This is one of my favorite days. A day I will celebrate for the rest of my life. I think out of all 3 of my surgeries, having my colon removed is actually the most meaningful. I started my life over again 3 years ago today. I was given a second chance.
Second chances don’t come around often for people – I think about my second chance every single day. Looking at my life 3 years ago compared to today, the difference is difficult to put into words. My first surgery was emergent, so that made looking at the bigger picture and the end result hard in the moment I found out I had to have my colon removed.
By the time my surgery came on Monday, 7/1/13, I had already sat with myself for 2 days and realized that this second chance was one that I shouldn’t be angry about. There was no one to blame. This was happening for a reason and I needed to take that and make something of it. I wasn’t scared sitting in the hospital bed being rolled into surgery #1, I was ready.
I believe when you are given a true second chance at life, no matter what the particular reason is for you starting over, it’s crucial to keep in mind that many don’t receive that. I think that’s why this day is so incredibly special to me. I woke up on 7/1/13 with an ability to start over, it’s like a second birthday.
I write and speak a lot about having a positive mindset and being grateful. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about the things that I’m thankful for in this second chance. Just the other day I went to lunch with my friends from work to a popular food truck event that happens every Wednesday in the summer in downtown Cleveland. Different food trucks from around the area gather outside – theres live music, people and lots of food to choose from (and no bathrooms close, ha!) I had ice cream. Chocolate ice cream in a waffle cone covered in sprinkles.
While eating my healthy, nutrient filled lunch outside with two great friends, I thought about how impossible that moment would have been if I wasn’t given my second chance. I wouldn’t have been able to eat any of that food, laugh, sit outside without being in pain, walk to the food trucks, none of it. Small moments like that is what makes everything I went through worth it. It is an amazing feeling to be thankful for the fact that I can eat an ice cream cone with my friends. While it may seem like nothing to some, it really is so special to me.
When I talk to anyone who is nervous about having that first surgery, about wearing an ostomy, about what life is going to be like when they have their jpouch, I try to get them to understand how many things they are missing out on while being imprisoned by their Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis. I know it’s hard, because I thought that way, too. “I’m not going anywhere wearing that bag,” was a phrase I said all too often during my years suffering from my fulminant UC.
Behind that statement and thought was pain, fear, ignorance. Now that my ostomy is what I’m most proud of, I try to shift the mindsets of those that think an ostomy or surgery is going to set them back in a different direction.
You need to think about how beautiful your life will be without the pain of your disease. When I woke up from my first surgery 3 years ago, I felt better than I had in such a long time. The overwhelming feeling of being free from the limits of ulcerative colitis is one that I won’t forget.
A lot of people fear change, that’s what holds so many of us back from making such big life decisions. Small ones, too. It’s the fear of the unknown.
Stepping into that unknown, whether it be as small as trying a new food or as big as wearing an ostomy, can be jarring to many. But it’s those moments in life that you are most afraid that you have the opportunity to be brave. When you take that first step into your second chance, try to remember there are people who would give their lives to have that opportunity. I know, because I was one of them.
Tonight when I celebrate with friends and family the anniversary of my second chance, I know I’ll be thinking constantly about how grateful I am to be living that moment. Because it wouldn’t be possible if I wouldn’t have been afraid.
Here are some amazing moments that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for second chances:
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 C 12:10