So those of you who have read my blog know that I had an ileostomy in August 2018 as a result of my ongoing struggle with Crohn’s disease. You also know that I have a strong interest in physical fitness which sometimes results in me actually working out. In my youth (July 2018) my focus had been mostly on building muscle with an increasing amount of cardio thrown in due to a heart attack brought on by a severe Crohn’s attack. With the ileostomy, my focus shifted again.
From day one of the ileostomy I knew that it was reversable and that another surgery would one day be in my future. So, my fitness efforts changed somewhat again and I put much more effort into my workouts. So along with my walking, tap dancing once a week, twice a week lifting with my brother-in-law (aka “the animal”) I added a couple drop-in classes at the College I work at (Owens Community College – your success starts here) and also engaged the services of a personal trainer once a week. I wanted to be as strong and healthy as possible before going back “under the knife.” Well, today is the day that I go into surgery so here’s a quick update on where I stand.
The good news: I’m clearly stronger. I can bench more weight and reps than prior to my hospitalization in August 2018. My stamina has increased and I have more muscle. Body measurements indicate that my proportions are changing. I get positive comments on my triceps on a regular basis and even though my arms haven’t actually grown I think they look better.
I also think my entire torso looks better. My waist hasn’t really shrunk, but since my chest is larger, by an inch, and a tighter waist a “V” shape is starting to form. All positive changes.
The bad news: my electronic scale and fat folds both say that my bodyfat % is the same as it was in August though the skin folds seem to indicate that the fat has moved around. My personal trainer is baffled as he agrees that I look better and am clearly stronger, too. Do I trust the mirror instead of calipers and scales? Not sure.
My recent trip to the hospital (see previous blog post) revealed that one of my heart medications may have been breaking down my muscle instead of helping me as it should have. If this is the case it might explain why my muscles didn’t grow more from my regular workouts (age is a factor as well, I’m sure, sigh).
The conclusion: I’ll be healthier with my colon reconnected. The colon is where most of the water is absorbed by the body and my challenge to stay hydrated over these past several months may be taking a toll on my kidneys. As my GI says, it will be easier for me to stay healthy with everything reconnected. The hard work of doing so still remains with me.
In any event I’ll have six weeks of recovery after the surgery. Six weeks without lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk. I’ll be able to walk, but probably not run or dance until after six weeks as well.
Six weeks to plan my return to the gym, get my diet fine tuned and keep cultivating other healthy habits. My ileostomy reversal is an end of sorts, and a welcome one, but the beginning of my next chapter.
If all goes well my life as an ostomate comes to an end on Tuesday, April 9th when my ileostomy is reversed and my colon starts to be used again as God intended.
I would be lying if I said that life as an ostomate was easy. There were many challenges, the most difficult and dangerous one being dehydration. In fact, I ended up in the emergency room and a several day stay in the hospital about two weeks ago because of the norovirus and the fact that I didn’t realize I was having diarrhea until it was almost too late.
I had noticed during the day that my output was hiring than usual and that I was thirstier than normal. Because I happened to be at a church conference I more or less ignored this and kept attending to the business at hand. I was drinking, but I didn’t take any additional loperamide HCI (aka Imodium) or other medications that might have slowed down the fluid loss. By the early evening I was starting to feel a little unwell. So, I had some applesauce and rice krispies. I ate a banana, I took the loperamide and drank more water. But it was too late. Chills set in and then came the cramps.
It started with a leg cramp and I thought I had been sitting in the chair funny. So I tried to walk it off. Then the other leg cramped up, then my abdomen – I realized something was horribly wrong and thought I might actually be having another heart attack. So I went to the nearest phone by my bedside and reached for it as I collapsed into my bed thinking “Oh God, this is it.”
I woke up next to my bed, phone in my hand and buzzing at me, items from my nightstand scattered on the floor around me. I was so out of it I didn’t realize that I had actually passed out. I managed to call my sister, who was just getting home from helping my mother – who had also fallen ill (we surmised later that we both caught the norovirus from the same source).
