…and today’s word is “cauterise” – to burn the skin or flesh of a wound with a heated instrument in order to stop bleeding or to prevent infection. (No, I’m not going into any gory details but I imagine the odour would be similar to one of our neighbour’s BBQs)
A few months back I was half-listening to the radio when on came Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, to talk about his autobiography “Free Radical: Memoirs” (published by Atlantic Books). He referred to an episode in his life as having “cauterised” his emotions. That word struck home. It summed up exctly how I felt after my father’s sudden, unexpected death. I was just 14. I did not want sympathy. I would cope on my own and as a result became very cold, detached, emotionless.
I’ve often wondered if this may have “helped” me to manage all that Crohn’s disease has thrown my way. Has it affected my attitude to those little setbacks and life in general? I’ll let others make that judgement but I have been accused of being very cynical, possessing a dark sense of humour and being positively laid back (so much so that it induces the opposite effect in others).
A few days ago I was having a discussion, with a fellow patient, about IBD nurses, the pyschological support available and the potential differences between the requirements of male and female patients. She was surprised that it has been eight years since I had met with an IBD nurse (apart from handing in calpro samples and a short, non-IBD related stay in hospital). I certainly don’t feel that I am supported by a whole IBD team, but that is down to my personal circumstances – long term remission. It was different when I was an in-patient.
I mentioned that I had never been offered any type of psychological support and never felt emotional at any consultant’s appointments There is, however, one incident in my recent medical history that does affect me deeply. I was going to call it my Achille’s heel but that suggests feeling emotional is a weakness whereas it should be seen as a strength. (Maybe that says more about the environment I was brought up in)
The one thing that affects me? Reading my account of a meeting with the “guest” surgeon who aided the surgical team with my ileostomy. He had commented how well I looked despite “what they had done to me” and that it was “one of the most complex operations they had carried out” but why does it affect me so much? (This is how the conversation with the fellow patient (FP) went:
FP: “Why do you feel like you do about the surgeon’s comments – what feelings does it provoke in you. (I’ll be getting out the therapist’s couch next!!)”.
Me: “I have been trying to analyse that myself. All I can think is :
1) I had underestimated the state my innards were in and just how serious the situation was rapidly becoming.
2) I was relieved my body was capable of withstanding the rigours of the operation and coming out the other side.
3) That this seasoned professional was surprised at the reaction and recovery of my body after such major surgery
4) Was I partly responsible for achieving the good recovery because of my state of mind in the run up and aftermath of the operation?
Phew! Hadn’t thought about it that deeply before. Can I get off of the couch yet?”
FP: “Much to reply on that. Stay on that couch!!
FP: “My pleasure. Invoice is in the post.”
Drifting into the realms of “what-if”, which I have previously stated is a bad idea, there is a theory that links the start of Crohn’s/IBD with a traumatic event in one’s life. COuld my father’s death have been that trigger? How long can it take between cause and effect? Any thoughts?