One week ago today, we were still in Jacksonville, FL, rounding out a colorful and robust trip to Disneyworld with my side of the family; 8 adults, 4 tinys, and 1 teeny tiny. We flew home from my brother’s house in Jacksonville, last Monday evening, and life has been a whirlwind of teaching, work, kindergarten, grocery shopping, clean ing, laundry, surgery, and now recovery.
I think I’m finally just starting to breathe.
And when I breathe, it hurts, because I’m sitting here with my small intestine bulging out of my body. When did that happen?!? Oh…Thursday…that’s right.
These past four days have been filled with highs and lows. That is normal for every surgery. I should know that after 21.
The Highs; No more laxatives…EVER. The money we will save on “no more laxatives…EVER”. The donuts we ate this morning (with a candle in it, I might add) to celebrate “no more laxatives…EVER”. My husband who tells me that no matter what, he will still find me very attractive. My daughter who is tremendously excited to have her Mimi and Papa here, caring for her. My parents who are here, caring for Promise, giving tirelessly of themselves, and (as always) helping me find the cracks where humor can be found in all of this. Friends upon Friends who have dropped off delicious, home cooked, gluten-free meals for our family. The emails, hand written notes, texts, and calls from friends offering encouragement and giving of their own mental energy to pray for myself, my family, and my doctors. The 2 pre-op nurses, both named Diane (I had to double check that because it was really early in the morning) and one of the Diane’s 40 years of experience putting in IV’s (you don’t want a Newbie). A surgeon who is so proficient in this surgery that it only took him 20 minutes. An anesthesiologist who listened and took into account my horrific track record with general anesthesia. Being able to spend my entire time in the hospital on a non-narcotic pain regimen. My digestive system waking up 2 days earlier than “normal”. Kind nurses who act like it’s “no big deal” to touch and handle the small intestine sticking out of my stomach. Medical technology. Being discharged one day sooner than anticipated. A high pain tolerance. Being home for family movie night on Friday night. Seeing the surprise on Promise’s face when she walked in the door from Kindergarten to find me home instead of in the hospital. For waking up this morning and realizing that there are NO MORE LAXATIVES….EVER. The first time, post-op, that I was able to drink coffee. Seeing in Chris’s eyes, post-op, that he really does still find me attractive. Promise bringing me a pink, tiny, sparkly elephant with HUGE eyes, that I know she probably deep down wanted to keep for herself. The two hours that I was able to spend in the Bible this morning, soaking myself in the truth of who God is and how small this trouble is in comparison to him. My first post-op shower and hair washing. Being told I have the flattest and easiest ostomy stomach ever (even though the compliment was given by people who work with 90+ year old patients…at this point, I’ll take it!). Seeing Promise’s excitement as she dragged her entire stash of Barbie “stuff” out to play Barbies with my mom. Our first fire in our fireplace. A home nurse who graciously engaged Promise in the inaugural “changing of my ileostomy bag”. Seeing, not a look of horror and fear on Promise’s face when she saw my stoma, but a look of compassion, curiousity, and love. The kiss she gave me on my cheek after I saw that look in her eyes. The card that came in the mail from my 17 Sophomores in my Fashion Drawing class. Eating solid food again. And last but not least, because I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, NO MORE LAXATIVES… EVER!!!
The Lows; The pre-op prep and clean out. The 72 hour liquid diet. Waking up at 4 am for surgery. Telling Promise goodbye the night before surgery Almost blacking out the first time I saw my ileostomy bag changed in the hospital. The gas bubbles trapped in my shoulders. The cramping, swelling, and soreness. Seeing my small intestines sticking out of me for the first time and realizing that they were [probably] never going back in. Some of the phrases in the “How to live with an Ostomy” handbook that the hospital gave me. Being called an “ostomate” after the handbook clearly states that an “ostomy does not change who I am” 😉 The nagging thought that I might never really be able to get used to living with this. Having to push Promise off of me mid-air, as she went to jump on my abdomen out of excitement and forgetfulness, and seeing her dissolve into tears from hurt feelings and frustration. Having horrible aim and completely missing the toilet bowl when emptying my ostomy bag on one of my first tries at home. Hearing the pity in people’s voices when they say, “so you have to wear a bag?”. Compression socks. Being told by a nurse that I have skinny, tiny legs. Hospital food and footies.
One of my favorite shows at Disneyworld is “The Lion King” show at Animal Kingdom. There is one act where “monkeys” come out. The acrobats are dressed in bright yellow spandex suits with orange stripes and yellow feathers coming out of their heads. Despite their circulation-constricting apparel, they are able to move seamlessly in the air, doing flips high and somersaults low. They don’t miss a beat and they always land firmly grounded on their feet. I’m sure if I talked to one of these “monkeys” they would tell me that it wasn’t always like that. They had to practice. They probably got stuck by their legs, upside down in the highs, and knocked flat on their backs in the lows. But they knew where they wanted to end up; on their feet.
As I was reading through the Psalms this morning, because I’m not yet brave enough to face crowds of people at church and it’s still sore to walk, I came to Psalm 116:7
“Return to your rest, O my Soul, for The Lord has been good to you.”
I know where I need to land and I’m asking God to take my soul back to that place of rest that he’s brought it so many times before. Resting in his peace and joy, his love, his strength to take on another day.
This new act might take me some more practice.
But I know where I need and want to land.