Life Discussion

Having Guts and How they Shaped my 30s

Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of.

Bethany Hamilton

Guts. Webster dictionary defines this word in several ways. Bowels for one. Intestines, colon, and the infamous gall bladder. Above that, there’s a liver, stomach, and pancreas. Another definition of Guts is “fortitude and stamina in coping with what alarms, repels, or discourages.” But there’s one definition of Guts that really stuck out at me:

“The inner essential parts.”

To me, that means what is needed to survive. Survival means you need to have guts. It also means you need to have functioning guts.

I had always struggled with weight. I played sports in high school and was able to somewhat manage it to the best of my ability. The summer before my Senior year of high school, I barely ate and worked out to near fainting. It wasn’t healthy, but I did what I needed to do to at least be a size 10 for a minute. By the time Freshman year of college rolled around, I was back into the 14s and attempted to stay there. Near the end of my senior year at college, my grandmother died. I wanted to go home. I was tired of living with roommates. I just wanted to move on with life. I wouldn’t say I was “depressed” but I was sad. By the time I graduated and spent the summer looking for a job, I had easily fit into an 18. I started working three jobs to make money. I ate crappy. I drank heavily. I partied hard. I had a few boyfriends, but I could tell they weren’t 100% on board with me. Probably because I wasn’t on board with myself. Then I met someone and married him. Happily Ever After, right?

I don’t care what the church says. Live with someone before you’re married. This is a different world and you need to know things that you wouldn’t know before marriage. And whatever you do, keep your own bank account.

Five years later, I had ballooned to a weight no one should be at. I won’t say the weight because my heaviest weight might be someone else’s lightest weight, and to those people, just keep swimming. After my 29th birthday, I was pre-diabetic and had high blood pressure. My husband and I couldn’t motivate each other for anything. We were our own worst enemies. I had made the decision of weight-loss surgery. I knew the risks of surgery, but I also knew the risks of diabetes and high blood pressure. So I went in, and a year an a half later I had lost 110 pounds. I could breathe again, but I wasn’t happy in life. On my 33rd birthday, my husband had screamed at me that he wanted a divorce. This was probably the hundredth time he had said such a thing to me. I nodded and said, “okay,” and continued with the release day of my first book Watching Fireflies. For a self-publishing newbie, it did really well and I was super proud of myself. If only that nagging pain in my gut would go away. Not the nervous and anxious feeling in your gut, but the “Oh my God, what the hell did I eat to give me this horrid indigestion” feeling. Nine days later, I was in the emergency room. The Infamous Gall Bladder! Why is that in humans anyway?

I was knocked out and the doctor put a scope down my throat to check out the situation. I remember waking up and seeing him next to the gurney. “I nicked your pancreas.” They soon after removed my gall bladder along with pancreatic fluid. Easy peasy. I stayed in the hospital a week. I was not fine. I was not fine. I kept telling them I was not fine. Some other random doctor sent me home with Tylenol. I was not fine.

I went back to the emergency room less than 24 hours later. I had never felt so much absolute horrid pain in my life. I threw up bile as soon as they started an IV. I got the good drugs, and I was happy. I was moved into a room where I stayed … and stayed … and stayed. I had a string of gastroenterologists come see me as well as my surgeon who removed my gall bladder (the doctor who nicked my pancreas was no longer my gastroenterologist for obvious reasons). I couldn’t eat. I kept throwing it up. They inserted a PICC line. Per Google, it is a “catheter that is positioned in a large vein that carries blood into the heart. They are used for long-term intravenous antibiotics, nutrition or medications, and for blood draws.” In other words, it’s a super rad time. They were soon planning on sending me home again. There was one night where I didn’t have anyone stay with me, so it was me against the nurses. One refused to give me the good drugs and gave me a pill to swallow instead. I threw it up, and she made me sit there. I could have another in four hours. I was going to die. No one knew what was wrong with me, but I knew I was going to die.

The next morning my surgeon came back. After very colorful words he yelled at said nurse, I finally got the good stuff. But I kept throwing up. Every two hours, the yellow bile would come up after the nausea meds wore off. The surgeon ordered up a mobile X-Ray unit. My intestines were kinked. I needed surgery because I was going to die.

There was a 50/50 chance I would survive. I needed to have guts to survive my guts.

He attempted to go in laparoscopically. I woke up with a six inch scar down my abdomen. My intestines were pulled out and put back in, and there was well over a liter of pancreatic fluid eating away at my organs for what was now a week or so later. I’m unsure of the exact timeframe. There were a lot of drugs involved. I wasn’t just going to die. I was dying. And he saved my life.

I was in the hospital for a total of one month. I had already prepped my second book release, and my first full day home was when Dragonfly Awakening went live. During the first six weeks of my 33rd year, I published two books, had two surgeries, and enough reasons to tell me that I needed to live everyday to the fullest. After a few more months of getting screamed at about divorce, I used the beaten and battered guts to walk away. I had guts to make a life changing decision. I spent time at my parents house. For the first year, I attempted to make it work. The next year, I continued staying at my parents and dealt with more abdominal pain. Repaired a hernia. Found an attorney. Filed for divorce. Had scar tissue removed. Moved into the house we had bought and got my dog back, while he moved out, which was his idea. He was done with adulting I guess. Dealt with more pain. Began throwing up and having food get stuck instead of digesting. Had a procedure that showed I had a hiatal hernia. Had my sixth surgery. In less than four years, I lost a gall bladder and a husband, and had four other surgeries making five total within four years; six in life total counting the one that started it all. I still couldn’t eat well. There was still something wrong. The procedure that showed the hiatal hernia also showed that a pocket had formed in my colon, probably when they put me back together. That was the main cause of half of the pain. They could have performed surgery and I could have had diarrhea for the rest of my existence. I’ve learned how to manage that pain. I’ve elected to not have surgery. There’s another hernia in my lower abdomen. I’ve elected to not have surgery.

Shortly after my 37th birthday, I had one more procedure that stretched my esophagus. Since I had the gastric sleeve years prior, there wasn’t a lot of room to work, so they had to detach and reattached my stomach from my esophagus to fix the problem. Six months later, they stretched my esophagus and I could eat meat again. I am as good as I’m going to get.

Having guts means having the will to survive. When something’s no good for you, get rid of it, like a stomach or a gall bladder or a husband. There will be struggles like paying medical bills and a house note on one salary. But look at how far I’ve come. When you’re lying in a hospital bed, thinking that your 33rd birthday would be your last with the joyous divorce fight echoing throughout the memory, the grey hairs being plucked from your head as a 37 year old are pretty awesome. 💚

For your reading pleasure, check out my cowboys and cops available on all ebook platforms. #DoYouHearTheBuzz