This is a Guest Post with Jeni LeeAnn
I grew up knowing I had a 50/50 chance of having Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). My dad found out he had FAP just before I was born. His mother had FAP and all she knew growing up was that there was some family digestive disease that was killing some family members. She would up dying at 51 years old from complications of a Desmoid tumor when I was age 6.
My story is a little more complex because I was born with no nasal passages and had many surgeries before I could even remember. I do remember spending a lot of time in the hospital and doctor offices as a child. I was always preparing for a surgery or recovering from one.
When I turned 16 we did the typical scopes to see if I had FAP. Sure enough I had FAP. I don't remember being sad or depressed about it. It was just another thing to deal with. I was no stranger to hospitals and surgery, so for me it wasn't a huge deal.
I had my large intestine removed when I was 20 and reconnected to my rectum so I don't have an ostomy. Life for me was pretty normal for the next 10 years, just yearly scopes and whatnot. I felt blessed and had no major issues.
That all changed in 2009 when I started to have nausea, bloating, and pain. My doctor at the Cleveland Clinic did all the normal scans to see what was going on. What would follow would be about 10 years of guessing and uncertainty. He would do 7 surgeries to try to find out what was going on. Two surgeries were laparoscopic and 5 were full open surgeries. Finally, we found Desmoid tissue where my stomach and small intestine meet. It is as my doctor puts it "strategically placed for maximum damage", if it were even one inch lower it would not be an issue.
The hardest part of this time was the fact that I felt crazy. Every test and scan he did came back normal. I felt like it was all in my head. I even tried telling myself there wasn't a problem and would force myself to eat. That would only cause more issues such as being sick for a week following forced eating.
I was incredibly blessed by my doctor, he trusted me and knew what I was was the way it was. He never once said "sorry, I don't see anything on the scans so I can't do anything for you". He always said "I know something is wrong, we just don't know what it is yet". I know if I had many other doctors, they would have given up on me. I am beyond thankful for my doctor, who kept fighting for me.
The last 5 years have been a series of surgeries to put mesh around the Desmoid tissue and keep it at bay. This sadly, only gave me three weeks of freedom for my symptoms and would have a three month recovery due to the amount of surgeries. This seemed like a very high price for only three weeks of freedom. Then things progressively got worse to the point where after my last surgery in December 2019, I was loosing half a pound every day. I just was not able to eat or drink enough. It became mentally exhausting. So we decided to try a feeding tube. In March 2020, I had my Jejunostomy feeding tube (J-tube) placed.
Now, July 2020, I have had my feeding tube for almost 5 months and it has not been without complications. I had issues with granulation tissue as my body was healing from the surgery. The feeding tube had to be placed a second time which created a second hole. Due to Covid19, my doctor didn't want to risk infection due to any leaks from ingesting food or drink so I was nothing by mouth for three weeks until the hole was healed.
I clean my feeding tube daily, keeping the site dry and flush the tube every three hours to keep it clean and for me to remain hydrated as I have difficulty drinking enough fluids. I complete nightly feedings for 10-12 hours with a nutrition formula I obtain through a home health agency. I obtain about 75% of my nutrition, or 1000 calories, through the feeding tube and about 500 calories from oral ingestion.
The feeding tube has given me my quality of life back. Food now is back in its proper place in life. It's something I can enjoy when it sounds good not something I have to force and get sick from. I feel incredibly blessed.
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