Broken

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In Japan, there’s a term called “Kintsukoroi”; it refers to broken objects which are repaired with gold. This way, the flaw is seen as a unique attribute to its history and adds to its beauty.

Shortly after my first surgery, when my small intestine was removed and I was told I would never eat or drink again, I was in ICU and my mom was there visiting. I was obviously processing this grim news and spent most of my waking hours in tears. I was broken in every sense of the word. My mom took me in her arms, as much as she could being that I was attached to multiple IVs and oxygen, and with her head next to mine she whispered to me that she would take me broken over not having me at all.

Although these words comfort me on a daily basis, it still hurts my heart. I’m broken. I have pieces missing. And no matter how far I may come with medications or surgeries, I will forever have the scars that remind me that I am and forever will be broken.

But really, who isn’t broken in one way or another?

I love the idea, however, that maybe this brokenness can make me more beautiful. That gold can be added to these cracks and scars. Who doesn’t like to add a little bling to their life?

Ok, physically I’m not a fan of the scars that have been left on my body. But I have noticed how my being broken has changed me in other ways. I don’t get offended easily – it’s not worth the energy that it uses up. I make sure to spend some quality time with friends and family and I get family photos any chance I can. I’m more patient now. I’ve learned sympathy is a great asset to have. I’m slowly outlining my scars with gold. Making my brokenness beautiful with things I may not have had in my life if my life didn’t take this turn.

I woke up from a dream last week full on sobbing and I whispered “Jesus, I’m too broken. I need you to carry me.” I don’t remember what the dream was, but I’ve been hanging on to those words all week. “I’m too broken. Carry me.”

I’ll never get through this on my own strength. I’ve had to rely on family, friends and my church. Now I really need to let Jesus carry me for the time being and let more gold fill in the broken parts of me.

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Discovering My New Self Since My Diagnosis

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Through every stage of life we’re trying to figure out who we are. What is our role in society, how do we fit in, who are we really? What side of us do we keep to ourselves, show to those closest to us, what do we show to the rest of the world? We are constantly evolving. Jobs change us. People change us. Age changes us. But most of these changes happen gradually enough that we adapt without any thought. What happens though when something comes along and changes everything rapidly? Everything about you needs to accommodate for your new reality.

Since becoming sick, I’ve had to stop working, my social life has changed dramatically, and my relationship with my husband has changed. I no longer work out, my energy level has changed dramatically. My months are filled with appointments instead of coffee dates. I sport an IV line on my chest which everyone stares at, have a handicap parking pass, and have a walker for my really rough days. I’ve made new friends, lost old friends, and grown closer to friends that really stuck by me through all these changes. The list goes on and on, but name something and I can pretty well guarantee that it’s changed in one form or another.

I’ve been saying it for the last year and a half, and I’m sure I will be saying it for a while yet, but I miss the old me. I miss my old life. I was full of life, joyful, positive, loud and opinionated. I loved going out and I hated staying in. If I had an afternoon free, I would either be out being social or working on one of my various projects.

I’m quiet now and much more reserved. It takes a lot of energy to be full of life. I’m not surrounded by people all the time anymore, partly because of not working at the moment and also because going out takes a lot out of me. I find it really difficult to follow conversations now, especially in the evenings when I’m really tired.

How do I go back to being who I used to be? Is it even possible? With my diagnosis and disability has come wisdom and an empathy that has helped me reach out to people. But would I give it up to be the old me again?

I’m sitting here trying to put into words who the new me is and I’m having a hell of a hard time doing that. I think I need an “Under Construction” sign to put on me for the time being. I don’t know who I am right now. I’m still trying to figure out how all of this plays into my new life.

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Yes, I am a mom, a Christian, a wife. But I’m talking about more than labels right now. I’m talking about what knits me together. What words others would use when describing me.

Ideally I’d like to eventually piece who I am back together. Some of my old self and some of my new self. The joy and thirst for adventure I had with the wisdom and vulnerability this new life has taught me. I’m still trying to figure it out, it may take time, but I want people to see the joy and the shine that used to show in my eyes.

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What I Post On Facebook vs My Reality

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We all know that what we see on Facebook isn’t always what exactly happens in real life. Everybody posts the good stuff. They want to show off, show the progress that’s happening in their lives, and boast the highlights of what’s happening in their life. Well, here’s the inside scoop of what my reality actually looks like vs what I like to show on Facebook.

