The Low Residue Diet

Standing at the pantry, Feeling oh so uninspired / Want something hard and crunchy, God forbid it send me ERird (Ogden Nash, eat your heart out)

Okay, so I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2017. I had surgery in May, spent all summer healing from that (Worst. Ever.) and started 4 rounds of chemo in August 2017. These all sent me to the hospital with intractable vomiting and pain.

I had 30 rounds of radiation, Monday through Friday. Radiation was easy for me. Other than a bit of tiredness, and an odd, circular tan around my buttocks, I appeared to be totally normal.

I started 4 more rounds of chemo in January, and again, I was hospitalized for pain and vomiting each time. My chemo ended in April of 2018, and my treatment has been considered ended and I have been considered cured of cancer. My CEA levels are checked regularly (this is a protein tumors secrete into the bloodstream), and no signs of tumor growth have been found. HOORAY!

However, in July of 2018, I began to have issues with vomiting again. It was severe, but intermittent. I would just push through it. By the time September came, I had to see a doctor, and I was found to have a small bowel obstruction (this refers to which intestine the obstruction is in, not the size of the obstruction), and I was required to have my stomach pumped via a large nose tube.

I spent several days in the hospital this way, and when no more liquid came out of my stomach, they removed the tube, gave me a liquid diet for a day or so to see how I’d do, then advanced my diet to “full liquids”, then a regular diet. Of course, they had done imaging on me, but at that time no obstruction was shown.

My saga didn’t end there, though.

There was definitely an obstruction, and it would be several more hospital stays before it would fully make its presence known. They even took my gallbladder out, in trying to correct the problem! (It did not.)

A nose tube, or NG tube, as they called it, is extremely uncomfortable. It’s quite large, and irritating to the sinus tissues. Add to that the fact you’re not allowed to have anything by mouth—not even a sip of water. They would instead give me a small cup of water and a stick with a sponge on the end so I could moisten my mouth. This sponge would quickly become disgusting.

In 2019, I was hospitalized 9 times and had 4 surgeries, trying to correct my near daily vomiting. One of the surgeries was the removal of my gallbladder. One was an attempt to get the obstruction out laparoscopically. One was an attempt to get the obstruction out through re-opening my incision from my tumor-removal. One was my final surgery in September 2019 when I convinced my original surgeon to please go in and try to do something about my misery.

You see, when the surgeon who tried to get at the obstruction laparoscopically was unable to do so due to scar tissue from my radiation, she attempted a second surgery by going straight in. What she found was dismaying: I have a “cocoon abdomen”. That means, she was unable to distinguish one type of tissue from another due to scarring. It was too likely that she’d end up cutting my guts up and killing me.

Unfortunately, she was sentencing me to forever having to have my stomach pumped, until the issue resolved itself, which I was told it often does. But would it? And when?

In July 2019, imaging at the end of my hospital stay of that week showed that the obstruction was gone. HOORAY! I was done barfing! Or was I?


But the question was, “Why?!” If I had no obstruction, why did I still feel so ill? Why was I still having so much trouble keeping food down? Why was I so weak?

During yet another hospital stay, I made it clear to everyone I encountered that my state was making me suicidal. This got me lots of attention. At one point, I had 5 surgeons standing around the foot of my bed, including the one who tried to clear me. I yelled. I swore. I stabbed my finger at each one of them as I cried bitter tears and told them that they HAD to come up with a solution. This is a large medical practice, and surely there was one among them who could possibly go in and figure this out?!

They all left the room, hanging their heads and muttering. After a minute, one of them came back and assured me she would find someone, and to please be patient.

She kept to her word, and returned with my original surgeon, who very kindly sat on my bed and took my hand. She wanted to emphasize to me how dangerous going back in was for me, that they could make no promises, and that they could possibly kill me. I said, “Where do I sign?” and we were off.

It turned out that I had a section of my small bowel that had become twisted, so it was removed. No more barfing! HOORAY!

The only tiny issue was that I have an ileostomy from my original surgery, and this new surgery was so close to my stomach there was no room to put in a bypass. So any food I ate had to “go across” my injury. It was very painful. I was somewhat able to work through it at the hospital, but when I got sent home, I just stopped eating and drinking for about a week.

I became so weak, I could hardly stand, much less walk from my bedroom to the kitchen to get a glass of water. I’d nearly pass out on the way. By that Friday, I was forced to call an ambulance again and go back. I had lost 7 pounds. They gave me fluids and food and got me strong and stable. They hooked me up with all manner of county resources, and I got to have another nose tube—but this time a feeding tube, so it was very small. I kept that for three weeks and did my feedings at night.

So that apparently fixed the situation. I got to a healthy weight. I’m no longer out of breath when I walk. I can pretty much take care of myself again. HOORAY! I even had the nose tube during Halloween, which some people say made my costume extra spooky, but I’m not sure. What do you think?

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