Chapter 3 — The Agony
The months slipped away into late 1962 and early 1963, but I was no better. My weight came down to about 150 pounds. Here I was, 33 years old in February of 1963 and never had I felt so weak and debilitated. The point had been reached now where the diarrhea would go as high as 30 times a day, accompanied by much colon spasm and continual but varying degrees of bleeding-a classic example of ulcerative colitis.
There were days when I could not go in to work. There were days when I was in my office and did not have the strength to stay more than a few hours before I found it necessary to go home and drop into bed. There were also days where I awoke in the morning and could not get out of bed. But some of the most taxing problems occured in my office, in the car, and at public functions. These problems would have driven any weak-willed or average-willed person to the brink of insanity, and when I look back I wonder how close I did come to joining the "club." Yet as pathetic and mind-blowing as were these incidents, they did have an almost morbidly humorous side.
These things didn't just come and go, but were regular and continual happenings in my life for many months. For example, in my office, I would walk into the treatment room and greet my patient. I would no sooner sit down when the "urge" would strike and I would have to give some excuse for leaving. I'd return, begin to work on the patient and then I'd have to "go" again. So I'd render another excuse and fly out. This would happen with almost every patient. I've always wondered what some of them thought as they saw me dashing about like a wild man. I don't believe many knew just how ill I was. It was this type of episode which caused me the most frustration and depression, since some of the times, when I had to exit speedily from the room, I didn't make it to where I was headed. I'll leave that to your imagination.
I developed a fear and apprehension about driving my car because there were many times when "nature called" and the usual gas station couldn't be found or the spasm and "urge" came on so fast that it all happened right on the spot. I may be the only person in the world who ever had a B.M. while driving a car at 70 miles an hour. I can laugh at it now, but it was sheer hell then.
It was tough enough to have my podiatry practice and professional life suffer, but it was even tougher to watch what was happening to my family and social life. I was short on temper and patience. I was extremely irritable and depressed. There were many arguments and misunderstandings, all ill-founded, with my wife and three-yearold son. I had changed; changed because my physical debility was finally affecting my emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. But the pathetic part was that I almost didn't care.
I remember one hospital administrator, a friend of mine, who observed me at staff meetings over the years. He remarked to me one day, "Jack, you look like death warmed over." Needless to say that remark didn't do much good for my psyche. I wonder how many people with whom I came in contact had similar thoughts?
The simple act of going out to a movie or dinner became an ordeal because, first of all, I didn't want to go. When I finally consented, the strategy had to be planned, such as in what area in the theatre or restaurant would I sit where I'd be close to the lavatory. I wasn't anxious to socialize with friends. In fact, I tried to avoid social situations. But when my wife and I did go to the homes of friends, I searched out the location of all lavatories so as to have a place to escape when the need arose.
I was becoming a recluse. This affected my wife, who needed a social outlet and was also pregnant with our second child who would be born in two or three months, December 1963. She was also teaching in public school three times a week. How Corinne coped with all these stresses without an emotional crack-up still amazes me to this day. A most remarkable woman, as you will come to learn.
Over the years, I have come in contact with many very sick people and heard them utter a statement such as, "I wish I was dead." I didn't have much respect for a person who could make a remark like that. Too dramatic, I thought. But then I had never before been in any situation to warrant that kind of thinking. Never had I grasped the full significance of someone wishing for death. Never, that is, until now. The increasing intestinal spasms, diarrhea up to thirty times a day, bleeding, pain, poisonous effects of the drugs on my mind and body, plus a few other incidentals, had put my life at such a low ebb that I finally did contemplate taking my life-suicide. Suicide? It was difficult for me to realize that here I was considering something I had always abhorred.
The thought would creep into my mind at various intervals during the day, but more often on my "bad" days. As I recall, at this time, in the latter half of 1963, there were no "good" days. I tried desperately to rid my mind of these thoughts, to think of pleasantries and to see things in a positive perspective. But for me there were no pleasantries and I had already become a negative person. Only 33 years old, but I had lived a lifetime.
