“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” -Heraclitus
Emotions are strange. It’s amazing how much they can control our decisions on a daily basis, and many times throughout the day. Relationship issues, buying a new car or house, debating with a friend about a popular subject or current event…you can bet emotion is right around the corner, waiting for its chance to derail your thought process. The best poker players are able to take emotion completely out of their decision-making process. This is an acquired skill and something I’ve applied to my life when making important, and even unimportant, decisions. It’s probably why I’m so indecisive and I take a while when it comes to buying something new, reading every review I can get my hands on, wanting to be 100% certain I’m buying a quality product that will last a while, making a solid investment with my hard-earned money. Emotions should never control us completely, but it’s ok to feel emotions, of course. Without emotion, we wouldn’t be able to really, truly connect with some of the greatest moments in our lives: the feeling of seeing a sunrise on a cool winter morning or a sunset on a summer evening, the joy and excitement of cheering on your hometown team in the big game, the satisfaction of using logic and experience to get the solution to a problem you’re facing, love with your family, friends, or significant other. Emotions are necessary.
Well, I’m 9 days out of surgery. So we should talk about the surgery, right? Let’s do that.
I obviously had to prep for the surgery, which consisted of emptying my digestive system and being on a clear liquid diet the day before. Fun. There are worse things in the world, though. Last Friday, the day of surgery, I was actually quite calm. I don’t recall being nervous very much. I had great nurses getting me prepped with the IVs and pre-surgery drugs. They also gave me marriage advice, telling me to not get married until I’m 40 (sorry Laura). We had a grand time for a good 45 minutes or so, as we talked about school and their marriages (or failed marriages). I was injected with Valium as I was being wheeled back…relaxing, to say the least. I remember getting onto the operating table, having the oxygen mask put on my face, and that’s pretty much it. I think they held the mask down on my face to put me to sleep, but I’m not entirely sure if that’s what put me to sleep or if they injected me. Anesthesia is an interesting field, and if I had to do college over again, I would consider going down that route as my career choice.
Upon waking up (the first time), I felt instant pain and nausea. I remember saying, “Nausea,” in response to something, prompting someone to give me nausea medicine through my IV (I’m assuming anyway). I remember my mom saying I’d be sharing a room with someone for the night. Then I remember getting pulled onto my hospital bed. Next thing I know, I wake up, and it’s 7 pm already. (I was brought into the OR at noon, and my surgery was estimated to last 1.5-3 hours.) I wasn’t able to talk to the doc that night since I was pretty out of it. I was given a pain pump to control my pain, which I did not hesitate to utilize considering how much pain I was in. Enough Percoset going directly into your veins makes everything in your field of vision move from bottom to top, and it’s really hard to focus on someone when they’re talking to you. My parents stayed for a couple of hours, filled me in on what the doctor said, and they left for the night.
I was woken up quite a few times throughout the night (probably a huge understatement). Either my machine or my neighbor’s machine would beep when one of our IV bags would run out. And sometimes it took the nurses a little while to tend to it (I’m sure they were working hard, though). And my roommate kept moving his bed up and down in the middle of the night. Mind boggling. And what better time to draw blood from someone than 4 am? Prime time for those veins! It was a long night, to say the least.
My parents came visit and brought me some extra fluids and whatnot. We watched some of the LSU game, I slept off and on while pushing my pain pump. I got my catheter removed, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I was able to move around and get up for the bathroom on my own, along with having my first solid meal that night (I had been on a liquid and hard candy diet). I think it was some type of chicken with rice or something, can’t really remember. It was pretty solid for hospital food, though I don’t think it would have mattered much considered I hadn’t eaten solid food for about 3 days at this point.
I also talked to the surgeon early that morning. Of course he comes in after an hour of me pressing the pain pump every 10 minutes (my max usage). So I’m looking at him, and his face is moving from eye level to the ceiling. So I’m trying to keep my eyes locked with his, but I’m sure my eyes were moving up and down like crazy. Anyways, he said everything went well with the surgery. He was able to successfully remove my colon (large intestine) and said it was pretty bad (another understatement most likely). He said my small intestine looked fine though, which is good news. In (I think) 10% of patients who have the surgery, the disease actually ends up being Crohn’s instead of UC and can go on to affect their small intestine and other parts of the digestive tract (Crohn’s isn’t limited to the colon, like UC is). So hopefully I can stay away from that (gonna use my “one time” here). He also compared my large intestine to an anaconda, saying it was larger than normal. I laughed.
Sunday consisted of getting off of the pain pump and all other IV fluids. Bleh. I didn’t think it would affect me much, but the pills just weren’t as effective overall. But I sucked it up and did what I had to do. I wish I had the pain pump for the Saints game though, considering how painful the last 3-4 minutes were to watch. Sean Payton got conservative at the wrong times (pitch play to Thomas on I think 3rd and long on the 2nd chance we had to put them away) and aggressive at the wrong times, by throwing a fade to Colston on 3rd down instead of making the Pats use a timeout. If you want to throw it, just throw a screen to Sproles or Thomas, a slant to Colston, or some other safe throw to the middle of the field. I have no doubt we can pick up a 3rd and 7 successfully there with the correct play call. I thought the defense played well overall. The offense was pretty inconsistent, and the Pats shutting down Graham was a huge part of that. It was nice to see Robinson and Stills come through with their first career TDs though, hopefully the first of many. 5-1 going into the bye week…can’t complain much. We still haven’t played a full 60 minutes of good football. And this is just setting up that huge matchup with Seattle in a few weeks, possibly with homefield advantage in the playoffs on the line.
