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27 Surgeries Taught Me How to Cope With a Heartbreaking ‘Detour’ in My Life

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Nobody expects a detour in life to happen. It’s what happens when we think we have things all planned and figured out, and then we’re thrown a curveball.

I’ve survived a coma, organ failure and 27 surgeries and emerged triumphantly, so I’d like to think I’m used to curveballs. The most rewarding feeling in the world is to be able to use my unpredictable journey to help others navigate their own detours.

But when I’m at the crossroads myself, I’m always reminded how difficult it is to move forward when life doesn’t go as you expect, and what you thought was certain suddenly veers in a different direction.

I always try to be transparent about things in my life because I’ve seen in my own experience that keeping things hidden never does any good. For years, I kept to myself, living in isolation, only speaking to my doctors and parents. It was difficult to function in the outside world without a stomach. Not being able to eat or drink was a pretty big isolating factor.

So I’ve experienced what it feels like to keep things in — painful emotions or even joyous moments of gratitude. Sometimes all we need to do is reach out to feel like you’ve been heard, and suddenly, we’re able to move on. In bringing a struggle to light, you’re helping yourself, and even better, you never know who else you may help.

So that thought outweighed my trepidation in sharing this major “detour” in my journey. I started the campaign, #‎LoveMyDetour, to help us all love the unexpected glitches in our lives. “Loving My Detour” is all about flourishing, not in spite of, but because of obstacles.

But sometimes, you don’t love your detour right away. Sometimes you just have to trust your detour, follow it and know in your heart that eventually you’ll love what happened to you.

I’ve written about having glitches, imperfections and finally finding a wedding dress to fit my ostomy bags after 27 surgeries. After I found a dress, I thought my wedding woes were over.

It came as a complete shock to me after only 11 months of marriage to find out I’m getting a divorce.

To say “sudden” is an understatement. I had just married the love of my life. I had asked my husband if he was happy, and he had reassured me he was — daily. We were deciding where to go out to dinner to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary, which would have been in June.

Our last night together was spent hand in hand, eating frozen yogurt, confiding in each other and planning the days ahead. One last kiss and then the next week, I was hit was a succinct text message demanding a divorce with no alternative. He had ordered a marshal to come to my parents’ house to deliver my “papers,” and that was it. He shut his phone off, and the rest of the night was spent pacing around my parents’ kitchen table, crying so deeply I couldn’t breathe.

When life changes unexpectedly, we’re forced to question everything we thought we knew about ourselves. I’ve learned though my 27 surgical “detours” that trying to “go back the way you came” won’t get you anywhere. You have to move on — even if it hurts.

I tell myself that if I can get through a coma, organ failure and six years of being unable to eat or drink, then this, too, like everything else, will pass. We are all stronger than we know.

I still feel that by sharing our own detours, even if they’re not so great in the moment, makes us all stronger. So that’s why I share. Moving forward, trusting our detours, one day at a time.

I don’t have the power to change others, but I can take charge of my own path. I’m even starting to date again, but, of course, I think the one person who needs the most love right now is me.

No matter what “detours” we have in our lives, we’re all capable of pursuing our trails with a bit of support, even if the “support” we have may change over time.

I try to remember I have good friends, family and a truly good body that has been tried, tested and triumphant through years of medical interventions and setbacks.

Every detour leads somewhere. And I know that one day I will “Love My Detour.”

Follow this journey on Amy Oestreicher.

Artwork by Amy Oestreicher

Originally published: July 14, 2016
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