Regaining Confidence after Multiple Blockages
Prior to getting my ostomy, I had done a lot of research on what life might look like for me after surgery. Even though I knew blockages were fairly common for ostomates I was feeling optimistic having gone ten months without one.
As I slowly weaned off a low-residue diet, I started to introduce new foods. I was pleasantly surprised how I could eat my favorite bran flakes for breakfast and a snack of popcorn in the afternoon. How was it that I ended up so lucky?!
One month after my second surgery, to make my ostomy permanent, I woke up bloated and curled up in pain. There wasn’t output in my bag which I knew was a tell-tale sign of a blockage.
Thanks to all the blogs and articles I had read, I felt somewhat prepared. I started doing slow laps around the living room while drinking small sips of grape juice. When that didn’t help, I found myself in a warm bath gently massaging my abdomen. After several hours without any relief we decided to call the on-call surgeon to get advice.
I was both crushed and somewhat relieved that he told us to go to the nearest emergency room.
Going to the emergency room is always a drag but knowing they were going to help me manage my pain was really assuring. On the other hand, I had no idea that this ER visit was going to lead to a three-day hospital admission!
Fast forward another month and a half and I found myself in the same situation. Another trip to the ER and another multi-day hospital admission. This string of blockages threw a real wrench in my confidence.
Did these recent events mean that I no longer could eat what I wanted? Would I be on a low-residue diet forever? I felt as if my future was going to be one long string of hospitalization after hospitalization. I joked they should name the corner room at the hospital after me since I always seemed to land in the same room.
Weeks turned into months and I was doing great. However, I desperately needed to expand my diet. While I wished I was “eating the rainbow,” my plates were looking colorless.
I had recently taken a nutrition class where I learned how overcooking vegetables diminishes their nutritional content. My teacher referred to it as “dead food”. I longed to be able to go out and have a big fresh salad for lunch or snack on trail mix when I was on-the-go and in a rush. I didn’t feel healthy and the food I was eating didn’t bring me much joy. As someone who loves cooking and entertaining, I no longer had any desire to do much of either.
I often find it is easiest for me to take a leap of faith when my sense of urgency is great. For me to change my diet, it meant taking a risk and trying new foods. The first salads I ate were very simple.
I would have a little bit of spinach (it gets very slippery when digested and seems to move through me very easily), peeled/chopped cucumbers, and avocados. After a week or so of eating that, I would try to add in another vegetable, making small incremental changes one at a time. On days where I knew I would have more “roughage” for dinner I would make sure that my breakfast and lunch were very simple foods.
It’s been almost a year since my last blockage and I am once again amazed at what my mighty little stoma has been able to handle. While I still stay away from some foods such as mushrooms, popcorn (sigh) or kale, I do sometimes sneak a little handful of almonds or cashews out of the pantry for a snack.
Those blockages didn’t end up foreshadowing my future. The experience of losing my confidence and then gaining it back, only made me stronger, braver, and more cognizant of what I was eating.