We got to the emergency department of the University of Michigan Medical Center quickly. In hindsight we probably should have called an ambulance as the cramps hit again and I passed out not twenty feet from the entrance.
Pro-tip: want to pass by the waiting room at the Emergency Department? Pass out in their parking lot. I was whisked in pretty quickly. After receiving the excellent care that I am used to from Michigan Medicine I was re-hydrated and my cramps stopped. No cardiac event, but my kidneys had shut down from the stress – that’s how badly I was dehydrated.
Moral of the story?
Ostomates – always pay attention to your fluid intake and output. This can literally be a matter of life and death.
Everyone else – for pity’s sake wash you hands after using the restroom. Norovirus is easily spread in the most minute traces of fecal material. This spread is easily preventable by properly wetting your hands, sudsing with soap for an appropriate amount of time (try singing “Happy Birthday” to yourself a couple times) and drying. When you skip this step you may think you are somehow avoiding germs by not touching things in the bathroom, but you are making the rest of us sick when we shake your hand or come in contact with you later. Especially those of us with lowered resistance due to a compromised immune system. Like all of us with Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, and who knows how many other invisible diseases and the medications we are on.
Please, please, wash your hands. The life you save might be mine!
I’ve learned a lot during my time as an ostomate and I have a greater appreciation and respect for those who cannot have theirs reversed. I hope in some small way I’ve helped you to better understand this experience as well.
Okay, the KonMari method did not literally save my life but it did, and is, helping by changing how I look at “stuff” and I’m in a better place emotionally and, believe it or not, spiritually because of it.
For those who are not yet aware, Marie Kondo is a proponent of what she calls the KonMari Method (named after herself) and what she calls the art of decluttering and organizing. She has written four books with the first being published in 2014, named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2015 (according to her Wikipedia entry), has her own “reality” television show on Netflix (I loved it), and has become something of a world-wide celebrity as well as the face of a growing movement to simplify, declutter, and embrace pleasure from your possessions.
I first picked up her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a couple years ago. I read it and then added it to my ever increasing stack of books with hints and ideas on how to clean. At the time, I thought it was interesting but I didn’t really embrace what she was saying. However, one word of advice did stick and slowly I started to make decisions about what to keep in my house and what to through out on the “joy” standard. In other words, I asked myself when debating to keep something “does this thing bring me joy?” For that’s the key principle of the KonMari method. If you don’t like something, why in the world do you want to keep it in your life?
The other concept, which I found revolutionary, is not to tidy up by room but make your clean sweep by category. She uses clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous utilitarian items, which she calls “komono,” and memorabilia. I recommend going to her website or better yet buying her books for more details.
Now understand, that I’m something of a pack-rat by nature (as many of us are) and I come from a long line of pack-rats. Not quite a hoarder by nature (which is what I tell myself so I can sleep at night), but certainly a “oh, I can’t throw that out I might need it SOMEDAY” person. In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons that clutter accumulates is SOMEDAY.
Then things in my life health-wise went sideways, backwards, and upside-down (see previous blog posts if you’d like the details) so I lost track of trying to declutter and paying attention to my belongings. I was not open to change and if anything, I was actively fighting it. Emotionally I was in a, if not dark, dim place. Each day seemed to be a challenge to get through instead of a miracle to be amazed at.
Not that other people didn’t try to help me along. One in particular, a wonderful visiting nurse, along with a friend went so far as to prune and rearrange my dying house plants while giving me an infusion! She suggested ways I could use my space – a new area rug, hang up the dozen or so pictures that I had sitting around on the floor, etc. – and by the time she left I could see clutter strewn floor again and even walk through the room without tripping.
But still, I resisted change.
Then one day, a local furniture store was having a sale on La-Z-boy furniture and in my living room I had a recliner, not a La-Z-boy by the way, that refused to recline several years ago and that thought kept coming back to me “if it doesn’t bring you joy, why are you keeping it?” So, off to the sale I went and before you know it I was coming home with not one, but two recliners. One to replace the broken one and another to replace the worn out couch I had purchased more than a decade ago from my late grandmother’s estate. In a matter of days the couch and chair were gone, the new recliners were in place and I had something in my living room that I hadn’t had in a long time. SPACE.
