Summary Bio

I have a long list of illnesses (see it here). In 1995 at age fifteen I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (a disease of the large intestine), and I lived with it for seventeen years. In 2010, it spread and advanced to a severe diagnosis. I spent a year on a roller-coaster of intensive immunosuppressive drug therapies, only to end up requiring surgery to remove my large intestine and replace it with a j-pouch. After surviving three surgeries, I developed Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, the most debilitating illness of all. (Read "Myalgic Encephalomyelitis" and "The Spoon Theory" to understand more.) Below are the detailed accounts of my ups and downs on this journey.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Healing Incisions

When I was considering and deciding on surgery, one of the things I was quite interested in was how well and how quickly the incisions would heal, and what kind of scars they would leave behind.  Therefore, in today's post I will just be showing you how all of my incisions look one month out from surgery.  You can click on any of the photos to get a larger view.  My surgery was October 4th, and these photos were taken November 3rd, thirty days later.

First, here is a view of my entire abdomen, with the locations of all five incisions labeled.  You can see here that the marks left behind the incisions are already quite minimal.  I used to try to scrape off the gummy tape leftovers every bag change until I realized that keeping my tummy free from gummy adhesive was a hopeless feat.  As soon as I scraped it all off, there was more there instantly,  and it started really aggravating my skin to scrub and scrape hard enough to get it all off anyway.  So even though it drives my OCD brain a little nuts, I'm just living with it until my take-down surgery.

Incision 1: right laproscopic incision

Incision 1 is the only real normal/typical laproscopic incision you can see.  When I came out of surgery, it was covered with a dab of surgical glue that kept it clean and sealed off.  The glue remained there for just over three weeks, when it finally peeled all the way off along with the scab behind it.  I think by the time this one is fully healed, it will be practically invisible.

Incision 2: center laproscopic incision,
inside my belly button.  (Not visible)

Incision 2 is another laproscopic incision, but it is hidden inside my belly button, so you can't even really see it at all, even in person.  (What you CAN see there is the remnant holes from when I had my navel pierced many years ago, LOL.)  This incision was also covered in surgical glue, which means my belly button was almost filled with glue for a few weeks.  I was glad to finally pluck the glue pieces out with tweezers when they eventually started falling off.

Incision 3: right laproscopic incision

Incision 3 is where the JP drain was left hanging out of me after surgery.  I was sent home from the hospital with the drain left in, and it was removed ten days after surgery.  After it was removed, it left a deep, gaping hole that I thought would leave a nasty scar, but it seems to be healing up pretty nicely now.  I think it will also be quite minimal once it is completely healed.

Incision 4: the stoma
Incision 4 is Stella the stoma.  It is located pretty much right at my pants-line.  (I wear my pants pretty low on my hips).  Notice how small and svelte she's gotten since the swelling has gone down from the surgery.  (Compare this pic to the one in my post called Bag Change Time.)  You can also see that my skin is a little darker in a ring around the stoma where it is a bit irritated from the very sticky adhesive wafer/flange being pried off shortly before this pic was taken.  Stella changes shape every minute of every day... since she is always pulsating and flexing, sometimes she sticks out pretty far, and at other times she is almost completely flat against my belly.  During this particular bag change, when I took these photos, is the first time I noticed her edges (the gap between stoma and tummy skin) starting to heal and close up.  Before this, she has been mostly held in place with soft stitches.  I'm not sure if it was this healing process or some tiny bit of leakage that was causing the itching that instigated this bag change.  I will be interested to see how this incision heals after take-down once they poke Stella back into my belly and close up the hole.

Incision 5: the 3-inch cut
Incision 5 is where they actually had to cut me open in order to create the J-pouch.  The incision is three inches long.  From what I understand, after they removed my colon and rectum, they pulled out the lowest part of my small intestine (ileum) through this incision to create the pouch externally, and then they pushed it back in when they were done so they could attach it to what was left of my anal canal.  When I came out of surgery, there were tiny, barely-visible stitches on this incision, and it was also covered in surgical glue.  The stitches (if they were even there) dissolved on their own and disappeared, coming off with the glue.  I am impressed with how clean this incision came out and how nicely it seems to be healing.  I'd love to start putting scar cream on it to minimize the appearance even more, but the adhesive tape of the ileostomy bag covers half of it, so I'll have to wait until after take-down surgery to start using anything on it.  Either way, this incision is well-below my pants-line, only a couple inches above my pubic bone, so it will never be visible unless I am fully undressed, and even then I think you'd have to be looking pretty closely to notice it.

Here are a couple side views of my tummy.  (I have a plastic bag tucked into my pants to catch any output in case Stella starts spewing, which she frequently does.)  I find it odd/interesting that the stoma seems to have changed the shape of my abdomen... You can kind of see how the curvature of my belly is no longer a nice round/flat shape - it sticks out a bit above Stella and then kind of tucks in a bit underneath her.  (This is a little more visible in real life.)  I'm not sure if it's is due to the stoma itself or the fact that there is a partially full bag hanging from that location all the time, pulling it in that direction.  I assume it will go back to normal, though, after the ileostomy is reversed.  (It better!)  

