CONTENT NOTE: Graphic image. No, seriously: g-r-a-p-h-i-c. Contains a partial photographic image of an open wound with medical-level detail of a laparoscopic procedure; female frontal nudity.
Hey, so whatcha doing Tuesday? Nothing nearly as fucking strange as I am, I’ll bet. As I mentioned in my last post, September kicks off Surgery Season here in New York City, and we’re about to kickoff on Tuesday with a laparoscopic exploration under anesthesia (“EUA”). At least two surgeons and possibly three will be having themselves a really close-up look-see at the tissues they would need to construct what radiation has destroyed – namely, a functioning colon as well as a sparkling new vagina. I call this aspiration “Plan A.”
My colorectal ladysurgeon is running the show, along with the gynecological oncology d00d, tho I’m not yet sure whether this mysterious”plastics” person I’ve heard so much about will also be in attendance. Regardless, there will no doubt be biopsies and good times galore. Which, ideally, I will sleep right through.
Back before my first surgery, i.e. the initial colon resection plus bonus ileostomy in February of 2018, I found myself working with my therapist, my original colorectal surgeon and his Physician Assistant to help me visualize exactly what would be done to me. I had started with some Google image searches, but what I found didn’t seem to line up with what had been explained to me. Also, most images I found, whether photos or drawings, were of men, and I was having a hard time relating those bodies to my own. I ended up creating this:
…wherein the dotted line represents the outline of an ostomy pouch, the oval is the stoma itself and the rest of the marks are incisions. It turned out not to be entirely accurate due to various issues and considerations during the operation, but for my “trying to get my head around this shit” purposes, it was close enough. As un-ugly as I could possibly conceive of it, anyway. I remember the night before the surgery lying in bed, running my hands over the soft, smooth, unblemished skin of my belly, and deeply grieving that it would never, ever feel like this again.
So now there’s this fuckin’ EUA on Tuesday. And I’ve had one before, performed by the very same colorectal ladysurgeon back in March when she gave me an(other) ileostomy. I already know what the recovery is like, and it isn’t terrible: it’s like the deep soreness from a couple hard punches to the gut, that gradually fades over a week or so.
Why, then, am I having so. much. anxiety. over this? Lard knows I’ve been through worse – a lot worse. And there is much worse to come, for sure.
Well, I have a theory. I think it’s because I’m terrified of what they will find, or more precisely, of what they will not find. That the radiation damage has kept right on blooming for all these months, and now there is not enough healthy tissue left to re-do a colon resection. That the blood supply to critical areas has deteriorated to the point where successful healing will be practically impossible. That Plan A gets scrapped. There is no Plan B, at least not one discussed in any detail, because Plan A is the only one with any potential for a good outcome. And it has been impressed upon me, many times, that we only have one shot at fixing this.
So I took to drawing again. Only this time I wasn’t trying to create anything approximating medical accuracy, although it would turn out to embody exactly that, at least in part. I made what envisioning this procedure feels like to me – if that even makes any fucking sense. And once again, I made it as un-ugly as I can possibly conceive of it.
Before you proceed, I just want to remind you again of the content note at the top of this post. I mean, this stuff is triggering to me, which is why I’m doing it in the first place: to help me process it in a healthy way.