When I’m Put Together vs My Everyday “Sick” Look

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Anytime I go out in public or have people come over, I make sure I look good and 9 times out of 10, I post a selfie from that day because I feel good. I feel like garbage 99% of the time, no point in giving people a visual of what I’m actually feeling on my down days. I’ve heard “but you don’t look sick” so many times. Trust me, if you could sneak a peek at me while I’m at home alone, you wouldn’t be saying that! And there’s a reason for that – I use a lot of my energy to look good because it helps me feel good. So why use up that energy on days that I’m A. not feeling well and B. sticking around home anyway. I’ve limited the audience to a very select few who get to see me on my terrible days. It’s not how I want people to see me.

To get ready for a day out or for a visit takes an insane amount of energy. Any of you who deal with a chronic illness or pain totally feel me on this one. I can’t simply jump in and out of the shower and get ready quickly. My routine takes a long time as I really need to pace myself. Simply standing in the shower for more than 5 minutes winds me – forget the days I need to actually shave my legs! I’ve needed to put a chair in the bathroom to do my hair and makeup. I even get tired holding my arm up as I dry my hair. My outfits are carefully chosen, making sure I wear something that flatters me as my surgeries have left me with many lumps and bumps. I always need to rest whether that be just sitting down or sometimes even laying down, as this entire process exhausts me.

Some of you may say “well why waste so much energy?” I’ve come to discover, for myself anyway, that if I’m always in my pyjamas and not put together, I feel sicker. I do try to at least get dressed on days that I stay in, it doesn’t always happen, but even just putting jeans on helps to change my mindset from being ill to just really tired.

Going All Out For Projects vs How I Pay For It The Next Day

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I’ve always loved projects. I love learning new skills. And although I’ve had to put many on the wayside because of my energy levels, I still need to indulge in them from time to time for my own sanity, even though I know that it’ll cost me greatly in energy.

Just the other day, I decided to try my hand at making marinara sauce. I got the recipe from an Italian, so it’s got to be the real deal, right? The amount I made came out to about 35 litres which was way more than I anticipated, but we’ll be stocked for pasta and pizza sauce for a while now. It was a delicious success! Thing is, three days later and I’m still exhausted from it. I loved making it though, even if it means I’m out for the count for the next week. I love the aftermath of a finished project – is there anything better than seeing a task be completed?

I knew that this would tire me out, but it still surprises me when I get knocked out for so long from something that in the past a good night’s sleep would’ve cured.

Going Outside With My Daughter vs The Rest Of My Day With Her

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I like to share a lot of pictures of my days with my daughter. Although the plan was to go back to work once my maternity leave was up but plans changed when I was diagnosed with Ultra Short Bowel Syndrome. I am very much enjoying the extra time I’m getting to spend with her, but any of you who have spent any amount of time with a toddler knows that they never stop. Like ever. I wish I could do more with her. I wish we could spend more time outside and on the play structure. But after 20 minutes max of playing outside, I’m tapped out. I physically am unable to continue. The rest of the day is spent watching her play from the comfort of my couch.

I’ve tried play groups, but chasing after her for 2 hours is impossible. I’ve looked into swimming lessons, but I can’t go in public swimming pools as it could cause me to get an infection. We have most of our play dates here as I know the environment and I can more or less control it.

Thankfully our living room closes off from the rest of the house, so we spend our day in there. Me on the couch and my daughter playing with her toys. She is a very independent child and is perfectly content playing on her own. I really wish I could keep up with her, but it’s just not possible.

Events I Go To vs How I Prepare Leading Up To The Event

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I love sharing pictures of events I get to go to. It gives the illusion that I do have a life sometimes. What you don’t see however is how exhausting the smallest event can be for me. Each incapacitating me for at least a couple days afterward.

Being chronically ill has changed pretty well everything in my life, but I still do my best to make it to events such as concerts, weddings, trips, etc. I do however have to plan ahead for them differently than I would have previously. I went to a concert back in July and literally stayed in bed until supper time so that I would have the energy to stay at the concert as long as possible. At weddings. I unfortunately don’t have the energy to dance anymore, and I miss it, but I stay as long as I can and at least try to enjoy the dinner. And my trips so far are planned around leaving the hotel mid-morning, napping for 3 hours in the afternoon, and returning by 8pm for the night. None of these are ideal, but if it means I get to enjoy these moments, then it’s what I need to do.

