Living With Jen: Coping with the Tough Stuff

My first two months as an ostomate; facing the challenge with a sense of humor.

So, it’s been a while – 8 weeks, 5 days, 5 hours, 11 minutes, since I last posted anything. Yes, I have a dang good excuse. No, I am not getting into it now; enough to say there was a major, medical crisis.

Right now, there is something I’m dying (wrong word choice) eager to tell you about.

I gotta tell you about ‘Jen’ – my newest acquaintance, closer to me than anyone or anything has ever been or will ever be. And I say that with mixed feelings.

Living with a life-threatening chronic disease ain’t no sweetbread and ofentimes the fixer-upper is big and ugly and all up in your face – not to be hidden or side-stepped. Then you have to find a way to face it head on while keeping your pride and dignity intact.

The first time I saw Jen she scared the bejeezels outta me – not at all a pleasant meeting. To say she repulsed me would be a gross understatement. I barely acknowledged her presence, turned my head away and did my darndest to un-see what I had seen; to forget that she even existed – as if that were possible.

‘Jen’ my brand-new, strawberry-red stoma.

You see, Jen is my newest body part (for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer and all that stuff); my brand-new, strawberry-red stoma – standing about 25 millimeters tall and 35 millimeters around. Yes, she takes up a lot of real estate on my belly.

Now if you are like I was before this last crisis of mine, the word stoma will probably take you back to high school plant biology: stoma – one of the pores on a leaf that allows plants to breathe. Well, Jen is not that kind of stoma. Let’s get on the same wavelength here.

When the doctors got done snipping the cancer out my gut, they deliberated, then concluded that my best chance for long term survival was not to try to reconnect the two pieces of intestine that were left. Instead they did an ileostomy. That means they poked a hole in the abdominal wall and stuffed the end of the small intestine through to the outside, so digestive waste products would be able to leave my body via that new route. Gross, I know, but what can I say?

Sh*t happens! Whether you want it to or not.

So, Jen must always wear her little baggie (ostomy bag) and guess who gets to clean up????? Why none other than yours truly. Beginning to see why I have such mixed feelings about Jen?

Jen and I

But she is my lifesaver, so I guess I should be grateful . . . and really I am. Dr. Russ warned that she MAY have to stay with me permanently, but, there is always that possibility that one day we may part ways – dare I dream of it.

Anyway, I am earnestly trying to get along with Jen.

For starters, I named her; sort-a figured that if we were to become intimate friends, we should at least be on a first name basis. That would be a logical first step for any long-term relationship. I mean, how can you live with someone 24-7 and don’t know what to call her?

Yes, my stoma is a ‘she’. I am sure of it – the incessant yammering, the constant compulsion to remind me of her presence, the irrepressible need to voice an opinion on just about everything – especially food. She is perpetually grumbling and squawking about what, when and how much I should eat. If only she weren’t so bossy!

She gurgles when I try to sleep on my back but groans when I roll over on my side; gripes when I bend over to tie my shoe laces and balks about the way I wear my seat-belt, not too low, not too high, just the right distance away from her. If only she weren’t such a stickler!

High maintenance? Definitely. And she has no qualms about butting into my private conversations (the busybody!) – just ask my husband, he’d back me on that score.

We go shopping together, Jen and I, but she doesn’t pay for anything (the cheap flibbertigibbet). The truth is, she insists on going shopping with me – as if I can even stop her – and I don’t mean that she just tags along. She dictates what I should buy! I must select loose fitting blouses – nothing that would make her stand out too much as she is very particular about her appearance (I am too). Pants and skirts must have an elasticized waist – nothing to squeeze too tight, her majesty demands comfort. If only she weren’t so fussy!

The anticipated ‘box with a smile.’ Jen’s stuff was not in this one. Probably next time.

Recently, I’ve found myself shopping online for toiletries just for her, and outfits – comfortable and tastefully colorful – apparel that she can lounge around the house in!