Sunday night was interesting. I waited 2.5 hours for someone to empty my ostomy bag for me (I was in quite a bit of pain to get up, not being lazy). When the new nurse came on shift at 7, she didn’t seem to want to do it, nor did she seem thrilled about taking care of what little I needed. Maybe I read her wrong (I’m usually good at these things though). Maybe she had issues outside of work that was affecting her (definitely not an excuse). Either way, it actually made me feel pretty down about everything. She unintentionally made me feel sort of like an outcast or something, for lack of a better word right now. Maybe it was the pain medicine, maybe it was the pain itself, or the fatigue, or the reality of my situation setting in, even though I had mentally prepared myself for it for a good month before, but I actually felt pretty down on Sunday night. I talked with Laura about everything before sleeping, and I started to feel better. Then, randomly, my good friend and former co-worker from UNLV, Kristy, left me a comment on my last blog entry, and it was pretty unreal how perfect it was for the situation I was in. She really brought my spirits up, whether she intended to or not, and the timing could not have been better. I can’t say enough about the things people have told me about my attitude toward everything going on and life in general. It’s not something I do for attention (same goes for this blog), but it is nice to hear those things now and then as a pick-me-up. If anything, it helped me realize that I’m on the right track in life. I may not be exactly where I want to be right now, but I’m exactly where I need to be to get there. And when I can help others along the way, it’s honestly just as satisfying as accomplishing my own goals, even more so at times.
My Sunday night/Monday morning nurse eventually did a better job throughout the night, checking on me to see if I needed something, etc. So it wasn’t horrible. But it could have been better. Monday morning was a good morning. My surgeon came by at 6:30 am and said he would be fine with me going home that day, which was amazing news because I was more than ready to get home. The ostomy nurse came by a little later that morning and showed me the ins and outs of changing an ostomy bag. Definitely not as bad as I thought it might be. It was a good experience overall. I was discharged shortly after, and proceeded to talk my parents into stopping at Pinkberry for a big to-go tub of chocolate hazelnut. I’ve been craving this for months, but over the course of having UC, I developed a slight lactose intolerance, so I didn’t want to chance eating any yogurt while that was going on.
Being home the past week has been so nice compared to the hospital. I’ve actually been pretty lazy since I got back as far as reading and being productive with my mind. I’ve been watching a lot of TV and playing a reasonable amount of GTA 5 for once. Boy Meets World plays for 4 hours midday, and I ain’t even mad about it. It’s nice to just relax, but I know I’m going to have to be productive again at some point soon. I’m still having some soreness, but it’s getting better daily. And my mom has been great about fixing me good meals to eat. I’m on a low fiber diet at the moment. The main things I have to stay away from are raw fruits and veggies, whole wheat, and multi-grain foods, pretty much half of what I would eat before. I’ve been eating a lot of chicken, fish, white rice, canned fruit (this is ok for some reason, haven’t looked up why), and marshmallows (this helps slow down the digestive system). I’ve taken my chances with cake, having good results. I’ve been moving around more and more each day, and I’m basically off of the pain pills for now. I did sneeze today for the first time in over a week…terrible idea. I thought my stitches had come out.
I have a follow-up appointment in a week and a half. I’m looking forward to seeing how much I can improve by then. I also have plans to go to the Pelicans season opener that night with a couple of friends. It’s going to be nice to get out of the house as soon as my soreness goes down more, hopefully next week sometime, at the latest.
It’s definitely going to be a long journey, but it’s one I’m looking forward to right now. There have been times in the past week where I’ve second guessed my decision for the surgery, but now I have no doubt it was the right move. My colon was very infected, and I was miserable symptom-wise before the surgery. Now, I have no UC symptoms, and I just have to work on getting over all of this soreness. Having the ostomy bag is definitely different, but it’s not bad at all, to be honest. It takes a little getting used to, but overall, it’s better than having pain in my lower abdomen daily due to UC, along with the other various symptoms it can cause.
Writing this blog has been so therapeutic thus far. Even if no one reads through the entire posts, just getting my thoughts out while sitting in my room with peace and quiet helps a lot. I can let my mind wander (which is why sometimes I write for 3 hours), and it feels fantastic. Eventually, I plan to write about the other side of my life (playing poker for a living) once I get back to doing that, just to shed some insight since I guess it’s different from what a lot of other people choose to do. I’m not sure exactly how much detail I’ll share, but I promise to make it as interesting as possible. Also, there will be beer and food at some point. I don’t plan to just write about my disease; it’s just been such a huge part of my journey to where I am now, and it’s played a big part of my life since I started this blog.
“Though the road’s been rocky it sure feels good to me.” – Bob Marley