10 Nov It’s All a Matter of Perspective
When I was initially diagnosed with Crohn’s, I never thought in a million years that it would lead to surgery. I never thought that it would end either by costing me my life, or with an ostomy.
When my illness reached the point where I needed to have surgery, I was hesitant. I was afraid of all the things one is afraid of when faced with surgery. I was concerned with the recovery – how long it would take and how hard it might be – but I was also concerned with body image and being able to live a normal life.
My perspective on ostomy surgery was completely driven by my concerns. I didn’t want to have surgery because I was concerned that I would have a long recovery time, because I was concerned with how my body would look after surgery, and I was concerned about whether or not I’d be able to live my life as I had known it.
All of my concerns lumped together made me think of ostomy surgery as a worst case scenario, and a scenario I didn’t want to be in.
For all of those who are facing ostomy surgery, I want to tell you that I’ve been there. While I can’t say I understand your specific concerns, what I can say is that I understand that your concerns are shaping the way you think about the surgery. They may even be telling you to flat out turn it down. I’ve been there.
So how, after all this negativity clouding my judgement, did I finally make the decision to move forward? It came down to one thing – did I want to stay alive?
The idea of facing ostomy surgery was so overwhelming that I had forgotten how much my life had changed for the worse, already.
Once a strong, strapping 195 lbs man, I found myself down to a measly 120 – I was nowhere near healthy. I was using the bathroom multiple times a day, which meant I couldn’t be in a single place for long. I constantly felt horrible, so I had no choice but to stay at home more frequently. I couldn’t be with my friends both because of how sick I felt and because of the fear of not being near a bathroom. I was alone.
When it came time to make the final decision, I spoke to my family and friends. They were there to support me and helped me see the perspective of surgery that I was missing – the potential for life. Without an ostomy and after over 2 years of being sick, many diet changes, and lots of medications, it was deemed that I would not have survived another 6 months. Though the choice was not easy, it became apparent that it was the only one.
It took some time and hard work, but eventually, I changed my perspective on surgery. With the help of my support network, I looked at all the things that concerned me, and then thought about all the positive things that outweighed them. I realized that, although I may have a pouch for the rest of my life, I would live.
“What’s the difference between major and minor surgery?”
“Minor surgery is when it’s happening to someone else, major surgery is when it’s happening to you.”
This is a joke I found to be very true.
After surgery, my perspective on the ostomy changed. Though I wouldn’t introduce myself to someone and immediately indicate that I had an ostomy, when the conversation came up, I wouldn’t shy away from it. I began to feel that my ostomy was something I was proud of – it was something that gave me life again.
Today, I am even more open about my ostomy than I ever could have thought. Now, it even amazes me that anyone could think as negatively as I did about the surgery. I know it’s easy to say because I’ve made it to the other side, but know that – know that I did make it to the other side.
Thanks to my ostomy, I was able to get back to my passion and work full-time as a firefighter and paramedic. Thanks to my ostomy, I am able to be a husband and father. Thanks to my ostomy, I can now enjoy everything life has to offer.
At first, it wasn’t easy to change my perspective on ostomy surgery. When you’re so deep in your own thoughts of negativity, it can be hard to get out. Once it hit me that I wasn’t even living life, I realized my mindset had to change. It was then that I chose to have my ostomy surgery and begin living once again.
It was simply a matter of perspective.