I Just Want to Be Better

*** Written last night -- April 3rd, 2016 -- the night before today -- SUBTOTAL COLECTOMY DAY!

No positive pants on here tonight.

I started drinking my colon clean-out prep a few hours ago. I carefully selected orange Gatorade to mix the solution with when I was in Target the other day because it's a flavor I haven't yet gotten sick of (after 3 colon clean-outs in the past 6ish months). Anyway, I started drinking it and had just given myself a pat on the back for finishing the third glass when a full-force feeling of nausea came over me. Immediately, I ran to the bathroom and threw most (if not all) of the solution right back up.

I flushed the toilet, peeled myself from the bathroom floor, and cleaned myself up. I dizzily limped back to my sisters bedroom floor where I've set up camp for the weekend and threw myself onto my small mattress. I whispered one word as teardrops made their way down my cheeks..."why?"

I texted my mom almost immediately and told her to come downstairs when she was done eating/cleaning up supper with the rest of my family. A few minutes later, I heard her making her way down the steps and almost instantly those stray tears turned to unrelenting sobs. As she entered the room, my mom asked, "Kenzie, what's wrong?" Before I could even gather my thoughts and form a response, the words came sputtering out of my mouth. I replied, "I just want to be better." 

I am desperate to be better.

I can't stand another uncomfortable conversation about the chronic constipation I deal with or drinking another glass full of water + Miralax. I can't stand one more night of puking my guts out on the bathroom floor and screaming out in pain as my unruly colon attacks itself. I can't stand enemas, suppositories, laxatives, stool softeners, one more sip of magnesium citrate, or any other over-the-counter solution that "should work for me." I cannot stand it. I just want to be better.

And thankfully, I will be. I'm choosing to believe that. To hold onto hope and positivity even though those things feel so far from the truth tonight.

How wonderful it is to have surgery scheduled just 12 hours after I hit my breaking point. How wonderful it is that I have a brilliant surgeon on my side who is more than ready to get me better. How wonderful it is that my close family/friends dropped everything they were doing to pray for me the minute they heard I threw up the solution I'd worked so hard to get down. How wonderful it is that we have a Savior and a Heavenly home awaiting us...one where there will be no tears, no pain, and ABSOLUTELY no colon-clean out solution.

Thank You, Lord, for having Your holy hand in scheduling my subtotal colectomy tomorrow. Thank You, Lord, for knowing my limits and numbering my days before I can predict them myself. Thank You, Lord...because I am so close to having life as I know it tonight be so freaking far away.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Lord...for making me better.


The Progression

It feels like yesterday and it feels like a year ago when I posted a mess of a GI update. I wrote it just to write again and get some information down somewhere. I was journaling a lot, but I needed the chronic community to come alongside me as I waited for test results and began to pursue surgical options.

This blog has grown with me over the past 6 years. It has nurtured honesty and it has taught me the value of telling it like it is. And so, even though the GI issues I've been facing for the past year felt (and inevitably ARE) uncomfortable/embarrassing/what have you, I just felt like this blog needed to continue growing with me. So I wrote. And I posted that writing online...right here on Life According to Kenz.

And I'm thankful I did because things have since progressed fast and furiously. On April 4th, 2016 I will be having a subtotal colectomy. 

A subtotal colectomy consists of removing a majority of the colon (large bowel). Unlike in a total colectomy, my rectum and anus will be left untouched. My small bowel will then be joined to my rectum. This part of the procedure is called ileorectal anastomosis. According to my scopes last Friday which showed minimal inflammation in this area, there is no need for a stoma or ileostomy/colostomy bag at this time! (HUGE praise!)

My blog is going to become a CaringBridge of sorts over the next couple of months (pre-op, op, and post-op), so I want to get logistics down here for those who may not know me well. I am truly trying my hardest to respond to comments, emails, messages, etc. but it is impossible to get to them all in one sitting. Just know that I read every single one and each of them sustains me during the dark moments that inevitably still plaque me from time to time. This is my best (and probably failed) attempt at getting some answers down all in one place. :)

"So, how the heck did you get here?!" Back in September, it was suspected that I was developing early stage Crohn's disease (another autoimmune condition). However, after further investigation and invasive testing, we discovered that majority of my abdominal/GI/bowel symptoms are being caused by something called colonic inertia or severe slow transit constipation. I was officially diagnosed in January.

