My Truth, Part 6

To pick up where I left off I was in college, living with my parents and separated from my first husband. It was the summer of 1999.

When James moved out he took every one of our friends with him. To this day I have not seen a single one of them. They were his friends initially and I had hurt him. I don’t blame any of them for how things went down but I did miss them all and still do. Thankfully, I had a small but determined band of people still standing with me. Without their support I doubt I would have survived. I, as always, had my parents who would have never abandoned me no matter what I did. I also had Christen, Candace and my rock, Dan. It probably sounds like this would have been a low time in my life but it really wasn’t. I was sad about my relationship with James and it was hard to realize that we weren’t likely to remain friends as I had hoped. But I loved school and the friends I did have were amazing. My parents were now seeing me as an adult and that made our relationship a lot of fun. Dan and I were nearly inseparable at this point and pretty much everyone was certain that this was finally the time we were going to end up together, so did I.

During this time I was doing my level best to try to figure out if Dan’s feelings for me were what I hoped they were. I was convinced that they were but wasn’t finding enough hard evidence to be fully convinced. After what happened before I got married I wasn’t willing to stick my neck out like that again. So, I waited and watched. He on the other hand had no idea what I was doing. According to him, he saw no motion on my end pointing toward anything in our relationship changing so he started dating a girl I knew from a bar we frequented. I was not happy. I didn’t particularly like her and wasn’t thrilled he was with her. I had no idea at the time that the relationship was only going to last a very short time so I decided that it was time I find a way to let go and move on. I thought it was clear that nothing was ever going to happen and I was being pathetic.

I don’t want it to sound like “then there was Brad” because it wasn’t like that. I didn’t just turn to Brad as a last resort. I really did like him. He was a good looking, single guy my age and we had fun together. It seemed like a natural direction to go.  We started dating. The relationship was pretty much like any other. We dated, enjoyed each other, and we had our ups and downs. Things were looking good for me.

In January of 2001 I discovered that I was close to having everything I needed to graduate from Kent. I was distraught, I didn’t want to leave. I loved school and never wanted to go out into the real world but things were moving along with Brad and I knew it was time to get a real job and start life as an adult. I wasn’t going to be able to graduate that May which is traditional, I was going to need one more semester. I decided to hit the summer semester hard and graduate in August. If you are paying attention to the dates something may or may not have gone off in your head yet; I graduated from college and starting looking for a career at the end of August 2001. How is that for bad timing?

I don’t think I need to go into too much detail about how September 11, 2001 impacted me as a person or as a citizen. I was devastated much like everyone else. I was scared and sad and horrified. I was also a new college graduate with an English degree trying to find work as the world around me was ending. Needless to say, finding a job was not easy. I got lucky though. Brad’s aunt worked at Verizon Wireless and the District Manager needed an administrative assistant. It was a great place to work with good pay and incredible benefits. I was so fortunate to have this opportunity present itself to me. It also reinforcement my life-long belief that “it’s not what you know but who you know.” I started my new job that November.

As I was getting settled into my new job and things were going good for Brad and I, sometime around Christmas or in January, he proposed.  We had been together for a year and a half and were happy. I could see that this was the direction in which was life was heading and I was happy to accept. We planned to be married later that summer.

Along this same time was dad was suffering form some sort of illness. It seemed at first like his Crohn’s was flaring up but it became clear that wasn’t the case.  I don’t know all the details but he was having pain with his stomach and/or abdomen. It seemed like this was going on for some time. I think it was because I was starting a new job or because my parents didn’t think it was a big deal but I wasn’t really informed of every detail of what was going on at the time. I would get calls about this doctors appointment or that, some new test was being run or the result from the last one were in. It was a confusing  jumbled mess. I started to take more notice when it was decided that his gall bladder needed to come out. He would have a fairly simple procedure and that should take care of the pain. It seemed as though the mystery had been solved. Unfortunately, that wasn’t it.  After removing the gall bladder only eased a few symptoms more tests were run. Finally, we were told. He had pancreatic cancer. I didn’t have a full understanding of what this meant. My family faced cancer once before and survived so I thought we were going to have to pull together again and get through it. I wasn’t told the mortality rate until later. I didn’t know that there wasn’t much that could be done to save him. I wasn’t emotionally able to prepare myself for his death. I am not saying it wasn’t clear that we were headed that way I am saying that no matter what happened I kept convincing myself that somehow something was going to fix it. I was not going to lose my dad when he was only 49. We had been through too much, survived too much to have something like this take him down. Even the few times I acknowledged out loud to other people that I knew he was dying in the back of my head I was insistent that there was just no way, no way was my family breaking apart.