Corinne lived in constant fear and anticipation that each day I went to my office might be the last time she would see me alive. I don't think she realized the justification for these feelings because she never knew my inner thoughts, my deepest and most private thoughts, although I believe she knew I was capable of causing my own demise. But could I? It was this uncertainty that kept her in a constant state of tension and anxiety.
After all, I did have the means. The necessary pills were in a drug cabinet in my office. Being an expert pistol shooter and enjoying the sport, I owned a revolver. There were many days I would sit in my office and weigh in my mind which method would be better. How would it feel with an overdose? How would it feel with a bullet? I found it impossible to use my imagination with either method, though I finally reasoned that the pills might be too slow. Quickly! That was the way I wanted it to be. The decision was made. Now, do I have enough guts to do it? I knew I could not go on in the same manner. I was tired of pain, tired of suffering, tired of vegetating was tired of life. In my spare time at my office, I would sit back and fondle the gun, hefting its weight and tossing it from hand to hand. Once in a while I would mockingly place it to my head, then quickly pull it away as if it might accidentally go off by some quirk of fate. "It would be so quick," I thought. I wondered if there would be much pain. Even so, "It wouldn't last long," I surmised.
The weeks and months rolled by and I was still playing my little game, but I could not bring myself to pull the trigger. Call it fear, cowardice, ethics, or whatever. Perhaps it was my moral and religious background. I knew that other people would suffer for the rest of their lives my mother and father, my close relatives, my children, and my wife. I couldn't do that to them. There must be another way. Subconsciously, believe it or not, I still had hope. And there was to be another way soon, a miracle, but not just yet. There was still more agony to experience. It was as if I had .to fulfill certain requirements before I could "graduate," before I would be permitted to have body and soul reborn.
About this time, along came another complication which I could have done without-hemorrhoids. This almost reinforced my suicidal contemplation, but it kept me too busy to think about it. I had had some small hemorrhoids during the last year or two, but because of increased rectal spasms and diarrhea with much straining, the small ones got worse and many more developed, both internally and externally. This was accompanied by bleeding and intense pain. The pain became intolerable with each B.M. attempted. I couldn't determine if the bleeding was coming from the ulcerated colon, the hemorrhoids, or both.
Dr. Kale tried to be conservative in the management of this problem since I was still tapering down the steroid doses. I was advised on hot Sitz baths and instructed to use another drug called Anusol-HC, which is a suppository with cortisone, to be inserted several times a day. Talk about pain! I worked up a cold sweat each time I tried to push one of the suppositories past the hemorrhoids. I eventually had to stop this part of the treatment.
Of course, my ulcerative colitis was still under medical care and the many drugs were regularly shifted from one dose to another. But the most enervating experience now was the fact that each time I would see Dr. Kale, he would have to use the sigmoidoscope. This caused so much pain as it was pushed past the hemorrhoids that I had to be all but held down during this procedure, which left me depleted physically and emotionally for a day or two.
I found it very difficult to sit and also stand due to the severity of the hemorrhoids. The pain was almost unbearable. Cushions did not help. There was almost no comfortable position except over on my abdomen, but this position caused pressure on my colon, which forced its spasm, making it compulsory for me to rush to the lavatory.
Dr. Kale was unhappy-but not as unhappy as I with this situation. He referred me to a surgeon who, after much poking around, decided to needle them-inject them with a medication. I recalled having this procedure performed in 1961 by Dr. Evans and I didn't look forward to having it done again. Anyway, Dr. Cuttem, the surgeon, instructed me onto the table. He told me to relax and then, with the accuracy of a marksman, plunged the needle into the hemorrhoids. When I let out a scream he said, "Does that hurt?" How does one answer a stupid question? With watering eyes I said, "You get up here and let me do it to you!"
