Easing Back Into Swimming After Having Surgery for Ulcerative Colitis


I decided it was time to try swimming again. It had been a while. So long that there was a winter hat in my swim bag. I was well equipped with brand new goggles and a much cooler swim cap. How refreshing to walk to the gym in flip flops and not have to peel off several layers of clothes and jam them into the locker with a winter coat and wet snow boots. I did my usual stop in the bathroom to empty the bag and double-check that it looked well-sealed and ready. All clear!


I stood at the edge of the pool for a while, pretending to fidget with my goggles and make sure my headphones were secure in my ears. In reality I was anxious and nervous to jump in. It had been a long time. Please god don’t leak. Don’t leak.

I jumped in and, like riding a bike, I got right into my usual routine. A couple laps of freestyle and I was out of breath and feeling like I was about to end an hour-long workout. Had it been 30 minutes? Nope…only five. Crap. My stubborn mind said to keep going. I took some big swigs from my water bottle and forged on. 20 minutes later the water bottle was empty and I took it as a sign to get out and go home.

Friday Night.

I wake up in excruciating pain. Between my scapulas, through my shoulders and radiating down to my fingertips. Not a wink of sleep for the rest of the night. Too much pain to even get up and get some painkillers. How am I going to treat my patient tomorrow?! Thankfully the effects of a hot shower, Tylenol and Advil kick in before I reach school.

Wednesday Morning.

I want to try swimming again. I must try this again. I have a PT session scheduled for the afternoon so I figure she will snap me in shape if I do any harm. I arrive at the edge of the pool and scope it out. YMCA summer camp is in full swing and there are about 30 kids on one side of the pool. They better be old enough to realize they shouldn’t be peeing in the pool. I knock that thought out of my head. To the right of me is a grandpa doing doggy paddle laps. To the left might as well be Michael Phelps. He gets started at the same time as me. With every flip turn he spans practically half of the pool before coming up for a breath to start swimming.

Several laps in and I’m surprised I am doing better than the first try on Friday. I feel stronger. Phelps and I hit the wall at the same time and I decide it would be a good chance to pretend compete with him. He beats me by a landslide. Like, I didn’t see that coming. I remind myself this is my second time swimming in about seven months and during that time I’ve had major surgery and have been hospitalized twice. I’m doing pretty good considering.

15 minutes into our swim I notice Phelps is gone. Really, dude?! 15 minutes?

Grandpa is still doing well with his doggy paddle.

I keep at it for another 10 minutes. My body tells me I’m done and I attempt to pull myself up out of the pool. Nope. Not happening. I use the ladder at the edge of the pool and then do some final stretches. Before I head out I scan the pool. Grandpa is the only one left. Slow and steady wins the race.

This post originally appeared on My Intestinal Fortitude.

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Thinkstock photo via Jacob Ammentorp Lund.

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