What a Difference a Year Makes

One year ago today, I had a colostomy. 

It was a surprise. Pain in the night. Severe pain. Xrays, catscan, surgeons, emergency surgery. Part of my colon had ruptured. 

A colostomy is when surgeons divert a part of the colon into an artificial opening in the abdominal wall. Putting it bluntly, your poop is diverted from your anus to a hole, or stoma, that they make on your stomach area. 

This means wearing a bag attached to your abdomen, a bag that collects all of your body's waste, to put it politely. Every so often you have to either remove the bag and replace it, or empty it. The process depends on which method you choose.

My first reaction a year ago today was fear. I was alone in a renown Boston hospital and it was the middle of the night. 

Only later did I realize that I was incredibly lucky, since I was already in the hospital awaiting a skin graft for a large leg wound. The rupture could have proven fatal if care was delayed.

After awakening from surgery in intensive care, I was told that I had a colostomy. I cried. And I cry today writing this, remembering the day that would change my daily habits. Even my self assurance. I cried a lot last year. In fact, I cried every time I talked about the colostomy. 

Naturally, you learn how to "change the bag." Suddenly, the nurses aren't changing the bag. You are. You learn to accept the fact that you are handling your own shit every single day. You start to feel ... degraded, depressed, disgusted. 

(I just noticed ... I have gone from "I" to "you," perhaps depersonalizing the whole situation? I don't know, it just happened.)

Another surgery ... the awaited skin graft. All goes well. But you still have the bag. You go to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. The bags go with you.

Back home to Mexico. The bags go with you. But customs stops the shipment you ordered. It takes weeks to get more supplies.

You wonder if people can see the bag under your clothes. You wear baggy pants and choose new underwear that will better hold the bag in place.

The bathroom gets to be very familiar. These bags smell when removed, so you double wrap them in garbage bags. The maid tosses the garbage bags out the bathroom window, to the garbage can below, so she doesn't have to carry them through the house. We called them "shit bombs." We could finally joke about it.

And now, it's gone. Last Halloween surgeons reversed the colostomy. "Taking it down," is how they phrased it. 

There was a lot of healing to be done after two major surgeries, as well as the skin graft. A few other problems along the way. 

But, today, 30 pounds lighter and a lot happier than I was a year ago today, I can finally talk about, write about, and now forget about the colostomy. There's nothing left but the scars.

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