Saturday, December 31, 2011

How do I feel about 2011

CNN's question today was how do you feel about 2011 ending? The two answers were "I'll miss it", and "Good riddance." I chose good riddance. 2011 began with me in a great deal of distress. My digestive tract was acting up and I was encountering rectal bleeding, pain, cramps and bloating. A day did not go by without me encountering all of the above symptoms. I was depressed and at my wit's end. My thinking was, "If this is going to be my quality of life going forward, I don't want it." I finally got my family Dr. to refer me to a GI guy, Dr. Hightower. The initial diagnosis was IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and the treatment was a muscle relaxant which did nothing and an anti-depressant called Lexapro. I was trying to watch what I ate, but everything upset my system. I was taking eight fiber pills daily to try and keep my stool soft so it would pass without irritation, however while a little better I still had a lot of pain, difficulty on going to the bathroom and bleeding.

Dr. Hightower recommended a colonoscopy, but we both agreed that since I had a colonoscopy a year earlier at the VA in Poplar Bluff and that report was everything was normal that it must just be IBS. It turns out IBS's greatest catalyst is stress, and I was under a great deal of stress because of how badly I felt. The Lexapro began to kick in after a month and I could actually feel the dark cloud lifting, however it still didn't do much for the pain and symptoms I was encountering.

Finally after four months of doctoring we did another colonoscopy. You can imagine how both of us felt when Dr. Hightower told me that there was a suspicious mass at the sight of my previous surgery and I would need surgery again. The son-of-bitch at VA missed it. It would not have made any difference in my needing surgery, but I would not have gone through such hell and have the problem taken care of a year earlier. The bastard.

So began a tough trip for Terry and I. The treatment consisted of concurrent radiation and chemo. After the radiation and chemo six weeks passed and I had a collectomy, which is a resection with a iliostomy to allow the surgically repaired area time to heal. So I spent ten weeks wearing a bag which proved to have its own problems. My skin became irritated and there was nothing I could do to heal it as there was the constant presence of fecal matter. I had accidents where the bag prematurely leaked, in public at times. However, I did not experience any bloating, cramping or bleeding so that was a plus and encouraging.

Finally on October 13 the reversal surgery was performed that reattached my small intestine to my large intestine and the plumbing system was back in action. Now came successive periods of diarrhea, an almost constant flow of fecal matter that irritate the skin around my anus and proved to be extremely painful, that lasted about two weeks. Then it evolved into more formed stools but a mess to keep one self clean. Finally after about a month of that things started to get normal. In the meantime I was feeling good. The pain, cramping, irritation and bloating were gone. Today, I feel absolutely great. I go to the bathroom quite frequently because my rectum is gone and what comes down the large intestine wants to get out. However, I am comfortable when I go, I eat pretty much everything I want. When I do eat rich foods I will have a BM episode that might last for an hour or two, but no pain, no discomfort, and I now say I have a teflon ass, nothing sticks to it.

So this is my 2011. I say good riddance, but that is also bittersweet. My wife put up with an enormous burden, ME! She hurt as I did and she cared for me completely. The Dr.s were superb and caring, I could not have received better treatment.

In addition, two of my employees succumbed to cancer. I worked with these people, I knew their families, and we like one another. So the emotional upheaval of my condition, the loss of two co-workers, and the devastating effect of ovarian cancer on another of my employees who is surviving quite well today, all took a physical and psychological toll. In addition, right at the end of the year a lady I've worked with for ten years announced she was leaving our organization for a better opportunity. I wish her will, she deserves it. However, she and I were a tight team for ten years and I will miss that relationship terribly.

So, good riddance 2011. I hope 2012 brings a measure of peace and stability. I sure could use it.

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