Seventeen years ago today, I married my husband and best friend, Doug. We had already been a couple for four years at that point, which equals a grand total of 21 years together.
Our life together has always been steeped in outdoor adventure. One of our first dates was a winter camping trip to the Porcupine Mountains in the upper peninsula of Michigan.
Since then, we have made may trips into the wilderness to rock- and ice-climb, backpack and ski. Such trips are often riddled with trials. We have weathered storms for a week in our tent, dealt with some scary moments on climbs and made it through some of those tension-filled arguments that oftentimes erupt between couples during stressful moments in the outdoors. We have always emerged from these events stronger.
Perhaps facing these adversities in the outdoors together helped us prepare for one of our biggest challenges yet: my severe UC flare up and eventual ileostomy surgery. Just like facing those trying times in the mountains, this experience has helped strengthen our bond and has showed me the depth of my husband’s love for me.
Often in life, it is the simple things that demonstrate love the most. Almost every morning, when I woke up in the hospital around 5 a.m. Doug would be there. During my hospital stay for my final UC flare, he helped get me through the seemingly endless days by bringing my favorite chick-flick DVDs to my room and watching them with me (yes, this included The Notebook–not one of his faves). Doug strolled the same hospital floor walking route with me countless times to help me maintain strength and kept me from becoming too scared when we stopped at the scale in the hall each day to discover I had lost yet another few pounds. When I was too tired and sick to stay in contact with my family, friends and coworkers, he worked hard to keep everyone updated. Doug held my hand during my first Remicade infusion and monitored my vitals even more diligently than my awesome nurses. He took off from work so he could be at the hospital when I was making important decisions about my treatment with the doctors. He came with me to my initial surgery consult so I wouldn’t miss a bit of information.
After surgery, Doug reminded me to push my pain machine button on schedule. He brought me ice chips and summoned the nurses for help. He sat with me during my first couple of appliance changes with the nurse and then helped me when I got home, never once showing any aversion to my new plumbing. He got to know my surgeon and became a partner in my care, oftentimes calling and communicating with him when I was just too exhausted and sleepy. Doug became my wound-care expert when my incision opened up, coming home on his lunch break to painstakingly pack it with gauze–just one of three times he did this each day.
And most importantly, he was always supportive of my desire to have the surgery, and has continuously made me feel beautiful even with the addition of a stoma and pouch on my belly. When I had moments of doubt and tearful times, he was there to lift my spirits and remind me of how awful I felt before the operation and the new life this was going to give me. Now that I am feeling better, he continues to support me by helping to make these films. I pretty inept at most things techie, and could not do this project without his help. My biggest hope for all new ostomates is that they have someone as loving and supportive as my husband in their life to help them get through surgery and on the road to recovery.
Hopefully, in 30 more years we won’t be sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch, but instead will still be swinging from ropes on rock faces. There are likely to be more uncertain times between now and then, but I know after this challenge, we are ready for anything.