Wednesday, August 3, 2011

10 Years Ago...

I know I was supposed to report on my weigh in, but interestingly enough, I didn't weigh in on Saturday... couldn't get up on time.  I did weigh myself, and I'll tell you, it wasn't good.  BUT, this week I have been ON FIRE with my eating and workouts.  From Saturday morning to now, I've lost 4 pounds. Go figure.  When I'm on it, I'm on it.

But that's not really what I want to talk about in this post.  The title of the post is "10 Years Ago..."

Ten Years Ago at this very time, I was recovering from major surgery.  MAJOR surgery... on August 3, 2001, I had my colon removed.  I've mentioned before that I had ulcerative colitis (technically, I still do have it.. more on that later.) Let me give you a little bit of background...

When I was in my last semester of law school (Spring 1996), I started losing weight.  I thought it was stress, not eating, exercising a lot.  I got downright skinny.  Of course, I was thrilled.  I graduated and moved back home to start my first "real job" at Hughes on July 22.  I went to work on that Monday & Tuesday... and I actually took a sick day on Wednesday (yes, my 3rd day on my real job!) I worked on Thursday & Friday... that Friday, July 26, 1996, just so happened to be my 25th birthday... the day I was conveniently booted off my parents' medical insurance.  I hadn't gotten around to picking my own plan, because I figured I had some time to figure it out.  That weekend, I was a wreck.  I remember my dad asking me, "Do you want me to take you to the ER?"  I said, "Yeeeeesssssss!"  He took me to Daniel Freeman Hospital (which is now closed)... I was admitted.... and I stayed there for about 7 or 8 weeks.  They figured out that I had ulcerative colitis, but they couldn't figure out how to fix it.  My main symptom was bloody stool (aka, blood in my poop.)  The first course of action is to give the patient prednisone, a steroid.  Not only was I on steroids, I couldn't eat.  ANYTHING.  Have you ever gone 8 weeks with no food? I was sometimes permitted to suck on ice chips, but every time they tried to upgrade me to broth or a creamy soup, my diseased colon couldn't take it.  So I'm in the hospital... on steroids, lipids, and your basic banana bag of nutrients all through a central line in my chest... and I'm GAINING WEIGHT! If I'm gonna gain weight, at least give me some pizza, bread, rice... something! I was miserable...

The short version of the 1996 hospital stay is that after a series of setbacks, blood transfusions, tears, and frustration, my sister, Dr. Kimberly Manning (aka The Grady Doctor) got on the phone and told our dad to raise hell until they sent me to UCLA.  She said the only way I'd get better was to move to a teaching hospital.  Well, our dad happens to be a professional hell raiser... he did it, and I was moved to UCLA.  Interesting side story is that I had eye surgery at UCLA as a toddler... I was STILL in the system at 25 years old... same patient number and everything. That's what I call record keeping! LOL!

I was at UCLA for about 8 days.  My new UCLA gastroenterologist, Dr. Kevin Horgan, put me on an experimental drug, it started working, and they sent me home.  I was taking about 24 pills a day, but I was home.

Over the next 5 years, I would randomly have flare ups with my colitis. Surgery was discussed here and there, but I had NO INTEREST whatsoever in letting someone open my belly & remove my colon. No way.  I was good popping pills.  However, in 2001, it got much worse... I'd spend a week in the hospital, two weeks back at work... a week in the hospital, a week at work... it got to the point where it was miserable for me.  I hated missing work.  I hated being sick.  I talked to my parents & my sister, and I decided it was time to meet with a surgeon to discuss my options.

Enter: Dr. Jonathan Sack.  One of the best surgeons in the business.  Highly recommended.  Basically, The Man.  We scheduled a consultation with him on a Friday afternoon. I think the appointment was around 2 or 3pm... I remember it was May or June, because the Lakers had a playoff game that day.  My parents and I went to UCLA Medical Center for our consultation with Dr. Sack... he was late.  In fact, he never showed up.  He got stuck in the hospital with a surgery emergency.  I was not happy.  My dad was downright pissed.  I think the combination of Dr. Sack not showing up & the fact that we would be on the 405 South at 5pm on a Friday was more than he could handle.  On the way home he told me there was no way in hell he'd let that guy perform my surgery. NO WAY.

The next morning, I'm at home.  It's Saturday... my phone rings.  It's Dr. Sack.  Not Dr. Sack's nurse.  Not someone from his office.  Him.  THEE Dr. Sack.  He apologized for missing our appointment.  He explained why he wasn't there.  He told me about the surgery & answered any questions I asked.  I knew right then and there that I wanted him to perform my surgery.  I called my dad & told him about the phone call.  Boy, was he impressed!  Dr. Sack was our guy!  We eventually had the face to face meeting (on June 25th -- I know, because I was writing in a journal at the time), and scheduled the surgery for August 3rd.

Me... on HEAVY steroids... preparing for my surgery... 30 and not a happy camper!

Between that time, I celebrated my 30th birthday... and my mom moved to Atlanta a couple of days later (with my blessing, of course! She did not want to leave before my surgery!)  Lord knows a girl needs her mommy in tough times, but she left me in good hands with Daddy & my T'Renee.

My journal entry for August 3rd at 12:30am:  "I'm nervous about the surgery, but I'm ready to get it over with and get to the next phase."

Right before my surgery, Dr. Sack told me: "I have to tell you... if I get in there & you don't have enough small intestine to make the pouch, when you wake up I'll tell you that your colostomy bag is permanent."  SAY WHAAAAAAAT??? Awww helllll naw! LOL! ..... Everything worked out fine. But I sure did hate that bag for the two months I had to wear it! I was allergic to the adhesive that kept the bag connected to my body over my stoma... it was not fun.  FYI, the stoma is the opening in my abdomen where my small intestine was dumping out my waste. I know... gross.  The weirdest part was that I didn't poop between the surgeries, because everything I ate came out in the bag.  Yes, it's as strange as you're imagining it right now.

I had the second surgery (the take-down) on October 5, 2001.  Other than a flare up here & there on the tiny bit of colon they left at my rectum or a bout of pouchitis, all has been well.  I am still susceptible to colon cancer, because I do have that little bit of colon left, but so far, so good! 

The surgery was the best decision I ever made.  It changed my life.  It changed the quality of my life.  Ten years later... I am happier & healthier than ever.

Me... 10 years later.... at 40!  Happy & Healthy!

Thanks for letting me reflect....