I have to admit though, that shopping for Jen has moved me one step closer to accepting her presence in my life. I think I may even smile when the UPS guy drops ‘the box with a smile’ on my doorstep.

We have become pretty close now. I actually made a few outfits for her myself and enjoyed doing it – coordinating outfits for me and my new bosom buddy and possible life-long pal. Sigh.

Jen’s first custom-made outfit

Jen and I have been together almost 2 months now and beginning to have some good days; days when we’re not bickering, and peace reigns for a couple hours at a time.

I keep trying to learn as much as I can about my stoma and the world of living as an ostomate (someone who has a stoma) – not just knowing, but really understanding the ‘how-to’s and the ‘why-not’s; and being able to look past the ‘what-if’s and shouldn’t-I’s.

Scouring the internet, I was relieved to find that my situation would no longer be considered a true anomaly. In the USA alone, there are over 130,000 ostomy surgeries yearly (I couldn’t find stats for Barbados). A huge community is out there sharing similar experiences. There is even an internationally recognized “World Ostomy Day” (first Saturday in October).

I think I am finally past the sentiment (well, almost) that Jen is one of those ‘dirty little secrets’ that must be kept in the closet at all costs. I am growing in appreciation for all she is doing to keep me alive and well. So what if I always have to foot her bill?

For now, I am thankful we are inseparable.

A Healing Touch

When God touches your life, it lets you touch the life of others.

Ever since Adam was a lad, touch had been used for physical, psychological and spiritual healing.

Wall carvings dating back to 3000 BC, show the ancient Egyptians using healing massages.

The power of ‘the royal touch’ was believed to be evidence of God’s high esteem.

Medieval kings and queens of Europe were supposedly able to ‘heal’ their subjects by simply applying ‘The Royal Touch’.

Me – the silent skeptic, never thought much of ‘the laying on of hands’. Ignorance? Lackadaisicalness?(Yes it’s a valid word. I checked). I prefer naiveté – that doesn’t sound quite so callous.

Healing people just by touching them? Pshaw! As far as I was concerned, that claim fell out of the same superstitious bag as Ouija boards, palm reading, and horoscopes.

But had I been more attentive, more open-minded . . .

Jesus, the greatest healer of all times never, ever carried a medicine bag. Yet he healed and continues to heal thousands.

Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes and immediately they regained their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:34.

And how do you know when God has touched your life? The real question should be, how do you not know when God has touched your life?

Let me tell you about one of the times when God literally touched me. And when it happened I didn’t even recognize it for what it truly was.

Feel like hearing a story? Doesn’t matter, I’ll tell it anyway!

Here’s my story: Continue reading “A Healing Touch”

Reach out and Touch

Six little-known tidbits about the power of touch.

I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

Maya Angelou

“Ms. Brewster” – my name called from the registration area at my back.

I scrambled to get purse, coat, book and travel mug together but there was no need as the registering nurse had stepped from behind the patterned glass partition, flimsy ID bracelet in hand and a smile on her face.

“I’ve got something for you,” she announced – a genuine smile, contagious.

“What’s your birth date Hon?” Southern drawl. “I see you’ve got one coming up” – eyes double-checking my info on the paper wrist-band in her hand.

When she looked up again the smile was still there. “Not allergic to latex, are you?”

I have enough of these paper bracelets to cover a wall.

Carefully taping the bracelet around my extended wrist, Continue reading “Reach out and Touch”

Where are the Tears?

12 thoughts to ease your fears about letting teardrops fall.

I never expected a diagnosis of Cancer. I was completely blindsided. That day in February – the day before valentine’s day, Dr. O called. “Is your husband at home with you?”

That could mean only one thing, bad news. “Colon cancer.” A simply stated fact, delivered like a package by the UPS Guy.

Continue reading “Where are the Tears?”

Big Girls (and Boys) Don’t Cry: But You Should

It’s good to cry sometimes. 5 benefits of tears you probably never knew about.

You ever heard of a “Crying Club?” A place where you go to cry. They exist. No fooling. I saw it on the internet.