But still, I resisted change.
Until this past holiday season when my sister and my niece volunteered to help me clean house. Youy see I was in the habit of hosting a small New Year’s Eve party each year and with that came an annual “purging” of papers, clothing and other stuff that filled my house. For various reasons, I hadn’t been hosting the event in a couple years and frankly, my annual “purges” weren’t as effective. But, by bringing in two pairs of fresh eyes (which were opened wide in awe and horror at the mounds of clutter) I knew I was on a path that would lead to me being found one day under a pile of comic books. Crushed to death by the very super-heroes I idolized and aspired to be like.
We shredded I don’t know how many old and worthless documents, swept and scrubbed, recycled broken electronics, moved furniture, bought new shelves and hung up the pictures and the posters. A very good weight bench that has sat unused for years was moved out to the home gym that I and my brother-in-law actually workout in. It’s been used more in the past two weeks than it has been in the last eight years!
The result? After years of neglect I actually have usable space and room to move and breathe. The pieces of furniture I have now have use beyond expensive clothing racks and I can see what I own.
There’s still more to do. Furniture inherited or given to me by relatives now long gone is also going away to be replaced by items that reflect my style. I still have papers to shred and on average about three bags of junk each week for the past month has gone to the dump, even more has gone to Goodwill and other charities.
My biggest challenge still lies ahead of me. I’m a bit of a bibliophile and the number one item in my house taking up space is the printed word. I have more books than just about anyone I know. Shelved, stacked, and piled on every flat surface. Books that I won’t read again. But, books that at one time or another brought me some joy. So, I’ve decided that I will donate or give away as many as I can so that others can also get joy from them. Sell the few that have monetary value, and then keep only those that I re-read on a regular basis or have true sentimental value (signed copies, gifts). If I can get it at the library I don’t need it on my shelves. If I know whodunnit, I’m not likely to read it again. Will I get down to the 30 books that Marie Kondo recommends? Doubtful. But I bet I can cut the number of books I have in half.
So, how did Marie and the KonMari method save my life? Simple. I find that without all the clutter around me every day that I spend more time enjoying the space in my house, the big windows, the floor with plenty of room to exercise and do yoga in. My mood has improved and I’m open again to the possibilities of things instead of always focusing on the clutter and how I need to clean it up, things are going back in their place and I don’t have to think of them at all.
So Marie didn’t really save my life, but she did play a part in my reclaiming my life and, yes, my joy. For that, I’m thankful.
Last year on Thanksgiving I hit my head while playing kick ball with my cousins (yeah, we’re not exactly the Kennedys). This led to me having an EKG and the discovery that sometime in the past that I had a heart attack, which led to changing my Crohn’s medication for fear it was effecting my heart function, which led to a bowel perforation and my current ostomy.
So what am I thankful this year? Just being alive and able to celebrate another Thanksgiving with loved ones! Which may be as much as any of us should be thankful for.
So, in my constant quest for greater fitness I thought it might be fun to engage a couple friends in a challenge to see who could lose the most body fat in the next few months (by the start of spring). I decided that I should switch out my trusty Tanita scale that I’ve been using for some years with a Taylor scale that I’ve also been using on and off (to paraphrase that old saying: a man with one scale knows how much he weighs, a man with two is never sure). The reason being because though both scales measure body fat percentage – and are pretty close in their measurement – the Taylor scale has a few more
features including a calculation of hydration and muscle mass, all of which are uploadable into an app for easy tracking. For the challenge we have decided to use waist/hip ratio as our measurement tool, but I thought I’d follow my progress on the scales, too. Since I do weigh myself everyday anyway.
The “new” scale works nicely and as I said the body fat percentage corroborates with the other scale. But, today I took note of the other measurements. Fat mass was where I expected at about 25% (needs to be under 20), body water at 59% – a little dehydrated which isn’t surprising since my colon isn’t there absorbing water anymore since my ileostomy – and my muscle mass was at just over 30%. Now, you’ll notice that these percentages added together total more than 100%. I haven’t found it in the documentation yet, but I suspect that the body water figure is independent of the other two and is calculated off the remaining body mass (organs and skeleton). So, based on these readings my body is a little over half fat and muscle. So far so good right?