This injection therapy was not too successful and Dr. Cuttem hesitated to repeat the treatment, probably at the risk of a broken nose. He wouldn't consider surgery at this time due to the severity of the ulcerative colitis, plus the fact of possible danger from the effects of the still present adrenal cortex atrophy from the cortisone (steroid) drugs. This decision relieved my mind somewhat, because I did not relish the idea of a hemorrhoidectomy. I was referred back to Dr. Kale for follow-up care.
The Thanksgiving holiday of 1963 had just passed. I remember it well because, other than my lovely wife, three-year-old son, and soon-to-be-born child, I had very little for which to be thankful. The onset of what can only be classed as exquisite pain made itself manifest in the hemorrhoid area. I mean pain that caused my eyes to tear. It felt as though the entire "grapevine" was on fire. I like to refer to these hemorrhoids as a grapevine, for sentimental reasons.
For the next week or so, I tried various home remedies in addition to hot compresses. Nothing helped. In fact, the problem worsened in spite of any treatment. The pain grew so severe that it became intolerable. This necessitated my calling Dr. Kale for an appointment to see him immediately on an urgency basis. I was ushered into the examining room where I awaited the arrival of Dr. Kale with my fears elevated and my trousers lowered. He took one look at my posterior, gasped, and said alarmingly, "I don't like the way this looks. I want you to see the surgeon." The fact that Dr. Kale wouldn't tell me anything upset me. So I went down the hallway to the office of the surgeon, my old friend, Dr. Cuttem.
After a thorough examination, which I did not enjoy, including the insertion of a well-developed finger plus a smaller steel tube called a proctoscope, which caused extreme discomfort as it was forced past the hemorrhoids, he calmly informed me that three of the hemorrhoids in my grapevine had gangrene. This was very serious and presented a grave danger to my life.
For some reason I thought back to the year and a half I spent with the army medical corps in Korea during the Korean War. We had seen thousands of problems, including gangrene of the fingers and toes, but never had I seen or even heard of gangrene of the hemorrhoids.
My thoughts returned quickly to the present. I really needed something like this, as if I didn't have enough complications. Leave it to me to be unique. After the initial shock of the news wore off, I could finally listen to what the doctor had to say and it was hardly music to my ears. He told me I was going into the hospital immediately. I called my wife from Dr. Cuttem's office, announced the news and waited as she recoiled (she just couldn't believe anything else like this could happen to me), and told her to pack a bag for me and meet me at the hospital. Corinne was due to have our second child almost anytime and I was afraid all this excitement might trigger things. I just could not visualize her being admitted to the hospital with me while our three-year-old son was at home. Luckily, that didn't happen.
I was admitted to the hospital, went to my room accompanied by my wife, put on my pajamas, and got into bed. Corinne then departed for home. Sometime later, the laboratory technician came in and drew some blood. Then an orderly came in with shaving cream and razor and proceeded to shave the essential parts. I assumed he was rather new at this job because his hands were shaking slightly. I nervously asked him to be extra careful because I didn't want the surgery started ahead of schedule by an accidental slip. He nicked me only once, so I considered myself lucky.
My surgeon visited me to discuss the operative procedure. He said that because my ulcerative colitis was so severe only the three gangrenous hemorrhoids would be cut out. He could not take a chance on a total hemorrhoidectomy with more trauma and larger rectal packing, which I would probably blast right out with my almost uncontrollable B.M.s.
(An amazing thing happened, many months later, to all the remaining hemorrhoids, due to the body's own ability to heal itself, as you will see. This occurs only after I have left the usual medical programs.)
Later that evening, the anesthesiologist came to discuss the anesthetic I was to receive the next morning. It was to be a spinal anesthetic, which didn't thrill me too much. I never did relish the idea of those long, fat needles being pushed into my spinal canal. I was also told I would be given a whopping dose of a cortisone drug to prevent any possibility of my going into shock on the operating table. This tidbit of information also didn't thrill me too much.
