I've had ulcerative colitis (an inflammation of the mucus membrane lining the large intestine/colon) since May of 1991. That makes me 13 years diseased this month. Given the placement/extent of my disease, that means that my statistical probability of colon cancer will begin to skyrocket in the next two years. Solution? In the words of my friend Bob's wife, Carmen, who is doing her residency in surgery at Mayo Clinic, "Cut it out. Get rid of it." My docs agree. So tomorrow morning I go into Froedtert Hospital where a team of surgeons specializing in this procedure are going to disembowel me. So what was not too long ago "ritual suicide" is now "treatment." I mentioned this to my surgeon (who loves the fact that I'm a theologian--he's done medical ethics consulting for the archbishop) and he boasted that while the samurai thought they were doing something extra-ordinary in committing hari-kari, he can make you so that you can walk away afterward. I had to agree that that was pretty bad-ass of him.
So what's the deal? First the colon comes out, chop-chop. They have to be careful in making sure that the blood vessels feeding it are carefully cut and closed. That could be a complication. Then the truly funky stuff begins. I opted to not go with the sexy colostomy (medicalese for "shit bag") for the rest of my life. So what they are going to do reconfigure my small intestine into a kind of interior pouch (called a "J-pouch") and then reattach that to my end bits.
That'll let me be all interior again, although I'll have to wear the colostomy temporarily this summer. (By popular demand, Mike will do no sun-bathing this summer.) The recovery will be memorable, as will the pain, I hear, for the first few days. I'll be in the hospital for a week to ten days. Then I'll go to my Mom's and mooch off her cooking while I recover a bit more strength for a few weeks. The summer will largely be devoted to recovery. And teaching myself to read French. And playing with my new recording set-up. I like that part best.
I just got back from Tulsa yesterday after visiting with Kevin Fleming and meeting his fiance, Frannie Biolchini. (You might remember her, Doug: she was class of '93 and grew up with Turner. She remembered you and looked over my shoulder at Claire's grad pics with great delight. Small world.) Kind of a wild and delightful weekend. Tough to figure out what to say. Moved Kevin over from Fayetteville to Tulsa so that he didn't have a two-hour commute to be with Frannie and her son Paul. It's very cool that his job allows him to live anywhere. So after getting picked up at the airport, about four hours later than I'd scheduled (my plane was late in Milwaukee and then all hell broke loose with scheduling when Air Force One landed) I had my first face-to-face talk with Frannie as she, Kev and I stayed up late. Some interesting marriage and theological stuff. I was deeply honoured by how quickly she trusted me.
Saturday was consumed by moving in the morning and afternoon. The only thing that I was disappointed with about Kev already being in Tulsa was not being able to kick back and make some music at this place in Fayetteville: Kev's house was this hilltop/cliffside, artist's-retreat of a cottage--fabulous place to sit in the music room with the windows looking over the city and the hills to the west and just play to the sunset.... We got back late and flew around the house in a mad, half-dressed scramble to shower and get dressed to have dinner with her family. So I got to meet much of the extended Biolchini clan, and had some interesting talk with Mr. Biolchini, who's on the board at ND and strikes me as extremely bright and capable. Along with being up on business and lots of current politics, he also had a remarkable grasp of history for a layman, which made the conversation all the more diverse and enjoyable. Her brothers, sister, and sister-in-law who were present all added to a generally merry mood, although the night was all too short. After having too much wine, we ended up back at the family house watching Tom and Jessie's wedding video.
This was the character of all the days: mass and brunch with the family on Sunday, more moving afterward; putting things in storage and Paul's T-ball game on Monday; setting Kevin's office up and playing ball with Paul on the front lawn on Tuesday, all peppered with great talk, occasional music (I jumped right into Best Man work as Kevin and I planned the music for the wedding program--subject to Fran's approval--while driving back from Fayetteville, and it looks to be memorable even by Folk Choir standards (the Folk Choir will be handling the musical side of things). We also played a lot of let's-look-at-houses on the internet, prior to Frannie and her sister Christy leaving on Tuesday to head to Jackson, WY to look at houses for their more permanent relocation. Paul was particularly cute when he said that he'd take the money from his piggy-bank, and then half from Fran and half from Kev, and that with that amount of cash in hand, he'd buy the house that he liked best for all of them.
And now it's pushing noon and the prep proceeds. I'm gonna let it go at that. My Dad'll be here soon. He's gonna sit through it all with me. Pray for me tomorrow and for my recovery. Your prayers (and lots of morphine) are really important to me right now. Be back in a few weeks or so.