Well, I then wondered how my muscle mass compared with the average guy – you know, because we guys are all about measurements and comparisons with other men (to prove we’re better). Since I’ve been working out I’ve always assumed that I had more muscle
mass than most men. I know that my arms are larger, even now in their “depleted” state (a little over 15″ in circumference compared to the average untrained American male who is around 11″) they do flex and do not jiggle when I move them. I once benched 350 pounds and still am capable (I think) of a one time max of more than my bodyweight. Good for anyone, great for a man of my “advanced” years. Plus, you know, I have done squats in the past, too keeping my lower body pretty fit – even with too much fat around the hips (you should see the definition in my “marching band” calves).
So off to Google I go and search for “how much muscle does the average man have” and imagine my surprise to find out that according to my scale I not only have less muscle than the average man (about 60 pounds compared to livestrong.com’s average of 72 pounds). I thought, “okay, but surely my percentage is higher.” Nope…
Not only am I low for the average man, I’m low for a man my age and older! How is this possible? I was only in the hospital for a week and recovery for six weeks. Can muscle mass be lost that quickly?
Now, I did come out of the hospital 20 pounds lighter than I went in. This would equate to a loss of about 2 pounds a day for my 10 day stay, but most of the weight loss was early. I never figured out why it was so much, as I doubt that a meter of intestine (the full length of my ileum) weighs that much since it’s essentially a hollow tube of muscle and skin. Maybe it was because of all the stuff that was leaking into my abdomen was no longer there, a lot probably water weight, and maybe an incidental “liposuction” when they cut through the fat and muscle to get to my innards. I just didn’t know. However, I felt that when I cam out that my chest and shoulders had disappeared on me. Could I
really have lost that much muscle that quickly? Or is my scale wrong. Did one operation undo 30 years of weightlifting and bodybuilding?
I think it will be interesting to see what happens over the course of the next few weeks and months as I continue into my workout routine. I will admit that I wasn’t doing a lot prior to the operation but I was lifting twice a week and getting in some cardio. Plus, there was the cardio rehab I had just finished earlier in the late spring. Muscle memory is a wonderful thing, but we all know that as we get older we don’t bounce back as quickly as we did before.
In fact, most studies indicate that as we age we lose a significant amount of muscle with some, if I recall correctly, suggesting men lose as much as 10% of their muscle mass for each decade after 40 (or earlier). Most studies also suggest that this loss is as much due to inactivity as anything as we tend to move less as we get older and that working out becomes less of a priority when family and career get involved (thus the rise of the so-called “Dad Bod” someone with some muscle on them but it’s covered in a layer of fat).
However, there are also studies that suggest that this muscle loss can be slowed if not completely reversed. That, contrary to popular belief, even people in their eighties and nineties can gain muscle. Maybe not as fast as in our youth, but gains can be made. In fact, I feel that I was at my strongest in my mid to late forties. Not necessarily my fittest, just my strongest.
Which bring ups an interesting tangent. I had a conversation recently with a young man who I’ve befriended at work. He’s a bodybuilder (though I don’t think he would consider himself one since he lifts primarily for “fun,” but I’ve seen his before pictures and he’s clearly a bodybuilder) and he asked me an interesting question: “do you know how men keep getting stronger as they get older?” I replied that I had noticed the same thing myself, stating that many bodybuilders seem to hit their prime in their thirties and how I felt I gained strength well into my forties. But he then said, “no, do you know HOW men keep getting stronger?” and I indicated that I wasn’t sure, perhaps the body doesn’t actually fully mature until a man is in his twenties or later.
Now, I think I can answer that question a little better. Men who keep getting stronger as they age also don’t give up. They stay focused on being a little better each day, at lifting a little more, running a litter farther.
Basically, men get stronger as they age because they think they can.
