Sunday, June 30, 2013


life's a polyp

It's been so long ago, the medical tests and procedures, the surgeries and the struggle for life. It's been a lifetime ago but it doesn't always seem like my life. I have to remind myself that it was my life and not someone else's life. I feel like I'm looking through a looking glass, peering into someone else's memories and past. Not my own. And yet it is mine. Every horrible moment, every joyous cause. It's all mine.

I never thought the terror and the battles would fade so much. They don't occupy my mind all the time anymore. I remember everyday but it's just in passing. When my stomach rumbles, when I have to run to the bathroom, when I'm sore. But it's only brief reminders. Even when I have flare ups,  it's just for a night and I can forget the next day. No more constant reminders and complete worry about what I'm eating or what I'm doing. I still feel concerned but it doesn't consume me anymore. How has this change happened?? I've become so far removed from it all. I have my regular check up every three months but I don't have anymore medical tests or procedures. Not even routine. I should have an annual scope but I haven't in 5 years. My doctor knows I'm not budging on this one, I'm not going through the torture of laxatives and enemas. Find another way, I'm not doing it. That's how. I haven't had to go through pain and torture in five years except for flare ups and 1 CT Scan with dye. I'm not being forced to relive the nightmares. I've been granted a pardon, even if only for a short while.

I have to make myself remember the details of those awful years of pain and struggle. It doesn't seem possible that it all happened to me. That it was me going through it all. I swear it happened to someone else, not me. Why are people worried about my health? I'm fine, that wasn't me. But it was. It was me. And they remember. They remember the countless hospital stays and trips. The never ending medical tests and procedures. The need for another surgery. The fear and worry in the doctor's face, the nurses, the surgeons, the team of specialists. The terror I expressed, my screams and cries. My pleas for it to end, to let me die. They remember.

Once I'm thrown back into the medical den it will come flooding back and I'll be consumed again. But for now, for now I've been given mercy.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

To Keep My Mouth Shut

food sick life's a polyp

I don't think I'll ever learn when to keep my mouth shut. There are so many times I wish I had for my sake. We need to listen to our bodies, especially when our body is screaming at us! Our body knows what it needs, we just need to listen.

I try not to drink anything close to or after bed because it upsets my stomach and causes bloating, gas, and pain all night long. Instead of getting up about three times during the night like usual, when I drink before our after bed I end up being up and down close to eight times during the night! Last night was one of those nights and I knew better but that cold liquid kept calling me. I'm probably dehydrated at night because of the SBS, which is why it's so tempting to take a drink at night.

 In the Evils of Food I discussed the challenges I have with food and activity. I also have a hard time listening when I need to not eat or stop eating. I had lunch today and shortly after my body rid me I shouldn't have eaten, I should have just waited. After almost six hours my stomach is finally reducing in level of pain and discomfort. There are many times that I ignore warning signs and keep eating because the food tastes so good or I think I'm still hungry and then I end up with a SBS flare up within about an hour later. For a long period I wasn't able to eat any ethnic foods, they were too rich for me and I experienced severe bloating and pain for the remainder of the day. For several years I was devout about avoiding ethnic foods in order to prevent such occurrences and over time my body began to recover from the surgery traumas and to adapt to more foods thereby allowing me to have more of a varied diet.

The way our bodies are today isn't how they will be forever. Our bodies change and adapt and even regress. The key is to adapt with our bodies and to listen to what our bodies need in order to enjoy life without unnecessary pain and discomfort.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Stress Effects

life's a polyp

This last week has been very stressful work wise, 5 days felt like 2 weeks! And I could tell it was starting to wear on me physically. There's always those telltale signs warning you of impending danger if immediate action isn't taken. And I was starting become leery of those alarms.

The first couple nights of the week I was so exhausted that I slept through the whole night. This may be the norm for some, but it isn't for me. I'm usually up 2-3 times a night to use the restroom so if I'm sleeping through those bodily alarms, I know I'm needing the sleep. Well the last couple nights of the week I changed the routine and started having stress dreams, so I wasn't getting much sleep at all. When I wasn't in a deep sleep, I was dozing with stress dreams. This is also a dangerous pattern as there isn't any rest or recuperation obtainable in such a state.

My lip became tender and I just knew my body was about to explode with it's own rebellion against stress in the form of fever blisters. Throughout childhood and until the end of the collegiate career, I was a fever blister queen. Anytime my immune system became threatened, I had at least one giant, painful, eye sore of a fever blister. And most of the time I had 2-3 of them, even to the point that for a period I even developed impetigo - blisters on the skin that break open and become crusty. I've had fever blisters and impetigo so severe that the skin around my bottom lip is scarred. My GI doctor said that I'd likely outgrow these fever blisters and she was right, I have a fever blister maybe one or two times a year now. But even so, I remain leery of this ticking time bomb.

