Monday, August 11, 2008

Finding My Way Through

As far as colostomy care goes, I feel confident. It ain't exactly rocket science. The "getting used to it" is about 99% mental. I have my ups & downs with it. I also realize my only exposure to colostomies in the past was with someone who didn't control for gas and would occasionally "cloud the room" quite heavily and with no warning. One of my big fears was that I would have no control and I would do the same. Well now I know, I need not have that concern because it's no different than before I had the surgery. If you want to control for, it's not a problem. If you don't want to, I guess you could clear a room in no time. Fortunately for you, I prefer to former.

I have been keeping up on my walking and as a result, I feel well. And the pain near my suture seems to be decreasing a bit and that is good. I was a bit surprised by my need to be sedated for the draining. I generally have a high tolerance for pain. But as I look back on the last 16 months, I realize I have been through a great deal of pain - consistent - never ending - chronic pain - and it has definitely knocked me down a bit. I imagine it may take a while to get back to where I was. And getting there will be nice.

Getting back to my old self again will also be quite nice. There's a vulnerability that has shown up for me following the surgery. Part of it is simply because I had abdominal surgery and could get a hernia if I do anything to strenuous. No thank you. The other part is mental and I have learned from talking to other folks who had major surgery that there is often an adjustment period that follows. For me its a degree to which I don't feel 100% safe in the world. It's all mental, so essentially it's not real. But then again, everything is mental when it comes down to it, so it is in essence it's real until I find my way through it.

I have to say I am quite surprised that I was not informed of the adjustment period since it's pretty powerful. As I look back, I can say I was told that there would be just that - an "adjustment period." But I prefer direct as opposed to vague. You know? Give it to me straight. Tell me I may question myself or feel vulnerable in the world. Because believe it or not, going to the supermarket was a big deal for me the first time I went (just the other day). I walked in there thinking to myself, "I was just cut open - front & back - I better be careful." I can't imagine what I'd feel if someone bumped into me. Already once I squatted and hit my rear suture on the inside door handle of the car and damn near saw stars or went blind for a second or something - I'm not quite sure. But what matters most is the time it takes to adjust. It's powerful and must be respected or I will find myself under more stress than I need. And, I feel good being aware of the adjustment period. It allows me to maintain some objectivity as I find my way through.


  1. Bert,

    Once again, you have so very eloquently portrayed my own emotional experience of my cancer treatment.

    I totally, totally, totally know what you are talking about. For weeks, months even, I struggled with that heightened sense of vulnerability. I slept with pillows on my abdomen/chest at night because I was afraid the cats would step on my incisions.

    My first trip to the grocery store, to the mall, to the gym - all anxiety-provoking because of that heightened sense of vulnerability.

    And I don't think that people in the medical professions are very clear about what an "adjustment period" is really like. They aren't even clear on their estimates of "recovery time". Recovery to what, exactly? My oncologist's office at least offers a clinical social worker to deal with the emotional effects of cancer treatment, and she is always helpful when I go to see her.

    But I don't think that people who have not experienced such major and life-disrupting treatment can really understand what this feels like.

    I continue to hold you in my thoughts... and stay away from those car door handles! Ouch!

    Maria Brown

  2. So are you finding your adjustment period to be a pain in the butt?

  3. So are you finding your adjustment period to be a pain in the butt?

  4. It was amazing to watch you walk through the Cornell Plantations last Tuesday!
    You've gained some weight and the brightness in your eyes is that of a healthy man.
    Your journey through cancer has been astonishing to watch.
    Everywhere I go people are sharing my gratitude for your sharing and your miracle.