Monday, July 24, 2017

return of the hack

Alive I remain, a little slower, a lot thinner. My recovery from the pouch reversal surgery took much longer than I'd anticipated, and it has had a lasting negative effect on my daily comfort. Sometimes it's an unexpected urgency to need to use a bathroom (though in actuality there is nothing "there", so to speak), and other times it's an aching in my groin, like a raw bruising. Sitting can help with the former, but I turn to acetaminophen for the latter. During my recovery I tired surprisingly easily, and stayed home for much of May and June.

I am now back at work, and slowly does my mind seem to focus again, to clear away the fog of being away for so long. I try to pick up my daily good habits, though it is difficult, very difficult.

I do play a lot of games, mostly Hearthstone, Clash Royale, and Brawl Stars. I have gotten back into playing id's Rage, which picks up once you get past all the racing you have to do. I still marvel at the detail that went into making the characters look right, somewhere above the uncanny valley. I also reinstalled Diablo 3, but after a couple hours I think Grim Dawn was just a lot more fun, albeit more gruesome.

Shows! I've watched a few:

  • RuPaul's Drag Race Season 8. I had my doubts but this is a highly entertaining, very creative show.
  • Better Call Saul Season 2. Excellent writing, possibly better than Breaking Bad.
  • Jessica Jones. I like that it's about strategy. mind-games and wit and not (generally) about physical force.
  • Chewing Gum. Fun while it lasts.
  • The Last Kingdom. Another surprise hit. Starts off with you rolling your eyes at Uhtred's antics but he does grow with the show, which itself gets quickly better and better. Addictive.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Super fun, full of quality laughs that you'd expect from the people that made 30 Rock. Titus is superb.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter weekend

Was it Easter already? Goodness how times does fly. My reversal surgery is only ten days away! Man I have so much to prepare. Is life nothing but swimming through bureaucracy and addressing e-mails? That's the real tax on life, these micro tasks that whittle down my days.

Kites on the boardwarlk
Yeah, the surgery... I'll be in the hospital for 5-7 days as my pouch heals and they monitor my condition. I'll be pretty tired and will stay at home for a few days afterwards, I think. There is a small chance that the surgeon will decide to perform the second surgery (which is normally done some months later), in which case my recovery will be much more involved, and I'll stay at home training my new bowels for several weeks.

In any case, these are the last days of freedom. Thursday night I hung out with a couple friends at Betty's, drinking and talking about films. How the beer did flow, that familiar warmth enveloping me. The hockey game was on (Game 1 of Leafs versus Capitals) so the bar was a near constant din, my voice hoarse by the time I left.

Friday was a hunt for brunch, a difficult beast to catch on Good Friday. We settled on Dundas and Carlaw, a simple cafe/bar for some paninis. I spent the rest of the day at home, playing on the computer and keeping the cats company.

Saturday MJ and I did some chores and shopping, grabbing a bite at Square Boy and taking some of the afternoon to enjoy the mild temperatures on the boardwalk. That night we watched Stranger Than Fiction; I was so ready to like it but it fell short of being a really good movie. I feel having so many familiar faces detracted from the otherwise interesting central idea, an idea that was hardly given a chance to bloom.

Today was mostly chores: a morning run, vacuuming the rugs, changing and cleaning the bedding, replacing the kitty litter. We are attempting to train the cats to wear harnesses and leashes but it's a long, scratch-filled struggle. I also managed to squeeze in a bunch of Hearthstone games, with an unsuccessful run at Rank 10 using Dragon Priest.

How about that Trump? What a time to be alive!

Thursday, March 16, 2017


So yeah, I got married. Months of careful, stressful planning paid off with a small ceremony at the McMichael Art Collection, out in Kleinburg. The weather graced us with snow for the day, so the outdoor pictures came out rather fine. Indeed all of our activities ran smoothly, an A+ crew making a plan come together: Having everyone polished and arriving on time, a Western ceremony, a change of garments and a Korean ceremony, another change for dinner, and finally drinks and dancing, with breaks in-between for photos.