Now if you’re thinking about someplace like the ‘cry room’ at church or the theatre downtown (those sound-proof, viewing rooms where desperately embarrassed parents hustle off with bawling babies), think again.

These clubs are for adults and not only for high-strung, overly emotional women, or liberated men who’ve proudly tapped into their ‘feminine side’.

Crying Clubs cater to everyone, including businessmen.

Apparently, crying clubs have been around in Japan for years – rui-katsu they’re called, which literally means “tear seeking.” Even some hotels like The Mitsui Garden Yotsuya Hotel has designated rooms just for crying.

In Britain, the first crying club – referred to as a Misery Club, opened back in 2007 – “Loss.” That place was a hit! It said so on the internet.

So what’s all the crying about?

Continue reading “Big Girls (and Boys) Don’t Cry: But You Should”

Living in 3D: A Beginner’s Guide

3 simple practices that could add depth to your life.

I was smiling because the sun was shining on my toes . . . and it felt so good! That’s the truth. There was nothing else to smile about – not that I can remember – only the bright sunlight and the warmth on my toes sticking out from under the blankets.

Maybe I should start at the beginning of the story.

So I was in the critical care unit at the hospital – one of those fish-bowl like cubicles with the curtain partially drawn. Just thirty minutes earlier, Nurse Terrie had piled on a third blanket because my toes were so cold. (Actually, my toes are always cold but I didn’t bother her with that confession. I was just glad for the temporary warmth of another blanket.) Continue reading “Living in 3D: A Beginner’s Guide”

Be Your Valentine

Does your name top your valentine list? Should it? Learning to love yourself.

Valentine’s Day wasn’t going to sneak up on me again this year. I was determined.

So a couple weeks ago I started making my “list” –  names of all the people I really love. My intention (get this), was to send each person on my list a personal note, handwritten of course, in my most elaborate script; penned with my one-of-a-kind handcrafted glass quill, on rolled parchment paper (specially ordered).

But wait! There’s more! I would stamp each note with an appropriately colored rose – red, pink, white or yellow.

Sounds so romantic doesn’t it? Real fairy-tale stuff. Well that was my intention – until I found myself broadsided.

Continue reading “Be Your Valentine”

Pink Blanket

Wrap yourself in warm, healing thoughts.

I bet you’re wondering why there’d been no new posts since November 2016. Well, the truth is, I went home for the holidays . . . to my homeland Barbados. You know, The Great “There’s-no-place-like-home-for-the-holidays” Migration.

GAIA
I went home for the holidays: Grantley Adams International Airport, Barbados

Okay, that’s not be the complete truth – even though I think it would have been a darn good excuse. But it wasn’t the tedious preparations for the trip that distracted me. Continue reading “Pink Blanket”

More Happily Ever After

Habits for your Happy-Ever-After: Part 2

When it comes to living happily ever after, there’s good news and there’s not-so-good news. The good news – happily ever after is possible – at least that’s what I believe.

The not-so-good news – we’ve got to put in some effort; there’s no yellow brick road guaranteed to lead us there and Emerald City does not hold the answers.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road???
Follow The Yellow Brick Road?

Dorothy, the cowardly lion and the rest of them already tried – treking all the way to Emerald City only to find that Oz, the Great and Powerful didn’t have what they thought they needed to be happy. They had it all along!

It’s the same with us. Continue reading “More Happily Ever After”

Happily Ever After

Habits for your Happy-Ever-After: Part 1

So the Princess married her Prince Charming and they lived happily ever after. . . as the fairy tales go. But what does THAT mean? Is it even possible in real life? And if it is, what would our happy-ever-after look like?

It’s pretty tough to explain what happiness is. Have you ever tried? Efforts date back to Aristotle and Plato centuries ago.

So here’s where I think we should make sure we’re on the same page. And maybe a negative definition would be helpful.

Happiness does not mean ‘feeling good’ Continue reading “Happily Ever After”