The enemy identified, my worst fears came alive,
But not for long, the time of retribution is nigh,
Acceptance of a battle that will rage beyond overnight,
Marching towards a glorious victory to reclaim a normal life.
August 6 – 11, 2018
The details of the colonoscopy and its immediate aftermath are outlined in the very first entry of this blog. Here is the link: https://musicalmemories.whereishome.info/2018/11/12/the-wonder-of-you/
I may have felt confident and rejuvenated following a heart-to-heart with my mother shortly after my colonoscopy and I carried those good vibes with me over the remainder of the week, but I’d be lying if I said that I was walking on sunshine and dancing atop a hill Julie Andrews-style all the way. I definitely went through a gauntlet of negative thoughts and feelings during these early stages of my recovery.
Self doubt? Check.
Seething with rage at being struck down that I contemplated embarking on an anger-fuelled rampage so people could feel my motherfucking pain? As petty, immature and weak as it sounds, yeah, I did.
Fortunately I prevented such emotions from consuming me, that last one included. I guarantee you that I am not writing this blog from the inside of a jail cell following an assault charge.
Anyway, I walked away from the Hospital for Specialist Surgery with a few bottles of Prednisolone, a steroid medication used to treat inflammation and other diseases. My dosage in the beginning was set at 50mg per day and was to be weaned by 5mg per week since long-term use of this drug could be harmful to the body. I was to visit Dr. B during the following week to discuss my treatment plan down the road, which included prescribing me two more drugs to take over what the Prednisolone had started once I was completely weaned off of it.
The very first salvo was fired during my first meal at home following the colonoscopy and for the rest of the week I popped 50mgs along with my mid-day meal every day. I also adopted the ‘several small meals a day’ approach to eating in an attempt to add more weight to my weakened body without stressing my bowels. I focused mainly on protein from eggs, fish and lean meat to boost my haemoglobin levels but kept the diet balanced with a good serving of carbs, fruit and vegetables.
But I had to go easy on spicy food, wholegrains and fruit as they could potentially stress my bowels and fizzy drinks and alcohol were off the menu, perhaps forever, which was no big loss since I rarely consumed either before all of this happened.
And much to my frustration I was banned from driving, working out and exerting myself in any way, not until I had put this fucking colitis in remission and was no longer anaemic and I was warned that it could be a rather lengthy process. Yeah, that pissed me off. I was essentially ordered to live like an old man for the next few months at least.
Man, this is gonna suck!
Three days after the colonoscopy my family and I celebrated my sister’s birthday. We had a lovely dinner that night but alas, the best dish of the night was on the spicy side and so I couldn’t have too much of it. The little bit I had was beautiful and the rest of the night was spent trying to resist the urge to dive back in for more.
Watch it, Buddy. You aint invincible no more!
It was still a good night overall and we shared plenty of stories and laughs in addition to a nice family dinner. It was gratifying to be strong enough to join my younger sister in celebrating her special day, that right there was my warning shot to the disease wreaking havoc within.
I aint laying down, punk! Prepare yourself for an ass-whooping!
But like I said earlier, I did go through some low points. Feelings of doubt were justified whenever I went to the toilet in the mornings and saw that ugly shade of red in the bowl and my lips, fingertips and ears remained colorless. Being diagnosed as having severe pancolitis, essentially the most lethal form of ulcerative colitis, didn’t help. Would the Prednisolone Army be up to the task of overthrowing this vicious monster that had so thoroughly conquered my system the same way that the Ottoman Empire had ran riot over Constantinople? I tried my best to maintain a positive outlook but these dark thoughts certainly did lurk in the background.
But I needn’t had worried so damn much.
Little by little, small miracles began to make their presence felt days after I began taking my meds. While the results of my morning business sessions on the throne remained tinged with blood, afternoon and evening trips yielded different results, much to my surprise.
Whoah! Hardly any blood. When’s the last time that happened?
It might have been a few weeks between the return from holiday and the beginning of the relapse. To say that it was a relief to know that I was no longer losing blood every time I went to defecate is a huge understatement. The euphoria I felt was so great I almost burst into tears.
On the following evening, a Friday, my extended family dropped by for a full family dinner and that’s when the secret was officially out. I had kept my ordeal under wraps from everybody outside of my immediate family but when one of my aunts, my mother’s sister, asked me that night how life had been treating me (we hadn’t seen each other for months), I was forced to confess as I did not want to be a liar.
“Not so good,” I admitted, “I’ve had health struggles lately.”
And just like that, the family dinner came to a screeching halt and all eyes were on me. Oh boy, this was going to be awkward!
“What? Why!?” she asked.
“I had a colonoscopy a few days ago. I have ulcerative colitis. And I’m also anaemic.”
