August 21, 2014: It’s hard to believe that a year ago today I was at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto having my colon removed and getting it replaced with an ileostomy.

Despite a setback when my abdominal incision opened up and I had started to develop an infection, recovery was moving along at a steady pace. Eating became easier, pains from surgery were going away day by day, and I was able to get back to activities that I had avoided while sick with Crohn’s Disease.

The month following my surgery I was able to enjoy my 11th wedding Anniversary with my wife, and we were able to go out to watch movies, eat at restaurants and go for long walks again.  Ironically, laughing was the last thing that caused me abdominal discomfort, but even those pains eventually went away.

11th anniversary post op

One month after my ileostomy. 11th Anniversary hike with my wife.

November 2013 saw my proctectomy, which was a few weeks earlier than scheduled, but there really wasn’t a convenient time for another surgery. I went into this one physically stronger than the first, but I certainly wasn’t jumping at the chance to go through another hospital stay and a long recovery.  Still, I knew it had to be done since my perianal disease left me with quite a mess, and healing is still ongoing even to this day.  Recovery from the proctectomy was harder than getting the ileostomy; I wrote about that experience in detail if you’re interested in reading about it.

Goodbye rectum.

Goodbye rectum.

In April 2014, I experienced my first intestinal blockage which landed me back in the hospital. That was not a fun experience, but I certainly learned a few lessons and have been problem-free since.

If you get a blockage, you're gonna have a bad time

If you get a blockage, you’re gonna have a bad time

My bowel movements have been more consistent and predictable in the last year, and I don’t limit any healthy foods from my diet, including big-ass salads! I was able to do my first Gutsy Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada his year, which is a huge accomplishment for me. While I would have loved to have gotten more physically active this summer, the combination of joint pains and a lack of time has made it difficult for me to do that, but the fall and winter may open up some opportunities.

I’m grateful

Post-op selfie thumbs up

“No more Crohn’s pains”

“No more Crohn’s pains”.  Even in my highly sedated state, I remember uttering those words as I woke up several hours after getting my ileostomy.  Without my diseased colon, I was free from the pains that had plagued me for years.  It was a heavy price to pay, but the outcome was as good as it could get for someone in my place. I am so grateful to my surgeon, who has since left her position and has moved to another important role at another hospital, and to all the nursing staff that had cared for me along the way.  I hear of so many horrible hospital experiences, and I’m so fortunate to have had a wonderful experience overall.

Post ileostomy cat hug

Velvet always cares

Post proctectomy sofa cat

Mira sleeps wherever she likes…

Post ileostomy cat cuddles

…but Mira also gives great cuddles

I’m happy to have met so many new friends because of my ostomy, and I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to help so many new ostomates and future ostomates with their questions and reassurance that an ostomy isn’t the end of the world.  I relied a lot on others to bring me comfort and confidence before my surgery, and I’m lucky to be able to give back.

I’m cautious

An ostomy isn’t a cure. I have to remind myself of that every day, which isn’t hard to do when you’ve still got extraintestinal manifestations from Crohn’s disease always biting at your heels.  I don’t take my health for granted, and try to live in a way that promotes good health.  Since my surgery one year ago, I’ve focused more on whole foods and eat far less processed food than ever before (excluding the time I was on a raw food diet!).  Since learning more about how diet and environmental factors can influence IBD and remission, I have to give my body the absolute best chance of staying healthy.

Eric portrait presquile May 2014

This past year has been a huge leap forward for me, and I look forward to the future.  Thanks to everyone who’s been following my journey!