Quite a few of you guys either replied to my post, inquiring if you were interested in hearing about my ordeal, or PM’d saying that it would be a great story to tell. I apologize in advance for the rather lengthy post but……
In April 2021 I finally made the half century and for some reason the medical community chose 50 years old as a landmark age to request that you undergo a colonoscopy. Well, being the bad patient that I am I skipped the appointment my GP had made for me. My excuse was that I would have to close my clinic and since I had ZERO issues that it was not the best cost/benefit. Unfortunately my wife found out and started pressuring me. In order to avoid another argument I finally scheduled to have the procedure done.
Did I mention I had ZERO issues. I neither had issues of constipation (or any other dysfunctions of my bowels) nor did I have any bleeding or appearance of old blood in my stools. I had a normal healthy diet and could eat you out of house and home. Friday, November 12th was the day of reckoning! I was gonna get both that procedure done and get the wife off my back!! I arrived at the GI lab and met with my gastroenterologist. He explained the procedure and told me I was going to get the Michael Jackson “milk” which would give me the best sleep of my life. They came in to prep me and boom I was out like a light. I don’t know how long it took but remember waking up with the doc staring at me, about 3 feet from my face.
As soon as I opened my eyes he started offloading. I was still pretty groggy but he was about 3 feet from my face telling me that they found a few polyps which he took care of but also found two (2) 7cm masses in 2 different part of my colon. One was in the ascending colon and the other at the junction between my sigmoidal colon and rectum. He then proceeded to the chart on the wall and started telling me that they would cut here and there, and would join this and that. Let’s say that I woke up from that grogginess in a hurry.
Here are a couple of pictures of those masses. Note how the invaded the opening of my colon and should have restricted my bowels.
Here is a depiction of the proposed surgery. The reality of it was that it ended up being more extensive. The reddish part are the parts they had to cut out and the green parts were the reconnection.
In actuality they removed a little more of the transverse colon and descending colon.
In any case, my colonoscopy was on a Friday and by the next Thursday I was in a surgeons office, and the following Tuesday I was in surgery. They were not playing due to how “aggressive” those tumors looked. Fortunately I received word from the gastroenterologist that they were not cancerous yet but at the last stage before they actually turned “evil”.
The first surgery took place November 23rd. It was an arthroscopic procedure which was supposed to take 3.5 hrs. Because they had to expand the scope of the surgery it ended up being 6 hrs. I came out of anesthesia to my loving wife and some pain!!. I was overinflated from the gas they put in the belly but everything was according to plan. I definitely felt like a pregnant woman. The scar above my belly button was to remove the colon parts.
I ended up spending 4 days in the hospital and was discharged home with no issues. The next day things started to change. I was a little more lethargic and had a little more pain. Par for the course I though!?!. The day after I started to run a low grade fever. By the Monday the pain and fever were so bad that my wife drove me to the ER (after consulting with the surgeon).
In the ER the people waiting to be seen kept on insisting that I be seen first. At that point I was running 103-104 fever. They did a million test and my surgeon pushed for me to be admitted to the post-op floor as he was waiting for the results of the bloodwork. Hours past and no results. My surgeon was patiently waiting but at 2 am he barged in my room and said “screw it, I am not waiting anymore, we are going back in”. Because of the uncertainties they couldn’t give me medication so I was in so much pain and was hallucinating…… and seriously thought that I was going to die.
The surgeon told my wife that I was septic and was pretty sure what the issue was. He mentioned to her that it should be a 40 minute procedure, which ended up taking 4hrs. According to him the pelvis was full of pus and blood and compressing my small intestine but the main issue was that there was a small leak in the repair at my rectum. He stated that he did not want to repair it because it would involve cutting more of my rectum, which would mean that I would be on a colostomy for the rest of my life. He opted instead to open me wide open, remove my intestine and clean everything, suck all the pus and blood and perform an ileostomy (which is where they create a poo bag using the small intestines). By bypassing the colon the repair at the rectum would eventually heal. Eventually they would reverse the ileostomy and I would resume using my butt like everyone else BUT for the time being I would poo in a bag.
