They looked at me and smirked slightly, not believing that I wasn’t nervous. I smiled and nodded, attempted a joke, but I could see the doubt in their eyes. Understandable, I suppose, as I was minutes away from being wheeled into an OR and having a 5 foot organ clipped out of me forever. But I promise that I wasn’t nervous.
Okay, that’s a bit of a lie in some ways. I was nervous to wake up after the surgery and be consumed by nausea from the anesthesia. I was nervous that my family would have a meltdown during the 7 hour wait. But I wasn’t nervous about losing the organ.
I know that sounds insane but it’s true. When you’ve had every drug and been labeled a ‘primary non-responder’ (which I swear is GI term for loser), losing the organ that has tried to destroy your life for 7 years doesn’t seem like a huge loss to mourn.
I can’t remember falling asleep exactly - whether or not I had been put under in the OR or in the holding area, I just remember waking up and rolling around in agony, moaning, as the nurses put the pain controller button in my hand and coaxed me to press it. A hefty 10 hours after my family had sobbingly left me, they rushed to my side, patting my hand and smiling. And so began my journey into the recovery, the post-surgery battle back on my feet.
After a week of two steps forward and one back, I was finally released from the hospital, worn but smiling. They wheeled me out with my army of massive balloons and family, and for the first time in a long time I felt the August sun against my face. My Grandad stood by my side and whispered that these were happy days. I smiled at him, not mentioning the scars across my abdomen, the pain, or even the loss of my organ - because he was right, I was going home and I was on my way to health, and that means happy days.
My Mom had emailed some of my doctors letting them know about the surgery. Most of the responses contained best wishes, but one also contained something that took me by surprise and slight horror - sympathy. A doctor was passing along her sympathies to me. It shocked me to say the least since there was nothing to be sorry for, only a future to be excited for. I found it almost offensive; anyone who knows what my IBD history has been would offer congratulations in a heartbeat and never sympathies.
One of my roomies in the hospital, a witty older woman who served as my pseudo Grandmom for several days, offered the following advice off a magnet on her fridge: With enough caffeine, anything is possible. While I’m sure that is true, I think that also with enough determination (and perhaps medicinal drugs), anything is possible. There isn’t a scorecard in life, no referee to blow the whistle when you fall down. But that’s okay, because what matters isn’t as much what happens to you as it is how you understand and interpret what happens to you. I lost almost my height in an organ, I will never go to the bathroom ‘normally’ again - that could make anyone terribly upset. But - I’m giving myself a future by letting go of my colon, I’m freeing myself of the pain and that makes this experience a positive one.
So, you see, my Grandad is perfectly right - these are happy days.