, or even rationally believe, all I can do is share my nerves and my fear.

I actually think that is a good lesson. Not that one does not need to be afraid, but rather that is perfectly human to be afraid. Would that the decision removed all apprehension, but it does not and it will not. To anyone else who finds themselves in this stage, all I can recommend is to hold tight to the anticipated benefit, and use that vision to conquer the fear. This is what I will be trying to do, and I welcome you to walk that path with me.

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