So, the other day I was in a bit of a funk. Unusual for me as I’m normally pretty chipper these days (ha – I make myself giggle), but like everyone else I can get a good case of the “woe is me” and “life stinks” going on. This particular case was about the usual these days: “why can’t I lift this (insert heavy object name here)? I could last year. Easily!” or “can’t I bench more than that?” or “why does it hurt when I bend?” or my perennial favorite, “how come my shirt sleeves seem to have so much room in them?” (sleeve gapitis – it’s a real thing, Google it. Seriously.) All in all, I had a serious lack of motivation and started looking back to the “good old days” through pictures and social media posts.
What I found depressed me further. Here’s me goofing off after trying to climb one of Colorado’s 14,000 footers:
Here I am running a 5K:
Here I am looking possibly as buff as I ever have:
Here I am about to go surfing for gosh sake:
And the coup de grâce, here’s the weight I was benching just a year ago. 255 for reps and sets:
All the makings of a good sob fest and longing for the glory years. Are they gone? Am I a has been? Has age finally caught up with me? Questions I’m sure most of us have asked ourselves and if you haven’t, you will.
But, you know what? I decided instead of wallowing in self-pity that I was going to use these images to motivate me.
My lungs and legs are still good. I can climb mountains. Maybe not summit, but I didn’t do that before anyway. I was climbing in Idaho just this past summer (well after my heart rehab).
I can still run a 5K and did just this past July. I bet I can beat my time next year!
I’m increasing weight in my bench each week. I can keep going and bench even more than I did a year ago!
And as far as looking buff – well, modesty prevents me from saying so judge for yourself:
Surfing? Sorry, that was a one and done! Fun, but there are sharks out in the ocean.
Those of you who follow me on other social media (yeah, both of you) may have noticed that I usually tag any remotely fitness related post first with #oldguyslifttoo. Though it clearly hasn’t caught on I’m trying to make a point with that hashtag.
It doesn’t take much observation to realize that in our culture and society fitness and athletic activities are the province of the young. In mo and t pro sports you’re finished before 40. A quick look through Instagram and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of posts, pictures, selfies, swolfies, and not so random flexing poses of young men (and a few women) in front of bathroom mirrors. Each who seems fully dedicated to their particular workout, diet and intent on spreading their knowledge and enthusiasm to the world. Or at least get a date. Maybe both, I’m not sure, and I’m not criticizing this in the least. If it motivates anyone towards physical fitness I’m for it. Heck, if I had the abs and biceps of some of these guys I’d be right there in front of my mirror with my phone snapping a picture too.
But, you don’t see so much from older people. Go to a gym, again filled with folks under 40. Now I’m sure that there are a lot of reasons for this. The usual being other priorities. Career, family, etc. But, these reasons don’t explain all the middle-age men and women out there who have just stopped moving. The kids are out of the house, but instead of using the time gained from no longer running mom’s transit service they have doubled down on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and the like. Then complain that they hurt all the time or don’t have energy.
It’s time to change this folks. The benefits of daily exercise are well documented. Both men and women at any age can increase strength and improve quality of life with a moderate program of walking and weightlifting. Barring an underlying medical condition (and hey, I’m pooping into a plastic bag as I type this so I know about underlying conditions) you can stall father time. You may never have 20 inch arms or buns of steel again but you can keep your bones strong and muscles firm well into old age.
Which, for all you teens out there, doesn’t start at 30.
So, I’m proud to be an old guy who lifts, too. I hope you’ll join me.
And whoknows, maybe senior citizen swolfies will catch on too!
So as some of you may know, if you read my other blogs such as Talking to Strangers, that for some time now I’ve been working on breaking through my introverted nature and have tried to talk to someone new each day. Usually a simple smile and a quick hello, but many times actual conversations. Over the years I’ve met a lot of interesting people this way and discussed many things. Because of my interest in fitness more than a fair share of these conversations involved working out, nutrition, and the like. I’ve talked about working out with several people who are experts in their chosen sport and/or activity: triathletes, marathon runners, bodybuilders, surfers, Division I football players (okay, one), Division I softball players (helps when your niece is one), casual lifters,
mountain climbers, rock climbers, and a rugby player (who, by the way, was nothing like the stereotypical Rugby guy. He was friendly, personable – and I later learned through social media has a great sense of humor – and was not only well muscled but well proportioned. More like a physique model or competitor, not the burly “Bluto” type usually associated with the sport). Most of these people, started exercising because they participated in a sport in high school or wanted to prove something to themselves – the latter being especially true of the marathoners and triathletes.
