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When The Hernia Hits

Updated: Apr 20

December 27, 2023

On Friday, I was busy wrapping up my work week, sending last emails and text messages, summaries and expense reports while trying to compile the list of things I needed to do prior to the arrival of my parents on Christmas Eve.

I was multi-tasking, as I always find myself doing, and at 11:30, when I realized I was extremely hungry, I wolfed down a leftover turkey sandwich from the day before. I kept writing emails and ignored the gurgling and pressure that sometimes accommodates my digestion now that I have had two major surgeries that have left me with a modified colon. At about noon, I stood up to make a cup of tea and ended up doubled over in the kitchen. A sharp pain in the middle of my abdomen had me questioning my choice in food; Was it terrible gas? Was it food poisoning? Two Gas X later, I was on the phone to my husband telling him to come home - something was horribly wrong.

Sharp pain turned into searing hot waves of fire in my abdomen, leaving me trembling uncontrollably and drenched in a thick sweat. A call to 911 began blazing a blurred and chaotic trail of an ambulance trip to the hospital yielding a seven hour emergency room visit: lots of questions, concentrated breathing, swearing to myself, morphine that didn’t touch the pain, begging for more dilaudid every 20 minutes, a CT scan, triaged in a hallway across from the psychiatric room, trying to vomit quietly so as not to draw attention to myself, high lactic acid levels from the hours of shaking, and I was surprised at my relief to hear “we are taking you out of here for surgery.” I was finally swept away to the surgical floor with my trusted GI team.

When we hit the pre-op room, I began to get clarity on what was actually happening. I had an internal hernia with a secondary bowel blockage, something that can result from the previous surgeries I had thanks to scar tissue. After being told that they would place the pressure relief tube through my nose into my stomach after I was asleep (they were considering doing it while I was awake) I looked intently at my husbands face. I no longer was experiencing any pain but I started to shake out of fear. There have been a few times that I have had overwhelming fear associated with cancer treatment and here it was again, looking at my husband’s bright, richly handsome and tired face, feeling guilty for putting him through more, for not being able to control this better, for it being ugly and scary and of all things at Christmas time. I was scared that the surgery would take three hours, that they may have to take more colon, that I may wake up with an ostomy again, and all of the uncertainty that lay on the other side.

I felt overwhelmed at another set back, more healing, more limits. I felt the dark low of how cancer just keeps taking, even when its gone, it just keeps taking. The violet haze of anesthesia hit my veins and I vaguely remember shimmying onto the operating table, telling a female nurse to make sure the guys sewed up my incisions so that they looked nice. Good thing that through everything I could still be humorous and light.

Thankfully, surgery was short and straight forward. Nothing to remove, nothing to reroute, just recover. Having come out of anesthesia easily and feeling calm to be in the care of the big purple castle, David arrived in my hospital room somewhere around midnight. I looked at him with such clarity, my hero, my protector and the only love that I want. By the sparkling lights of Chicago’s downtown skyscrapers, from the windows on the 12th floor, we sat in disbelief as to what just happened and how we really need to put our plans in motion so that we can live the way we want. We happily whispered in the darkness about what was important to us and what life should look like. And I felt such a sense of peace.

2024 is going to be a big year. This one has certainly decided to go out with a bang (or shall I say pang) and has given me much to reflect on. While I am home, recovering, I am recommitting to my writing and rosesrcthree, as my multi-tasking of the last several months has gotten in the way. Because we all have similar stories and shared experience that helps motivate us and keep us strong. Because the only ones who know this path are the ones who have walked it before. Because it is important to me that no one ever feel alone with cancer.

And to be clear, David?  You are always where I want to go.


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