On January 11, 2002 my dad’s dad was turning 80.  A big 80th birthday party was planned and it was decided that my grandparents were not going to be told about my dad’s diagnosis until after the party. I can not imagine the pain and horror my grandparents had to have felt when they found out their son was dying.  So, I certainly can not imagine the pain or horror they felt when within a month they would find out that grandpa also had pancreatic cancer.

The next few months are such a blur of pain and sadness. Brad and I had moved into our own place in North Canton. We were about 20 minutes away from my parents but I worked halfway between the two and could get to their house from there in about 10. Most days, I went straight from my job to their house. I left them around 10 to go home to sleep. My dad was on hospice and slept in a hospital bed in the living room. My mom did nothing but take care of my dad. I don’t think she hardly left the house for a couple months if at all. She was completely devoted to him and never left him. Sean and I would have to force her to shower or nap. My dad had no appetite and was losing weight quickly. All of his life he was a big eater and we knew this was upsetting for him. It was also a sign of how bad he was getting. We would bring food around to the back porch and into the kitchen and eat with the windows open so he wouldn’t have to smell the food. Unless someone brought her food, my mom wouldn’t even eat there was no way she was going to cook in that house. Aside from the hospice nurses, my brother, my aunt Celiene and I were her only help. I never during that time or since once heard her complain. She was laser focused on my dad and his needs and his needs only. A more loving or attentive nurse could never have been found.

My dad was determined to be there for my wedding. At first he was going to walk me down the aisle. Then it became clear that he may have to use a wheelchair. When it got to this point he became nervous about it and asked if we could consider moving the wedding up. Brad and his parents were completely understanding and willing to accommodate my family in whatever way necessary. My bridesmaids, Tami (Dan’s sister) and Christen, were also happy to oblige even though the dresses had already been picked out and ordered.  For a week we rushed around getting as much done for a much more time sensitive wedding. The last thing I needed to do was order a cake. I stopped at the cake shop and placed an order for a new cake. Once the final piece of the puzzle was in place I triumphantly went directly to my parents’ house to tell them the good news. We were going to pull this off. As soon as I finished telling them what all was accomplished and ready to go I could see the stress on my dad’s face, something was wrong. I knew he wasn’t going to admit it to me so I would have to find a time to pull my mom aside and ask her but getting her to even go in a different room away from him wasn’t easy. Luckily,  someone arrived and allowed us some time to go into the kitchen. Before I could even open m mouth my mom put her arms around me in tears and told me that he changed his mind about the wedding. There were important two reasons. He was getting worse fast. He wasn’t even sure that he would be able to sit in a wheelchair and he didn’t want everyone to see him like that nor did he want all my wedding pictures to have him looking so frail. The other was, a lot of people knew we were getting married and that dad was very sick; they starting asking to be invited to the wedding. My dad was afraid it was going to turn into something it wasn’t supposed to be. I immediately understood and didn’t want to do anything to stress him out. I didn’t want him to have to worry about my wedding. He had already walked me down the aisle once and even though that marriage didn’t work out it is something I will never forget. Besides, I didn’t know it then but this one wasn’t going to work out either. I called Brad and he told him what happened, he didn’t even flinch. Whatever we needed was fine, we would cancel all the new plans and go back to the old ones. My bridal party was again, gracious and so were my soon to be in-laws. When I told my dad the new old plans the relief was easy to see. He thanked me, then cried. He was sorry he told me, he knew he wouldn’t be there.

While my dad was fighting his battle so was his dad. I wanted to be a bigger help to my Uncle Denny and Aunt Linda taking care of my grandparents but we were so focused on my dad that I rarely found the time. This has been a strong regret I have dealt with since that time. I know how much time they were devoting to my grandparents and it wasn’t fair to them that there was more family in town that were not able to offer assistance. How hard this time had to have been on my whole family. Losing their brother and dad at the same time of the same disease. The incredible thing is this isn’t usually a long illness. My dad was diagnosed at the beginning of January and passed away at the beginning or May. My grandpa was diagnosed about a month later and passed away 8 weeks after my dad. It sometimes seems so unfair that all of this had to happen within the same few months.

