a00140f01.jpgWhen my podiatrist diagnosed bunions and a hammer toe, I figured it was just one more way that my body doesn’t behave as it “should”.

Like the ulcerative colitis that I’d lived with, there didn’t seem much I could do to prevent it from getting worse. I’d worn orthotics for years (for very flat feet). Stylish, tight high heels? I wish but not with neuropathy and bad balance from MS. I fall into the 3% category who get it from genetics.

And, like with ulcerative colitis, when all else fails, there’s a surgical option — a bunionectomy. Whohoo! (FYI – I’m not comparing ulcerative colitis to a bunion – just the surgical option.)

When I decided to have my colon removed after five very sick years, I can actually say that I looked forward to a year of three operations that would leave me free of the raging illness.
I easily accepted a life with “a bag” (an ileostomy) rather than having uncontrollable bowels. The ugliness of that illness made surgery a “no brainer”.

But it took three years from diagnosis to decide to cure this sucker. I couldn’t judge how much pain was too much. After the years of “lost” time with chronic illness, I don’t have much tolerance for incapacitation and I had to convince myself this was worth it.

I’m 4 days into this. I’m writing this at 3:00am (the percocet is messing with my sleep) and I’m not going to say I’m a happy camper. But it doesn’t feel like such a big deal either. Here are some thoughts — just in case you’re considering “elective surgery” (meaning it won’t kill you and insurance won’t cover it):

  • Chronic illness has taught me not to fear physical pain. I’d heard horror stories about the post op pain from this surgery. But I’m not frightened by pain as I once was and that helps me think more clearly about what I need to do to address the pain.
  • Living with chronic illness for 30 years has taught me how to be dependent on others — but it’s still very difficult. Our younger daughter, home from college, is a great caretaker. The silver lining has been great bonding time. We’ve watched 15 movies and counting.
  • Many doctors do a poor job of preparing you for what’s ahead. But then again, my moving company didn’t give us proper instructions that would have made it smoother when we moved our home last winter. I do much better when I know what to expect. I have to remember to ask the right questions. This time I pressed hard and was ready for what came up. That made a big difference.
  • Worrying makes things seem much worse than they’ll actually be. Worry is about the future. The present is almost always doable. Better to stay in the present.
  • Pain and discomfort are so much more tolerable when the purpose is a cure. Need I say more?
  • I choose to get back to work as quickly as possible — even if I don’t feel “well” yet. It normalizes my life and brings me satisfaction. I hope that’s always true.

What do you do to prepare yourself for pain? What questions do you ask? What makes you feel better? Share your comments.

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