About leahruthe

♋️ ☀️ ♊️⬆️♎️🌙 Artist, certified community health worker, fistula advocate, astrology lover.

My Health Journey Thus Far…

…and Why I’m Still Out Here Talking About Fistulas…

D99C5A91-4F91-4257-A362-F97DD03D1F57This July it will have been 10 years since I got the abscess that changed my life. Ten years ago I was about to turn 29, and I was not a stranger to struggle. I had lived with PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) from the time I was a teenager, so had been through the mill with medications, misdiagnoses, etc my whole adult life. The fistula, however, turned everything upside down for me. I had never had my health taken from me in such a huge way like that before. Suddenly I was hurled into this new reality—a tunnel had formed from my rectum to my vagina, and suddenly my life became managing pain, fecal matter leaking, endless doctor appointments, surgery after surgery, a c diff infection for a year from too many antibiotics, more surgeries…

My fistula was finally fixed in 2013 at Cleveland Clinic by Dr. Tracy Hull. She used a technique that was new at the time—after surgery she kept me in the hospital for 4 days with a wound vac creating an airtight seal on the advancement flap. I am certain the 4 days with the wound vac is what led to the surgery being a success. Unfortunately, my health struggles did not end with that successful surgery. I was fistula free, but rapidly E05A1C1A-D25C-4F97-A767-8AA54570FA9Cafter the surgery my periods got worse and worse. It got to the point that I was having debilitating cramps almost all month long, and none of my doctors were interested in getting to the bottom of it beyond telling me I just had bad periods, and maybe I should try birth control.

I finally saw a naturopath who thought it would be worth it to get an ultrasound to see if anything showed up. The ultrasound showed evidence of adenomyosis (endometrial tissue found in the lining of the uterus that can be quite painful), and showing this to my obgyn provided reason enough to explore the idea of endometriosis (often adenomyosis and endometriosis go hand in hand). I went through 6 months on a drug that mimics menopause, called Lupron, to see if the pain got better. Now, I had wanted a hysterectomy since I was a teenager, so I didn’t want to do the Lupron trial. I was ready to have this all out of me. I had been ready for a long time. But because I was still young, and society is pretty wack, I had to do 6 months on Lupron to prove that a hysterectomy would help me. The Lupron had a lot of really awful side effects, but by the 3rd month I felt like a new person…I felt like I did before my period came and wrecked my life. It was awesome. 93D2F4E3-2A52-4221-B5A2-6665179C9B2E

So I had the total hysterectomy and oophorectomy, and all of the endometriosis removed in April of 2017. I don’t regret it. I’m finally free of debilitating cramps, awful periods, and crippling mood swings. Unfortunately, shortly after the hysterectomy, I began to have terrible joint pain. It got worse and worse until some days I could barely move. Once again I was back to going from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was wrong. Had the hysterectomy caused this? Was this a symptom of early menopause? I read about many women having joint pain during and after menopause, and thought maybe that was it. But as the months went by, I became more and more immobile. I would wake up in the morning, and have to crawl to the bathroom because I simply could not stand upright.

After months of seeing different doctors, I finally found a rheumatologist who thought she knew what was going on. She ran some bloodwork, and did a joint ultrasound. My bloodwork came back to show that I was HLA-B27 positive, the ultrasound showed inflammation in my joints, and she felt certain that combined with my symptoms this all pointed to peripheral spondyloarthritis. Around the same time, a dermatologist diagnosed me with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), an autoimmune issue that is also HLA-B27 related, and causes abscesses and boils. I’m fairly certain this is what caused the abscess that led to my fistula. I spent all of 2018 trying different anti inflammatory medications. I tried Humira, which I had a horrible reaction to, and ended up with awful nerve pain for 6 months. My rheumatologist recently threw up her hands, and thinks I need to see a functional medicine doctor to get to the bottom of my gut issues. I had bad reactions to every medicine we tried.AF86E81B-F5EB-4F7F-815B-241E9A9004AD

I have had some success with getting my inflammation out of the danger zone with nutritional changes, but am still in the process of figuring out my gut issues. I am left with a diagnosis of peripheral spondyloarthritis, HS, and IBS-D. I still cope with chronic, and sometimes debilitating joint pain. I am sharing my current health story because sometimes you think fixing one thing will be the end of it, but here I am, almost 10 years later…FISTULA FREE…but still dealing with health problems, autoimmune diseases, and chronic pain. The reason I never stop advocating for fistula patients is simple: Out of all of the health issues I’ve had, that was the hardest one to talk about. It was the most isolating. It was steeped in the most shame. And 10 years later it is STILL not widely talked about. The support group I started in 2012 has grown to thousands of members.