My Family vs My Family

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I brag ALL THE TIME on Facebook about my family and it’s the same in reality. My husband is the most loving, caring and supportive man I could’ve ever asked for. Those pictures of my daughter always smiling, that’s pretty well how she always is. My family brings me so much joy and happiness. They keep me grounded and they give me hope for the future. There’s no point in showing it any differently on Facebook because they’re already pretty freakin’ great!

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4 Things I’ve Learned When I Realized I’m Not Invincible

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Unless you’ve faced death early in your life, most people believe themselves to be invincible, believing they won’t have to fear death until they are much, much older. The majority of people my age have only experienced death from afar – a friend of a friend, a grandparent, a long lost relative. But for the sake of this post, when I’m talking about facing death, I’m talking about a first hand experience. Having stood toe to toe with death yourself.

Usually the certainty of living until you’re closing in on your 90s is something possessed by those younger than their mid 30s. The thought that nothing will happen to them. Tragedies are only in the movies, far off lands and only found in the news. With this view of our lives, I find comes two responses. The first is that death won’t find you, and therefore you can take on the world and test your luck. You can do anything and everything and hope that the worst that’ll happen to you is a broken bone or two. The second response is that you have plenty of time to get things done. Things constantly get put off. You continue to dream, but you’ll find a better time to live those dreams out. Focus on the here and the now.

The latter form of thinking was me. I’ve always been a dreamer, but felt I had to be practical first. Things or people always got in the way. Excuses upon excuses kept building up and my dreams kept getting pushed to the backburner.

Then the unthinkable happened. A freak accident. My small intestine twisted up and became necrotic, and if it had not been caught when it had, I would have died. I was so ill going into the emergency surgery that I didn’t even realize what was happening. It was when I was going into my second surgery a week later that I had realized how serious this all was. I was laying on the surgical table, and my surgeon came to talk to me before they put me under sedation. I will never forget that moment. Looking up at him, I could see it in his eyes. The sadness, the hopelessness. I could tell just by looking at him that he thought that I wouldn’t make it out of the surgery alive. Tears rolling down my cheeks, I told him that he needed to make sure that I survived; I wasn’t ready to die.

My view on life has changed since those days, and I really want to share with you guys what realizing that I’m not invincible has taught me.

#1 – I’ve had to give up on some dreams, but I can form some new ones. We all dream. We all want big things for our life. I’ve had to give up on some big dreams: going scuba diving, running a 10k, getting pregnant again, living in Africa. Some dreams are easy to give up, and others are ridiculously hard. My heart still hurts, and may never stop hurting, that I can’t get pregnant again.

I’ve also come to realize that I need to start taking advantage of the life that I do have left. I’m crossing off things on my bucket list that I’ve put off for so long. Ok, so I may never be able to go scuba diving for fear that I’ll get an infection from the bacteria in the ocean, but I’ve had other dreams brewing for a long time. I’ve had the opportunity to cross a couple off my list already this year that honestly, I would’ve put off even longer if I hadn’t become sick. I have to plan for things differently to make sure I don’t get too sick, or plan that I do nothing for a couple days after knowing that I will be very sick. But, at least I know to plan for them. Life looks different now, but I still have to take advantage of my time here on earth.

#2 – I look at my loved ones in a very different light. I do my best to invest in the relationships that have always been there, and putting more time in relationships that I want to see grow.

I almost made my husband a widower, my daughter motherless, and my parents bury their only daughter. These are things that are always close to my heart. Not as something that devastates me, but as a reminder to really prioritize these relationships. I say sorry when I’m being a jerk, I never leave the house without saying I love you, and I get in all the hugs and kisses that I can. You really never know when the last ones will be.

#3 – I’ve learned to not fear death. I have a strong faith in God. I know that when I do die, I’m going to Heaven. But I really do think that if God saved me from dying, there’s a reason for it. I’ve come to the point where I’m not scare of dying, but more so scared of leaving people behind. I think that’s what helped me be so strong and fight for my life, the people I knew that were waiting for me.

