With thanks to Rob Thomas....
let it go,
let it roll right off your shoulder
don't you know
the hardest part is over
let it in,
let your clarity define you
in the end
we will only just remember how it feels
our lives are made
in these small hours
these little wonders,
these twists & turns of fate
time falls away,
but these small hours,
these small hours still remain
It's true...the hardest part is over. Making this decision was actually the hardest part. During my run yesterday I was trying to explain to a running friend that I've learned there seem to be three camps when it comes to this whole surgery for UC thing.
Camp 1 are the folks who decide to opt for surgery (sort of) on their own time table. They may or may not feel like they've tried everything out there, but they are ready to take that step. The luxury of being in this camp is one typically has the opportunity to do a lot of research, meet with a surgeon and talk about options, and then decide what you want to do and when.
Camp 2 are people who end up with emergency surgery or just get so sick they can't wait. Sometimes they never even know the name of their disease until a surgeon is telling them they are going to have to take their colon. When I read their stories, it breaks my heart just a little bit. I can't imagine having something of this magnitude thrust upon you all at once like some horrible bitter dark pill you have to figure out how to choke down. How do you come back from that? The people that do it are some of the bravest out there, that much I'm sure of.
Camp 3 seems to be those who will fight and go to any lengths to save their colon. I was in this camp for a long time. Sometimes the people in this camp find themselves unexpectedly thrust into Camp 2. Other times they slowly journey in the direction of Camp 1. Some of them stay firmly planted where they are for the duration of their battle with this illness.
I spent some time during that run on Saturday thinking about these different places that all of the UC'ers I've come across are at on this spectrum. (Hey, it takes me a long time to cover nine miles!) The one thing I know for sure is that there is no right or wrong answer. We all have to be where we are and respect our journey as we manage our own illness. At the same time, we have to respect where other people are on their own road. Before this last flare, I would have never believed you if you would have told me I would be counting down the days until they were going to remove my colon. There is an almost seismic shift that happens, but when it does and you decide you're ready there really is no going back. I know the recovery is going to be slow and painful. I know adjusting to life with my ileostomy is going to be challenging and there will be set backs along the way. I know life without a colon is never going to be the same as life without UC could have been. I know all that, yet I can move forward with amazing clarity and conviction that I am doing the right thing here. I don't know how to explain the change that happens, but I promise you that when it does you know it. When you are ready, you just know. I don't really think anymore about whether or not I'm doing the right thing....it's more like, "Ok. Now how do I get through this?"
I spent this weekend thinking about a lot of little things. Sometimes they stabbed me right in the heart with a ferocity that just about took my breath away. Saturday morning's run was beyond amazing! I've come so far since starting back up in January. I felt strong and able. The weather was finally somewhat warm and the sun was shining. I had good music and good company. It was all I could ask for in a training run. When I let all that soak in, I got overwhelmed with the realization that it was the last training run before I do my personal half marathon next weekend. All that sunshine and strength I was feeling became this almost panic of needing to get off of that bike path before I lost it and started crying. I ended up completing my eighth mile much faster than I should have because I let myself take off and gave in to that feeling of wanting to escape and outrun those emotions. I paid for it during the ninth mile, but at that moment it was what I needed.
Speaking of what I needed, the running community continues to give back to me in amazing and unexpected ways. I spoke with a guy in my pace group who is training for a full marathon right now. I wanted to know what was on his mileage for next Saturday as I was still looking for someone to go 13.1 with me. He asked me why I was deviating from my training plan so I took a moment to explain what was going on. First, he was blown away by the idea of j-pouch surgery and that such a thing was even possible. Then, before even looking at his schedule he said, "Absolutely I'll do it. I would love to!" It turns out he was scheduled for 12 miles anyway, so this fits well with his plan. He was so supportive and wanting to help me and this is someone I've only known since January and only talked to briefly before and after our runs. I know I keep saying this, but there is something magic about runners as a community. I am so lucky to have all of these people in my life!
Some of those little things just made me smile and really boosted my spirits. I keep thinking about "these small hours, these little wonders" as I soak up as much as I can of my boys. I think that is going to be the single hardest part of this whole thing. I can stand the pain, I will rehab my body, but my heart just aches at the idea of being away from my sons while I am up there in the hospital. I know they will be fine and I know I will be fine, but that doesn't mean I have to like it or look forward it. I've been savoring everything I can about them, even the way my oldest boy makes one hell of a mess anytime he attempts to eat something. I keep smiling at my baby just to see him smile back and how it consumes and lights up his entire being. I can't get enough right now of their skin, their hair, the weight of their arms around my neck and how my oldest crawled into my bed early this morning and asked, "Can I sleep right next to you?"
I'm trying to stash it all away because these are the little wonders of which our lives are made. I am doing this for me, but I'm also doing it for them. I want to be there, and active and engaged, in every part of their lives as they grow and change. I want to show them how to overcome and triumph over the things that try to suck the life out of you when you aren't looking. I want them to see that you don't have to let something like this define you. When I scrape together every bit of my energy and tell my body that says, "Sorry, not today," to shut-up and I push myself for nine miles (or 13 next weekend!) it's partly for me but it's also a lot for them. There will come a day when they tell me they can't and I will be able to tell them all about this and about not giving up even when everything is stacked against you. The twists and turns of fate may hand you something you never asked for or wanted, but in the end it's up to you what you do with it, how you handle it, what you learn from it, and whether or not you let it crush you or use it to grow. I am going to grow. I don't know any other way.