But I don't feel all that different. Sure, it's nice to have that someone, that special someone there, and to be done with all the coordinating, all the fuss, all the business that comes with a wedding. My life has otherwise leveled out to a normal state, with work and leisure passing the hours. I've not gone back to karate or archery, and indeed my body, while mostly recuperated, is still a mild version of what it once was. Certainly my knee is still weak, and gives discomfort when pushed.

My next surgery, the J-pouch operation, is booked for April 26th. Another door to pass through, and how I shall emerge is, well, daunting to contemplate. I fairly dread the worst scenario. A long, uncomfortable recovery, that is certain, and I'll have to curb my diet.

Until then, I have enjoyed eating pretty much whatever I feel like, though I lean now towards less meat. To be sure, I went through various stages for numerous foods, mostly of the junk, high fat, high sugar variety. Having an ostomy does force one to re-experience everything one consumes in a rather graphic manner, my body a constant experiment of digestion and waste.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Still here

I wrote that I didn't have any problems since the surgery but since that post I've had to go to the hospital twice: First for a blockage somewhere in my gastrointestinal system on September 11th, and then on October 21st for a couple gastric ulcers. The blockage was fairly painful, and the solution was uncomfortable as well -- an NG (nasogastric) tube forced down my nostril to suck air and liquid out of my stomach. At least they sent me home with some more painkillers.

The ulcers bled so much that I got really dizzy and lightheaded with a real danger of falling and passing out (going down a flight of stairs was iffy business), but it was not particularly painful. For this I finally got admitted into Mount Sinai Hospital, the services of which I find increasingly amenable on each visit. I had a couple liters of blood pumped into me, and have been on iron supplements and acid reducers (pantoprazole) since.

So physically, I am slightly weak but mostly recovered. I should be good for going back to work, which I officially do this coming Monday. Arrr, what a day that will be. I have, in all honesty, visited the office a couple times since, to say hello and set up my desk at our temporary office (while our old one is renovated), and it did cheer me up to see my coworkers again, most I've known for some 10 years. But to actually get back into doing work, to produce something through effort... well, that's a name I've not heard in a long time. A long time.

I got a new computer, onto which I've installed a bunch of games. A new one because my old one, on top of being a bit old, had Windows 7 32-bit on it and upgrading it was an incredible hassle, a task I was not able to successfully finish after several attempts. It didn't help that I'd messed with the hard drives a few times, confusing the OS. Anyway, the new machine is a dream though mostly I've only played Hearthstone and Overwatch on it. Some of the other games:

  • BioShock Infinite: The graphics are delicious but the level design and story are literally on rails, which is a turn off. Sure, I'll get around to finishing it, and I'm guessing I'm in for some juicy plot twist, if I can just get past the repetitive fights.
  • Dark Souls 3: Holy cow this game is difficult! I just haven't had the time and energy to invest into this to get somewhere. The controls are also super annoying and not intuitive at all; I may have to acquire a controller to play this one.
  • Dex: Fun RPG platformer with a good enough story. I do find the jumping puzzles (which are hugely punishing) frustrating.
  • Oxenfree: Love this one, and am playing it slowly so that I can really savour it. Good for late night exploring.
  • Submerged: I really, really wanted to like this game but it's so repetitive and lacks variety. Can only stomach so much at a time.
  • RAGE: I've had this in my Steam library for years and have finally gotten around to trying it. I was having quite a bit of fun until I was forced to do some vehicle races -- what business do these have in an action shooter?? Ugh.

Friday, September 09, 2016

recovery update; shows I've been watching

I miss sleep. There were maybe one or two nights of uninterrupted sleep in August, but since leaving the hospital I haven't slept more than six hours at a time, and frequently only three or four before I get up in discomfort around my abdomen. I'm not sure if it's the lying down that aggravates things, or the staying still, but sleep, true restorative sleep, escapes me for now.

