Through this process of getting sick, surgeries and all that comes with "getting better", I'm learning recovery is about far more than just the physical wounds healing.
When it is said that "recovery is a journey" and "healing is different than recovering." , I didn't fully understand what that meant. It really is difficult to prepare yourself for what is truly involved in the process, and how to really pack for the journey.
Heal and recover are often used interchangeably, and though similar, are quite a bit different. Healing is a dual process, that happens over time. Physically the body has to heal- from surgery, from illness, from whatever ails the body. This healing is complete when the body restored. Also, there is emotional healing that must happen. There can be much deeper wounds that take far longer than the physical counterpart to heal. Situational anxiety, PTSD, insomnia even depression can remain well after the body has healed.
Recovery is when one can begin to resume "life activities", this is the "new normal" setting in. Sometimes recovery can begin even before the healing process is not yet complete, and sometimes the healing has to happen first. And "Recovery" itself can be subjective to the person. Sometimes healing means that you can no longer do all the things that you were able to before, so this new normal is far different than what was before. With that, there can be emotional healing that has to happen before acceptance, because without acceptance there really isn't recovery. So where am I along this healing and recovery road? My healing journey is not nearly over, even though I have had my (hopefully) last surgery.
My surgeon says everything looks ok on the inside, other than some leftover scar tissue from the sepsis. My wound is at least 14 days from being even close to not needing to be packed, and then I can just use a regular gauze bandage until it's fully closed (maybe another week or so?) With this wound comes physical pain. I can tell you honestly, out of the 3 surgeries, this time has had the most physically painful wound recovery. I think that's because I have what looks like a bulletwound in my abdomen, but also because I was in the hospital only 3 days- so I had far more pain drugs running through my system much longer the previous 2 times. Once I get home I use the smallest amount to keep the pain manageable, but it never gets rid of it completely. My experience with the "opiate crisis" is a long collection of thoughts, that will be addressed in a different post.. But let's just say, I prefer to use the smallest amount of opiate needed to manage the pain.. but managing is not removing, so I use meditation and distraction to help manage the rest of the pain. Long term, I am in "surgical remission" for Crohns disease and will go on Humeria once my wound heals to keep myself that way. My lymph nodes show no sign of my tumor metastasizing, so I'll have to monitor for any new neuroendocrine malignant tumors with quarterly blood work, and yearly CT scans and colonoscopies for the next 15 years. So once my surgical stoma site wound closes, I will be physically "healed" from the sepsis and all the surgical wounds, and my Crohns is being "treated", and my cancer is in "monitored remission"
My emotional healing is a work in progress. In my pre trauma life I was one busy bee- teaching workshops with travel 8-10 times a year, plus retail shows 4-5 times a year, keeping my etsy shop stocked, maintaining my social media, writing articles.. I remember my record day of carding 44 batts. Red Bull and coffee fueled days and nights at the spinning wheel and carder. I think back on the article I wrote back for the Spring 2014 issue of PLY magazine-, where I talked about how my life was a well planned "jenga tower" and how if one piece fell everything could tumble down." How ironic that 2.5 years ago at the time I wrote it, I had a cancerous tumor growing in my appendix, and undiagnosed Crohn's disease.
Now I'm 19 months into this recovery journey. My "new normal" will not be what I imagined, planned, invested and hoped my life would be. It is going to be different, and more wonderful than before because I really appreciate what LIVING life is now.. but it is NOT going to be what I had planned for it to be before that fateful night on Oct 4, 2016. And I am still working through acceptance of my "now" in which some plans I made hold strong, some have changed, and some have dissolved, but there are also NEW plans that have emerged. It's important to separate that this part of the healing process doesn't take away of the excitement I have for the life I now get to live- full of gratitude of every gifted minute, it just is a part of coming to acceptance.
I began walking my "recovery" path, began before my "healing" one was fully complete. In these past 19 months I filmed (and released) TWO awesome streaming courses for Interweave, and I taught a number of amazing workshops . During this sensitive time for me, I appreciated so deeply, and was inspired so greatly by the creative and supportive students and also the organizers who made extra effort making sure I was comfortable- this is what allowed me these baby steps back into my life. These steps were SO powerful for the other parts of my emotional healing- reminding me that I *can* still do the things that I did before. That I could do them with bandages, and with an ostomy bag. That the students that want to learn from me, and the magazines that want me to write for them are all still here. My dreams of having a studio built onto the house, for my Official SAORI studio isn't dissolved, it's just on pause. That all the medical stuff and the fog the drugs put my brain into- none of that changed who I was, and what I was able to do... The fog would lift, and I could still do all the things- maybe I would have to change the *way* I did them, but I would still be able to DO them!!
I am excited to for the physical healing to complete because new dreams have emerged and morphed old plans into new. I am so excited to be able for my life to move out of first gear. I have new fiber workshop concepts and plans in the making. I have signed up for Yoga Teacher Training to start this fall, and I dream of merging my love of fiber with my love of yoga. I have connected deeply with meditation and have found immense peace in merging my spinning and weaving with my meditation. In tandem with my meditation and yoga love, I have started making meditation and yoga malas. I use energetically healing gemstones and find deep serenity when I make them. I infuse Reiki healing energy with each one, with in turn gives me a dose of healing. I even have ideas for fusing my fiber love and malas.
I'm so close to the end of this chapter of my journey. I am so grateful for the new dreams and opportunities, as well as the gift of heightened gratitude for the life I have now. I've learned so much in these 19 months, about perseverance, acceptance, patience and the digestive system. I have a new appreciation for the ability to find quiet amidst chaos and turmoil, as well for a healthy colon. I can't wait for the adventures I have ahead of me! Grateful for the chance to create this new normal! And most grateful for all the encouragement and support I have had along the way. This is what keeps me going when the meditation isn't helping the pain- but the knowledge that there are students that want me to teach, colleagues that want to collaborate with me, friends and family that love me is what keeps me going each day.
Thank you for being a part of my journey