"What is colonic inertia?" Colonic inertia is a motility disorder. It is also referred to as an abnormal passage of waste throughout the digestive system. My colon (for unknown reasons at this time) is simply working FAR too slowly and refusing to contract on its own. This causes extreme constipation which results in excruciating pain, loss of appetite, and round-the-clock nausea and vomiting.

"You've had constipation issues for awhile...so why are you having surgery now? Is it urgent?" Well, the short answer is no. It's not a matter of life/death. But it is a matter of quality of life/no quality of life. Let me explain. The past year has been awful, but I have accepted most of the symptoms as my reality. That is, until said symptoms started to affect my ability to get out of bed in the morning, go out for dinner with my friends, or get a good nights sleep in my bed...not on the bathroom floor. The reason we started pursuing surgical options is because my ability to function independently is decreasing with each passing day and I have now lost 35 pounds due to my inability to eat/hold things down.

"How long is recovery time? Can you have visitors in the hospital?" Recovery time can be anywhere from 5-14 days in the hospital depending on how the surgery itself goes. There is plenty of room for complications just as there is with any surgery, but the potential pros at this point far outweigh the potential cons. I can certainly have visitors in the hospital (and at home!) and will happily put you in touch with my mom should you want my hospital/room information. After I am discharged from the hospital, there is a 6 week period of no lifting/activity beyond walking and a 4 week period of no driving. I will NOT be bedridden (mark my words)...

"Are you dropping out of school?" ...but I will also be in no state to be manage 15 credits and two on-campus jobs. I have withdrawn from two classes, will be taking an incomplete in one, and plan to finish both an online course and night class pending my professors accommodations. I plan to be back at Bethel in the fall, but will be moving home for the remainder of the semester at the end of this week. And by the way, "dropping out" is a swear word (swear phrase?) in my book. Don't ever say that around me, and definitely not to me. ;) 

"Are you still going to the Dominican Republic over spring break?" I failed to publish a blog post about my excitement to go to the Dominican over spring break with a missions team here at Bethel...but I shared that with many of you in real life. :) However, after meeting with my surgeon and confirming surgery dates, it was decided that the infection risk is far too high for me to be traveling out of the country, returning, and then having a major operation (involving removing an organ). I am heartbroken and hate that it feels as if I am "losing" another bit of independence thanks to the condition of my health, but I know that the rest of my team will have a life-changing experience there.

"How can I support you?" Continue asking questions and please continue sending prayers. I feel them. I also so appreciate the words of encouragement through messages, conversations, and cute little cards. :) Words of affirmation is my love language! The night before I met with the first colorectal surgeon on this journey I kept repeating "I choose peace" under my breath until I fell asleep. I was so afraid of hearing what I didn't want to hear the next day. The night before my scopes last week, I simply thought "I can't wait to spend time with my mom tomorrow!" I felt content. Really. At the end of the day, I am anxious and afraid as any patient would be leading up to a major surgery, but I trust my team of doctors and the support system surrounding me. And you know who else I trust? The God that has brought me this far and continues to promise me healing.

At MedX in September of last year, I met a beautiful woman named Breck. She has a young warrior son named Bennet who has battled Cystic Fibrosis and its complications since birth. She chronicles her family's journey with the disease on her blog. Her writing has such a focus on what you would know, see, feel, etc. if you were in her position. The vulnerability she exudes is contagious and simply being a reader of hers has made me a better empath and advocate.

My only goal these next couple of months is to write and share more honestly than ever before, just as my friend Breck has. As I grew up dealing with constipation issues, I was so terribly embarrassed and ashamed. As those constipation issues turned into much more serious complications such as duodenal ulcers and anal fissures, I felt completely and utterly alone. It is my hope that through sharing my journey (the good, the bad, and the ugly), even one person would realize that they are not isolated in their suffering. That sounds cliche...but I would've given anything to be that one at the start of my chronic health journey.

I will update as I know more, but for now I leave you with words from the incredible Henri Nouwen. In his book "Turn My Mourning Into Dancing" (which I am currently reading) he writes,

"True gratitude embraces all of life: the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, the holy and the not-so-holy. We do this because we become aware of God's life...God's presence...both of which are in the middle of ALL that happens."