I think it’s important for people to hear that healing is not linear, and sometimes it’s just an ongoing journey. No one fistula journey is the same. Sometimes major surgeries can unleash havoc on your body, sometimes you just have bad luck, sometimes the fistula isn’t the end of your journey, it’s the beginning. I’m not saying you should do this, but I have found gratitude in the journey. As much as I long to be physically well, I know that I would not have stumbled upon my life purposes, I would not have learned that I am an artist, I would not have realized what an awesome advocate I am for awareness. I don’t know that I would have discovered any of that had I not gotten sick. I am not glad I’m sick, I would love so much to have a healthier, more functional body, but I have found some level of acceptance for where I am.

And I will never stop raising awareness for fistulas, especially colorectal ones.

Love and solidarity,

Leah R. Chatterjee

An Open Letter to All Colorectal Surgeons

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To Whom it May Concern (Are you a colorectal surgeon? You should be concerned):

A while ago I was talking with a close friend (I’ll call her Allie) about her latest experience seeing one of the best colorectal surgeons in the country. Allie’s fistula struggle had been a long one, and was complicated by Crohn’s disease. Her quality of life had been so low that year that she finally decided it was worth it to brave the trip to get the opinion of one of the best.

This surgeon gave her good advice, and did a thorough examination, but what they said to my friend has lingered in my brain for over a year now. They told her about a patient of theirs who had a bunch of kids and over ten setons. They told my friend about how active, productive, and awesome this patient was.

Let me explain how problematic this kind of anecdotal story is. Imagine living with multiple bands hanging out of your ass, all kinds of leakage (hours spent keeping things clean), all of the complications that come with Crohn’s disease, and being in constant pain. Imagine these conditions completely changing your entire life–having to quit a career you loved, being unable to do the things you used to enjoy, coping with the deep depression that comes with being in constant pain…

Now imagine a doctor telling you about a superstar woman, living with similar issues, but just rocking life anyway. Imagine comparing yourself to this mythological creature who has kids and a job, yet somehow has energy to go jogging with her bajillion setons just gently swishing along.

Whatever the intentions of the surgeon telling this story, the result is leaving the patient feeling like, “Oh. Great. So I’m just not trying hard enough. What’s wrong with me? Why can this woman be a superstar, but I am a wreck?” The other consequence of telling a patient a story like that is the patient ends up feeling their doctor doesn’t believe them. If you are telling your patient a story about how amazing this patient is doing, who has been through the same kind of thing you are going through, you are also implying that you don’t particularly believe your patient is as badly off as they say they are.

I spent three years with a fistula, went through eight surgeries (not including EUAs and L&Ds), and I don’t have Crohn’s disease to contend with. I. Was. Wrecked. I lost my job, my social life, and on many days my will to go on. I have spoken to hundreds of fistula sufferers, I run an online fistula support group with thousands of members, and I can tell you that stories like the one this surgeon told my friend are rare. More often than not this condition is debilitating, messy, painful, and depressing. I can also tell you that stories like this are very common–so many fistula patients are living with not just the awful symptoms of having a fistula, but with navigating a health system filled with doctors who won’t believe them about their pain levels. This is UNACCEPTABLE.

I urge you to please BELIEVE your patients. They know more about how their bodies are feeling than you do. You would do yourself and your patients a great service by taking the small steps towards learning what your patient is actually going through, and letting them know that you believe them–believe that their pain is real. It’s not that hard, just imagine having a tunnel that’s eaten its way through important bits, and you’re leaking fecal matter into places it shouldn’t, like your vagina. That’s a good start.

And for the love of all that is holy, do NOT tell them about this one superstar patient you have. Not only is it not helpful, it’s psychologically damaging.