#4 – Now I’m learning to not be afraid of living. I think this is honestly one of the hardest ones for most of us who live with a chronic illness. I said earlier how I’m working on crossing things off of my bucket list, but those events only come a few times a year. Those are the big things that you plan for. When I talk about living, I talk about the day to day life which is so hard for us to face. I guess this point has less to do with realizing that I’m not invincible, but embracing my life with chronic illness. I’ve come to realize that life is ridiculously short and I don’t want to waste it sitting at home all the time. Thing is, if I leave the house, I will pay for it later that day, the next day, and sometimes even longer. But – I keep having to remind myself it’s worth it. I sometimes literally have to force myself to go out, even if it’s just for a coffee run. I’ve made a goal for myself to make plans with friends at least once a week. I never regret making plans, even if it knocks me out for days. I can’t live the rest of my life cooped up in my house, no matter how terrible I feel.

Yeah, being faced with death sucks, for anyone, but we also have a little nugget of wisdom and insight on life that not everyone gets. Take advantage of that and LIVE.

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The Chronically Ill Cha-Cha – Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted something, and as much as I wish that it’s because I’m having an amazing, fun-filled summer, it’s not.

With having a central line (my Hickman), as soon as I have a fever, I have to go to the emergency department – no ifs, ands or buts. So it was quite a disappointment, when on my husband’s birthday, I was running a fever for the first time since being discharged from the hospital in June, 2015. The hospital took cultures, which takes a few days before showing any signs of bacteria growing, and sent me home as with my lowered immune system I would be safer from other infections there. Three days later, I was called in and admitted for a bacterium found growing in both my Hickman and peripheral veins. After trying my best to not have my Hickman pulled, the hospital removed it and a PICC line replaced it. After all was said and done, after two nights spent in the hospital, I was sent home on IV antibiotics.

I was doing ok, showing no signs of fevers, until a few days later when I woke up ta 4am with a 39.5°C (103.1°F) fever. In the morning, we were off to the hospital once again where I would end up spending the next week away from my family. For the first five days that I was there, I kept running fevers, my white blood cell count was at 0.87 (the norm is 5-10), and I was unable to connect to my TPN (IV nutrition) for five days as the infection had spread to my PICC line and they didn’t want my TPN to go through the infected line, picking up the bacteria, and sending it to my heart (where a central line ultimately leads to).

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I’m going to just go off on a side tangent for a moment here to help you understand how I was feeling after those five days. I went five days with no nutrition. Most of you know that I can eat, but I don’t actually absorb anything. And because I can’t absorb anything, there’s no point in a feeding tube either. Fevers were taking all my energy – having at least 2 or 3 a day. By day five, my muscles were hurting because they weren’t receiving the nutrients that I needed, my concentration was gone, and my body completely drained. Walking to the bathroom took energy. Staying awake for visitors would exhaust me. Everything, literally everything, became an arduous task.

They finally figured out that the bacteria growing was called Gordonia. It’s mainly found in long term TPN users, and very rarely at that. The doctors put me on a pretty potent antibiotic, and after 48 hours fever-free, I was finally sent home.

Although the fevers were gone, the antibiotics were kicking my butt, making me beyond fatigued all the time. No amount of sleep or rest cured it. Thankfully, with my husband, mom, and mother-in-law by my side, our home continued to run and myself and my daughter were well taken care of.

The day I went into the hospital for the second time, before my week long admission, was a Friday. We had plans for an amazing weekend – I had been looking forward to these plans all week. Friday we were going to take a picnic and go to a splash pad with our toddler. Saturday we’d go to the Farmer’s Market (where they have the best dumplings!) and then for locally sourced ice cream afterward. And Sunday, go to our church where we always feel an outpouring of love when we attend. I was SO looking forward to a “normal” weekend, which is far from the norm for our family, and it was ripped away from me.

I recently posted this picture on Facebook:

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I posted that more so to try and encourage myself, to try and make light of the ridiculousness that has been my life these last two years, and to help myself see that this new life of mine isn’t all that bad. But unfortunately, it didn’t quite do its job.