Here is a picture of the new scar they left me with
Unfortunately, despite having fixed the issue, the pain did not get better! Believe it of not the pain got worse, much worse!! They had 4 IVs in my arms and were pushing meds almost every hours. I was on a cocktail of morphine, dilaudid, toradol and tramedol and the pain was never under control. As a result I did not sleep for 5 days. On the second night I woke my wife up at 2:30am and asked her: “Hey Liz, do you have a piece of paper”, she said yes!; “Do you have a pen”, she said yes! I told her that it was the end and that I needed to give her my passwords, and needed to tell her about my secret security deposit box at the bank and my secret stash account. I bared my soul to her because I knew I was dying. If that was not bad enough, as a result of the pain and not sleeping I ended up suffering from hospital psychosis. I was literally losing my mind. I would scream “HELP” for hours. I would speak of my spirit animal. My kingdom was under siege. I invented nursery rhymes etc…. And that is just what my wife told me about. She took notes of my declining mental state and told me that if she was not scared that I was dying that it would have been the most entertaining I had ever been.
Speaking of my wife, she dropped everything for the 3 weeks that I was in the hospital and stayed by my side 24/7 taking care of all my needs big or small. She was and is such a blessing. For those who don’t know, she is a school principal in a very affluent private Christian school. She is responsible for 60+ employees and 300+ students. For her to drop everything…… well I can’t see because of the tears in my eyes. Such a blessing!!
Anyway, they finally got the pain under control and I met with a psych NP who managed the psychiatric issues. And things started to look up. When you think you are out of the woods you are not!! My scar started to get infected and despite their best effort ended up splitting wide open. Here is a picture after it started to heal from the inside out
Fortunately for me I am looking at another surgery to reverse the ileostomy. They will take that opportunity to revise the scar. In the picture you can see the poo bag. I am so over that thing!!!
December 12th I was finally discharged. I came home with all kinds of supplies to pack by wound and to replace my poo bag (every 3 days). As part of my discharge instruction the surgeon stated that I could not lift more than 10 lbs (or a gallon of milk) for the next 3 months. I work as a physical therapist; I am in a solo practice that I own; and my specialization is in orthopedics and manual therapy……10lbs!!! (Insert head exploding). There is zero chance that I can return to work with these kinds of restrictions!! But here is the kicker…. I have 3 months of severe restrictions which is followed by 2-3 months of slow recuperation to then be under the knife again to reverse the ileostomy. This will require another 3 months of restrictions to no more than 10lbs followed by 3-4 months to rebuilt my strength. So if my math is correct I won’t be able to return to full duties (at my own clinic) for close to 10 months to 1 year. Let’s say that I am grieving my old life!!!
As a result of being a solo practitioner and not being able to work for close to 1 year I am forced to sell my clinic. I worked 25 years to build it to what it is today. Let say that it is a huge burden psychologically. Although the physical strength is getting better the mental health is suffering big time. This psychological burden comes to be on top of pre-existent PTSD and anxiety/panic disorder. I am a highly functional/dysfunctional person.
I am being told everyday to look on the bright side. The only few bright spots (not side) of this ordeal is that 1) I am still alive and cancer free 2) I lost 35 lbs as of this morning. The rest is pretty bleak. No income, other than my wife’s; Lost a LOT of muscle mass; I am looking at another surgery and potential complications etc……
I do have to say that I am very appreciative of the Walton family/company Jonathon Austin JohnG5 for the care package they sent me. I am every more appreciative for all of your prayers, best wishes, cards, private messages and those yummy pecans (@lkrfletcher johnsbrewhouse) Most of all I am blessed with the gift of your friendships, especially Chef who communicated with my wife and checked on me daily (still does).
I would probably go to hell if I did not take the opportunity to mention how much of a gem my wife is. She stood by my side 24/7 and continues to biggest supporter (physically, psychologically, emotionally and financially). I don’t know if I could have made it without her. Actually I know I would not have made it without her.
I know it was a long read but I hope it was not only entertaining but a good PSA reminder not to take things for granted. Go get your colonoscopy and please do me a favor not to dismiss it as I did because you don’t have any signs or symptoms. If colon cancer runs in the family then please do yourself a favor and go in your 30s or 40s and don’t wait till your wife pester you in your 50s to get it done