Regards,

Leah R. Chatterjee

(And to my dear friend “Allie,” if you are reading this, you ARE a superstar badass warrior)

New Illustrations

Hi Fistula Warriors,

Starting this post for my fistula medical illustrations. I’ve come a long way in my drawings since my first, rather crude, advancement flap drawing! It’s pretty hard to find  images of surgeries and anatomy that don’t cost a bunch to use, so I’m starting my own collection. You are welcome to share and print any of these for non-profit purposes only, I just ask that you leave my copyright watermark in place. I’ll be adding more over time, so check back for more.

Solidarity,

Leah Chatterjee

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Self-Care and Chronic Pain

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The following is the basic script from a self-care talk I am giving in my Fistula Support Group. I thought it would be useful to share here as well. I have collected the information below over the years from my work as a community health advocate, and from living with chronic pain and an autoimmune disease for the past 7 years.

Let’s begin with The Spoon Theory because it is a useful way to explain to your friends and family what you are dealing with. The Spoon Theory is a metaphor for people living with chronic pain, chronic illness, and disabilities. The notion is that we begin each day with a certain number of spoons. Each activity we engage in takes up a certain number of spoons. For example, getting out of bed and taking a shower might use up 2 of your spoons. Going Spoon-theoryout to run errands might take up 3 of your spoons. Going to work for a full 8 hours might take up 10 of your spoons. Your spoons represent your energy, your life force, what energy you have available. Those of us living with fistulas or any chronic illness have less energy to work with, and seemingly small, everyday tasks can take up a lot of that energy. Most people get up, take a shower, make breakfast, and don’t think twice about it. I, however, have to think about my day ahead, and think about whether I will have enough spoons to take that shower, make that breakfast, AND do whatever else I wanted or planned to do that day. When you only have 12 spoons to work with in a day, you have to prioritize much more often. If you’re going to socialize, have a night out with your friends, you might need to plan to have a rest day the next day, or at least half a day of recuperating. Sometimes, inevitably, we will use more spoons than we have, and end up with a spoon deficit. When this happens, our bodies let us know, and force us to rest. Having to manage spoons doesn’t mean you can’t have a life, it just means that in order to thrive, we have to put our health first. That might mean slowing down, or doing LESS, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and do fulfilling things with your life.

