My Road To Chipotle & Lessons I've Learned

To say I didn’t expect anything that happened this summer to happen would be an understatement. It has been the hardest summer of my life, but I’ve also learned so much from what has happened. To give you a little backstory, I came home from school early to have shoulder surgery. This surgery was planned but what happened after the surgery definitely was NOT. I know exactly what day I got home from school, April 27th. I know this because it was the day before my shoulder surgery and it was also the day that I had the last meal that I was able to keep down and enjoy.

The first week after my surgery was excruciating. I was in an immobilizer brace and put on a lot of pain meds. For whatever reason, my body couldn’t handle all the different medications I was prescribed. Combined with the stress of the surgery, the anesthesia, pain meds, I developed acute pancreatitis and because of this, I wasn’t able to keep anything down. No food, smoothies, soup, or even water. So, I’ve been in and out of the hospital all summer and have had multiple feeding tubes to help get the nutrition my body needed to keep going, as well as IVs to keep me hydrated. Several diagnoses later, I’m slowly relearning how to eat and deal with all the stress and anxiety I feel around food because it has made me so sick. But today as I’m writing this I’m about to be discharged from what I hope is my last hospitalization. Even though I have to go home on a feeding tube, I’m happy to say I can finally see the light at the end of this tunnel! As I continue on “My Road to Chipotle” (because Road to Chipotle sounds so much better than Road to Recovery), I decided to share with you all the lessons I’ve learned this summer:

1. It is very important to have a support system you can count on.

Many people have helped me through this summer both physically here and from far away. My mom has spent countless nights at the hospital with me and if she doesn’t stay over she’s here at least 14 hours a day. My dad’s way of helping when I am not up for another visitor, is by making sure everything is okay at home. So, even when he is not physically present-he is supporting me in various ways. This often goes unnoticed but the truth is it frees my mom up from all the details of normal life so that she is just able to be here with me. Both my siblings have visited me and are always checking in with me as well as a lot of people from home. But, I have to say my Big has really helped me through all of this. Not only has she come to see me at the hospital but just by checking in everyday, and simply being there for me however I needed it whether it was to distract me or calm me down from the testing I had to get done. In addition to my Big, my roommate who just so happens to be my other half and sorority sister surprised me and flew to see me from Ohio. Even though I had such low energy she still came to see me and go to doctors’ appointments with me. So, I just want to say thank you to my all family, my friends, and all my KD Ladies. I couldn’t have gotten through this without all your kind messages, thoughts, and prayers. I am truly grateful for all of you.

2. Your health should never be taken for granted.

**This is something I have learned the hard way this summer. First of all, being sick sucks, no matter what you’re sick with or how long it’s for- **no one likes to be sick. Also, having spent most of my summer at Boston Children’s Hospital, I see patients as young as newborns being treated here for things far worse than what I have been going through. So people, PLEASE, your body is a temple. Be kind to it, treat it well and don’t take advantage of good health.

3. When things get overwhelming, take it one step at a time.

This technique can work for anything that happens in your life whether it be school, work, a family matter, or your health. As I begin the road back to good health and being able to eat normally, aka my Road To Chipotle, I have gotten overwhelmed at times. Having a schedule, and knowing that it is okay to take things slowly is a simple but important step on my recovery journey. One of the biggest things I need to remember is that things take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and similarly I won’t be able to eat pizza when I wake up tomorrow. But, yesterday I ate a half a piece of toast and that was a big victory for me. It’s good to celebrate the small victories, in fact, I encourage it. And besides, who doesn’t love winning?

4. The mind-body connection is REAL.

My doctors call what happened to me “a perfect storm.” The stress of finishing up school early combined with the stress of my shoulder surgery did NOT do my body any good. Throw in my inability to tolerate pain medication and you have “a perfect storm”. Stress is a real thing and it ultimately was one of the biggest contributors to my pancreatitis and not being able to eat. My medical team consisted of GI (gastro-intestinal) specialists as well as psychologists. At first, I thought this was odd-what does my pancreatitis have to do with psychology? Or, what does digestion have to do with the brain? Well, my friends I learned that 80-90% of Seratonin (the chemical in our bodies that regulates mood, well-being and happiness) is found in the gut! This is the proof that the mind and body connection is real. And more importantly, stress affects your gut. I really think it’s important for everyone to set aside some time in their day to do something they enjoy doing. It is helpful to acknowledge that there are things that are stressful in life and there always will be. But, setting aside time to relax and doing something fun can really make a difference. Take a walk, watch TV, talk to a friend, do ANYTHING, just make sure you enjoy it.

My Road To Chipotle & Lessons I’ve Learned
First successful bite of toast after 3 months!

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