When I was discharged from hospital in 2017, I was told by my surgeon in Slough that I would have my stoma reversed within a year, but it took me a long time to get back to living life as normal.
Physically, I was stick-thin, my vocal chords were still paralysed and I could barely walk. I also had a parastomal hernia, which meant I couldn’t do strenuous exercise and I had a large bulge on my belly, at the site of my stoma. And mentally, adjusting to life with a stoma bag and coping with the three months of hell that I had endured in hospital was taking its toll on me.
I was fortunate that I had very strong “Sangat” – a network of close friends and family – who kept my spirits high; friends who continually inspired me, some by sharing guidance from Sikhi and the history of my faith, some who had professional experience in social services and counselling, some who were able to show me new techniques of meditation to help me discover myself and explore my mental health, and some who were just plain fun to be around and kept me smiling and laughing. My family, meanwhile, were the only ones who truly knew the extent of what I had been through, and were a steady support to me throughout.
However, during my rehabilitation, I was devastated by news from my surgeon who told me that I had not been recovering as expected, and that it was too risky to perform surgery to have my stoma reversed.
I refused to accept this, and asked to be referred to another hospital – St Mark’s Hospital in Harrow – which is renowned for achieving results in gastroentorology.
I went on to discover new forms of therapy. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to see a professional counsellor. She helped me to reflect on my experience, encouraged me to ask myself important and probing questions and gave me tools to cope with the trauma that I had been through, which included writing this blog.
I was also fortunate that Seva charities had set up in Slough soon after I was discharged, and I joined a group of volunteers from Nishkam SWAT and Slough Outreach, who had begun serving food and essentials to the homeless members of our community on a regular and consistent basis. Helping those less fortunate than myself proved to be a great way to remind myself to stay grateful for what I have.
I discovered that embracing my passion for urban music production would act as a very powerful form of therapy that enabled me to express my creativity, and psychologically liberated me. I invested in music software and hardware, and literature.
I even underwent a course to train as a Sikh chaplain so that I could help others who had been in my situation. And I took steps to get my career on track. I wanted to pursue freelance work and become self-employed. I explored a few avenues; online retail, social work, and I even worked briefly in a fast food takeaway, but nothing seemed to be working out as a long term career, and this remains a challenge for me going forward.
Around a year ago, I met the consultant surgeon at St Mark’s Hospital, Mr Tozer, and we had a long conversation. We spoke about what I had been through last time in hospital, and the steps I had taken to put my lifestyle right and rehabilitate myself. He explained that any surgery would carry risks; I could potentially face a similar experience to 2017 once again, or even worse. However, after fully assessing the situation, the outcome was positive, and I was given a plan to prepare me for the reversal surgery. The surgery would be performed in two stages.
I would have various scans, such as an MRI and a colonoscopy, as well as regular blood tests. I was put onto Humira – a biological, immunosuppressant medicine in the form of a weekly injection – which caused me to be exhausted for two days of each week, but gives my body a chance to recuperate. To get physically prepared, I also began playing football again, a passion that I had before I fell ill, and I gradually began lifting weights again, although my level of performance on both fronts had dropped far below what it was. I even began doing yoga. I took dietary supplements, such as Vitamin D and other herbal remedies.
My blood test results and scans showed signs of improvement. It seemed that my disease had subsided. Tomorrow, I will be admitted into hospital to undergo the first stage of my reversal surgery.