"Give me the serenity to accept things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference." - Marc Aurèle
RESILIENCE and SERENITY. I can’t remember how many times I repeated these words to myself the day before my surgery. Even if this step meant for me I could get rid of my malignant tumor, I must confess I was very nervous about having my rectum and a part of my colon removed. The day before my surgery, I fell asleep repeating the quote at the beginning and I still remember how it comforted me.
When I woke up the day after, I surprisingly felt fairly serene. My parents who were accompanying me were much more nervous than me. On the road to the hospital, I stayed silent all the way. I was mentally preparing myself for everything that was coming. My heart began to throb only when we arrived in Quebec city. We were there. I could finally have my surgery. At the hospital, I swapped my clothes for a nice hospital gown and said goodbye to my parents before entering the operating room. I must admit it was an emotional moment with some tears. The unknown can be frightening and it's normal. Nevertheless, all my fears disappeared when I laid down on the table. The nursing staff and my surgeon reassured me and I felt confident... At some points, it’s important to let things go and stay positive because we can’t control anything anyway.
Six hours passed before I arrived in my room where I would be hospitalized for five days. I still can remember how I felt when I woke up. I would be lying to you if I told you it doesn’t hurt at all... Yes there is pain, but it’s fortunately well managed by the medication! The surgery I underwent also involved the installation of a temporary ileostomy to promote healing of the tissues during the preventive chemotherapy treatments I had to undergo after my surgery. So I woke up with a beautiful ostomy bag on my stomach. The first time you see it, it’s a shock because the bag is transparent to allow the nursing staff to see any complications. However, be assured there are opaque models we can use afterwards.
The day after my surgery, a nurse (the one who chose the location of my stoma before my surgery) came to see me and taught me how to take care of my ileostomy. At that time, I had my first meeting with my new life companion. I felt relieved even though I still didn’t realize everything that was happening to me. I had imagined the worst scenarios but I finally found it cute. After all, it allowed me to stay alive. After my first bag changing, the nurse gave me a starter kit which I could bring home with me. The nutritionist also came to visit me. She informed me about the foods I should eat because an ileostomy can sometimes involve a particular diet to reduce the risk of dehydration due to diarrhea. A nurse even made sure I could have a CLSC follow-up at home to help me to get adapted with my new equipment.
The first few days after my surgery, the nurses took care of emptying my bag in a small container but I was able to do it by myself by the end of my hospital stay. I had a lot of pain right after my surgery, so I couldn’t really do it by myself initially but adaptation can be very fast. I was a little reticent about eating meals at the hospital because I was scared about the idea of having an intestinal occlusion. I was really taking my time to chew well and I wasn’t eating too much food but I could allow myself more and more food over time.
After I left the hospital, I stayed with my grandparents who took care of me. I strongly advise you to be accompanied after your surgery because you won’t have a lot of energy and you will need some help to accomplish your daily tasks. Don’t stay alone.
My surgery was a decisive step in my fight against colorectal cancer. I had to be confident and let things go. Sometimes, we have no control over our situation but we can choose to be courageous and face it. We call it resilience.
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