As I’d predicted, gasps rang all around and then my relatives were left rather stumped. My other aunt, a nurse, knew immediately what it meant.
“So how badly is your bowel inflamed?” she inquired.
“The whole bowel is affected,” I replied despondently, “pancolitis, they called it.”
“And I’m anaemic from losing so much blood. I was in the hospital two weeks ago for a blood transfusion.”
My nurse aunt then proceeded to explain to everybody at the table what my diagnosis meant. A look of horror crossed over their faces and everyone’s appetites were temporarily halted.
Meanwhile, my sick self sat there sheepishly, hoping that the subject would soon be changed.
My other aunt, the one who started this line of questioning, immediately fired up.
“Why didn’t you tell us!?” she demanded, “We could have visited you!”
“I didn’t want anyone to panic,” I said, shrugging my shoulders, “didn’t need that kind of stress hanging over my head.”
And from there my parents took over for me and explained to them all what type of medication Dr. B had prescribed for me and also touched on my eating habits before reassuring everybody that I was doing just fine. That seemed to placate everyone and order was restored.
Unfortunately I had to ‘leave the party early’, so to speak, due to doctor’s orders to get as much rest as I could in order to speed up the healing process. I called it a night once I had noticed that the time had nudged closer towards 9:30pm and said good night to everyone before hitting the sack. I was out after mere seconds of my head hitting the pillow.
The celebrations continued the next day as we spent the morning and mid-day at my aunt and uncle’s house for brunch before spending time in my sister’s apartment for a late lunch and dessert.
You could say it was a day of eating, which was totally fine by me.
At my aunt and uncle’s house my relatives witnessed, for the first time, me taking my meds. I simply took my 50mgs of that Prednisolone after eating and washed it down with water. No dramas and awkward stares were to be had, thank goodness.
I also made it a point to walk around outside after every half hour to soak up the sun and cleanse my lungs. I thought that a good dose of vitamin D would aid my recovery and it was also the middle of winter and sunny days were hard to come by. I must have done dozens of laps around their backyard on the duration of our visit.
After a while we drove to my sister’s apartment located around 20 minutes away for more food and chatter. Surely I must have regained all the weight I had lost in the last few months by this point!
I weighed myself the very next day and it turns out I did not. Damn!!!!
Anyway, it was a typical family get-together, with all the women on one side, in this case the living room, and the men on the other side, in the dining area, talking about their own respective subjects while intermittently interacting with the other party to keep each other informed.
I stayed with the men for the most part but every now and then I would step outside into the balcony for some sunshine and fresh air. The view outside wasn’t exactly glamorous, the balcony overlooked a busy street and a gas station across the street, partially blocked by a towering jacaranda tree at the front of the complex, but beyond the immediate view was what seemed like a utopia of rooftops and apartment buildings within the thick glade of trees.
I stared at that view for a while as the wind blew on my face, reflecting on the last few days and the battle that lay ahead. I was fairly certain that there would be times where I would impatiently question if any of my treatment was working, including having to put up with bouts of paranoia whenever I felt the slightest bit of pain and discomfort, such was the mind of a chronic disease sufferer. I felt like a lone warrior about to embark on a perilous mission to slay some mythical yet dangerous creature that threatened to destroy his life and the lives of those he loved and while I had accepted the mission and was confident of victory, a part of me did question if I was worthy of this battle, let alone if I would emerge triumphant.
It was during this time of meditation that I finally made peace with not being able to work out during this period. I had to accept the fact that my lean and athletic body, at this point still ripped and rippling with muscle, would undergo a change during this exile from athletic and physical endeavors. Yeah yeah, call me narcissistic all you want but the truth is I was once a chubby kid that was teased by his schoolmates about having a gut and man boobs – quite hypocritical on their part since some of them were on the same boat as I was. Angry and slightly traumatized by the experience, I started working out during my late teens and never looked back, gradually huffing and puffing my way into pretty good shape and fitness. Working out had become a huge part of my daily routine so to have to give it up for a lengthy period was not going to be easy. But recovery was way more important than my ego and so rather than complain I switched my mindset into thinking that this illness was only temporary. At the time of this writing the only real ‘cure’ for ulcerative colitis, if you could call it that, was to remove the patient’s colon should medical treatment fail beyond the point of no return or the disease escalate to life-threatening levels. In my mind, however, there was no fucking way in hell any of that was ever going to happen.
I’ll kick this motherfucker’s ass. I’ll show ’em!
I stepped back indoors, where my family were still carrying on their own conversations. I took a seat on the dining table where my father and uncles were talking while my sister, mother and aunts continued their chat in the living room area on the sofa. I didn’t join in either conversation but instead sat in silence, still maintaining my calm but also soaking up the family vibes. All in all it was a great weekend, definitely the boost that I needed.