Finally, everyone was gone from my room. No nurses, no orderlies, no doctors, and no laboratory technicians. Just silence remained. It was a pleasure for a while, until I found there was time to think. Then all sorts of morbid thoughts came to my mind concerning the surgery and spinal anesthesia. After all, for years I've heard people talk about their hemorrhoid operations-all bad. Now, here I am faced with it. How else could I think? Well, before the evening was over I was completely tensed up over this entire idea of surgery. I could feel the intestinal spasms coming, and before I went to sleep I must have made a dozen trips to the lavatory. But finally sleep did come about 11:00 p.m., at which time I was awakened by the nurse to take a sleeping pill. This was one of the things I found difficult to understand, but when I inquired of others, they told me the same story. After falling asleep, these people were eventually awakened for a sleeping pill.
Morning came and I was awakened at about 5:00 a.m. by an orderly holding an enema. I said, "Is that for me?" He nodded approvingly. There's nothing so refreshing as to wake up early in the morning in a half stupor to have an enema poked into you, mildly crushing against exquisitely tender hemorrhoids on the way in. That's got to wake you up! A few other steps in pre-operative preparation were carried out, which took the clock to about 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. About this time, a nurse entered the room with a hypodermic and said to me, "This is to make you relax." She plunged it into the upper and outer quadrant of my well-cared-for and sought-after hind-end. I knew the only thing that could make me relax was to be anywhere but here.
My wife, my mother, and a friend arrived shortly after the injection. I was so nervous that -my hands and feet were blanched, but the sight of familiar faces eased some of the tension. It wasn't long after that two orderlies came in with the cart to take me to surgery. They helped me onto the cart, covered me, and began to wheel me out. I waved goodbye to Corinne whose expression was funereal to say the least. I don't know what was in that hypodermic, but I left the room totally unrelaxed and wide awake. In fact, I really did not want to go, but the intense pain from my posterior kept reminding me there was no alternative.
When we arrived at the operating room, my cart was wheeled over to the operating table where the two orderlies aided me onto it. I gazed up at the large spotlights and then scanned the room. I had always been at the surgeon's position when I performed foot surgery and did not give much thought to the patient's perspective-until now. I was very apprehensive. Soon I was given the injection of the cortisone which would lessen my chances of shock. Then I was rolled over on my abdomen, prepped, and draped. I could never lie on my abdomen because the pressure would stimulate bowel action and I would have to dash for the lavatory. I concentrated very intently on not having a B.M. on the operating table and it paid off. But it did remind me of a few incidents when I had scheduled foot surgery. I was already scrubbed, gowned, and gloved and either ready to operate or already operating when I'd feel a wave of intestinal spasm giving me the usual uncontrollable urge. I would, of necessity, break sterility and get the hell out of there to a lavatory. Then I would return, enervated and embarrassed, re-scrub, regown, and glove again, and continue where I left off.
When I returned to reality from this reminiscence, I overheard two nurses, who thought they were talking quietly, discussing my case. One said, "Is this the gangrenous hemorrhoid case?" The other answered, "Yes it is, and they sure are messy." This did not do anything positive for my morale. It seems when patients are in the operating room, unless they are under general anesthetic, they acquire supersensitive hearing and everything is magnified.
While one anesthetist was strapping my right arm to a board prior to hooking me up to an intravenous solution that would go into a vein on the back of my wrist, I tried to take my mind off it by playing meaningless games. I glanced around at the doctors and nurses all masked and gloved and I thought to myself, "Now I know why they wear masks. So they can't be identified. And they probably wear the rubber gloves so they won't leave any fingerprints."