Self-Care Tips

  • Ask for help when you need it. It isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s easy to fall into the awful rut of feeling like a burden to our loved ones. My family regularly has to remind me that it’s okay to ask for help, that they want to help. The people who love you want you to be okay, and sometimes that means helping out when you need it.
  • Talk about your feelings. Don’t bottle things up. This might look like a therapist, or just venting to a friend over tea. If you can’t afford therapy, there are even apps now that connect you to a licensed therapist for low cost. I think that this is particularly important for people living with colorectal health issues. There is so much shame and taboo surrounding the rectum, and often we feel as though nobody wants to hear about it, or we are too ashamed to talk about it for fear of disgusting people. The truth is that there are people who will listen and understand and WANT to hear what you’re going through. You will find friends who you are safe talking with this about, and I urge you to take some leaps in vulnerability and tell at least one close friend what you are truly going through.
  • Keep a self-care checklist handy (I keep mine in a note on my phone) for days that you are really depressed, or overwhelmed by your illness/pain/disability. This can be really helpful—sometimes we don’t even realize how much we’ve been neglecting ourselves. Your list might include these questions: Have I had a glass of water today? Have I eaten recently? When was the last time I took a shower? Am I in pain, and if so, am I taking the steps needed to manage it? Have I talked to anyone today? Have I moved around or exercised at all today (it’s okay if you’re not able to)? Have I done something I enjoy and find fun? Are there things that are stressing me out that I can take action on to alleviate that worry? Self-care lists might look different for each of us, but the general idea is to keep a list handy to remind us of basic self-care when we might be too preoccupied, depressed, or overwhelmed to think of in the moment. These small self-care tasks can make a world of difference to your mood and comfort, and either way are necessary. Even if you only have the energy to do one thing on your checklist, that’s awesome, and one thing you have done to take care of yourself.
  • Self-loooooove: sex and masturbation are healthy modes of self-care. Though it might be the last thing on some of our minds, especially those of us with draining fistulas, the reality is that our bodies appreciate that kind of self-care, and it’s a totally valid way to relieve stress and tap into some joyful feelings. Orgasms are super healthy, and nothing should stop you from having them if you are able to! (as my good friend, Tyrone, always says, “Embrace your inner Samantha!”)
  • Decide to forgive yourself for canceling plans, or finding that you are unable to complete all of your tasks for the day. Living with chronic pain is exhausting, and often we want to do so much more than our bodies are able to manage in one day. I recommend letting your close friends and relatives know that your current conditions means you have to be able to cancel plans at the last minute. It’s not because you don’t want to be with them, it’s not personal, and it’s NOT YOUR FAULT. There’s really nothing you can do about the fact that your body is unpredictable at times, and that you have less energy, but your friends and family can make an effort to be understanding when you have to bail.
  • Keep a box or basket handy that can serve as a self-care kit. Put comfort items in it, and self-soothing things—coloring books and colored pencils, crossword puzzles to distract you, a few treats you enjoy (chocolates, chips, something you don’t normally have, but really enjoy), a snuggly blanket, your heating pad, anything that brings you comfort. It helps to have a kit that you can reach for when you know you need some extra comfort.
  • Get some fresh air if at all possible. Even if it just means setting up a comfy spot in your front porch or on your balcony, just sitting outside and breathing fresh air can make a world of difference to your mood, and is good for your brain.
  • Find a balance with your screen time. When you are stuck in bed for a large portion of the day, the internet can be a lifesaving connection to the outside world, so don’t shame yourself for spending more time on there. Research shows that limiting screen time is healthy, and that too much screen time can cause or exacerbate depression. I suggest setting times for yourself to take intentional breaks from the computer and phone screens throughout the day. I think that interacting with friends and support group members online is a really good outlet, so I am not suggesting you abandon social media. Just be mindful of how much time your eyes are glued to a screen, and give yourself breaks from it regularly (I set a timer for myself, so that every hour I get up and walk out on the porch, or go make myself a cup of tea; this has helped me feel more grounded, and my eyes hurt less).
  • When you get overwhelmed, remember to breathe and take things one moment at a time. I like to remind myself of what my friend tells herself, “Just do the next right thing,” and “I can only do the best I can with the information I have.” If I’m having a panic attack, I have trained myself to ask myself, “What is the next right thing?” Sometimes it’s really simple: go get a glass of water. Go to the bathroom. Take a shower. Eat something. Sometimes it’s more complicated, so if I start to spin, unsure of what the next right thing is, I try to give myself a reality check. What is the reality of the situation, and is that in alignment with how stressed out I am about it? I review the information I have on the matter, and try to see if there is an action I need to or am avoiding taking, and if not…I go back to my original question: What is the next right thing? It’s probably simpler than I thought. Sometimes the answer is to just sleep on it, sometimes it’s to make that phone call to the gas company, sometimes it’s to make an appointment with my doctor or therapist. Breaking things down into simple steps is helpful when you feel overwhelmed, and doing some cognitive check-ins to see where our emotions are valid, and where perhaps our anxiety is taking over.
  • Move! It’s important to move your body from time to time. If you can’t get out of bed, even just sitting up and doing some breathing exercises or meditating, lifting one leg at a time, lying down and sitting up, doing some gentle stretches are good for you. It’s important to keep your circulation going, and get blood flowing more efficiently to areas that need it.
  • Wear clothes you like. Even if you’re staying home all day, put on fresh clothes every day, and wear things that make you feel good. Even if it’s just pajamas you really love, don’t sit around in clothes you hate. It can be a great act of self love to put on a comfy outfit that makes you feel good, especially if you are the only person who will see it.
  • Journal and write down the feelings you don’t feel like saying out loud to anyone. Writing can be a great way to get the clutter out of your brain, process difficult emotions. Sometimes there are things you can’t say to anyone, but writing it out can feel like unpacking a heavy burden.
  • Stay in contact with the important people in your life. It is very easy to fall into an isolation pattern, where we hide from the world and the people we love, and the fortress of protection we build ends up feeling like a prison. Even if it’s just by e-mail, check in with your close friends and family regularly. Force yourself to make a phone call to someone you feel safe talking to. Just hearing another human’s voice can be powerful in keeping you feeling connected to the outside world. Sometimes it feels like the rest of the world is carrying on, moving so fast, our friends are moving on in life, while we are stuck frozen in time in a way—forced to take things slowly and listen to our bodies every day. Keeping in touch with your people keeps you connected to a world that sometimes feels like it’s only for healthy people.
  • Cry when you need to. It doesn’t matter what your gender is, humans actually NEED to cry. It’s detoxifying, clears out those tear ducts, and feels good afterwards. Don’t bottle everything up, you don’t always have to put on a brave face. I can’t emphasize this bullet point enough. LET IT OUT. Sob in the shower, blast some of your favorite sad songs, watch a tearjerker movie, whatever it takes to release some of the grief and sadness that comes along with chronic pain and illness.
  • Keep a note in your phone of all of the things in your life you are grateful for, a list you can keep updating. Start your morning by reading that list. It’s a small thing that can make a world of difference.
  • More Self-Care Tips

