Yesterday morning my sister and I got up around 6am to accompany our mum to hospital, where she was due to have the second of two major operations. The first took place exactly a year ago, when they removed most of her bowel and connected what was left to a hole in her stomach. That hole is called a stoma. The procedure is called a colostomy, something I’d heard of, but would happily have gone to my grave without fully understanding. But there you go. Life is full of disappointments.
Yesterday was the reversal. On the way to the hospital we made jokes about her learning to poo again. We waxed positive about her being home by lunchtime.
And so on.
She finally made it to the operating theatre some time in the late afternoon. We went to see her when she’d been allocated a ward room at around 10pm. She had tubes in her arms and an oxygen mask strapped to her face. She did not look well.
‘Have they told you?’ she asked.
‘Told us what?’
‘I’ve still got the bag.’
And in that moment, all the good air leaked out of us.
We knew there was a chance they might not be able to do it. They wouldn’t know for sure until they opened her up. But because hope is all you have, you keep hope alive. As long as you possibly can.
So now my mum has to face the horror of healing, coupled with the knowledge that she’s stuck with the stoma and the nastiness and indignity of shitting through a hole in her stomach for the rest of her life. It’s not a death sentence I know, but I fear that for an 81-year-old woman with all the hope cut out of her, it could be taken that way.
Feeling pretty depressed and very tired, I came back to my sister’s and finished the second draft of the novel I’m writing. I’m very happy with it. Whatever happens to it, at the moment it feels like a big beating heart, the best and most beautiful thing I’ve ever written, and it makes me happy and hopeful and proud.
Also, I would give it up in a second if I could have my mum back with her insides intact again.
It feels unfair.
I know we have to stay positive.
I hope we manage it.