Light In The Tunnel

I’ve been living in an eight-week tunnel. Counting down the weeks and days until eight weeks would be up. My panproctocolectomy completion surgery a.k.a butt/rectum removal was on April 30.

Eight weeks from April 30 is June 25. Not long now.

I was told from the beginning that I would need an eight-week recovery period from this surgery and then to expect it to take me another six months to really feel like myself again. Neither of these numbers were a shock to me.

In 2016 when I had my colon removed, I was also deep inside the eight-week recovery tunnel. The six months to fully recover makes sense since I’ve had two major surgeries within 20 months.

This go-round has been a long eight weeks. The recovery feels harder and longer than it did in 2016. However, like all really tough stuff in life, we tend to forget the really bad bits, so maybe 2016 was as equally challenging.

I do know that recovering from having my butt removed was extra spicy thanks to the inconvenience of not being able to sit much. The butt is a tender and protected area for most of us. So imagine what it’s like to have the butt that you’ve known for a long time (46 years) be sliced, diced, stretched, and then sewn together with crazy industrial stitches. Yeah, things get extra sensitive.

I’ve now graduated from needing a special cushion to sitting on hard chairs and on the floor. It does make me a bit nervous to do so, but I think this will last for a while.

The next step is to get my butt on a bike seat. This will happen on June 25th – the eight week date. I’m going to start with my city bike – it has a big cushy saddle and the nature of the bike limits me from overexerting myself. The deep buried hope inside me is that on June 30th I can get out for a ride on my trusty red bike and then within a month I’m back to riding for up to four hours.

Now, don’t gasp and shudder and get ready to post a comment telling me to take it easy or to go slow. This is exactly what I’ve been doing for the last eight weeks. On May 23rd, my surgeons gave me the okay to return to yoga (I waited two weeks), to give up the cushion (I still bring it with me in the car), and to start pushing my limits (I haven’t really, apart from standing a bit too long a few days). So yeah, I’ve been waiting.

I’ve been doing special core exercises to get my abdominal muscles working again and I spend a lot of time clenching my butt muscles to try to get them active again. Really, you have no idea how critical your butt muscles are when you sit down to pee until your butt has been sliced and diced. Sitting to pee was a big deal around here at 26 Tamarack Place, admittedly I still use the hover technique but I’m getting there.

So yeah, I’m looking forward to June 25th. It’s hard to be a cyclist when you can’t cycle. My body doesn’t feel or look the same. I don’t feel the same. I harbour deep fears that I might never get back to being the same as I was.

It’s likely this deep fear that has encouraged my interest in reading books and watching documentaries about people who have conquered some kind of insurmountable challenge and have come out whole. Knowing that there are other people who have recovered from big surgeries, crazy injuries, or even just done the unthinkable, tells me that I just might be able to get back to feeling like myself.

I’ve got big plans for 2019. Did you notice that? I don’t have big plans for 2018. This is the year of finding myself again. Of hopefully living a life with less sick days and more healthy days. As a chronically ill person, I know I can’t expect the sick days to end but I do hope they are reduced or at least somewhat less harsh. I need to figure out this new body of mine and learn what it needs to keep feeling well.

My brother sent me a pendant for my birthday and it really couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. I think of the phrase multiple times a day:

She believed she could so she did

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