Friday, March 8, 2013

Time For A Detour...

I remember the day that I got my tests results back saying that I had gastroparesis. The nurse was extremely nice and informative. I was just happy to have a diagnosis, an explanation as to why I had been so sick. She explained to me that there was no cure for gastroparesis but with medication, the symptoms could be manageable. It was just a game of trial and error trying to find out what works best for you. At the time I was working as a licensed pharmacy technician. I knew that medication didn't always work for everyone. People are unique individuals, what might make one person have better control of their symptoms might make another person feel miserable with allergic reactions. I asked her what happened when you had went through the list of medications and none of them had helped. She told me that patients with severe cases of GP when medication had failed could/would receive a gastric pacemaker. It seemed so foreign and unreal, a pacemaker for your stomach. There was a long list of medication, I was only allergic to one, I would never need a gastric pacemaker.

It is a good thing that as people, we do not know the future. If you would have told me that within the next five years I would go through having my stomach, small intestines, colon and bladder effected by my gastroparesis. I would have to go through numerous medical testing, some being less pleasant than others. I would consume what seemed to be boatloads of laxatives and hundreds of bottles of magnesium citrate. I would have to learn how to catheterize myself and eventually have a colectomy. If someone would have told me this, I would have laughed and questioned their sanity. At the time of my diagnosis, I wasn't a strong, determined person. I have grown and learned so much from having gastroparesis that I am not sure that I would change it if I could. I wouldn't be the person that I am today. My disease has taught me to strengthen my faith. It has taught me to be a stronger, independent person, someone who doesn't give up when things get hard. I have learned to have more compassion towards others. I am still working on coming out of my shell and holding my own when the circumstance calls for it but we are all a work in progress, continually growing and learning.

In February I went for my second endoscopy to have my pylorus stretched and receive additional Botox injections. I had been talking to Jacob for a while about the idea of having the remaining part of my colon removed. Jacob like always, was supportive of my decision to talk to my GI. Jacob will never know how thankful I am to him in my life and how much I love him. He has been through all of it with me. He is the ultimate trooper if there is such a thing. From when I needed a Coke from the refrigerator to help deal with nausea, to the numerous doctor appointments and testing, and finally when I have been so sick in the hospital that every time I moved, I vomited. Jacob has been there through thick and thin. He has always been there supporting me.

I talked to my GI and asked him if it would be crazy to even entertain the idea of having my colon removed. He talked to me and told me no. This was the next step. He explained the possible surgical options I may have. He sent the referral to my surgeon, the one who did my colectomy and I met with him yesterday.

I was talking to one of the doctors yesterday explaining the past fifteen months. When I got to my clean out regime, he was shocked at how much I take and how often I take it. He said a bottle of magnesium citrate to the small intestines was like taking an elephant gun to a mouse. I am doing that with the additional twenty tablespoons of milk of magnesia and twenty Dulcolax pills every other day. We also talked about the twenty pounds that I had lost since I last saw them.

My surgeon talked about removing my colon. He explained that if he removed my colon and put in a pouch, I could be headed towards some major complications. The pouch could become attached to the surrounding organs and veins. It would not be good and he did not recommend the surgery. His next option was doing an ileostomy. I explained to him that I did not want an ileostomy. What happened if my small intestines slowed down like my colon? Could I even clean out with a bag on my side? He told me that it was rare to see a patient with small bowel motility issues. Here I am with my stomach, small bowel/intestines and colon (for whatever is left of my colon) effected by motility issues and that doesn't include the pelvic floor issues. I am rare and in uncharted waters. There is no guarantee that the surgery will work or that I won't have to clean out again. The ileostomy would be reversible which gave me some comfort. I could go back to how I am now if I needed too. He set up an appointment with the nurses who teach ileostomy care. He felt it would help get me more comfortable to see how things work. I was currently suffering from a case of being close minded, stubborn and simply ignorant. He told me that I didn't have to make my decision today.

I had to ask what would happen if I stayed just like I am today, a girl taking a boatload of laxatives and magnesium citrate. He explained to me that I could stay just like I am cleaning out. I voiced my concern about how long the medication would last since I am already maxed out and can't go up in my dosages. Eventually I will have to increase it or the medicine will stop working. Physically, I can't handle much more when it comes to laxatives and cleaning out. This high of dosage is beating me. I look and feel horrible. My surgeon explained that if I continue to clean out, my medication will eventually stop working. I will start having obstructions/blockages in my small intestines which will make me vomit. I won't be able to clear the blockages because my clean out routine will no longer work. I will become more malnourished and eventually my organs will begin to shut down. I am coming to the end of a cliff and I need to take a detour. The last option was looking into the possibility of a small bowel transplant. He didn't know the criteria but it was something to look into. By this point in the appointment, my head was spinning. How did I get here this quickly? I knew that I have felt weaker and looked worse than I had in the past but I was not expecting this. I just wanted my colon removed. No bag. No transplant talk.

I was pretty taken by the appointment yesterday. I have done a lot of thinking about my future over the past couple of years. I knew that one day I would have to make those crucial life changing decisions. I just didn't think it would be now. I am currently in the process of talking to my GI about the possibility of a transplant. I don't even know if I would meet the criteria. I have decided to go ahead with the ileostomy surgery. I need a break from cleaning out. It doesn't have to be permanent. I just have to take it one day at a time. God has been with me through everything and He will be with me through this.

My health may fail and my spirit grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.   Psalm 73:26


  1. Jennifer, I am so sorry about this. I've heard that an ileostomy is a real life saver for some, but I am like you and have been really worried about this. Is the gastric pacemaker not an option? I have a sacral nerve stimulator implated that helps, its the medtronic interstim. Also, I am on a new medication that is new to the market- its called Linaclotide (Linzess) maybe that is worth looking into. I deal with a huge amount of distress still from my colonic inertia, but I really can't imagine being in your shoes.

  2. Hey Katie!

    I hope that you are doing and feeling well. Thank you so much for your kind words. Ugh... colonic inertia. I totally can relate to you and I am so sorry that you have to deal with that. I don't think there is anything like intestinal motility issues. I have always been the type to fix myself up when I go out, hair, makeup - the whole deal. Now I stick to the basics of daily hygiene due to a lack of energy and simply not feeling well. The physical appearance of an ileostomy is really getting in my way because I am so vain. Honestly I am being ignorant and ridiculous. I have been reading patient blogs and watching patient YouTube videos about their ileostomies and the transition was hard at first but they're not limited like I am. This is one of the positive things that I have found (and there is more). Overall I keep reverting back to the idea that it does not have to be permanent.
    As for the gastric pacemaker, I wen to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia three years ago and found out that my organs were too slow for a pacemaker. It would just make things worse. :)