Should We ‘Celebrate’ our Medical Anniversaries?

anniversary / noun – the date on which an event took place in a previous year.

Today marks the fourth anniversary since my first IBD surgery.

Part of me feels really nostalgic for that surgery – it was my first, I had no idea what it would feel like or how it would go – but I also feel jaded, I had alot of faith – even if it was youthful and misguided – that my resection would be the end of my problems. It was sadly just the beginning.

I’ve had two more major surgeries since that first one and I knew more of what to expect. I would never be able to unsee or un-experience the things I encountered after my first surgery, but those two definitely made me more aware.

Celebrating that first year after surgery was such a medal of honour but at what price?

  • I never recovered from that surgery and ended up having four admissions in three months, leading to loosing my colon and having my ileostomy formed.
  • I struggled hard with anxiety and pain during those months leading up to ostomy surgery. I never thought I would loose my colon but I knew I was very unwell. No one could figure it out. I shouldn’t have been getting sicker after surgery, it was all ‘too soon’. In the end, too soon didn’t matter.
  • While I accepted my stoma very easily and quickly – it made such a difference to pooping blood, the abdominal pain, anaemia and being on TPN – it took me a longer time to accept this was now my normal. I still have days when I struggle with this ‘acceptance’.

Yes, celebrating my big victories over my disease makes me proud, so very proud. But each year it gets hard to celebrate them. This first surgery’s anniversary I see now as the ‘decent into The Summer of Hell‘ I amusingly nicknamed the time between May through to August 2016. But I’ve had equally hellish times since and prior to that – why did this one matter?

Because I thought that surgery would be it.

I am no longer scared of going in for surgery but it always fills me with dread and anxiety; probably very normal and acceptable emotions. My Proctectomy last March was a very planned and smoothly done operation but it came with healing issues; a common thing for perianal wounds. I guess it’s unrealistic to think that it will always all go according to plan and without complications.

What my medical anniversaries highlight is just how resilent I am to adapting.
Of how I can roll with the punches, the toing and froing of IBD as a disease.

So today I celebrate a couple facts that have come from sitting with this uncomfortable guilt of wanting to praise myself for getting through something:

  • I managed five years from diagnosis, without needing surgery.
  • I’ve since been medication free for two periods of time.
  • I’ve learnt how communicating with your surgeon is not only important but is essential.
  • I’ve spoken more and more about how I trust my feelings when it comes to my health. That has been my saving grace in many situations since 2016.
  • I sit and feel a small wave of joy for the woman who woke up from that surgery, someone who would have panic attacks about being put to sleep beforehand.

It’s not about the act of surgery but the lessons I’ve come through having gone through being cut open to be ‘fixed’.

Further Reading:

Do you have any questions or queries? Or just want to share your own experiences?

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If you enjoyed this post check out Coming Off The Radar , Pause and It’s the Small Things that Have the Biggest Impact

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