During one of my hospital stays, I had some incredible medical staff checking in on me. Being at a teaching hospital I had the whole range from current medical students to residents to esteemed doctors on my case coming in to talk to me each day. There were two people who spent extra time listening to me and checking in on me, one was a resident and one was a medical student. They spent the time to listen to me as I talked through my decision to have the colectomy done, weighing the pros and cons. I know they were just doing their jobs, but they made me feel like I had friends. The medical student was a girl somewhere around the same age as me. One day she came in wearing a skirt and I noticed her legs were all bruised up, so I asked what happened. She’d played an intense game of indoor soccer the night before and had the bruises to prove it. I told her I wanted to play on her team when I was healed from my surgery.
As I was recovering from my colectomy, struggling to walk around the block, I was convinced I’d never be able to play soccer or any other intense sport. My ostomy was ever-present in my awareness, every movement made it even more present, running was the weirdest, most awkward feeling ever. There was no way. Seven months into my recovery a friend of mine joined a co-ed indoor soccer league and needed girls for his team. I was still pretty scared of everything new and athletic, and even though I really wanted to join the team, I talked myself out of trying. I was not in good enough shape, the dangers were not worth the risks, and my schedule just couldn’t allow for it.
Fast-forward to just under 2.5 years after my colectomy (1.5 years after my completion proctectomy) in the midst of a number of life changes. I decided to face my fears and try a bunch of new things. I was much stronger, in better shape, and had a lot more confidence in my body’s ability to move. Indoor soccer was still on my mind and my friend said they could always use more girl subs. He invited me to come play a game and try it out. I decided to ease my way into it by agreeing to watch a game. Being the lowest level of skill league, players are clumsy and slightly aggressive. At the end of the game, one girl had a bloody turf-burn on her knee and my friend had a sweet cleat bruise on his shin. I said NO WAY.
A couple weeks went by and I found that I was still intrigued. I was craving cardio and a new activity, but I was still pretty nervous about the risk of injury. I was particularly concerned because there wouldn’t be an opportunity for me say “hold on everyone, please don’t hit me in the stomach!”. Though I was still hesitant and looking for excuses, one of the girls on the team had some extra cleats that she let me borrow and my friend lent me shin guards. It was time to put my excuses away and get on the field.
Indoor soccer is exhausting. I ran my butt off. It was exhilarating. I needed water.
We lost terribly, but it was blast. My concerns about getting elbowed and run over ended up being a non-issue (although that’s probably a game-by-game risk since every player is different). A couple weeks later they asked me to play again. I wasn’t feeling great, but knew they were going to be short on girls and I wanted the exercise. Less than 10 minutes into the game I was chasing the ball as it went toward one of our opponents and she kicked it really hard directly into my face. She couldn’t have been more than 5 or 10 feet away from me when she kicked it, so boy did it hit me hard. Don’t worry. I’m fine. It didn’t leave a visible mark, but my jaw was pretty upset for a few days. The team has apparently nick-named me face trap. I think that means they accept me. And to think, I’d been worried about my ostomy.