Here’s the real reason why I haven’t written a blog post in two months. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. And I’m tired. I don’t want my blog to be a cheerless space. I want people to be able to find encouragement and hope through my words, at least some, if not most of the time. But people keep asking me how I am, and truthfully, I don’t know how to answer. I was doing ok. Getting used to my new normal. And then I got sick again. Infections and Sepsis come with this illness’s territory, I know that, but how frequent will these hospital admissions be? Will I ever come to terms with this? Every time that I start adjusting to my life as someone with a chronic illness, will another infection come along, knocking me off of the mountain I’ve so desperately been working to climb?

Hopefully my next post will bring a little more light to your day. But I needed to make known how hard these last couple months have been. Being chronically ill is hell on earth. This post isn’t to get sympathy and I definitely don’t want your pity; I just needed you all to know that just because I may look like I’m better, I’m not.

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Why Being Disabled Isn’t a Tragedy, but Having Huge Parts of Your Life Stripped Away Is

There’s been a big debate going on over social media the last couple days about the book turned movie, Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. If you don’t want to know how the story ends, you may not want to read this entry.

The premise of the story is a man who was into extreme sports, had an accident, and became a paraplegic. This woman starts to work as his support worker, they fall in love, but in the end he decides to opt for assisted suicide.

People are boycotting this movie because they think it’s showing having a disability as being tragic. I don’t think that’s what Moyes is portraying in her story at all. It’s not the being disabled that’s tragic, it’s having everything you love doing taken away that’s catastrophic.

The male lead in this story was a man’s man. Burly. Athletic. Dangerous. Now he relies on someone else to simply brush his teeth. In his eyes, his dignity has been stripped from him.

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Imagine being a singer and your vocal chords are damaged – never to sing again. An artist whose arms have been amputated – never to paint again. Or a foodie, wannabe chef home cook with ischemic bowels thought never to eat again. Enter your passion and an accident that would rob it all from you – wouldn’t that be absolutely devastating? Your passions, hobbies, even your work, everything is all of a sudden limited or taken away from you completely. When all your life you’ve been told that anything is possible, now all of a sudden so many things that are impossible.

I was originally told I would never eat or drink again due to the removal of my small intestine and a third of my large. I LOVE my food. I love cooking, eating and hosting dinner parties. I’ve dreamt of opening a restaurant, teaching my kids to cook, and of course competing on Chopped Canada (which let’s be honest, I’m nowhere good enough of a cook to ever be on that show). I loved having people over and cooking for them and with thinking I would never eat or drink again, would I really want to cook meals for other people and not be able to partake? I’m a dreamer and these were only a few of the ones on my heart. But after my first diagnosis, my dreams came crashing down.

After my diagnosis, I went to a really dark place. I was extremely depressed. A huge portion of my life was all of a sudden gone. And I was beyond devastated.

So instead of seeing this movie as making disabilities portrayed as a tragic thing, what if we see it as dealing with a situational depression? There’s so much talk about depression and how it’s a part of a disease. Would people think of this movie differently if we saw it from that perspective? That his suicide isn’t because of the disability itself but because of the loss correlated with becoming disabled.

It takes time to adjust to the new normal after an accident or a diagnosis. Some people adjust more easily than others. Some aren’t able to adjust at all. If it wasn’t for having to take care of my daughter, there’s no way I would get out of bed. She helped me get out of my depression. Not everyone is lucky enough to have someone or something to fight for. And when all you do is compare your now to your past, it’s HARD! Always thinking of the things you loved to do, that you never will get to do again.

You still don’t want to go see the movie? Fine. But don’t belittle those of us who do see becoming disabled as tragic. Again, it’s not the disability itself that breaks us; it’s our past that we loved and lost that we mourn.

Dealing with Guilt and Fears as a Chronically Ill Mom

I love being a mom. Love it. I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I still remember watching Angels in the Outfield when I was young and saying afterwards that I wanted to be a foster or adoptive mom. Give me a whole slew of children and my life would be fulfilled.

Two weeks before I got sick, I randomly turned to my husband and asked him what his thoughts were on adoption. I told him that I’d love to have one or two more of our own, but there are so many kids in need of a home, and that I really wanted to adopt. Crazy thing is, we had no way of knowing that I was about to get sick and not be healthy enough to get pregnant again and that if we wanted to grow our family, our option would be to adopt. I really do believe that that was God’s way of preparing our hearts for what was to come.