Grandma & Grandpa Clark

I wasn’t there when my dad died. I think he wouldn’t have wanted his kids to see that. He was alone with my mom on a sunny Sunday morning. I hate that she had to go through that by herself  but I do think it was inevitable that they would say goodbye alone together.

Mom & Dad

My dad passed away on May 5, 2002, eight weeks later we lost his dad on July 21, 2002. The family didn’t even have time to catch their breath after losing my dad and we were hit again. It was devastating.

A few weeks after my grandpa died, Brad and I got married. My mom did everything possible to make the event as wonderful as she could. She was my rock during that time and I tried to be hers as much as I could. Losing your best friend and spouse is not something I can even venture to imagine how impossible it had to have been to go on. She was such a fighter though. She did rely more on us kids which I think was a great strength of hers. I feared that she would try to be Wonder Woman and do it is all herself but she was good about letting us help. I don’t doubt she could have done it without us but she knew we needed her to need us much as she needed us. After dad died mom moved into a apartment right by her parents. I think it was the best move she could have made. Having them close by was a comfort to her and I think having her close was a comfort to them. Not wanting to be left out of the love I moved into the same complex. Leaving my front door I could go across the court yard to my mom’s or to the left to my grandparent’s. We made the shape of a “U”. How I ever talked my new husband into moving within spitting distance of his in-laws I will never know. I am guessing that he figured since I was with her most of the time anyway we might as well cut out the drive home. I loved living by them but wasn’t a fan of our actual apartment. I liked my grandparents and my mom’s but ours was different. Brad was an EMT and worked 24 hours on and 48 hours off. I ended up with a lot of alone time and didn’t like to be alone. Thankfully, I could walk my beagle, Winston, over to see mom.

Things were starting to be settled again. We were in the new apartment, mom was close by and so were my grandparents. I didn’t stop over at their place as often as I should have but I did on occasion.  I thought life was going to keeping moving forward after all. That was something I was sure would never happen when dad died. I was pretty certain the entire world was going to stop turning. Mine did at least. As 2003 dawned I tried to be optimistic, I told myself that this was a new year and hoped it would turn out much better than the last. I thought it was going to until the end of February. I already told most of this story so I am only going to point it out in the timeline, this is when my mom’s father battled so hard to give me a birthday gift I would never forget. I had just lost my dad and his dad a few months earlier and now I was saying goodbye again. All the male figures in my life were gone. The blow was almost more than I or my mom could bare. Now, I would have to watch the other side of my family suffer. It was awful.

With Brad working so much it felt like it was just my mom, her mom (who I called Nana) and I left there in that apartment complex. We started spending more time together, more and more often I found myself  taking Winston on a walk to see Nana. I hadn’t even realized how much more time I was spending over then until one day crossing the court yard, I said out loud, “Mom’s not home. We should go see Nana.” (I could tell because her apartment was dark) Winston took off like a flash, changing direction and marched me straight to her sliding glass door. She was sitting in her chair reading. She must have heard our commotion or felt our presence because she looked up, waved and came to let us in.

My relationship with her when I was a kid was almost non-existent. I didn’t understand her and we didn’t spend much time together. She wasn’t the grandma that baked you cookies but that isn’t to say she didn’t love us. I was too young to know it then but sometimes people show love in non-conventional ways and it is up to you to recognize it as love. It isn’t necessarily up to the person showing the love to make sure the message is received.  It was during these visits that I got to know her much better. I was able to see more of who she was as a person. She wasn’t ever going to throw her arms around me and pinch my checks, that just wasn’t her style. To be honest, it isn’t mine either. But if you were willing she would sit down and have a conversation with you, she would tell you about her life when she was younger, she would make you laugh. She would also shatter ever preconceived notion you would ever have about a “little old lady”. She was tough, she didn’t take anybody’s shit no matter who you are or think you are; you mean nothing to her and she isn’t afraid of your sorry ass. She was fierce before being fierce was even a thing. If you stepped out of line, she would have none of it. It wasn’t until these conversations that I started to see just how much I wanted to be like her. I learned about her incredible childhood. She would talk about horrible things that happened in her life with such nonchalance that you couldn’t believe she wasn’t struggling to choke back the tears. She was born with something wrong with her hip. As I understand it grew together off in the joint itself. This caused her legs to not be even. She never gave me the whole story in chronological order but some of the tidbits I put together are; at some point, I don’t know for how long, she stayed at a place called a “house for crippled children”. I don’t know if it was an extended stay or just for a recovery. It seems as though she possibly had multiple surgeries or was at least in a pretty serious cast for quite some time, may more than once. I have seen many pictures of her as a child with a crutch and she had a cane all of my life. I don’t know for sure but I don’t think she ever walked without some assistance. Keep in mind, she was born in 1927.  I can’t think what it must have been like for her growing up but to hear her tell it, it was just life. It was just her truth, good or bad it is what it is. This attitude is something I strive for every day of my life. It is what it is. It was what it was, it is only good or bad if you place judgement on it. But if you do that outcome is your own fault. She had to be tough, she had to be strong or she wouldn’t have survived.

