This morning, just like every morning, I got up, went to crush my meds and put them through my feeding tube, and had Facebook open on my phone on the counter as I was doing so. One of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, posted a video that I wanted to watch. I hit play, and watched it as I used my mouth to push down on the syringe.
And what I saw sent me into tears. Because this wasn’t stand-up. It hit so incredibly close to home. Ten seconds into the video, I saw myself in Jim, as he began to use his mouth to push a syringe into a feeding tube — into his wife, Jeannie’s tube (Jeannie is recovering from surgery to remove a benign brain tumor).
And in that moment, I felt truly understood.
I got my first PEG tube when I was 21, nearly four years ago now, for gastroparesis. Since then, I’ve struggled a lot — notably in accepting the fact that this is something I will likely need in some capacity for the rest of my life, and that it isn’t something to be self-conscious about. Since I’m not 100 percent dependent on tube feeds, I can hide the fact that I have one pretty well from most people.
Feeding tubes are “weird” and “gross” and “for old people” — or at least that’s what many people seem to think — and seeing a celebrity like Jim Gaffigan be so open and honest about tube feeds made me realize that maybe I don’t need to hide things. My family and close friends are the only ones I openly speak with about having a feeding tube. I’ll eat something if I’m out with friends or coworkers, and then I’ll vent my G-tube if I’m not feeling well. I live on overnight feeds so I don’t go out in public with my pump. High-waisted bikini bottoms that hide my tube have become my best friend in the summers. I haven’t been on a real first date in almost four years because I’m afraid of the day I have to explain my health to a potential boyfriend.
But today, watching that video, I can use my GJ tube either as an obstacle to living my life, or I can take my experiences with my GJ tube to educate others and help de-stigmatize the topic of tube feeding and invisible illness.
Today, I choose to educate.
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