Here is a helpful little website that prompts you with self-care questions, should you not feel up to checking/making your own list: Self-care quiz: You Feel Like Shit

Here’s a handy image you can save to look at when you need it:

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Grounding Techniques

Grounding exercises can help bring us out of our anxiety and into the present, and can be very useful during emotional distress caused by pain. There are lots of different grounding techniques, so I urge you to look up more, and experiment with ones that work for you. Here is a useful graphic for some quick grounding basics:

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I also find guided mindfulness meditations really helpful. This is one of my favorite meditations, which really can help to ground you in your body, and really bring you into the present. I also find it helpful for checking in on my body pain, and really assessing where the pain is present, and how much of it is me bracing for pain. I urge you to try this guided body scan (my therapist directed me to this meditation, and it has really helped me over the years):

Body Scan Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Pain Relief from Distraction Exercises (from countingmyspoons.com)

Leah’s note: Some of these might seem silly, or even counterintuitive, but they are each worth a try. If you’re interested in why these techniques work, google “gate control theory of pain”

  1. Focus on your breath – relax and take a deep breath. Continue to breath in and out slowly. Try to count to at least 10 on each breath in and each breath out. As you really focus on breathing it’s hard to focus on much else, and you will find that the exhales help you relax. Keep this up as long as you can.
  2. Imagine Pain Relief – Imagine that you just got a shot of some great pain reliever in the area where it hurts, focus on how that would feel, and the sensations that would come with it. How the area of your body would feel as the pain reliever takes hold. This acts almost as a mental placebo.
  3. Focus on a different time – Think back to a time when you were not in pain, when you were enjoying life in such a way that even if you’d felt a twinge of pain you would not have noticed. Try to feel the feelings you had at that time, and really hold onto them.
  4. Find Something Funny – Whether it’s a favorite old tv series (I suggest the Golden Girls) or the latest funny movie, find something that you can laugh at. They say that laughter is the best medicine and except for when you laugh so hard it hurts, it’s hard to think about the on-going pains when you are laughing.
  5. Shock yourself – no I don’t mean electro-shock therapy, I mean find the most shocking thing you can on the internet (or a scary movie) and watch it. Research has shown that looking at something rather bad or shocking can distract you from pain better than looking at more pleasant things. So, pull up a good scary movie, or watch that latest [shocking] video on youtube.
  6. Listen to Music – When it comes to distracting myself with music, I find it very helpful to focus on building playlists and rating the music. If I’m thinking about what “bin” to fit that song into or whether or not it really deserves to be in my playlists at all, it takes a good amount of thought power, leaving little brain power to focus on the pain
  7. Play a game – like I mentioned when I’m in a really bad place I like random clicky games, but if my brain is working and I just don’t feel up to really focusing on something that matters, I’ll play some online poker. You might prefer an Xbox game that you can really get into, or some other sort of game to focus on (but seriously, Candy Crush just creates stress and we know what stress does – I swear that game just added to my insomnia
  8. Spend time with friends – If you enjoy a good phone call then call up a long-distance friend you haven’t seen in a while (or another spoonie) and have a nice long chat. If you aren’t a phone person then make some time to visit with a friend, go to them or invite them to visit you. Spending time with a friend can help distract you in so many ways, just try to avoid getting into pain-focused conversations. Best bet is if you can visit with a friend and find a way to laugh!
  9. Enjoy nature – Get outside if you can (or near a window if you can’t) and enjoy nature. Watch the birds, the squirrels, or the neighbors. That last one can be a really good distraction (but I won’t get started on that). It might even be worth installing a bird feeder just to bring more beauty to your hard (or patio), giving you something to focus on.
  10. Make some friends online – Twitter, Facebook, and online forums can be a great distraction, just ask anyone who has ever stepped foot into any of them. You only meant to be there for 5 minutes and then it’s 3 hours later. Better yet (for me, anyway) is Youtube. The reason I rarely go on youtube is because it’s a trap and I can’t get out once I get in.