Nana was not disabled, don’t even think for a minute that she was. If you did think that she would kick your ass to prove you wrong (and yes she could have). She was so smart, I mean incredibly. I like to think I got a fraction of that brain of hers. I got grandpa’s sense of humor and storytelling and her brain and strength, in my dreams, but it is not bad to aim high. She was also beautiful. She was a fiery redhead. In every picture I have seen of her from her youth, what a body! That, I didn’t inherit.

I did built a much better relationship with her in those years but it was never what I wish it could have been. Life happened and we moved out of the complex so the visits stopped. I was only a few streets away but it was my fault for not continuing to stop over and I regret very much not staying closer to her. I cherish those times we spent together. I gained so much more respect for her then. I think I just needed to be older to see her in a different light. Yes, she wasn’t everything a little girl wants from a grandma but she was offering to be a strong role model for a woman. I just didn’t see it right away.  That was my loss.

I have been lucky to have been surrounded by a lot of strong women in my days. Both of my grandmothers, my mom and my aunts. I have always known how important it is to be independent thanks mostly to their example. One other thing all these super women taught me is that being tough isn’t armor, it isn’t a shield and you shouldn’t hide behind it. At this time in my life I was falling apart. I never grieved my dad properly or fully and then lost both of my grandfathers so quickly after that I wasn’t able to process it all.  Work was going down the drain quickly and it was getting harder and harder to deal with getting out of bed everyday. I had finished my first semester at Ashland Seminary and decided to transfer back to Kent in the fall so was off for the spring semester. I was feeling sick a lot and had started losing weight. At first, I thought I was just doing a good job of dieting but I had the constant pain in the lower right part of my gut. Finally, in March of 2004 I decided it was time to see my doctor.

I made a typical mistake and diagnosed myself. I announced to the doctor, “I pulled a muscle.” I showed him where it was and he agreed that I may have pulled a groin muscle so he gave me muscle relaxers and told me to give it a couple weeks. By then the pain was much worse. We decided that perhaps it wasn’t just a pulled muscle maybe I had a hernia. I was so completely miserable at work that I was now throwing up randomly throughout the day. I knew the stress was getting beyond my control and Brad and I agreed that it was best if I just quit. I usually wouldn’t ever do that without another job lined up but it was easy to see how physically upset things were making me. My mom was starting to get very concerned about my health and was the main proponent for me leaving my job immediately. In the middle of March I gave notice and was done working by the end of the month. At this time Brad was a full time EMT and going to school to become a paramedic. That meant a lot of time away from home, in class and doing clinicas. Within the first week off of work I was getting to the point that I knew there was much more wrong with me than stress and a hernia. I was no longer able to walk up straight. The pain in my gut was like someone was pulling a string inside me not letting me stand up. One morning Brad was leaving home to go to Massillon Hospital to do his clinicals. I was so sick when I woke up that he decided it was time to go to the hospital. He took me with him to the ER. A couple of hours later it was determined that I needed to have an emergency appendectomy. There was an infection and it had to come out. Usually I am not a fan of needles or hospitals but I was hurting so bad they could have used a rusty spoon and scooped it out and I wouldn’t have cared. Brad called my mom who was by my bed faster than I want to think of how she drove, she made it before they started the surgery. There must have been a helicopter involved. I know she was in a panic even though she tried not to let me see it. You lose your husband, father-in-law and father, then your kid gets sick; you are going to panic.