Along with dreaming of how big our family would one day be, I also thought a lot about what type of mom I wanted to be, how we would raise our kids, and all that went with the soccer mom life. I looked forward to being the hockey mom, going to piano recitals, and being a Girl Guide leader so that I could go on weekend camping trips with my daughter(s). Call me old fashioned, but I loved the idea of having dinner on the table for my family, making lunches for them and carting my kiddos around with me in the minivan.

My life as a mom now looks significantly different. I won’t be able to do the super early hockey practices as I now barely function in the mornings. Everyone who knows me may giggle at this thinking it has to do with my severe coffee addiction (no really, can I hook it up to my Hickman??)

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I start my day slinging my TPN backpack over my shoulder, grabbing Maddie (some days with my forearms if my arthritis is flaring up), I hobble down the stairs, change her and get her to her highchair quickly before I get too woozy. I get extremely light headed and have a hard time breathing first thing in the morning, what I assume is a consequence to having my lungs filled with fluid and then drained while at the hospital. The long days of piano recitals is a dream of the past as leaving the house for more than a couple hours at a time leaves me incapacitated for at least the rest of the day. And going camping would mean not being able to find a sterile location to be able to get my TPN going.

Our daily routine at home really depends on how I feel. Hopefully we make it outside for half an hour – but never longer as it completely wipes me out. I can’t be that fun mom that plays with my daughter and chases her around. Even just helping her go down the slide a couple times takes everything out of me.

I don’t want to come off full of myself, but I know I’m a good mom. I’m not even close to perfect, but I love my daughter more than words could ever say and I do the best that I can. I’ve really had to learn how to deal with my fears and guilt surrounding being a chronically ill mom. Guilt that she won’t get all the experiences I want her to because I can’t keep up. Guilt that she’ll get more TV time that I’d like because I don’t feel well enough to entertain her myself. Guilt that she doesn’t have the mom that she would have had if I hadn’t gotten sick. Fear that I’ll fall sick again and won’t be here to see her grow up. Fear that she will one day resent me because of all of this.

You can say all the encouraging words you want after reading this, hoping to uplift my spirits. But all you chronically ill parents out there 100% understand what I’m saying and I know I’m not alone in this. There’s so much fear of being judged for our parenting choices, the amount of parent shaming out there is horrendous, but we’re all doing the best we can.

I feel like this post has been a little all over the place, very up and down emotionally. Welcome to my head space when it comes to parenting! I am my own worst critic. I am doing everything I am able to do, and sometimes more than I am capable (which I pay for for days to come). For those who are in the same boat – know you are not alone. I still struggle with my guilt and fears every day, I don’t know if they’ll ever go away, but I do know that at least I’m not the only one going through it. You do what you have to do in the moment, and as long as it’s your best, really, who cares what others think. People who aren’t in our situation will never completely understand how hard this truly is.

I pray for my daughter every day, I thank God for her, and hope she turns out okay in spite of the obstacles we will have to face together. She’s the reason I’m here.

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Grieving This Last Year

A year ago today, my entire world was about to change forever and I had no clue that it was about to happen. What I thought was a terrible stomach ache was actually my rapidly body dying.

I was brought into emergency surgery after a couple visits to the emergency department. They had to cut me from breast bone to pubic bone so they could see what had happened; the surgeons had no idea what they were about to find. My small intestine had managed to twist itself and had become necrotic. From this surgery they ended up removing a large portion of my small intestine due to the fact that it had died. If they had waited much longer, I would have died along with it.

I was brought out of sedation two days later. The doctor (who desperately needs to learn bedside manner) abruptly told me that “you will never eat or drink again and your quality of life has been severely diminished”. There are no words to describe how I felt. I was beyond devastated. Anyone who knows me knows how I love food. I love cooking it, eating it, hosting people for meals. And I had just been told rather abruptly, that that part of my life was gone.

They didn’t know if I would survive either of my surgeries or my time in between them. There were several times it was very questionable. I ended up needing the second surgery as a result of the fact that I wasn’t getting any better, in fact my health was actually getting worse. During the second surgery, the surgeon discovered that my intestines had continued to die, and it was necessary for them to remove even more than they already had. At the end of it all, I was only left with 5cm of my small intestine and 36 inches of my large.

