One month since surgery. One month into the rest of my life. There is no turning back. And there have definitely been times I wished I could go back, change my mind about the surgery and had taken the risk of watching and waiting for cancer, thereby giving myself a little extra time with my stomach. At the end of the day though I know what kind of person I am: a hypochondriac. It may be part of the reason I went into the medicine, that way I could understand my body better. While on some level this has helped, it has also made it worse. Once I learned about all the rare and fatal diseases that exist, conditions we in the field call “zebras,” I thought I had a herd. Who knew I would actually have a rare disease? I think those odds would have been better served on winning the lottery if you ask me.
If I’m really honest with myself, if I had kept my stomach, I would have worried the entire time about cancer. Every twinge of pain, gurgle of the stomach and acid reflux would have translated to cancer in my overactive mind. When I was first diagnosed with the mutation I was working out a lot and trying to lose weight to get fit and trim. I know that had I kept my stomach I would have wondered, “Was the weight loss because I was doing a good job keeping track of my carbs, or was it because my polyps progressed to cancer?” These worrisome thoughts would have eaten away at me. So while I may tell myself I have regrets about having my stomach removed, I actually don’t. I was fortunate enough to find out I didn’t have cancer on pathologic review after surgery and because I didn’t have cancer and they took my entire stomach out and all gastric cells (stomach specific cells) I will never get gastric cancer. That I can live with.
Right now the biggest struggle for me is eating. From what I hear from my GI doctor and my new friend, this will be a years long struggle. While the physical recovery is coming along quite well. It’s the eating part which is a lot slower to resolve. I am a baby learning to eat again. First I was on clear fluids, then full liquids and now I can try new things out and see how they work. For example, one day I will try an egg and it will be fine and then the next day, I will get super nauseated. The fact that I get nauseated is actually fascinating to me. I have always associated nausea with my stomach and had falsely assumed that since I don’t have one anymore, I would never get nauseated again. Alas, I do. I just have to keep introducing new foods and see how my body tolerates them. I also have to see what I can eat now since my diet is limited to low carbs, no added sugar, and high protein. Oh and did I mention that eating meat right now is gross? Which is weird because I am/was a meat eater. It’s almost like I have pregnancy taste buds without being pregnant. Because of the new diet, I have been experimenting with different recipes, some of which I will try and get out the in the coming weeks. If I do, I can’t guarantee instagram worthy pictures to go with the posts.
The one thing I am nervous about is going back to work. The grand experiment of eating has been okay at home, because if I eat something wrong and get dumping, or partial dumping syndrome, I can go lay down in bed and wait for it to pass. What will happen when I’m at work? What if I don’t eat enough? As a physician in the hospital I spend a lot of time walking around the wards, talking to patients and families, nurses and other doctors. I do have a lot of paperwork to do, but my job is far from a desk job. How am I going to manage my day to ensure I get the work done all while making sure I am getting enough nutrition? I don’t have a well formulated diet yet, so what the heck am I going to eat at work? What will I do if I try something new at work and it gives me dumping? I mean aside from the obvious going to the bathroom to purge the contents of my bowel, there is no where to lay down and wait for the nastiness of dumping to pass. I have two weeks to figure it out. While it does not seem like a lot of time right now, if I think back to two weeks ago, a lot has changed, so maybe I’ll be ready. Let’s see what happens.
I also forgot to mention it was my birthday! Well it was two days ago, so I will now spend this new year stomach less. No birthday cake for me, but I did have some strawberries and mango, which were delicious!