Today marks the six-month anniversary of my total gastrectomy, and I have to say I have no regrets whatsoever. My quality of life has improved so much–there’s no vomiting, no gastric tubes to be infected and sore, no constant nausea (just when I eat), a greater variety of foods to nibble on (and let my husband finish), and more energy than I’ve had since the illness started. Thank the Lord, for He is gracious and merciful!
It’s interesting now–for years I was waiting for “normal”: a break from the semi-permanent state of non-urgent health issues cropping up every time I turn around. I had given up on ever finding “normal” again. It just seemed like one problem after another after another after another, keeping me in a fixed state of uncertainty and upheaval. If I wasn’t vomiting, I was sleeping; if I wasn’t sleeping, I was nauseous; if I wasn’t nursing the bitterness over my health, I was cursing the roller coaster ride of depression, anxiety, worthlessness, and hopelessness; and if I wasn’t caught up in all of that, I was hating myself for having to be on disability.
Now, I no longer feel worthless, hopeless, or bitter. I can enjoy the holidays feasts even though my portions are extremely limited. I still hate being on disability, but I don’t hate myself for it. It took two years of intense therapy to reach that point, but I can distinguish between my identity and my disability. As I so frequently say–often just to remind myself–I am NOT a chronically ill person; I am a person who happens to have multiple chronic health problems. I am not defined by them; they are a part of the all-of-me that I am.
And I like who God is making me, who I am becoming through Him. I am no longer shy at all–in fact I’m usually the one to break the uncomfortable silence of a packed elevator. I take responsibility for my actions, my attitudes, my mistakes, and my sins. I love easily, deeply, and fiercely. I have peace. God has given me a husband who is exactly the man I need and want to be my best friend, care partner, business co-owner, and lover.
So what does this have to do with my stomach being removed?
Well, a lot. Without the constant health issues, I have time to reflect on the blessings in my life. I can take time to bask in the wonderfulness of being freed from emotional, spiritual, and physical restraints. I have time to read the Scriptures. I take time to pray, often for long periods of time. I have time to lie in bed with my husband in the morning, to wake up gradually as my medications kick in, all while nestled up against my beloved. I take time to write on my blog when ideas strike me. I have time to be discipled by an amazing Christian woman. I have time to get together with my sister on her day off.
The difference between now and six months and one day ago is that I now have one thing I lacked for so long: time.
I am no longer consumed by my health issues. Yes, I still have to do more than most people in order to stay on top of things. I still have to prep my TPN every night. I still need eleven hours of sleep instead of seven or eight. I still need to have sleep-in days every few weeks. I still need to take medication on a rigid schedule in order to stay awake and alert. I still need IV nausea meds after I eat. I still have to do dressing changes and reaccess my port-a-cath (with a .9mm diameter needle) every week. I still need to keep certain things sterile. I still have the constant threat of line sepsis and painful procedures that accompany it.
But that is such a small price for the gift of time.