I know that at some point this day before surgery two things were discussed. Pancreatic cancer and Crohn’s disease. My mom made sure to make the doctor and surgeon very aware that these were a concern. The doctor didn’t seem to worried but the surgeon heard her loud and clear, he was the one that took out my dad’s gall bladder. We were all assured that this wasn’t going to be a big deal. They were pretty sure they could do it laparoscopically and the recovery time was no more than a couple of days. I would have a tiny incision around my bellybutton and one on my side. When I woke up from surgery I could tell not all was well. The surgery had gone fine but the appendix hadn’t ruptured or gotten infected from the inside out. A fistula had formed from the outside and the infection was pretty bad. This surgery would make me feel much better but the surgeon was convinced there was more to it. He suggested I see a Gastrointestinal specialist if I was 100% in a couple weeks. As he left the room I saw my mom start to follow him out. I heard him say before leaving, “Don’t worry there is no reason to think there is anything wrong with her pancreas.” I hate for her to have had to have that worry at all.

My speedy recovery ended up not being so at all. I had my surgery on Thursday and didn’t get out of the hospital until the following Wednesday and that was only because they were afraid of my mom. The infection had to be gotten under control before I could leave which meant IV antibiotics. I also seemed to be running a fever that wouldn’t go away. I hardly slept the entire time I was there and was so hot I had to have two fans on me at all times. My veins weren’t taking to all the IVs so well and they had to keep moving them. That meant lots of pricks and since my veins never seem to want to cooperate it was like being a human pincushion. The final straw was when I was there alone and they had to move my IV again. I only have one spot left and they were threatening to go between my toes next. I was poked over and over and was in tears almost begging her to stop. She was sweet about it and I could tell felt awful but was determined to get it in. Unluckily for her my mom walked in the room right then. She was like a wild bear protecting her cub. She ran to my bed and asked what was going on. The nurse explained the situation and my mom understood but her baby was sick, hurting and in tears, there was no way this lady was bringing that needle near me again or my mom was going to stab her with it. The nurse could see this was a no-win for her. After a little calming down time a surgeon was brought in to try again. After a couple failed attempts he quickly apologized and disappeared (he must have been warned about mom).

Finally, the doctor came in and explained that we had a problem. The infection wasn’t as cleared up as he would like but without an IV I would have to take a lot of strong antibiotics orally. This wasn’t going to be pleasant. I think his goal was to persuade us to agree to the toes or maybe a port, boy was he wrong. She completely out foxed him even beyond anything I would have thought of. She said she understood and announced that it was clear that my veins were “just done” and quite frankly so was she. Since I no longer needed an IV for the antibiotics there was no need for me to stay in the hospital as I could handle the pills on my own at home. She assured him that we would go straight to the pharmacy then home and could he please write out the prescriptions. I don’t know for sure what his intentions were when he came into the room, maybe this was his plan but it was clear that a choice had been made. She reminded him that my husband was a paramedic (not yet but she left that out) and that she would be with me whenever he was not. I went home that day. Taking those pills was a nightmare. I am sure I wasn’t on them too long but it seemed like forever. I had to take them every 4 hours day and night, with food. They made me very sick to my stomach which meant all I could eat was soda crackers. I remember waking up every 4 hours all night, half asleep chomping on soda crackers and taking my pills.  I had my surgery on April 1, by the end of the month I was starting to realize that I needed to call a Gastrointestinal doctor.

Momma and her baby bear

The summer of 2004 would be a jumble to me. I was feeling better after the appendectomy but not even close to 100%. I knew I had to go to the specialist but dreaded the whole thing so I put it off.  I started working very part time at the nursing home where my mom worked. I was in the activity department, a job I had when I was in college and really loved. Mom had been dating Norm. He was a friend of the family for many years. We went to church together and he and my dad had been good friends. We all really like him and I was happy they found each other. Mom and Norm decided to get married and the wedding was scheduled for the end of May. Again, I was trying to be hopeful life was looking up but again, death just couldn’t leave well enough alone. I got a call one night telling me my dad’s mom was in the hospital and it wasn’t looking good. My mom picked me up and drove me to the hospital. There my family stayed by her bed all night. She passed away the next morning with us huddled around.