I was stuck in bed for four weeks, after which I had to relearn how to walk on my own. For every week that you are bedridden, you lose 10% of your muscle mass, so this was quite an undertaking! First time I walked post-surgery I took five steps towards the door, turned around, took five steps back to the bed and then slept for three hours. I had never been more exhausted in my life.

I had to learn about my new body. I had to learn about the consequences of having no small bowel. I had to learn that something as normal as having a drink while eating, chugging water (when you’re literally always dehydrated that is ALL you want to do) or even staying out that extra hour therefore making me overtired would cause me to be violently ill.

I had to come to terms with the fact that I would never go back to the group home work environment. That I can never travel for more than a week at a time because of the expiration dates on my IV nutrition. I’ll never be able to run again. Bike again. Swim in a lake, ocean or public pool again. I couldn’t even read up until last month because I was too fatigued to concentrate on anything longer than a magazine article. And the most painful of all, which I have asked my surgeon about on multiple occasions hoping for a different answer every time, is that I cannot get pregnant again.

I have had to grieve so many things this year, and I still am and probably will be for a long time to come. My heart is constantly aching. I wake up every morning hoping that it was all a horrible nightmare. I so look forward to the day that I can finally accept my fate.

I have had major anxiety all week leading up to today. The one year anniversary of my surgery. My own personal D-day. Today is a lot more painful than I ever thought it would be. I am going to allow myself to grieve today. To spend today in self-pity and mourn my losses.

But tomorrow — tomorrow is day one in my second year of being a chronically ill woman, and I’m going to surmount it. If nothing else, this year has made me more fierce, more passionate, more of a fighter, and more stubborn than I’ve ever been. I will own this new life. I will conquer it. This is my new life. Time to start living again.

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Call me Mara: Battling with Bitterness

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Ruth 1:19-22

I think we’ve all more than likely had something happen to us that has shaken things up in our life. Whether big or small, there always seems to be an obstacle that pops up, and it always seems to be at the most inopportune time. When everything happened to my health last year, I was mad. Like REALLY mad. After years of struggling with my weight, I had finally lost (literally!) a whole person worth of excess weight — I lost 151lbs! I had met an AMAZING man, we got married and bought a beautiful house just outside of the city, had two dogs and we were blessed with the most beautiful baby girl. I swear I’m not biased! She really is the most beautiful baby ever ;)…. And then literally overnight, my health went spiraling down the toilet. My dreams of traveling, giving birth again, going back to school one day, etc. etc. – they all went down the pooper with it.

It would have been so ridiculously easy to become bitter without even realizing it. Thinking you’ve been dealt the worst hand and making sure everyone knows it can become second nature. Bitterness can slowly and subtly creep in on every aspect of your life and turn the sweetest things sour. Lately I’ve been reading the book Ruth in the Bible, and I feel for Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi. She lost her husband and both her sons. She told people to stop calling her Naomi (which means pleasant) and to call her Mara instead (meaning bitter) because she had had a harsh turn of events. She couldn’t see past what had happened and thought God had brought this down upon her. I get it. No, no one died in my life, but a huge part of my life did.

Roughly three weeks after my initial surgery, a nurse was telling me about how she had to come back to work early from her maternity leave. She was complaining that she was sore, it was a long shift, and on and on and on. I looked right at her, and told her I was the wrong person to be complaining to! I hadn’t even walked in three weeks. I was bed ridden, on a ridiculous amount of medication, had lost a significant portion of my organs and was missing my family terribly. I told her she was healthy, had a good job, and she needed to stop whining. In reality I probably (almost certainly!) was too harsh on her. I told a friend about it the next day, and he quickly called me on it. He told me that I can’t let myself become that bitter person because no one will stick around no matter how crappy my situation has become. That truth hit me hard, but that piece of wisdom has stuck with me all year. Not that it’s a bad thing to vent, everyone needs that. But there’s a huge difference between having a bad day every once in a while and being in a permanent state of crabbiness. Through this I also realized that I want people to still be able to come to me without fear that I’ll throw it back in their face. We all have our struggles – big or small, and they are always significant to us. To have someone belittle those issues is never pleasant.

