Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Story: Part 5

I may not really get everything there is to get about being a craft blogger. I may not always make cool things that people love, but one thing I get is being real.
About 6 years ago, I had the struggle of my life with a disease that ran my life and it could have ended there, but it didn't, because no other than God spared me. You can think I'm a crazy religious cooky or you can understand that what I went through was tougher than tough and it is ONLY because of Jesus that I can write this in this moment. I cling to that and I have deep deep joy in my life, because of that trial. I just read this from Girl.Inspired, who thankfully is managing her Ulcerative Colitis with awesome healthy foods, and remembered that awhile ago I had written the final "My Story" post, but needed to finish the ending to "publish" it here. I can't tell you how awesome it is to find another craft blogger who struggles with Ulcerative Colitis and I wish her the best in the world at living it with it! 

Recently, I had the opportunity to pray with a sweet friend struggling through Chron's Disease. I was in tears remembering some of the hopelessness that you can feel within the midst of the trial, but I know another side of the story and that is of redemption. Of the many attributes of God, the one I see over and over again in Scripture is that he is a Healer. He takes what is broken and diseased and terrible and brings it into the light and makes it beautiful. He is Mighty and able and willing and loves us so much. I'm sorry that I haven't written this last segment of My Story! I want you to know that I have been deeply encouraged by all of your comments regarding those you know that have struggled with a disease like Ulcerative Colitis. Thank you for sharing and please know that I would love to pray for you or your loved ones however I can!

Here's my story of a battle with a major illness and surgery. The story that made me, me. The part of my life where God became real in a tangible way. Read Part 1, Part 2 , and Part 3  and definitely Part 4 first in this series.
 Yes, that's me up there with a bag on my stomach. It was weird and awkward, but kind of cool all at the same time. Last time, we left off where I had gotten and dealt with the bitterness towards having an ostomy. It was tough, but by God's grace he changed my attitude about myself and my body and my self image. I began to see God's faithfulness in my life. How he had saved me from physical (& spiritual) death and while life was different than I had planned, it was life and I was given another day to bring him glory on this Earth. 
Life went on from that point in a somewhat normal fashion. I had some new things to deal with on a daily basis, but I adjusted and learned how to live normally. I didn't go to college that Spring Semester. I tried taking a shorter 6 week class, but had to withdraw after the first few weeks. It was just too much for me to deal with at that point. 

My surgeon sent my pathology report to the Cleveland Clinic for a 2nd opinion on my original diagnosis Chron's Disease vs. Ulcerative Colitis. We just kept praying that the results would come back as Ulcerative Colitis. 
After my 1st surgery with Hart Age 20... still recovering... looking pretty darn sick here!

As we waited, Hart and I discussed what life might be like for us if I never had the opportunity to qualify for the reconstructive surgery. If the Cleveland Clinic decided that I had Chron's then that meant that my surgeon would refuse to do the Jpouch surgery on me, meaning that I would have my ostomy for the rest of my life. 

While my faith was very weak during this time, I had so many people around me praying for me constantly encouraging me. I would receive piles upon piles of cards from people all over the country telling me that they were praying for me in their Sunday School classes or praying for me, because they heard about my story and how sick I was through so and so. It amazed me to see how wide and vast the body of Christ truly is! That is one reason I have always been so open about sharing personal things through blogs or just in real life. I don't hide very much. You can see if I am upset within seconds and if you can't tell it will come spilling out of my mouth! I understand that being private is important, but at the same time, if you are not open about what you are dealing with, then others cannot help you or pray for you. I saw the power of prayer through this time and it helped to sustain me through Christ. 

FINALLY, we got news back from the doctor! Praise Jesus! The report indicated that I DID indeed only have Ulcerative Colitis and my surgeon would gladly do my reconstructive surgery in a few more months. He wanted to make sure that I was completely healthy and had time to completely recover. 