Because of the stress, I started to notice some depressive symptoms as well. I started to become withdrawn and saddened. I started to have meltdowns at work and home, moments where I couldn't hold back the tears. All I wanted to do was stay in bed and cry but I knew that I needed to force myself to talk to others or I'd easily get sucked into the deep spiral of depression. The emotional and physical sides of health are linked, they affect one another. So anytime one is in danger, so is the other. It's important to balance both for one's own well-being.

I also tend to stress eat, I want to eat anything or everything and this leads to overeating which upsets my digestive system. I felt miserable - bloating and SBS are not wonderful symptoms nor are they when combined.

These were the loudest alarms and I knew if I didn't get a handle on this stress, my body was going to rebel further. In the past, under extreme stress my intestine rebelled by constant SBS flare ups to the point that functioning was nearly impossible. I'm terrified of this happening again as I wouldn't be able to maintain employment in such a state.
I started to let others in, sometimes it's hard to accept help from others. I'm an independent worker and I usually figure there isn't much someone else can help me with - that it's not going to save time or effort. I leaned on friends and made a bit of time for a mental break - such as tagging along on a lunch run just for the change of scenery for 10 minutes. I used some free drink coupons and got a special treat to help me through the day. One evening I vegged out and just watched television with my husband and cooked a healthy meal. I quit beating myself up over things out of my control and started giving myself pep talks. So today, I feel better. I feel ready to be let back into the ring for another fight tomorrow. Here's to hoping this week is better too!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Away from Home

travel life's a polyp

For the Memorial Holiday we went on a camping trip and while preparing for our holiday getaway there were many concerns to account for in an attempt to allow for the most enjoyable trip.
Anytime I want to participate in physical activities, particularly away from home, I must consider a number of factors such as food, restroom access, breaks and the amount of physical activity. Each of these contribute to my health, severity of bothersome symptoms, and level of activity.

In Evils of Food, I discussed all the concerns surrounding food and how food affects my daily life. For our camping trip, I tried to stay away from just the usual camp foods of hamburgers and hotdogs as these foods are very greasy and almost always cause a SBS flare up. One evening we had grilled chicken and vegetables with a rice mixture. But even for this healthy meal, I still had to consider which vegetables to have as some vegetables such as fried potatoes are typically upsetting. I relented for one of our  lunches to having Mexican food. I was able to combat the SBS flare up into a mild flare up by taking an extra Lomotil  in the late afternoon, being careful of the timing in order to prevent an adverse side effect of extreme constipation if taken too late in the evening thereby altering the usual satisfactory effectiveness of my daily Lomotil on the following day. If I took an extra Lomotil too late, it would still be in effect the next morning thereby altering my whole medication schedule for the next day resulting in too much binding. Later that evening we made Smores, I had to limit myself to 1 Smore as another one would have pushed my intestine over edge especially after a Mexican lunch.

Restroom access is an absolute concern for any outing away from home.  In Access Denied, the ongoing concens and fears of being denied restroom access and restroom restrictions were discussed. When we reserved our camp site, I made sure to reserve a site that was close to restrooms in order to reduce wait time when a restroom was necessary. Even with having a restroom within 100 - 200 feet, at night I had to drive to the restroom in order to arrive in time and to reduce the amount of physical activity that inevitably increases SBS.  At times I even considered sleeping upright in the car parked at the restrooms during the nights but after 3 trips a night, I was able to endure until morning.

I also have to take care to watch my activity as movement increases my SBS and is futher complicated by restroom accessibility. There were many nature trails and hiking that we could embark upon and that I would have loved to have completed, but once again I had to mind the amount of activity and the proximity to a restroom in order to prevent SBS and accompanying misery. Even to go for a swim takes careful consideration of the timing of eating, walking to the swim area and the length of time between preparing for swimming and actually going swimming. The planning and participation of activities also depends on the severity of bothersome symptoms, if only slightly bothersome I'm able to enjoy activities for a longer time period and a fuller range of activities. However, if symptoms are severe then I'm rather limited to sitting still with little food or fluid intake or will be faced with increased SBS symptoms.

None of these concerns stopped me from enjoying or participating in activities on our camping trip, I just simply had to be aware of the possible side effects so that I could plan accordingly which allowed me to make decisions and alter activities to reduce the risk of such side effects for a more enjoyable trip.