By July my pain was getting so bad that I knew I had to find out what was going on, I knew in the back of my head from what the surgeon told us that it was likely I had Crohn’s. I didn’t want to face the possibility. A few tests were scheduled to find out what was going on for sure. I never gave up hope that it wasn’t going to turn out to be Crohn’s, I had myself convinced that it was just IBS. I arrived at the doctor’s office to find out what the test results indicated and to find out where we go from here. I was fully expecting a big smile and a “It’s only IBS.”  The doctor I had chosen treated my dad, and for some time, my mom’s sister, Judy who also had Crohn’s. So, we were very familiar with each other. He walked into the exam room, put one hand on my shoulder and said, “Well, you have your daddy’s disease.”  I was stunned. He kept going on without giving me a moment to process. I am sure it was because pretty much everyone, except me, already knew this was the most likely outcome. I am sure he didn’t think I would need a minute. I heard him talking about my blood work and say something to Brad about the infection would need to get under control but how about the beginning of September? Brad asked if it was wise to wait that long and the doctor confirmed that it would be good to get some meds in me for awhile first and that I didn’t appear to be in any danger. I had no idea what they were talking about. I zoned out and missed the beginning of the conversation, was this another test?  Brad could probably see that I wasn’t picking up on what all was happening so he smiled at the doctor and asked, “What surgeon do you recommend?” I finally realized what they were saying. I was going to have to have another surgery. Brad and the doctor worked out the logistics of the surgery and what new and exciting medications I would be taking, mostly Prednisone which I had already been on for a couple of months and some more antibiotics which would no doubt make me sick.  I don’t remember much more of the rest of the visit, I was too busy swimming around my own brain remembering everything my dad and aunt went through with this disease, all the pain, the surgeries, the food they could and couldn’t eat I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do this. I don’t know why I kept going over and over that in my head as if I had an option. I just kept weighing out the consequences of what I just found out and was certain that I simply wasn’t going to be able to have this disease. They were going to have to come up with something else. I was not strong enough to live with Crohn’s, I was not strong enough to go through what my dad and aunt went through. So he better check again because my answer is “no, thank you.”

“You’re going to have to call your mom.” Brad reminded me. My heart sank. How do I tell her this? As with a lot of diseases, when you have Crohn’s you aren’t the only one “living with” this disease, it will impact all those that love you. She had already had to endure all my dad’s illness and nearly losing her sister it to how could I tell her I had the same thing? That it was all starting up again? It was one of the worse phone calls of my life. She cried, I cried.  I told her about the surgery and that I was scared. She left work as soon as the words left my mouth and met us at our place. She sat with me all night trying to tell me what kinds of things I might have to deal with in the future. She recounted a few stories of what all happened to my dad and a little about my aunt.  This was when it hit me the hardest that not only was I going to have to go through this but I didn’t even get to have the comfort of my dad being by my side. Someone who could practically walk me through this new life and he had already been taken from me. The only bright side to it is that he never knew. I can’t say for certain how he would have reacted but I know it would have been hard for him.  My mom and I talked about this many times and she agreed that he would have felt guilty about it.

As July carried on I was in the doctor’s office weekly and was having what seemed like constant blood withdrawals. It became clear at the beginning of August that things weren’t going the way the doctor had hoped and it was determined that I wouldn’t be able to wait until September for my surgery.  It was a Thursday and the doctor was looking over the newest round of information. He looked up at me and said, “have any plans next week?” I, in fact did, it was our anniversary on Tuesday. I could tell he was surprised to hear that. He apparently wasn’t just making conversation. “Oh, I’m sorry but I meant, I’m going to need you in the hospital Monday morning.”   The new plan was I had to get to the hospital Monday morning to start the prep for a colonoscopy which I would have on Tuesday, my anniversary. Wednesday would be the surgery. Brad and I were a little taken aback at first but agreed to defer to whatever he felt was necessary. I apologized over and over to Brad that I would going to be spending our 2nd anniversary in the hospital but he was an EMT and being at a hospital wasn’t as horrific to him as it was to me.