I’m not saying I’ve perfected never being bitter, trust me I’m far from it. I have my days like everyone. There are days where it’s hard to see things in a positive light, but it’s so important to push through and find the sweet in every day. For me, that’s my family and my friends. No matter what kind of mood I’m in, they make me smile. I’ve worked really hard at not being bitter and angry all the time. It is literally a moment by moment struggle for me. To be honest, I am definitely crankier than I was…for those of you who know me, you don’t have to comment on that point! If I’m not feeling well, I get snippy very quickly. But I’ve come a long way from where I was, and I’m really trying not to let my health sabotage my relationships and my perspective on other people’s situations.

Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth stuck by her side even though rightfully she could have returned to her tribe. Ruth got married and had a baby boy. Naomi walked through her dark time and there was a light at the end of the tunnel. She was a grandma! Picture Naomi, rocking her grandbaby, tears streaming down her face. She had a rough go, but finally, all she had dreamt of was in her arms. I bet that she could literally feel the bitterness melting away. She had become Naomi again.

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#SheReadsTruth #SheSharesTruth

I Can’t, but We Can

I’m a very blessed woman. I have always had a community of some sort around me. Through every walk of life, I’ve at least had one person to turn to and as I grow older, my support systems have grown – both in depth and numbers. More importantly though, I have come to appreciate them so much more in the last year.

I have my family – my husband and daughter, my parents and siblings, and my in-laws. I also have my friends that may as well be family, those both far and near. These are the people who were the first ones there when I was sick. Waiting with Joe while I was fighting for my life in surgery. Hopping on the first flight to be by my bedside day in and day out. Friends who, over the last year, I have been able to call while in tears because I am so fed up with my situation. I realize not everyone has family and friends like this, but I have been immensely grateful to have these people by my side.

There are so many other forms of community out there though, and take it from me, no matter what you’re going through, you need community. Whether to help you celebrate or grieve different situations in your life, they are a necessary part of it.

Church – I found a great community in my church and I literally had hundreds of people praying for me, feeding my family, and helping care for us in many ways while I was hospitalized. These are the people who have held on to hope and faith and kept praying for me when I just wasn’t able do it for myself.

Online Community – I so love and appreciate the fact that everything is online nowadays. I have been able to connect with people from all over the world who also rely on TPN as a form of nutrition. Through Facebook, I’ve been able to meet a mom here in Ottawa whose daughter is on TPN (and am so looking forward to meeting her daughter). I’ve also become great friends with a woman down in Texas who went through a very similar situation as mine last April and hope that we can one day meet in person. I am forming friendships that I never would have found otherwise. They are under very unfortunate circumstances, but nevertheless, I am very thankful for my new friends.

Being diagnosed with a rare illness makes it hard to find answers (my doctors don’t have answers to many of my questions), and through online forums I’ve been able to ask many questions to others who have been on TPN for longer than I have. The best resources have been through these online communities.

Even just through Facebook and writing on my blog, I have regained contact with old friends who are also struggling with a variety of life’s hardships. It’s interesting how when life seems to dump on you, it can bring people together. Hurting people tend to know how to encourage other hurting people, no matter how different their situations may be.

Support Groups – The last form of community that I want to mention in this post, is support groups. This isn’t necessarily finding a group that is going through something similar to what you are, although it can be, but it’s also to find a group that will uplift and encourage you and that you can do the same for the others in the group.

I’ve been going to a Mom’s group which has brought into my life such wonderful women. Although we all come from different walks of life, it’s 2 hours a week where we can forget life’s troubles and just come for a laugh and a good time. It’s something that I really look forward to going to and again, it’s introduced me to people that I may not have necessarily gotten to know.

I’m also starting a book group with a few others to study Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller (check him out, I love his books)! This is obviously a very different type of support group than the one I previously mentioned, but I really didn’t want to go through this book alone. I know that it’s going to bring about some very difficult issues to deal with and why not go through it with other people who are also grieving different losses in their lives.

There are so many different forms of community out there. You don’t have to be a part of a big family or a church. You don’t have to be ill or going through a difficult time. But everyone needs a community of some kind. It’s so important and so necessary for the soul.

I really don’t think I could have gotten through this last year without my different communities. They’ve all played their parts and for that I will be forever grateful.

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