The first thing I did after I woke up from my second diverticulitis related surgery and discovered that I had an end colostomy, was feel sorry for myself.

Out of all the people that I knew who had a bowel resection for any reason, I was the only one who developed a leak, an abscess and received an ostomy.  Suddenly, I was in a club I didn’t want to be in.

I limped home from that hospital stay 13 days later weighing 94 lbs with a wound from the two open surgeries, an ostomy bag, and a long drainage tube and bag for the abscess.

I looked as weak as I felt. Life altering things for someone whose only previous problem was an uneventful umbilical hernia repaired during outpatient surgery decades ago.

But I was lucky.

My surgeon said he could reverse the colostomy after at least six months but only if I gained at least 10 pounds and got strong enough and healthy.

It didn’t take much of a thought process to realize that the only person that could really make that happen was me.

This was my part of my recovery that I was totally in charge of, so I decided I would listen to my surgeon and do whatever I could to help him. We were part of the same team.

First thing I did was count off six months on the calendar in my kitchen and circle that date in red. I needed to see what six months looked like.

The visual reminder was very motivating.

I knew that it was wishful thinking on my part, that it would be exactly six months to the day, but it gave me an anchor. I was surprised how fast the months went by to be honest. When you take note that you passed another milestone along the way, it motivates you to continue.

The next thing I did was go online and educate myself as much as a non-medical person could about what had just happened to me. I also checked my hospital records and went through all the blood tests and highlighted those results that were either too high or too low and then did a little research on the computer to understand what those numbers meant.

I added a multi-vitamin, several other supplements, and a probiotic to my daily diet. I limited my sugar intake after noticing my glucose levels were higher while I was in the hospital, going so far as to buy a small glucose meter and check my glucose levels every day or so.

I ate a balanced diet, focusing on foods that were easy to digest and lots of protein. I read all the brochures and pamphlets the ostomy nurse sent me home with and I tried to follow those suggestions as to what to eat and what not to eat.

Also, I drank water.  A lot of it.

As soon as my surgeon removed the abscess bag, I started to walk and do yoga again.

I started walking slowly and not very far. I took a few laps around the yard, a trip to the mailbox and I added more as I felt stronger.  It took a while to gain endurance, but I did.  I made my goal to walk one mile a day. Some days it felt easy, some days not so much. But I did it.

I started doing yoga every other day. I found a 50-minute yoga video on YouTube that was easy and comfortable for me to use. Again, I started slowly, ten minutes at first and adding more as I felt better. I still only do 35 minutes of the whole workout, but I do it consistently.

Also, I used the spirometer. I did those breathing exercises for three months before my first reversal. My recovery room nurse called me a rock star.

I never set myself up to do more than I knew I could and would do.  For me, my recovery began with small successes and being honest with myself.

The most important thing was consistency. It was very crucial in helping me stay focused. The more I stuck to my routine, the stronger I got. The stronger I got, the easier it was to do.

For me, recovery was a very personal journey. I had a tremendous amount of support all along the way from family and friends, but at the end of the day, it was my body and my quality of life that were at stake. I made the conscious choice to be an active participant in the part of the recovery that I had control over.

You must find a reason for yourself to push on, whatever it is. When you find that reason, commit to it and don’t ever let anything stop you from moving one step closer to the thing you want most!

Christine Joyce