Learning to Trust Your Body After Illness

body love Most of us go throughout our 20's feeling invisible, like nothing could or would happen to us. We rarely stop and think about our mortality or ask questions like," what if something were to  happen to me?" "What if I got sick?"

And honestly, we shouldn't. We should live in a constant state of being present, however, when something does happen, it can rock our world.

Personally I knew what my body was capable of. I was the picture of perfect health and fitness and the most severe illness I ever had was the flu. I had never broken a bone or had stitches and found myself proud of that.

Then, on December 27th, 2004 everything changed.

I was 24 years old and I was just told that I had a precancerous polyp in my colon and had to have surgery to remove it.

What? Surgery? A colon polyp? My mind was a jumbled mess of confusion. But I did EVERYTHING right AND I'm was only 24 years old. Wasn't colon cancer something old people got?

It shouldn't have come as such a huge shock being that my older brother was just over a year in remission for colon cancer, diagnosed at the age of 26 but it was happening to me and it was. A shock that is.

On January 14th, 2005 I checked into the hospital and had almost two feet of my colon removed. After a  setback from a major complication during surgery, another emergency surgery, a temporary ileostomy bag and nine emotionally trying days in the hospital, I was released and able to go home with the orders of gaining as much weight as possible so that I could have one more surgery to reverse the ileostomy bag and reconnect my large intestine to my small.

Grateful to be home, I went about the first couple weeks feeling relieved and just happy to be back at my parents house to recover. Then, what seemed out of nowhere I started to feel sad and a depression set in like I had never experienced before.

Everything that had happened over the course of the last month began crashing down on me. My body was different are now I barred a scar about 6 inches from my belly button to the top of my public bone, I had a bag connected to my stomach (that I had to go to the bathroom in) and I could barely walk a quarter of a mile without feeling tired.

I once felt so strong, so invisible and now I was left feeling like a stranger in my own body and with that came a lack of trust in its ability to heal and stay healthy. I lost all trust that it was able to do it's job. 

So, here I was, having to accept that I was a mortal being, something not too many 24 year old's have to think about. I had to adapt to a new way of existing in a tired, weak and broken body. I was forced to question my whole identity.

Maybe you are reading this and you can relate. Maybe you have had an experience where your body, once the picture of health and vitality, had been left broken and unable to work properly? Maybe you are going through that right now.

So what do you do now?

It took time to learn that I had to adjust to a new way of existing within my body. I had to love my new features like the 6 inch scar running down my belly and slowly gain my strength back. I rushed back to the gym only to find myself with a hernia and back in the hospital. Once my intestines were reconnected, my body had to learn how to work again which also left me heading to the emergency room on more than one occasion.

Looking back, if I could offer up any advice for someone being tested by their body I would say this:

// Be kind and patient and give yourself time to heal. Don't try to rush back into your old way of existing.

// Have gratitude for what you CAN do, like walk. Seriously. You may not have the strength you once had but if you can walk from here to there, that is something to be thankful for.

// Live as preventative as you can. Eat organic, whole foods that will speed up the healing process and give you more energy.

// Listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs. Take naps when needed. Healing takes an incredible amount of energy. I slept a lot and very hard during my months of healing.

// Practice daily self-care, give yourself a lot of love. Take a bath, read a good book, make nutritious meals. Do what  you can to feel loved, nurtured and taken care of.

Whenever you are faced with illness or an injury you are also faced with change and change is hard to accept and deal with. It takes a lot of strength and courage, which I know you have.

It also takes persistence and resilience. You have to be able to accept what has happened and that somethings are completely out of our control, something that is hard for a lot of us. However, by doing so you are giving yourself room to find a new normal and possibly come back even stronger than you were before.

Life can throw some pretty interesting curve balls. Would I have ever guess that at 24 years old I'd be facing the possibility of colon cancer? No way! But I did, it's part of my story now and it was my choice how I used it in my life.

And you have the choice too. Where will you go? How will you deal with what is happening within your body right now? Most importantly, how will you learn to trust your body again?

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Lots of love