Friday, December 2, 2011


For the past few months, I feel like I’ve been standing on top of a mountain screaming as if no one could hear me. Sometimes I would think I’d have someone’s attention, only for this dream to crash and burn right in front of me and leave me a little more hopeless than before.

I spent the past week in Florida with my grandparents for American Thanksgiving. I was so relieved to have made it to the end of November and gladly took the chance to fly down South, bake in the sun, and escape some of the cold that is infiltrating Boston. I had been in the hospital for about a week and had suddenly sparked the attention of a local surgeon. Somehow my “actual obstruction symptoms” (his words, not mine) were surprising and he began to believe me - or at least begin down the path - that a problem was most definitely afoot. He lamely offered to have a look inside, but did so with an arrogance that suggested I was most probably wrong. Well, we’ll call that my plan B. But I tried to push this out of my mind as I boarded the plane and ascended into the cloudy sky.

I arrived, located my grandparents, and away we went in their car through the palm-tree lined city. On Thanksgiving, we went over to their friends’ house for dinner - where all of their friends have some direct family member with an ostomy, which makes it very appropriate dinner conversation. My PICC line had been pulled and without TPN, I was on my own to nourish myself. I only ate a small amount, but it seemed to sit in my throat, and before dessert, I had to excuse myself and threw up the entire dinner. I wiped my eyes and rinsed my mouth and went back to the table like nothing had happened.

But something had happened, only I was waiting for Monday to discuss it. On Monday I was going to a local surgeon who had written a paper about adhesive small bowel obstructions and one of the leading colorectal surgeons, and besides I didn’t want to worry my grandparents anymore than they already were in the interim. I had had my GI’s secretary fax over my medical records (and I’ve only been with this GI for under a year) and apparently there were so many pages that the hospital told them to stop faxing things because it was tying up their fax line. Monday came, and I was nervous. My parents were nervous. My grandparents were nervous. There was an overwhelming sense that my fate was in the surgeon’s hands, as ominous as that sounds. We drove the hour to the clinic, each worrying in our own heads about what might transpire.

By the time I got there, I had resigned myself to the fact that he probably wouldn’t do anything and at least I had my apathetic surgeon back in Boston ready to slice and dice. In the exam room was a sign that read, “Have you hugged your colorectal surgeon yet today?” Finally, the surgeon walked in, a famously tall man, smiled and shook my hand. I began to tell him my medical saga and within 30 seconds, he turned to his resident and said that he thought loops of bowel were stuck together, i.e. adhesions. I was - in a word - ecstatic. Finally, I thought, someone is hearing me. They did a quick exam, and then I took out my medical journal to show him the list of all of my obstructions. He was shocked and thought this was terrible and needed to be fixed ASAP. I couldn’t have agreed more, and before I knew it, he was writing orders and scheduling surgery. My head was spinning, it was happening so fast. I was so relieved I didn’t know whether to cry or hug him, though I did neither and somehow remained inside of my skin.

I left the clinic with a surgery date a month away and this all-encompassing sense of hope and relief that I hadn’t felt in months. It is insane that I feel this way over surgery, usually people (sane people I might add) feel this way over not having surgery. But this is what I wanted, so farewell apathetic surgeon, farewell obstructions, I don’t need you anymore.

This is what I’ve learned, which in a small way I think I always knew, but this just proves it to myself and hopefully to someone else: the end is not the end unless you decide it is. My doctors wanted to give in and I fought, I researched on my own, I found this highly respected surgeon who met with me and within 15 minutes decided what surgery I needed. It is cause for celebration. My life is my life and I will choose how to live it, it will not be lived by the prescription of a doctor. 

For a long time, I lived day to day, week to week, waiting for the inevitable obstructions to hit and knock me off my feet. But soon, after the surgery, after I recover and am back at school, I’ll have my life without the anxieties of obstructions. Finally.


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