With this news, I was able to schedule my next surgery in August of 2006. That would mean another semester out of college, but then I could have my final surgery in November and have plenty of time to recover completely, before starting back to school in January of 2007 (finally able to be a sophomore again!)

So that's what happened! For those of you who do not understand what the Jpouch surgery is, my surgeon basically created a reservoir inside my body that would function similar to my colon, but it was made out of my small intestine.
Pretty complicated! I seriously had the BEST surgeon on the planet, too! His name is Dr. Kirk Ludwig and he's a genius as a colorectal surgeon! I'm pretty sure he's at the University of Wisconsin if you need him now.
Hart and I (with ostomy) at a Charity Ball. It was like the prom we never had together, seriously!

My second surgery was harder than the first, because I was completely "normal", so to speak. I was healthy and not in any pain and I feel it's always harder to go into surgery that way, than if you are in serious pain like my first surgery. It can only go up from there, but this 2nd time I had a much harder time all around. My body didn't respond well to my pain medicine and the student anesthesiologist (Duke is a teaching hospital) totally screwed up my epidural, so when I woke up from surgery, I literally FELT EVERYTHING. I thought I was screaming horrific screams, but was so out of it, I wasn't even moaning, if that gives you a vague idea. It really was a nightmare and it took 24 hours to get my pain completely under control. However, I recovered pretty fast after this surgery and only had 3 more months until I had NO OSTOMY!!! I was looking forward to that! 
Really not a clue as to what I am doing... this photo was taken not long with my ostomy, which if you kind of look you can kinda see where the sun is hitting my stomach under my clothes.
During this time I had to focus on eating the right foods to train my digestion to SLOW DOWN. Not having your large intestine means that things can shoot straight through you, so I had to eat foods that would try to slow all that down, so that my body would be able to absorb as much as it could through my intestine and also allow my Jpouch to heal. 
Check out my hair here with my brother... it started falling out with all the surgeries, so I had to get a sassy new SHORT hair cut!
my sassy hair cut!
My final surgery was a quicky compared to the first two. I was only at the hospital a day and a half and that was the weird part, because I could FINALLY go to the bathroom (#2!) like a normal person! The only problem is that you just have to go more frequently, so it can be pretty painful gaining that muscle strength back if you haven't used it in awhile! (Sorry TMI!) And you get something called Butt Burn, which is hilarious. They even have a special cream you have to put on. That was pretty weird, too.

So now there I was, all hooked back up inside, pooping like "normal"  thanks to God giving the knowledge of something so incredible to man through Science. That truly is how I see it. All good things are from God above and this incredible surgery was just one part!

I got to be a normal college student again and soon married the love of my life, the guy that stuck it out through all of that after only dating me for a month!
 At a USC football game with the love of my life in 2007
I seriously had the most amazing friends, too! I wouldn't have been able to survive that year without them! (At a halloween party)
FAST FORWARD SIX YEARS....
 Just home from a hot date with my amazing husband who stuck by me through it all (last Saturday night)

....and I'm living an incredibly blessed life completely UC and med free! I've got a fully functional Jpouch that sustained having one baby with (through c-section so no pressure was thrown onto that whole thing), an amazing husband, I'm a dance teacher to some super sweet kids, I run this crafty blog that who knew would be liked by so many in not even a year and I'm about to start teaching some cool sewing classes and adopt a baby or two and praise Jesus through it all! I hope that in 5 more years I can say something crazy like... Oh yeah, those are my sewing patterns I designed or that's my cool fabric line or whatever. God knows and I know it will be fun!

Thank you so much for sharing in My Story and hearing more from my heart! I've been through a lot in my short 26 years, but I can say through and through that I am blessed by the true living God and pray that through my story, you will come to know Him, too!

I'd love it to hear from you... if you have any questions you want me to answer leave me a comment or email me at Vanessa@DesignsBySessa.com. I promise...no question is too weird, so Ask away.