Severe Gastrointestinal Distress by Merry

As a last, insulting complication to a ruptured appendix that had nearly killed me several months earlier, a strand of internal scar tissue known as an adhesion wrapped itself around the artery feeding my small intestine and brought me to my knees a year ago.  The surgeon who performed my appendectomy had warned me this might happen.  He admonished me: if I felt the same gunshot-wound-to-the-belly severe pain I had come to know with peritonitis, not to pass Go, not to collect $200, but to go STRAIGHT to the emergency room, to call him and he'd make all the arrangements.  He told me an adhesion was no joke--, it could kill me.  And it nearly did, because when I called him five months later in blinding, unable-to-stand pain (and I'm a jock), he allowed 36 hours to elapse before going in to find that four and a half feet of my small intestine -- the very worst four and a half feet, including nearly half of my ileum and all of my terminal ileum -- had died.

Following emergency resection of my small bowel, my entire life changed.  I went from a 50-year-old woman with the bone mineral density of a 15-year-old, who at 110 pounds could bench press 140 pounds, to a shaking, staggering creature wearing a diaper who couldn't walk one block up a gentle slope carrying a bag of Gatorade. (Which itself was bad advice; Gatorade actually made the diarrhea worse, so please don't do that.)

I have come a long way since then.  My bench press is back up to 90 pounds, even though during some 45-minute workouts I'm in the bathroom half a dozen times or more.  Attitude counts for a great deal, as I'm sure everyone on this website well knows.  I will have to take Imodium several times a day for the rest of my life, and there is a HUGE overlapping and conflicting list of foods I can't eat, shouldn't eat even though they're good for everybody else, have to eat but don't get absorbed, etc., etc.  The fat-soluble vitamins are a big problem, as I can't absorb very much fat, and I have to shoot or snort B12 because even if I drank it by the bottle, the only part of me that can use it is gone.  Regardless of the excellent care I took of myself and the great shape I was in at 50, I am now at very high risk for scores of foreboding conditions, from osteoporosis to colon cancer (which already runs in my family and which I can't even combat with a high-fiber diet any more) to kidney and gallstones to irreversible liver disease.

But on a day-to-day basis, the three worst things about short bowel syndrome are the spasming, urgent diarrhea, the bloating gas, and the LOUD rumbling.  I find myself apologizing for it in the most amazing array of situations.  I am in significant abdominal discomfort every single minute I am conscious.

It was six months after the awful resection surgery, and I was still very ill, when I began dating a man who smoked dope.  I had gone through a phase of being high pretty much all the time for four years when I was in my twenties, but that was a long time ago.  I had stopped when I became a Christian, which phase thankfully ended as well, but I just hadn't been around anyone who got high, and I hadn't missed it, so I hadn't smoked for 25 years.  After we had dated for a few weeks, I consented to get high with him.  I was actually a little apprehensive that if I got to feeling too good, I'd lose fecal control, which was a huge challenge even when I was straight. 

To my great surprise, even before I began to feel high, the marijuana put the kibosh on my intestinal symptoms.  Utterly.  First I noticed the rumbling had stopped.  I heard nothing, and from long-ago intense appreciation of music while high, I knew better than to think the dope had made me deaf!  Then I realized that the horrible, urgent, can-barely-hold-it gas and need-to-go had abated.  God, what a relief. 

I dated this guy for four months after that, and smoked half a shared joint, sometimes half of a shared left-over half-joint, two or three times almost every weekend during that time, and there were only two times in that whole period when I was so extremely ill that my symptoms weren't relieved.  Utterly relieved, such that I felt as if I weren't ill at all.  Sometimes I dared to believe it was actually curative, that I wouldn't still be sick the next day.  But then I broke up with the guy, and now I haven't had any dope for about seven weeks.  Fortunately, some additional adaptation and compensation have taken place in my small intestine during the past half-year, but I still have constant pain and discomfort from the awful threesome of diarrhea, terrible gas and loud rumbling. 

I have no hesitation in saying that I have always thought of and used marijuana not medically, but as a social and sexual sacrament.  In fact, while my guy and I were dating, I didn't even want to get high by myself, even if he left some at my place for several weeks, because I didn't want to take the edge off the wonderful marijuana high I would get the next time.  But now, after seven weeks, I believe I may revisit that decision.  Because even though I would frankly define myself as a recreational user (although I spent a quarter of a century not recreating that way!), and even though I strongly believe it should be legal AS SUCH, as is alcohol, I cannot deny the overwhelming relief when the symptoms that will hound me for the rest of my life simply GO AWAY for one blissful evening.