You may think that I had a lot of free time in the hospital but it simply was not so -- I was constantly switching between pain and/or nausea, or had my mind clouded by Morphine or had eyes droopy with Gravol. In such states I could do very little but lay down until that fog would pass. Still, when the colitis symptoms were under control I did manage to watch a few of shows:

  • Sword Art Online: Why do I keep going back to anime? Nostalgia for the halcyon days in university? To avoid having to engage my face-reading skills of real actors? In any case, overall I enjoyed the first season of SAO, with each episode having enough conceits to keep me going. My biggest complaint would be the side story with the sister, which seemed contrived, unrealistic, and unnecessary.
  • Koko Wa Greenwood: Certainly nostalgia played a big part here (I look rather fondly on my time in residence), and I was entertained by how much (or little) I remembered of the series since viewing it some twenty years ago. I think it still holds up, quirks and all. And man I forgot how much I really dig the closing music.
  • BoJack Horseman: I maintain the opinion that BoJack is one of the best shows out there -- a flawed protagonist, relatable characters who undergo nuanced development, with themes of friendship, the pursuit of happiness, fulfillment, loneliness. It has everything a burnt out adult could want.
  • Lupin the Third: Castle of Cagliostro: A hankering to see this again was invoked by one of the Koko Wa Greenwood episodes, and it was a true joy to see Lupin again in a high adventure full of daring escapes, last minute rescues, and witty one-liners. I wasn't aware this was Miyazaki's directorial film debut, nor that he toned down the lechery of Lupin, but I am well and glad Miyazaki made these changes.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: I feel like it was my old friend Pops who recommended this to me, so many, many years ago now. As it was on Netflix it seemed an easy choice and I've got to say, it's actually really good, blending childish slapstick with intense hairs-breadth swordsmanship, much like its titular character.
  • HarmonQuest: I finished this short series shortly before going to the hospital but since I'm talking about shows anyway I'm adding it here. If you enjoy comedians playing Dungeons and Dragons, this is the show for you. Lots of laughs. On a sidenote, Dan Harmon's Harmontown podcast is also pretty swell.

As to how I am currently doing? I still have discomfort around my surgery wound, though laughing and coughing aren't nearly as agonizing as they initially were. I can walk about fifteen minutes before breaking a sweat or having to rest. I haven't weighed myself since leaving the hospital, so I don't know how much of the 30-40 lbs I lost have been regained. My appetite at least is very healthy, and I haven't had any issues with vomiting since the surgery. I find myself craving all kinds of food, generally of the unhealthy Doritos or fast food kind.

I have not gone back to work, staying at home and doing chores and hanging with the cats and flipping through Twitter and Facebook. The thought of being around people is a bit daunting; certainly the prospect of having to use a public bathroom I do not look forward to. Walking around with a stoma and colostomy bag is no joy either.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

a vicious cycle comes to an end

I got my Remicade infusion on Friday, August 12, a seemingly simple enough procedure. The nurse said it was chemotherapy, which stuck in my head. I guess I'd imagined chemo to be more involved or multi-stepped or something.

The next day was mixed, and I had a couple bouts of nausea and retching, squeezing my innards past empty, so that by the end I screamed putrid gusts of air.

Sunday is when things got serious: I had a fairly regular bowel movement in the early evening but it was soon followed up with a flood of blood BM. And then another even more urgent, even more torrential evacuation, so much so that I lost my vision for a second. And lo, as I washed my hands I experienced a head rush strong enough to make me stop, to make me slouch over the sink and slowly slump onto the bathroom floor. I rolled my head around, attempting to shake this heaviness off, this foreign dark fog of the mind.

I awoke to find my face on the floor at an distressing angle. I lay there a few moments realizing what had happened. Gathering myself, I pulled the nurse call string and braced myself against the sink, fearful of passing out again.