But, there is a subset who work out – and by working out I mean lift weights – for a wide variety of reasons. Because of my own interest in weight lifting I want to focus on these men. Why the men? Well, one reason is that despite my reaction when seeing a mouse scurry across the room I am a man. The second is that from my experience very few women lift weights. Which is a shame because the benefits of lifting weights is well
documented for both men and women. As high school or college athletes, many women have lifted, but for some reason later in life they stop (as do most men I suppose). Some are afraid of looking like Schwarzenegger I suppose, which isn’t going to happen without chemical assistance and even if it does wide shoulders are making a comeback in women’s wear. Or, just as likely, their focus shifts to losing weight and running becomes the activity of choice.
So, why do guys start lifting and/or keep lifting long after their high school football days? My conversations reveal many reasons:
He started lifting for a sport and discovered that he liked it more than the sport he was originally training for.
He wanted to gain weight to avoid being bullied and/or intimidated by other guys.
He wanted to be bigger and stronger than his older brother (a surprising number of men fall into this group).
He started lifting with his older brother, father or another male member of the family and got hooked on both the weightlifting and camaraderie.
His younger brother started lifting and he didn’t want him to get bigger and stronger than he was.
He wanted to just better when he took his shirt off and have a reason to flex.
He saw a muscular man as a kid and was impressed enough to want to look like that when he grew up (either in person or in a comic book or on television, etc.)
He was a big kid and found that he liked getting bigger and staying stronger than his peers.
You’ll notice that among all the above reasons the classic, “to get the girl” doesn’t make the list. I don’t think I’ve talked to anyone who started lifting to attract girls! Impress other guys, you bet, but not women. It seems to me that to most men that attracting the attention of the ladies is a side benefit of looking better – if that’s his goal to start with.
Personally, I fall mostly into group 7, fell a bit into number 4 when my dad bought a weight set, and now just have gotten hooked on being stronger, bigger, and the “pump.” Obviously, though I’ve had superficial desire and have gotten stronger over the years (until my surgery this summer) I haven’t had the discipline to achieve the look of a bodybuilder. Darn diet and flat bicep peak!
By the way, and if you spend anytime on social media I think you’ll agree with me on this, there seems to be a whole new group who workout just to show off to strangers (a subset of group 6). Guys who don’t participate in sports but can’t wait to flex in front of a camera to try and gain followers on Instagram. Many seem to fancy themselves models, some are just trying to build their personal training business, but others just seem to like it when people like their photos and follow them. I’m guilty of following quite a few of these guys myself because of my habit of following back anyone who follows me. In fact, one of my favorite activities on Instagram is to use new hashtags just to see who starts to
follow me. Use hashtags like #bodybuilding #weightlifting #exercise and you’ll get a dozen new likes and several more followers. Some are trying to sell their personal training packages, but most just seem to want followers. I know that some are hoping to get rich by monetizing their Instagram account and have discovered that flexing their biceps gets them followers and likes, but I can’t believe it’s true of every guy whose posed in front of his bathroom mirror.
To be fair, I might be a little harsh – if not hypocritical – on my description of this group. After all, there’s a certain amount of vanity and narcissism in participating on social media to begin with isn’t there? I mean does anyone really care what we had for dinner or how often we workout? But I think I’m right even if it’s a fine line between the guy who is genuinely tracking his progress and motivating himself and others versus the guy trolling for “likes” and fans. The former usually has before pictures and candid shots doing other things. The latter is never seen without the proper lighting and would never admit that he was once the proverbial 98 pound weakling (maybe he never was?). But, as so often I do, I digress.
Anyway, these are my observations. Am I right about these categories or way off base? Why do you workout? I’d love to hear from folks (at least those of you who read through the whole thing).
