Gastroparesis can change our bodies in many ways. For some of us, that change can mean some form of a feeding tube. These changes can make us look at our bodies differently, and can also make us feel differently about our bodies. Pact Blog writer, Carolanne talks about her story with a feeding tube, and her journey to self love.
There are many reasons why getting a permanent feeding tube is scary. There’s the obvious; like having a weird foreign object protruding from your abdomen to feed you, and there’s the fact that your body is about to forever change. You’ll no longer have a “normal” looking stomach. And for many, this is the most frightening part about the whole experience. People will stare and your knee-jerk reaction might be to throw away any and all bikinis and crop tops. Let them stare and bare your belly proudly. It will be hard at first, but the journey to self-love with a feeding tube is a vital part of the recovery process. It’s just as important as protecting your stoma and keeping your tube flushed and cleared.
The first time I got a GJ feeding tube, I basically went kicking and screaming until I realized I would die without receiving the nutrition I desperately needed, and the only way to get that proper nutrition was through a feeding tube. While I didn’t drag my feet the whole way to the operating room, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about it either (but who is). I was incredibly nervous how having a feeding tube would affect the way people looked at me. Suddenly, my invisible chronic illness was about to become visible. I let it upset me to the point of panic attacks and crying fits almost every night leading up to my surgery date.
My original plan was to not show anyone my tube. I could cover up in baggier shirts, long enough to disguise the long piece of rubbery plastic sticking out of my stomach. But after surgery, I had a change of heart. I realized how much this feeding tube was improving my life. A week after surgery I held my breath as I looked at my reflection in the mirror. I pulled my shirt high enough to reveal my tube and I thought to myself, “why am I hiding something that is literally saving my life?” I posted a photo displaying my feeding tube and captioned it, “not a burden, but a blessing” and that couldn’t have been more spot on. After seeing how well received that post was and how supportive people were, I began to show off my tube without fear. I learned to love my body, tube and all.
When I got my feeding tube removed, I learned to love my stomach with a stoma scar. That’s was a whole other battle in itself (I’ll save that story for another day). So, when the day came that I realized I needed a feeding tube again, my heart sank. I would have to relearn to love myself with a tube for a second time. But this time, I wasn’t starting from square one. I went into this surgery determined to normalize feeding tubes so that no one else ever felt ashamed of having something that quite literally is saving their life. From my hospital bed, I began my series of photos showcasing my feeding tube. And now I do it unapologetically. With each post, I feel the love I have for myself grow. It’s a journey, but every day I love a new inch of my body, feeding tube and all.