Warning: This blog contains imagery which may be disturbing to some readers. Reader discretion is advised.
Hey everyone, it has been a while, eh? Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. I’ve just been busy, is all! A lot has happened since my New Year’s blog. At the beginning of this year, I wrote that 2018 would be a year of better health and personal growth, and that has come true for the most part. At the end of March, while completing a study term at Waterloo, I was re-admitted into the Toronto General Hospital for another Ulcerative Colitis (UC) flare and ended up having my entire colon removed!
I had been battling with UC for four years up to that point, and had simply run out of available treatments to try, so surgery was the next logical step, as my condition was getting worse. As I summarized in my Instagram post, it was a life changing experience for the better, and I was excited to regain control of my life and get my energy back. I even cut my hair, which I had been growing for two and a half years, to commemorate the end of my battle with UC.
My recovery after surgery was remarkable, and I was feeling the best I had felt in years – physically and mentally – despite facing the new challenge of dealing with an ostomy. In my case, I have an ileostomy, using the end of my small intestine, as my large intestine is removed. While many people live with an ostomy permanently, I am a candidate to have mine reversed in a process called ileoanal anastomosis or j-pouch surgery, which will occur over two more surgeries in the coming weeks and months.
First off, I would just like to remark how incredible this whole procedure is, and I would like to thank my surgeons, doctors and nurses, and everyone who came before them, for making it possible and saving me from my diseased colon. I would also like to thank my family and friends for supporting and lifting me up through this entire journey to better health. I attribute my recovery to all of these people and will always be grateful to them. Unfortunately, none of us would foresee the traumatic event that would soon take place.
In May, while visiting my sister in Montreal, a rare complication had unexpectedly occurred. The complication was so rare that I had never heard of it from doctors or seen it in any of my research prior to surgery, and I didn’t know what was happening. Unfortunately, I didn’t react in time, and I underwent an emergency surgery at the Montreal General Hospital to remove a part of my small intestine that had been damaged, only six weeks after my first surgery. It was the most pain I had ever experienced in my life, and it left me discouraged and traumatized – with 25cm less of my small intestine.
Long story short, it was my worst nightmare that I never knew existed, and a part of me died in that long night – literally. But every painful minute was a short story with a happy ending, and to my sister, Celine, thank you for being so strong, for the both of us, that night. I have been slowly recovering from that incident ever since – mostly mentally this time – with the help and love of my mom, dad, brothers, sister and bhabhi. It took me a while to overcome the self-pity and despair, but I have finally found peace with what happened and accept the fact that no one is to blame, not even myself. It was simply an accident.
Over the months, I’ve developed a few methods to cope and stay busy. Here are what have helped me the most:
- Remember what I’m grateful for – these things keep me grounded and help me feel better
- Meditate – helps me face and accept my emotions, and appreciate the moment
- Read a book – I recommend Shantaram by Gregory Roberts!
- Take up a hobby – like building something, learning a language, photography and music
- Give myself plenty of time to rest and recover
I’ve also learned a pho bowl’s worth of knowledge – too much to write about in this blog – and I have so much more to learn. Here are a few insights and personal changes that I’ve noticed:
- Sometimes things get worse before they can get better
- I have more self-compassion, patience and empathy towards others
- There is strength in being vulnerable and asking for help
- Some things are simply out of my control, like the incident in May
I have also noticed that through suffering, I’ve often felt a loss of identity and the sense that I am merely an observer of my life, thoughts and feelings. And while it can feel dehumanizing, I’ve learned that it is also incredibly liberating because it allows me to detach from my expectations and desires for this life. Thus, no matter what happens or how much suffering I endure, I am simply glad that I am here to experience it. I never asked for this life, but I am blessed to have it, and I am not entitled to anything – not even a healthy colon. So it is up to me to give my life meaning and use it to help others.
I guess part of my Human Startup journey is learning how to feel human again, and finding the right balance between desire and ambition, and humility and detachment. To be honest, I still battle with bouts of depression and trauma – I may for a while, and that’s okay. I am a warrior and I am still smiling. And as my brother says, I’m just training for something harder.
Thank you for giving your time to read my story, and thank you immensely to everyone who has been at my side, supporting me and my smile. Words can’t explain how much you all mean to me. My next surgery is in less than a week, and though nervous, I am excited to push forward and move on with my life. Wish me luck!
My missing semicolon’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
If you are or know someone who is going through a difficult time, please talk to someone and / or seek professional help. I am here if you need someone to talk to!