When a tiny sore appeared on the edge of the hole in Tracey’s stomach we wasted no time in getting her to a medical centre.
“What can I do for you?” the Doctor asked Tracey when she entered his office.
Tracey explained she had something funky happening on her skin graft.
“A skin graft? What was that for?”
“I had an aneurism on a vein in my stomach back in October,” said Tracey.
“An aneurism in your stomach? But that would mean your bowel wouldn’t be getting blood and usually would die.”
Tracey nodded and lifted her shirt.
“It did,” she said. “But I’ve still got 90cm left.”
The doctor paused to consider this.
“You realise,” he said, “surviving that is very rare. You are a very lucky lady.”
She knows. We all know.
Which is why we don’t muck about when something changes. He prescribed some antibiotics and the next day we stopped in at RBWH on our way back to Gympie.
“Feels like I’m coming home,” Tracey said when we emerged from the Clem7 and the hospital loomed in front of us. “I feel safer just seeing it.”
I do too.
The most likely diagnosis of the sore looks to be a small part of the skin graft is rejecting.
“It’s not unexpected,” the hospital doctor said, and although they took a swab he still seemed happy with how things are progressing. So we are too.
Since leaving the hospital back in December, everything has been plodding along pretty much as expected. We realise it’s just a waiting game now, with things in her belly needing time to sort themselves out enough Dr Brown and his fabulous team of surgeons can go back in and sort out a few loose ends – like hopefully the bags, and eventually the hernias.
The hernias, as you’ll see if you venture down to the photo below, are extensive. More than once Tracey has spotted people giving her tummy that ‘oh, you’re pregnant’ smile. It doesn’t bother her. Not much bothers her these days regarding body image.
“I’m loving myself sick right now,” Tracey is prone to saying as she looks at her nakedness in the mirror. “I used to find things wrong with how I looked, but now I love my body so much. It kept me alive!” Then she’ll inevitably backtrack a bit. “Oh, sure, it tried to kill me first… but then it kept me alive! It did good.”
Putting up a photo showing the physical scars of Tracey’s journey is something we’ve been discussing for a couple of months. In fact, we’ve had this photo sitting on her desktop for a while now. We realise not everyone will want to see it, and in fact some people might be offended. A couple of family members were a little shocked by the idea she wanted a photo, let alone wanted to share it with anyone. They’ve come around, but are still anxious.
Ultimately, Tracey thinks that it’s important to break down a few walls regarding stoma bags because they’re awesome. Several people have come out of the woodwork since reading about her story, and overwhelmingly there’s a lot of negative associations with it, including a gentleman now suffering depression.
“Whereas I love my bags,” Tracey inevitably tells me. Not that she’s not looking forward to maybe getting rid of them one day if she can. But as she says, “Without them I’d be dead. Where’s the fun in that?”
And without them we wouldn’t have her wonderful positivity to kick about with, so we love them too.
“Do you think,” Tracey said to me the other night while she sat on our bed changing her bags, and I lay behind her hooked up to my sleep apnea machine via a mask and tube, “our ex’s must look at us and think ‘geez, I’ve dodged a bullet’?”
“I reckon mine might,” I laughed. “But not because of this mask.”
It’s funny little thoughts like these which keep her chuckling about the whole thing. We should always look for something to laugh and smile about, because life can quickly become serious enough all of it’s own accord.
Without further adieu, here’s a photo of Tracey’s battle scars. There’s the scar on her inside leg where they took the vein to repair the burst one in her gut. There’s the big rectangle on her thigh where they took skin for the graft. Then there’s the belly itself, with the huge pregnancy-imitating hernias, the skin graft (which should eventually go when they reconnect the tummy muscles which are currently about 15cm apart), and her two wonderful stoma bags. You can’t see it, but her belly button is on the far side of her stomach, just beyond the lip of the furtherest stoma bag.
And its all more incredible when you think about things being even more diced and spliced on the inside.
She’s amazing stuff.
Not least because this is the most skin I think she’s ever shown in a photo, but mainly because of her attitude.
I think you’ll agree she’s hell sexy, and I’m a very lucky man.
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Raising a family on little more than laughs.