You can also see how my tummy has grown since some of my first pics right after surgery.  Some of the effects of prednisone cause a large increase in appetite as well as concentrated fat storage in specific odd locations, including the face, tummy, and back of neck.  So you can see that even though I am still at a very healthy weight for my height, I have gotten a little layer of fat here over my abdomen.  A few months from now, once I can workout to my heart's content and eat veggies and whole grains again, I will work it off.

Overall, I am very pleased with how everything is looking and healing.  Before I started this whole process, I was concerned about the scars that would be left behind, worried that the awesome abs I was working so hard towards would never look quite perfect.  However, now I have almost a fondness for these marks.  They will be permanent reminders of everything I have been through, never letting me quite forget how strong I am.  And I think that when everything is said and done and I am able to work towards those awesome abs again, this will only add beauty to the final picture.

Feel free to leave reactions and comments below...
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  1. Just got a tip from a fellow poster at about using nail polish remover to get the sticky gunk off my tummy. So of course I had to try it right away, and it worked pretty well! Thanks, i_love_coffee!

  2. Thank you for your story.... Great read!
    I have been in the hospital for 9 days. meeting the surgeon tonight, totally
    freak out until I read your story. I hope they do the surgery, and it goes as
    well as yours.

    Once again, thank you!

    1. I appreciate the comment, Randy. That is the exact reason I take the time to write this blog, so it's comments like yours that warm my heart and make me want to keep writing. :-) Good luck with your surgery!

    2. Please keep writing! Don't stop! Your strength and words have inspired me. I can only hope to be so strong. you seem amazing!
      Do you feel life is better now? I.E. more active, healthier, more freedom? If the j-pouch wasn't a option, would you have still gone thru
      the surgery?
      Could you live with Stella for ever?

      Randy :)

    3. Life is definitely better than it was right before surgery because the disease is gone: no more pain, cramping, running to the bathroom, fear of eating, long-term hardcore drugs, side-effects, etc. And I am definitely a lot healthier - everyone who sees me comments on how healthy I look now: color to my face and spark in my eyes. My students say I look happier. I was down to skin-and-bones before, but I feel like I have done nothing but stuff my face with food since surgery, and I gained about fifteen pounds before I started slowing down a bit and stabilized at a really healthy weight for myself.

      I am a bit more active than I was when I had a bad UC flare, but not a ton.... the ONLY reason for that, though, is that weaning myself off of the prednisone and the pain-killers they had me on after the surgery is leaving me with quite a bit of lethargy from the withdrawal effects. Some days I feel great and am very active; others I feel like I want to stay in bed all day. But I have faith that once I'm completely off of the meds (and approved by my doctor for exercise), that I will be VERY active again, getting back into running, hiking, swimming, weight-lifting, and all the things I love.

      The second part of your question is a little tougher. I appreciate Stella for what she has done for me, but living with an ileostomy is definitely a little bit of a pain in the butt. Not nearly as bad as UC, but just kind of annoying. Would I still have gone through with it if J-pouch wasn't an option? I would have to say yes because my disease was getting so bad it was slowly killing me. My quality of life is definitely better with an ileostomy than it was with ulcerative colitis. I wouldn't WANT to live with Stella forever, but I definitely could do it if the J-pouch wasn't an option.

  3. Hey! Thanks for the reply. Had surgery on the 14th! went well, 3-part though.
    Just wasn't healthy enough for the whole thing. Doc says this way, less change of my (manhood)being effected!!! For men, impotence is a concern. I spoke with my ileostomy nurse about your site..... She loves it! she subscribe to your site, and is telling all her patients about your blog. I hope your doing well, and hope to see a post soon!! I look daily with anticipation!!!

    Ps, Any tips on this bag thing, or eating....Pleas let me know!!!:)
    God Bless.

  4. That's great to hear. Tips on eating? Just make sure to only eat little bits at a time at first... you know, space out the food you eat. Make sure to chew everything REALLY thoroughly. If they bring you any solid meat, don't eat very much of it - just a few bites. I say all this because if you eat too much too soon, you will be in pain. Over the next couple of weeks you will be able to gradually eat slightly larger amounts until you are back to normal meals, but you have to be really gentle with food at first while your GI tract slowly wakes up and everything is still so swollen. Just be patient. As far as bag tips, I am considering that for a topic of one of my posts in the near future, so keep your eyes open for it. :-)

  5. Thanks. How are things? Getting out more? I hope so, as you would know.
    UC cripples you to the point of not wanting to leave your house. I can't wait
    to go to the movies, hike, and enjoy life! I hope that's what you are doing,
    and if not......Go DO IT! The bag is hard, my surgeon came and saw me right after I had the surgery; he said to me, "Don't lay there feeling sorry for yourself" I felt like getting up and kicking his a$$!! But he was right, this isn't the end for a really really good looking man! lol. This is the next chapter in my life.....And it's going to be rad!!!! (trying to bring back rad). From San Diego, East county.... we like rad..:)



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