In summary, when we are living with chronic pain, chronic illness, and depression (sometimes all three at once), it’s important we take these extra steps to take care of ourselves. Sometimes it can feel like we are forever treading water, trying to keep our heads above water, and these techniques and exercises can help be a little lifeboat in these turbulent waters. It can be a difficult road towards accepting the body you are currently living in, and it’s okay to grieve for the healthy body you miss having. The important thing is to reach out for support when you feel you are drowning, and try to practice some of these techniques to pull you out of really bad patches.

In solidarity always,

Leah R. Chatterjee

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Aftercare Instructions

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Many of us don’t get proper aftercare instructions after fistula surgery. A friend in my support group shared photos of her aftercare instructions, and they were so good that I had to type them up to share with all of you. I turned them into images so that they can be easily saved and shared from most platforms. Please feel free to save and share them!

Please note that these instructions aren’t perfect, just the best I have seen so far, and they won’t apply to everyone. If you are unsure about your aftercare, I urge you to call your surgeon’s office to have them answer any questions.

(All of this information comes from a handout by Alberta Health Services)

En Español:

Instrucciones de descarga despuès de la cirugìa anal

(Informacion crèdito a Alberta Health Services)

Cuidandando tu àrea anal

1. Toma un baño de asiento tres o cuatro veces al dìa. Limpia la bañera antes y despuès de su baño. No use aceites, baños de burbujas, lociones, o polvos en su àrea anal.

2. Es possible que tenga una secreciòn amarilla en sù àrea anal. Es posible que tambièn tenga sangre en la zona, especialmente despuès de movimientos intestinales.

3. No demore la evacuaciòn intestinal. Vacìa tus intestinos pronto cuando sientes la necesidad. No te sientes en el baño por mucho tiempo. Siempre toma un baño de asiento despuès de la ecvacuaciòn intestinal. Trata de no aser tension ni estreñirte.

4. Use una compresa frìa en la àrea anal para ayudar con el dolor.

5. NO se siente en una almohada en forma de rosquillas. Presionan sobrè la àrea que esta sanando.

 

En Español:

Instrucciones de descarga despuès de la cirugìa anal

(Informacion crèdito a Alberta Health Services)

Llama a su cirujano si tienes: 

* Escalofrìos o fiebre (temperatura sobre 38.5° C o 101.3° F)

* Estreñimiento que no mejora

* Dolor que no mejora con medicamentos

* Cuàgulos de sangre viniendo de la àrea anal

* Drenaje de la zona anal que huele mal

* Sangrando abudante (remojando una almohadilla gruesa en menos de una hora)

* Problemas pasando la orina

** llama 911 si tienes dolor repentino en el pecho o dificultad para respirar**

 

En Español:

Informaciòn de seguimiento para la cirugìa anal

Procedencia: Alberta Health Services

Movimiento intesinales despues de su cirugìa

  • Después de la cirugía, puedes contar con un poco de de dolor con su primer movimiento intestinal. No demore teniendo una evacuación intestinal. Esto solo hace que su materia fecal sea más dura y causa más dolor cuando eventualmente tenga una evacuación intestinal.
  • Toma medicamentos para el dolor 30 minutos antes de evacuacìon intestinal
  • Vacíe sus intestinos tan pronto como sienta la necesidad
  • No te sientes en el baño por largos períodos de tiempo. Esto puede causar presión, hinchazón y sangradura. Siéntate en el baño solo el tiempo que sea necesario para vaciar los intestinos. 
  • Toma un baño de asiento después de cada evacuación para limpiar y calmar su área anal.
  • Trata de no estreñirse o esforzarse con los deposiciones. Debe tener una evacuación intestinal el segundo día de la cirugía. Llama a su médico si está comiendo fibra exta o está tomando laxantes prescritos, y todavía está estreñido.

Cuando tù lleges a casa

  • Después de la cirugía, debe levantarse y hacer muchas caminatas cortas. Levantándose temprano ayuda a recuperar su fuerza, estimula buena circulación, ayuda a pasar gas y ayuda a que sus intestinos comiencen a funcionar. Cuando el dolor se comienza mejorar, aumente lentamente la distancia. Haga que alguien camine con usted hasta que esté firme en sus pies.
  • Puedes aumentar tus actividades como te sientas capaz.
  • Puedes volver a tus actividades ordinaro si no hay dolor.