Over the next couple of days I received two units of blood to get my levels back to near normal. I continued the regimen of Prednisone and Methotrexate, still hoping that these and the Remicade would spare me from surgery and return my large intestine to normal. And indeed, my stools firmed up and the pain lessened, though I was highly constipated and often had to turn to Morphine and Gravol for relief. But the lack of symptoms was but a ruse: Sunday saw me throwing up and retching all over again, some five hours of hollering my guts into a basin, wiping away naught but white spittle until I collapsed in exhaustion, unable to face the world, dead by nearly every measure.

Monday, August 22nd I came close to passing. As with the week before, I woke to empty a large amount of blood from my bowels. This time I was careful to move slowly and avoid passing out. I got the nurse to give me some intravenous Gravol, in preparation for the nausea I now felt. I remember suddenly feeling an extreme unease, a general sense of malady.

"I can't see!! Something's wrong!!! I.. I hear ringing!" I scrambled and thrashed in bed, without direction, as my parents and fiancé looked on, stunned. "I'm dying, I'm dying!" My fiancé rushed to get the nurse. I got out of bed, "I have to go to the bathroom NOW!!" and pointed to the portable toilet chair which had been set up next to my bed. As I slipped off my underwear I recall losing control of my bowels and collapsing into the chair, even as I blacked out.

Later I was told that I lost over a liter of blood, that my systolic blood pressure dropped below 50 mm Hg, that I was in shock. I only remember having a peaceful, calm dream, the details of which will forever escape me, a self-erasing glimpse of some Elysian Field.

The nurses got me cleaned and back in bed, and with fluids being pumped into me the living world came back into view, the fog of nothingness drifting away. I remained calm, lucid even.

"Well, that was a lot of fun."
"How do you feel?" someone asked.
"I'm great!"
My mother sighed in exasperation.

My doctor told me, and all those around me, that I'd lost too much blood and that my large intestine had to come out now, the risk of more bleeding too dangerous.

"Mr. Hong, the colon needs to come out now."
"I don't want the operation."
"Mr. Hong, you must have the surgery. We have no other options."
"I know."

And so I left a piece of myself in Richmond Hill, and have several scars to show for it. The first night in ICU was pure agony, the longest night of my life: I was trapped balancing the pain of my back and the wound in my abdomen, never able to find relief for either, switching constantly between two extremes. I had been using Morphine pretty regularly before but now I had to plead for them to open the taps, to give my life an island to breathe on.

It has been a long fight, this war of mine, and I will emerge both a winner and a loser, much reduced is how I feel. You will forgive me if I am slow to respond, or lack a response in passing. The slightest breeze can knock me down, a kind word can set me into a river of tears, so close am I to reliving it all over again.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Back in the zone

I don't remember having to deal with such incredibly strong musical hallucinations the last time I was sick with colitis in the hospital. I really think I would, as it's currently driving me quite mad -- I keep hearing the same lame guitar riff fading in and out, some tired 80s rock ballad that is better left on tape. It is of course just my hearing's interpretation of the constant fans in my room, but the illusion is so damn convincing. And it is keeping me up, alongside the bubblings in my abdomen and the prednisone sweats.

Yes friend, I have once again tread back onto that murky path of pain, nausea, suffering, insanity that is ulcerative colitis. That I find myself so deep inside makes one's spirits fall, that all light should shudder so suddenly, so fully. The same disdainful nurses, the same apathetic system, the same curious doctors and their repeated questions -- all have passed before me as they do now, and having done so does not make the repetition any easier.

But sure, there is something in knowing that it can be passed, as remote a solution that may seem to me now, pumped full of drugs and finding relief fleeting and mixed. My life is put on pause elsewise -- dearer friends I do not know have helped keep my activities in order, as I continue to writhe and struggle to breathe, to push the pain out of my body like some spectral invader.

I remember missing food. Ye Gods, how I have squandered my daily calories on rot and fodder not fit for people. Surely there is a better way to learn this lesson?