A Second Chance At Life
My name is Steve, I am 31 years old and I have had a permanent colostomy for about 5 months.
My original problem was Crohn's Disease of the large intestine, which was diagnosed about nine and a half years ago. This was just to be my first hospitalization due to Crohn's, which was to become one of many. Like most other sufferers, I lost a lot of weight (about 3 stone) and suffered chronic diarrhoea, vitamin deficiencies and strong spasmodic gastric pain.
I also started taking a lot of medication, especially cortisone. This would reduce the inflammation and pain I was feeling but also made me feel light headed which affected my work badly. This went on for several years, fluctuating between periods of remission where I felt and looked normal, to bouts of illness with varying degrees of severity. When I could not control these flare-ups I went into hospital, these visits occurred about once a year.
I found that the disease was controlling my life to a large degree. The illness and the medication made me moody at times, I am sure I was pretty unpleasant to be around! As I was unable to get out and socialize, friendships and relationships also dropped off. But then I told myself, I was sick, I did not WANT to go out.
Luckily my employer was extremely understanding and I was able to transfer around to different sections, depending on my health at the time. Eventually, however, the illness became so bad that I had to defer my studies, and take more time off work. This time the doctors were much more pessimistic, and an operation was predicted.
I panicked and began running around all the doctors, just trying to get a different diagnosis; but they all agreed - a colostomy was my only real option left. I spent the next two weeks swinging from anger to tears unable to understand why this was happening to me. I also felt more alone than I ever had in my entire life. I felt like I was the only person in the world to have this terrible operation. After years of illness and pain, now I was going to be deformed. I would never have a normal life again.
Eventually though, I accepted it. The illness, the pain, the medication, the fissures, the fistulas were not going to stop. So I set a date with my surgeon and then went to see the stomal therapist at Cabrini Hospital. I could not believe how small the pouches were! They were not going to intrude at all, not like the giant sacks I expected them to be. After the operation everything went smoothly apart from a few "teething leaks" and after a few months I was feeling better than I had been in years. Sports were a possibility again and I went for my first swim in about 3 years. A month later I rode on a club bicycle ride (although I am not saying how long it took me!) I had forgotten how good it felt to be healthy again.
However, the fistulas still had not healed so I knew I had to have one more operation, the one to make it permanent. This time there was no fear or anger, and after another smooth recovery period, I felt better than before, thanks again to my surgeon and the staff at Cabrini.
I am now back at work again, doing lots of overtime and enjoying a very full social life. The decision to commit myself to the second operation meant that I could forget about my health problems and get on with living my life again. It is something I never thought I would be able to do again and it was definitely worth it.
Reprinted from the "Thoughts of YOU" membership folder. Most stories were written from the early to mid 1990s.