A sharp pain in my right wrist brought me back to reality as the anesthetist was inserting a needle into my vein to begin the intravenous feeding. I was then jolted by another needle jab which went deep into the lower part of my back between the vertebrae and into the spinal canal. This was to anesthetize the lower portion of my body. First of all, it hurt like hell; secondly, I didn't get anesthesia; and thirdly, I had to be poked repeatedly until the needle was in its proper position in the spinal canal. Then I went "dead" from the waist down and could finally relax a bit because there was no longer any pain. My mind wandered briefly for a few moments and I wondered how hemorrhoids were cut out before the advent of anesthesia. But the thought was too horrible for me to imagine at this particular time, so I returned to the business at hand -worrying.
A syringe full of something was now being injected slowly into my intravenous tubing. I asked the doctor what it was. He said it was a drug to allow me to relax and go to sleep. So I figured I'd like to do that. The anesthetist then said, "As I inject this, I want you to count to ten." I began counting, anticipating a well deserved rest, with my head down and my eyes closed. When I got to ten, I lifted my head and said, "Now what?" "You're supposed to be asleep," the doctor blurted, somewhat puzzled. "Well, I'm not," I responded rather nervously. "I'll give you some more of the drug," he said. So he proceeded to inject another dose into my intravenous tubing. As he did so, he instructed me to count backwards from ten. I quickly thought to myself, "Aha, this must be the secret. I should have counted backwards the first time!" I put my head down, closed my eyes and began to count backwards from ten. Ten, nine, eight, seven -it was so comforting to know that any second I would be asleep-six, five, four-any second now-three, two, one. Within a few seconds, I raised my head and said, "So now what?" The anesthetist, very startled, said again, "You're supposed to be asleep!" "Well, I'm not," I repeated. "I'm as wide awake as you." "I can't give you any more drugs. I've given you enough to knock out a horse," stated the anesthetist. I assumed he was speaking figuratively, because I knew he was not pleased. But by the same token, I wasn't exactly elated.
There is no doubt in my mind that this incident was due to the effects of my body being poisoned with the many drugs I had ingested over the past five and one-half years, some drugs potentiating one another, others antagonizing each other, some neutralizing others, and many interacting. Who knows what detrimental changes occur in our bodies. Obviously, among other things, I seemed to have built a type of immunity or resistance. This was dangerous because it meant I would have to have larger doses of drugs, which can be just as hazardous as being allergic to them.
So during the course of the surgery, while Dr. Cuttem did his thing on my lower end, I chatted with the anesthetist at my upper end. All the while, I could hear various cutting and clicking sounds. I didn't particularly like it, but there wasn't much I could do. After what seemed like hours, in reality it was only about 45 minutes, the surgeon said the most endearing words, "All done, Jack." I was rolled on my back, put on a cart, and wheeled to the recovery room where my blood pressure was taken at regular intervals and I waited for sensation to return to the lower half of my body. The nurse told me I would be here an hour or two, depending on how soon I could wiggle my toes. It wasn't 20 or 30 minutes and I could feel my feet and wiggle my toes. I called the nurse and told her I was ready to be taken back to my room. She said, "Oh, not yet. You must be able to wiggle your toes." "Pull back the sheets and take a look," I told her. She looked and I wiggled. "You're not supposed to be able to wiggle this soon," she said in a rather surprised tone of voice. The doctor was informed of this situation and he agreed to send me down to my room. This little episode was, again, probably the result of biochemical changes due to the years of drugging my system.
On the way down to my room, I could feel the pain starting. By the time we reached the room, the pain was so intense that I became unreasonable and ordered my wife and my mother to "get out of the room." I rang for the nurse and told her to give me something to ease the pain. A few minutes later I received some morphine (1/a grain) and some kind words from the nurse, who was very sympathetic. My wife came back into the room and sat beside me. I tried to keep my mind off the discomfort, but after 30 minutes not only did the pain not ease but it increased in intensity. I rang for the nurse while Corinne tried to hold me down. The nurse said she could not give me any additional painkiller because of doctor's orders. Well, in language not fit to print here, I demanded she locate the doctor and have him change those orders because the pain was driving me wild. The nurse returned shortly with the news that the doctor did not want me to have any more drugs. When I asked the reason, she explained it was because of possible danger to me due to all the cortisone I had been taking. The answer satisfied everyone but me because I had the pain; but that's the way it was. So for the next couple of hours I thrashed around in the bed, screamed, and literally beat on the walls with my fists while Corinne cried and was hysterical in her helplessness and fear.