Warning: this blog entry contains very frank content regarding bodily waste. It may not be appropriate for all audiences. Plus, you may learn more about me than you really want to know. But, if you’ve been reading my blog we both know that ship sailed a long time ago.
You should understand that I had last changed my appliance on Saturday morning. I should change it every 3 to 4 days in the perfect world, so I had planned to change it in the evening before retiring for the night as by my count that would have been 4 full days. It’s also best to change the appliance (aka “the bag) when the stoma is less active. Which is usually in the morning or two or three hours after I last ate. In general though, I was feeling a little cocky as this had been the longest I had gone without incident in the past 4 weeks. I thought that I had gotten the hang of it and there would be nothing but smooth sailing from here on out. Riiiight.
I got through most of the workday without a problem. Then about an hour after lunch – when I knew my stoma would be active again (by the way, some people name their stomas – and possibly other body parts but that’s none of my business – I haven’t. My fingers don’t have names nor my toes, why should the stoma be any different?). I felt the the bag fill up. I went to the restroom – conveniently located across the hallway from my office – to empty it and discovered that I had a small leak from the left side of the ring. The good news was that the dressing from my wound had absorbed most of it so my clothing was still dry including my underwear. I didn’t bring my emergency kit (extra bag, seals, etc) into the restroom so I cleaned up and went back to the office, shut the door, took out an extra seal from my kit and patched the leak. Problem solved! I could make it through the rest of the day – darn, I’m good. But, I determined to change the bag as soon as I got home.
I went the rest of the workday without a problem, as expected – yay, me again – and on the way home I remembered that I needed to stop at Costco to get my new membership card (I had signed up last week during a promotion at work). My patch was holding so I exited the expressway and went to the store.
Got my card with no problem, except the wait – not sure what the issue was but there were about five associates and one supervisor crowded around a cash register trying to help one customer while the line grew longer. Not Costco’s best “customer service” moment, but having spent time in retail I understood and waited patiently. Unlike the woman in front of me who left and the man behind me tapping his toe. But, I digress. I felt that my bag was getting a little full so after I got my card I went to the restroom to empty it before I looked around the store. I noticed the $1.50 hot dog combo and thought that I might have found my dinner.
In the restroom, much like anyone else would do, I sat down to do my business. For those who haven’t dealt with an appliance before, I found that it’s easier to empty from the sitting position. When standing it splashes too much and there’s a greater chance of mishap – or so I thought. This does involve dropping “trou” as they say and I’m sure most of you are familiar where the clothing ends up in front of you and the bowl. I removed the velcro fastners which keep the opening of the bag closed and flipped the opening towards the bowl. Instead, I release too soon and miss completely! The the contents, mostly liquid, spill onto the floor, into my pants and my underwear. PANIC ensues!
I wad as much of the flimsy toilet paper as I can and blot up the mess from the floor, my pants and underwear. I got the floor pretty clean, for a public restroom at least and I was confident the next person wouldn’t notice the spill or end up with any residue on their clothing. My pants and underwear, not so much. I felt that I had no choice at this point. I wasn’t about to go to the sink half naked to rinse off the remaining waste and I couldn’t sit there all day waiting for my clothes to dry. So, I pulled up my clothing, fortunately the contents all spilled inside and I didn’t see any obvious stains on the exterior of my clothes, winced at the wetness, untucked my shirt to cover as much of my pants as possible, and exited the stall. I washed my hands while checking myself in the mirror to see if I had covered up any spots that might start to show. On the way out I grabbed a handful of napkins from the snack counter (hey, I’m a member now) and passed up the quarter pound hot dog with drink for $1.50 (sigh) and headed straight to my car. “Have a nice day!” the cheerful attendant (guard?) at the door called after me. Too late ma’am, too late.