I can't think of any activities that I haven't been able to partcipate in in some way because of my health.
Knowing our bodies and how they react to varying situations is vital for our survival. By being able to predict based on previous experiences, I'm able to make decisions to allow for optimal activity participation and comfortability.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Non-Sick

non sick life's a polyp

I'd group people into the following categories to describe their frame of reference for understanding chronic illness and empathy.
  1. The Sick. These are people with chronic illness, not with bowel disease though. This group can relate to us with bowel disease because they too understand chronic illness. This group is usually very empathetic toward others with health issues and have a medical understanding.
  2. The Bowel Sick. This is our group of people, all with some bowel disease. We relate to each other better than any others with health issues. Again, we tend to emphasize with each other a lot.
  3. The Non-Sick with Empathy. This group doesn't really have any health issues but sincerely want to understand what we go through. They may or may not have any medical understanding, but are willing to learn. Someone with empathy doesn't require medical knowledge in order to empathize and often have tendencies to have a basic understanding simply due to their inclination to empathize and imagine what life is like for someone with illness. This understanding also tends to be present for not only physical but also emotional symptoms and effects.
  4. The Non-Sick with No Empathy. This group doesn't really have any health issues or experience and don't really care to sincerely understand or learn about our conditions or that of others. They may inquire but it is usually due to etiquette or to satisfy curiosity.
 I don't really have any patience for the non-empathetic non-sick and dealing with this group is highly vexing for me. I don't mind and even typically enjoy educating others, answering questions and helping to better understand and support others in their lives. But when a person doesn't have any interest in such things and only feigns interest for their own hidden benefit, I don't really care to answers questions. I don't want to be a part of their games or help them in their games. I also don't really care for such people to pry into my life and know details of my health or my day to day health and symptoms. So it's no surprise that I have very little patience and a short fuse with such people.

I don't have the energy nor the patience to teach an adult how to empathize or how chronic illness affects one mentally, emotionally as well as physically, especially when it's not a sincere interest. I'd rather maintain my privacy and steer clear of my health as topic of discussion. I've encountered several people like this and I don't trust individuals with such behaviors. There are people who will use knowledge about someone's health and chronic illness to manipulate the person, others involved with the person or a situation with such personal information. We must especially be weary of this with employers. Recently I had an individual ask about my PTSD and they didn't understand how I could have PTSD now when my physical health has been stable. This person was also trying to use my health as a tool for religious debate and manipulation. So I'm confident that this person belongs to the last group. It doesn't take a psychologist to understand basic tenants of PTSD as long as they know a summary of what PTSD is.
 Simply, PTSD is the mental effect of a traumatic event causing an individual to have depression and negative stressful symptoms that are triggered by the trauma experience being relived. Such symptoms include night terrors, severe anxiety, fear, flash backs, emotional numbing and avoidance. Most people have a basic understanding of PTSD due to the prevalence among war veterans. Therefore, I find it hard to believe that an educated, aware adult doesn't have any reference to PTSD to draw from, especially if that person has a capacity for empathy.

My PTSD symptoms have subsided in frequency and severity over the years due to counseling and medication treatment. I don't believe that an individual ever truly stops having PTSD, just that symptoms can improve as well as better coping mechanisms may be learned and utilized. Although my health is fairly stable now and I don't have as many regular invasive tests and procedures, when I am placed back in that medical environment and those situations I begin to experience those same PTSD symptoms that I've had before although now I'm better equipped to cope with the situation so that the symptoms aren't as severe or debilitating as they were previously. But I'm never rid of it all and sometimes without provocation I begin to have symptoms again. I have to be cautious of what I watch, read, listen to and even what I think because I am easily transported back into time to any one of those traumatic medical experiences and am reminded of it all again. If I'm not cautious, I'll quickly be reliving the traumas. I'm so in tune with the pain and those memories are etched into my mind so deeply that seeing or hearing others' pain is physically felt on my body.
I also believe that one is never truly free of depression completely. A person may stop having depression but I've found that after having depression, one is much more susceptible to have depression again at a later time when under duress. I've found this also occurs with suicidal tendencies. Once a person has become suicidal, even after no longer being suicidal one is much more likely to experience suicidal ideations when under duress. It's as if once that those doors are opened, they're easy to open again even if not intentionally.

I acknowledge that these can be difficult things and notions for others to understand.    Chronic illness runs in my family but it's still hard for my parents to understand how deeply I've been affected by my health even though my parents are better able to relate than most. My husband has a hard time understanding my morbidity, how warped my mind has become due to such traumas. Yet they empathize and support, they listen and they show that I am understood and accepted. A close friend with similar health issues probably knows me best as he better understands the mental effects during his years of medical traumas than anyone else I know and is as warped as much if not more than myself. Most people have capacity for empathy and if they don't you are better off befriending someone who does. Without empathy, there isn't room for a true friendship - only a one sided benefit.