As all things do, this came to pass and I fell asleep from exhaustion. I was spent. This experience, too, was a result of years of drugging. The amazing thing is that after all these years of disease, of poisoning by the drugs, this hellish surgical experience, and a host of other things related to medical treatment, I had not blown my mind. I still had my sanity.
I awoke early in the evening with the bowel spasms present and an uncontrollable urge to have a B.M. I rang for the nurse; but before she could get to me I jumped out of bed in a wild dash for the lavatory. I didn't make it because the sudden drop in blood pressure caused fainting and I hit the floor! I was picked up and carried to the lavatory where, because of fear, I tried to hold myself back. Finally there was no controlling it and in a few seconds the packing was blown out, accompanied by extreme pain. From here on it was all downhill. The worst was over, but the immense enervation added another emotional scar to my psyche, not to mention the harm to my debilitated physical condition.
Discharge from the hospital came on December 9, 1963. I remember the date well because I no sooner hobbled home and into bed for a well-earned recuperative period, when my wife kissed me goodbye and entered the hospital for the birth of our second son. There I was, left to fend for myself and care for our three-year-old son, when I could barely get around. But my main concern was whether or not the new baby would be born with any mental or physical defects as a result of my system being flooded with poisonous drugs over the last five and one half years. In fact, Corinne and I debated on whether to have a second child for just this reason. We both thank God that he was born normal in every respect; a little noisy, but normal.
A week later, Corinne returned from the hospital with our new son. We slipped back into the routine of things. I went back to my office and tried desperately to put in as much time as possible, which wasn't much. I found no joy in getting up in the morning to face the day. I had no desire or enthusiasm for my work-or anything else for that matter.
The new year had arrived. It was 1964. I wondered what this year had in store and if it would be as bad as last year. What more could happen to me? I wondered! But the next four or five months brought progressively worse changes in my physical condition. I celebrated a birthday in February-34 years of age, but an old man. It was tough watching others my age enjoying themselves, taking trips and loving life while I vegetated in my small world.
It seemed there were no lulls or quiescent periods during these trying years. There was always something to prevent an even pattern in our lives. It was very difficult for Corinne to teach school, raise the children, take care of the house, and to try to adjust to my problem. It matured the both of us and that was to our benefit since we were soon to make some major decisions 'that were to affect the rest of our lives. These years bring to mind Frank Ward O'Malley, the famous journalist, who was asked for his definition of life. His answer was classic. He said simply, "Life is just one damned thing after another." How true!
I saw my doctor regularly every week or two for dietary changes, decreases and increases of my drug dosages, and regular sigmoidoscopic examinations. Nothing seemed to help anymore. The spasms and diarrhea were increasing again and there was more bleeding. I was running to the lavatory 20 to 30 times a day. I was already anemic. Now I was becoming dehydrated and losing weight, having dropped a total of 25 pounds. That put me at about 145 pounds. Low back pain was almost constant and annoying, as were the ever-increasing cramping and spasms in my feet and legs. This was preventing me from obtaining proper and much-needed sleep, since it would awaken me several times during the night and I would find my legs contracted right up against my thighs.
Migrating arthritic pains were becoming prevalent. The aching would travel from one joint to another, affecting several joints at one time. Because of all the drugs I was ingesting, it was all but impossible to take painkillers. If any contained aspirin or even if it was just plain aspirin, the pain and damaging effects on my stomach made it prohibitive. If the drug had no aspirin, and I tried many, then the potentiating effects of the other drugs caused many untoward reactions, not the least of which were confused thinking and a state of stupor. So there was not much I could do except "tough it out." These previously mentioned symptoms are common in colitis and particularly advanced ulcerative colitis. C'est la guerre!
