Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my stomach perforation. One year ago, I was writhing in agony on the floor. One year ago, I fought for my life. One year ago was the beginning of a long journey of recovery that was officially over in September. People cling to these anniversaries, reflect on everything and try to move forward somewhat. In a way, I was offended by the mundane way the day started. Snuggled with the dog, breakfast, and then? Should I talk about it- I sometimes feel everything has been said. It was a grey, regular Saturday in Portland.
I went to Powell’s with Lee and a friend of his. I bought a few books, and was struck by the humanity I saw. Two young girls were sitting at a table with guidebooks on Ireland, talking excitedly about their plans. A kid begged his parents for more books. So many people, heads in a book, engrossed in a story, thinking about something other than themselves. It made me endlessly happy. We spontaneously decided to go to the Multnomah Falls, and decided to hike up there. It started drizzling right when we arrived, but I guess we are real Oregonians now, we didn’t care much and went ahead. The hike got a little longer and intense than planned. It was up 400 meter, across rocks, and up and down through mud.
I thought about the mountain metaphor again, and thought it fitting. I did push through even though everything hurt. I was trudging through mud, and couldn’t see clearly. And still there was beauty around me, on the hike and throughout the recovery. The Columbia Gorge in its grandeur. My mum and sisters that flew in from Germany, one after the other to help out. The massive basalts through which the water had found its way. My mother-in-law who sat by my bedside in the ICU every night. The waterfalls and their eternal sounds. The kindness of the wound nurses who took care of me. The moss on the trees around me. My dearest Lee who was there with me every step of the way. I could make an endless list, but what I am trying to say is that this experience hasn’t really changed me. I don’t have any huge wisdom to impart, except for paying attention to the small things. Because the things I have learned are small.
I always carry painkillers with me, because I was lucky that I was home when it happened, but things happen all the time and I will leave the house still.
I have developed strategies to shower with a picc line and I am an expert on protein shakes (get the naked juice ones, lots of calories and 35gr of protein).
I know how to change a wound dressing in a public bathroom, and I know how to balance yourself when you’re swollen with water weight.
One night, I was so exhausted from the surgeries, not sleeping and general disease that I had full blown hallucinations that lasted seven hours. I have experienced first hand what a thin veil separates us from what we call “insane”.
I figured out a way to go to my wedding anniversary dinner with a transrectal drain.It was makeshift, but I got there.
I still keep a water bottle with me at all times, because the first six months of my recovery I had constant cotton mouth from the painkillers.
I know that humor can get me through a lot (“who wants a tenure track job, when they can have a stomach perforation”), and that fears for the future are not necessary. The worst that could happen has kinda already happened.
I know that I am not alone, and that is the most important thing.