At my car I put down the napkins on my seat to hopefully absorb any liquid that might soak through and drove home sitting in my own filfth (if you have a better way to describe it, feel free). Lovely…
Once at home I was pleased to find that the napkins I was sitting on were still dry and that the stain guard of my new pants, pleated to better hide the appliance, must work both ways as they seemed to contain the remaining moisture pretty well. Changed my clothes and checked my appliance. My patch from earlier in the day was still holding so I thought I might as well go visit my mother and like a good son take some laundry with me (I didn’t want the stain to set into the afore-mentioned new pants). For those who don’t know, unlike many adults living on their own I don’t own a washer and dryer. Hey, I have to have some social life right? And what’s more fun than a trip to the laundromat on a Saturday night? But I digress.
My mother was gracious enough to allow me the use of her washer and dryer while I helped her with the crossword and we watched a little television together (Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and NCIS for those interested). When NCIS was over I folded my clothes, noticed that my bag was once again filling up so I emptied it, and then headed home to change the appliance. Life was good and everything seemed fine.
I got home, took my laundry in and started to put it away when I felt a wetness in my pants. A wetness that started to flow down my leg – down both legs! Dagnabit, I exclaimed, I sprung another leak. I once again “dropped trou” only to discover that I had not sprung a leak. I had neglected to re-attach the velcro straps after the last time I emptied the bag. My now active stoma was dumping itself straight through the bag and down my leg. At this point I did what any self-respecting ostomate would do in this situation. I uttered a few more well chosen exclamations (shoot, crud, and golly-gee if I recall correctly) and cried.
In that moment I just wanted to be normal again, I was tired of having this thing attached to me (after only 6 weeks), I hated that I was having more problems and accidents in one day than I think I ever had in 30 years of suffering with Crohn’s. I felt like a freak who couldn’t take care of himself and I just wanted it to go away.
Then, like a big boy, I stood up. Realized that the pity party wasn’t going to do any good. Also realized that two of the three incidents I just had were my own fault for being careless. Took myself and my jeans to the shower and cleaned up. I also thought of that saying, “people say to me ‘I don’t know how you do it’ and I reply, ‘I wasn’t given a choice.'”
Then I changed my bag, watched some reruns on television (American Dad followed by Hogan’s Heroes) and went to bed, warm and dry.
As Miss O’Hara would say – tomorrow is another day.
As I sit here eating my lunch – because my appetite is still quite strong – I was thinking about a few things regarding my surgery and recovery. Thought I’d take a few minutes to share them because, why not?
Healing: the healing process is frustrating slow. Not regarding the stoma, that seems fine, but the darn incision. Most of the incision is healed and scarred (lovely) but a couple spots just don’t seem to want to close and keep oozing. Not blood, but exactly what you think of when you hear or read the word “ooze.” So, I’m changing dressing twice a day to keep up with the flow and trying not to get too grossed out when I do. Yesterday at the doctor’s office he essentially cauterized a couple areas of what he called “granulation.” When talking about skin healing, granulation is the process where new tissue is created to fill in the gaps of the wound. It starts from the base up, so for a deep wound it takes some time. However, in my case, I had a couple areas that overgrew and formed small lumps on the scar. These may have been infected so the cure was to remove them chemically and one by “snipping” it off. The Good News: If all goes well, my oozing should stop in about a week or at least dramatically slow. I’m looking forward to not changing dressing.
Output: I can’t seem to get the hang of regulating the output of my stoma. Everytime I think things are settling down – so I don’t have to empty out every hour – I backslide. I’ve discovered that lemonade is a problem so I have to avoid that. I’m taking imodium like it’s candy (up to four pills, four times a day), and have eaten enough toast, applesauce, bananas, and rice krispies to bind up an elephant! But, I’m spending more time in the bathroom now than before the surgery. The Good News: The doctor thinks I’m making progress and have the tools I need to get there. I’m not de-hydrated and my weight is stable. He thinks I look “great” so there’s that. Of course, he’s only seen me two times now (part of the post-surgery clinic).
Breakage and Leakage: not fun anytime, especially in the middle of the night or when out and about trying to do normal activities. The Good News: I seem to have re-gained the hang of when to change my appliance. No accidents for more than a week now (knock wood).
Enough venting. According to the doctor I’m free of all lifting and exercise restrictions. I plan to start working out – slowly – this week and get back to tap dancing again next week.
And, then there’s my trip to Florida in about two weeks…