It was late spring, 1964, and I seemed to be heading for what I sensed as some horrible ending. Our family life had dwindled. Social life was virtually over. It took all the physical and emotional strength I could muster just to go to my office and try to do some work. There were more unhealthy changes in my personality. We weren't getting along. There were quarrels. The family relationship was straining at the seams, but Corinne had a bountiful supply of inner strength. Although the body can and does take a lot of abuse, it is astounding how much physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual degeneration can occur in an individual as a result of illness.
This disease, which Dr. Kale called one of remissions and exacerbations, was now just one continuous exacerbation. There were no let-ups; just debility. I loyally continued, for a short while, with the treatment plan until I could see it not only had no value, but was complicating my problem. I shall never forget my last official visit to Dr. Kale's office. It was probably the most dramatic, indeed one of the most profound moments in my life. I waited for the doctor in an examining room. I felt terrible, but I sat there with hope that Dr. Kale would bring me news of some new drug to cure my problem. (I didn't realize it then, but drugs do not cure. They don't get at causes. Healing is a biblogical process that takes place from within the body, and drugs only interfere with the healing process since the body must direct its energies toward neutralizing and eliminating these poisons.) Soon, Dr. Kale entered the examining room, sat down with all my records in hand, asked me a few questions concerning the course of treatment and then, after several minutes of thumbing through my records and weighing many things in his mind, he paused and looked up at me. He wore a look of impending doom. Having always been perceptive, I sensed vibrations that what he was about to tell me I had subconsciously dreaded for a long time.
"Jack," he said, "I've done all I can for you. There is nothing more." Dr. Kale did consider a course of treatment, the rationale of which I've never figured out, using a drug called nitrogen mustard, a bone marrow depressant. This was used at that time (I don't know if it is now) for leukemia to drastically reduce the white blood cell count. My white blood cell count was dangerously low from the years of drugging and it was for this reason Dr. Kale decided not to try this method. He did not want to lower my white count any further because of the potential hazard that I could succumb to an infection. (White blood cells are needed to fight infection.)
Now came the moment of truth. This was the culmination of six years under medical care. I turned cold and my stomach knotted-up at what Dr. Kale told me. He said I had two choices: The first was to do nothing, and I would die from the disease. The second was a recommendation to undergo a total colectomy, which is a drastic surgical procedure wherein the entire large intestine and rectum are cut out and the end of the small intestine is sewn to an opening in the abdominal wall. The body wastes would then continually empty into a bag attached outside the body. Having this surgery would not guarantee my survival, but one thing was certain and that was the fact I would be a physiologic cripple the rest of my life-however long or short it would be. (According to statistics from the National Foundation for Ileitis and Colitis, about 25 to 35 percent of patients operated upon require subsequent drastic surgery to remove more of the bowel higher up as the disease progresses.) Neither of these choices appealed to me. Choices? It was more of an ultimatum. Like the old saying goes, "You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't."
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn't utter a word for a minute or so. It was too overwhelming. I did not want to believe this was happening to me, but deep down in me I knew the score. How would Corinne react? Many fleeting, morbid thoughts raced through my mind. I could not make any decision at this point. The shock of this distorted any rational thinking. I wanted only to be at home with my family now. As I was leaving the office, I told Dr. Kale I needed time to think. He told me not to wait too long. Subconsciously, I wouldn't accept this entire plan. I was disenchanted with the medical profession. I went home to tell my wife. She took the news with a calmness befitting a person with a deep inner strength. Corinne has always been a fighter and she was not about to give up at this point. In fact, she was more determined now than ever before to lick this thing. She didn't know how yet, but there had to be some way. It is just because of this determination that I'm here today and in one whole piece.
Corinne revealed to me, years later, that she knew it would take a miracle to help me; and she was hoping and praying for that miracle, which finally began to materialize as the pieces fell into place in the puzzle of my life.