Cuando llamar a su cirujano

  • Fiebre (temperatura sobre 38° C o 101.3° F
  • Dolor que no mejora con medicamentos
  • Problemas para orinar
  • Coágulos de sangre viniendo de su área anal
  • Estreñimiento que no mejora
  • Drenaje de la zona anal que huele mal
  • Sangrado abundante (remojando una almohadilla de gasa gruesa en menos de una hora)

Finally Fistula Free

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Hellooooo fistula warriors!

I have not been very active on here lately as I am going through a new health ordeal (adenomyosis and endometriosis! ugh!), and am navigating my way through all of that. I hope to soon be putting up some new stuff here, and have lots of ideas, so please stay with me!

I am excited to be able to share a new fistula project with you. Fellow fistula warrior Jen and I have been working on a project called Finally Fistula FreeOur goal is to provide a space where people going through the fistula nightmare can come to find success stories. We are currently collecting stories from people who have healed from their fistula, and want to share their journey with others. If you (or someone you know) has healed from a fistula and would like to share your story, please send us your success story at finallyfistulafree@gmail.com, we would love to hear from you and share your experience.

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Art by Jennifer Doolan

Part of breaking through the stigma of this health problem is being able to talk out loud about it. Speaking from my own experience, writing about my journey in detail has been empowering, and has enabled me to help others. I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone, even if that means just reaching out and joining a support group (I run a great one on Facebook: Fistula Support Group, and Jen runs a wonderful group for women: Abscess/Fistula Support for Women), or openly speak about what you’re going through with family or a close friend.

You can check out my full success story on our new blog here: Through the Tunnel of Doom and Back Again, and on the home page you will find Jen’s amazing journey, as well as our first contributor, Mary’s story. We hope you enjoy it, and that it brings some hope!

Be Back Soon!

In Solidarity,

Leah R. Chatterjee

Fistula Friends: Some Crohn’s and Ostomy support!

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20140209-082021.jpgYou know, sometimes the universe has your back. I’ve been wanting to write about Crohn’s disease and ostomy tips for quite some time, but it’s hard to write authentically about what you don’t know. I could easily gather a lot of info, and provide you with an article you could’ve written yourself with enough Google searching, but that’s not really what this blog is about. It’s about helping you through this with some guidance from someone who’s been there.

That’s why I’m so excited that Jen connected with me recently. She writes a really wonderful blog on Tumblr that covers a lot of ground, and has especially great info Crohn’s and ostomy tips. I particularly love her attitude about it all, and I think you’ll find it refreshing.

Jen’s Crohnic Crohn’s blog!

Jen also pointed me towards this wonderful blog that has great info about ostomy products, tips, info on IBD, and has some great tips for diet and nutrition (especially if you’re vegan):

The Veganostomy Blog

I would really love to give extra voice to these topics (Crohn’s, ostomy, IBD), and I think a great way to do that is to interview several people in the community and share their stories. If you are interested in participating in this (and you may do so anonymously if preferred) please contact me directly at leahruthe@gmail.com

So much love and solidarity,

Leah R Chatterjee

Need Support? We’ve got your backside!

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This disease can be so isolating, can feel so hopeless, and can be extremely hard to talk about. We have been building and growing a great online support group on Facebook over the past few years. Thanks to some really open and lovely people, it has become a really wonderful space to find support, advice, solidarity, and understanding.

If you think that could be helpful to you, please check it out!

Fistula Support Group (the group I run)

*** Edit, I recently met Jen, who runs a great support group just for women! Here’s the link to that group:

Abscess/Fistula Support for Women
New post coming soon!

Big Love,

Leah R Chatterjee

What does not kill you… Might just leave your rectum really weak.

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When you go through any sort of long-term illness, disease, or trauma, you will never cease to be amazed by the stupid things that come out of well-intentioned mouths. One of the most common cliches I heard was, “what does not kill you makes you stronger.” I’m not saying I don’t think there are situations where that might be true. But don’t say it to someone who’s had 8 surgeries on their rectum. Ever. Here’s a great blog from the Mighty on this topic:

What Does Not Kill You…
Enjoy!