After the colonoscopy the surgeon and doctor met with us to tell us that they weren’t able to visualize everything because of too severe a blockage due to the Crohn’s. This wasn’t uncommon and only met that they wouldn’t know until they got in there exactly the extent of it. It was also entirely possible, depending on the location and extent of the Crohn’s, that they may have to perform an Illeostomy like my dad had. This meant I could wake up with a bag. I, of course, wasn’t thrilled by the idea but I remembered how much better my dad was after his Illeostomy so I agreed that I would learn to live with it and told them not to feel the need to go to any extraordinary lengths to avoid that, if it had to be then it had to be. In my room before the surgery with loved one around me I was terrified. I had no idea what I was going to wake up to, if at all. This wasn’t a dangerous procedure but I was still scared. It was the unknown which was most upsetting. How would my life change after this? Could I handle whatever might be waiting for me? They pulled me onto the elevator, no contact, no glasses so all I could see was a blur of family waving goodbye. I tried not to let them see my tears as I told them I loved them and waved goodbye back.

As I came to in the recovery room the nurse was standing over me. I don’t know if I had been stirring already or if her job was to just stare at me but there she was. “Hi Lisa, everything went great, you are doing great.” She patted my shoulder, I fell back to sleep. When I came around again it was to the surgeon grasping a hold of my feet. I don’t know if this is SOP or if there was a logical reason for it but it got my attention. He asked me a couple questions about how I was feeling and by my vague answers I think he knew I was pretty groggy. I tried to move my hands to feel my side, he knew what I was looking for. “Nope, no bag. You were very lucky. Things were very severe but only in one small area. We were able to remove the bad part of bowel and reattach with no trouble. Congratulations.”  I am not sure why he was congratulating me all I had to do was sleep he was the one with a knife in my guts and it sounds like he got me back together in one piece. He is the one who need the congratulations. I’m sure I just fell back to sleep though. The rest of that day is a blur. I got back to my room and saw my relieved family. I do remember a few moments of lucidity. I was astonished at how much better I felt. I had a lot of anesthesia in me still and plenty of pain meds which may have had something to do with the euphoria but I could definitely tell a big difference in how my insides felt. By the next morning I was ready to be walking around. The nurses kept telling me I wasn’t supposed to be that active yet but I felt great. After months of being sick and not able to even walk upright this was a whole new world to me. I had actually forgotten that I could feel so good. But there was an incision from my bellybutton straight down and I had to take it a little easy.

This was not going to happen, not with me. I wanted up and moving. I could have danced, if I could dance. The nurses could see I wasn’t to be detered and finally got permission to remove the cath and allow me to walk around. If I wanted to be up they we going to let me up. They could barely get me to hold still long enough to get the cath out and get the IVs and everything situated for my first walk. My mom was a nervous wreck. “Your dad never got out of bed the first day, this is too soon.”  She followed me around with her arms out ready to catch me if I fell. Had I fallen I doubt the catch would have worked out the way she was envisioning but the “mom” never goes away in you, I guess.

Thursday I drove the nurses on my floor crazy insisting I could walk myself to and from the bathroom and considering all the IV fluids it was a day of hourly trips back and forth.  I wasn’t making any land speed records but I chugged along as best as I could. I was recovering faster than expected and wanted nothing more than real food and to go home. The surgeon came to see me on Friday evening and was surprised to see how well everything was going. My mom couldn’t believe how fast I was up and about compared to how my dad ever was. This was likely because I had a relatively  little bit removed and it didn’t spread much beyond one small area. I was very lucky. After much begging the surgeon agreed that I could have a little more to eat that night and we would see how I dealt with it and we would talk the next day.  All went well that night. The surgeon was back very early the  next morning he said if I could eat solid food and be okay for a few hours after he would send me home that day. I woke Brad up at home and told him to come right away but to stop at McDonald’s and get me some pancakes. As soon as he walked in the room I was ready to pounce. I swallowed the pancakes with very little chewing. I hadn’t eaten at all in over a week and for months before I was so sick I was hardly able to nibble here and there. That afternoon I was given the go ahead. I was free, I was allowed to go home as long as I take it easy and see him in a few days. We got out to the car and Brad headed for home. Until I said, “is that guy from work still having that party tonight?” He knew what I was thinking and after much begging and convincing he drove me straight there. No one could believe it when they saw us pull in. I figured I was safe at a party of EMTs, paramedics and nurses, I was probably better off here than at home. My whole midsection was bandaged like a mummy but I was ready to party. I most just sat in a chair but I was thrilled.

When we got back into the car to head home that night Brad had a message waiting on his phone. We didn’t know it at the time but it was a message that would change our lives. It was Dan.

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