Bending, Not Breaking: My Consent to Surgery

Bending, Not Breaking: My Consent to Surgery

Goodness knows, battling chronic illness requires resilience. And resilience is about bending, not breaking, about forging ahead, not stopping. Easier said than done, however, when we find ourselves at a troublesome T-intersection. In order to go forward, we must first make the decision to turn.

Recently I found myself at one such tricky junction. For the last year or so, I was in denial about a Crohn’s complication and found myself gazing aimlessly at the seeming dead-end in front of me. But then I began longing for the comfort of getting back on my forward-moving path, so I decided to take a turn.

Consenting to Surgery

That turn came in the form of consenting to surgery. I’ve been combatting Crohn’s for 22 years and up until last Tuesday, I had never had any surgical intervention thanks to always using food as medicine to some degree – not a bad run!

Early in the new year, though, I had to confront the reality in my very-much-ongoing healing journey that no amount of medication, clean eating, and stress management could address this current complication. I required surgery to deal with a chronic abscess resulting from fistulising Crohn’s Disease.

So I met with a small-handed (because, good golly, that’s important), conservative female surgeon whose examination revealed that incision and drainage of the abscess cavity along with placement of a seton drain would finally tackle and remove this infectious pocket from my body and allow the fistula tract to heal from the inside out.

In a different post, I’ll address in more detail how fistulising Crohn’s plays out, why these infectious complications occur, what the recovery from this kind of surgery looks like (as I’m still in the throes of the this), and what ongoing conventional medicine I require to best treat this kind of disease.

Finding Peace in My Decision

But for now I want to share with you that in spite of the physical pain I’m feeling after surgery and in spite of requiring daily visits from a nurse to properly pack the deeper-than-anticipated wound, I’m at complete peace with my decision to go ahead with surgery.

And having that inner peace is priceless.

This was an elective procedure, not an emergency. I’ve been an emergent case, and I know how bloody terrifying that can be. I also know and am endlessly grateful for the fact that as far as surgical interventions go, this was relatively minor. Every day many an IBD warrior faces much more complicated, serious, and life-altering surgeries. And every day, my heart goes out to those courageous people whose lives are forever changed by the insidiousness of inflammatory bowel disease.

I’m well aware that using food as medicine – namely, an AIP framework – and taking serious strides in stress management put me in the best place possible for undergoing surgery last week. And these are vital aspects of my lifestyle that I’m committed to and that will continue to work in my favour not only in the immediate future as I recover but in the long-run as well.

Understanding What Is Needed

But sometimes more is needed. Sometimes diet and lifestyle and even conventional medicine are not enough. I learned this after a couple years of exhausting all those options.

So if you are struggling, if you are facing one of those thorny T-intersections, don’t be afraid to make the turn. Explore that arc in your path, and keep your resilient chin up as you do. Because, to paraphrase Albert Camus, if you bend, you can’t be broken.

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This article was written by

Martine Partridge, founder of Eat Heal Thrive, is an eater of whole, nourishing, real food. She is also a combatter of Crohn's Disease. Martine wholeheartedly believes that food is the fulcrum for good health and has had wonderful results in managing autoimmunity by eating to heal, and healing to thrive.

There are 40 comments for this article
  1. TSL at 9:55 pm

    Lovely Martine – a brave post! Thanks for sharing your path to bending (NOT breaking!) Sending you healing wishes – they should reach you about noon tomorrow, when you factor in time zones. Best from down here.

  2. Kari at 11:07 pm

    So brave for you to share with all of us. Your journey is surely helping other people and you are an inspiration. Sometimes these decisions are the difficult ones but I am so so glad that you have peace with it becuase that is what is most important. Wishing you a speady recovery Martine!! love and light!

  3. Kate at 2:23 am

    Thanks for sharing your heartfelt post Martine. Like the others I too am pleased you have found peace with your decision, it certainly seems well reasoned and beautifully put to me. Wishing you all the very best for your complete and speedy healing. x

  4. Donna at 3:57 am


    Thank you for sharing this. Sometimes I think so many of us dealing with auto-immune conditions see conventional medicine as a sort of enemy. After all, it has done most of us wrong at some point. It can be so hard to judge where it fits in our lives…and I believe it does fit. I hope and pray you a speedy recovery for you!


    • Martine Partridge Author at 4:29 pm

      Hi, Donna. You hit the nail on the head. Finding the balance between which conventional treatments work best and using that as a way to supplement diet and lifestyle has helped me immensely. Thank you for your well wishes. 🙂

    • Martine Partridge Author at 4:44 pm

      Thank you for such kind and encouraging words, Eileen. This really was a difficult decision — took me a year or so of denial and then about a year before finally saying, “Okay, I gotta do this.” I’m relieved the worst is behind me now. Onward and upward. 😉

  5. Vic at 6:32 pm

    Such a brave and heartfelt post, thank you so much for sharing. You are amazing. I wish you a truly speedy recovery, wishing you well.

  6. Rheagan at 8:01 pm

    I’m so happy that you found peace with your decision. Sometimes I think that is half (if not more) of the battle. It can be difficult to balance a natural, holistic approach with conventional interventions when needed. They are all tools in the tool box and most effective when used with discernment, as you have demonstrated beautifully! Prayers and best wishes for a speedy recovery!

    • Martine Partridge Author at 4:45 pm

      Yes, once that inner peace is attained, it’s a whole lot easier to move forward…and ultimately heal! 🙂 Thank you so much for such encouraging support, Rheagan. I really appreciate it. 🙂

  7. Debra at 2:09 am

    You’re using the best of all worlds of medicines on how you’re managing your challenges. Thanks to your clean eating you’ll heal remarkably fast!

  8. Amanda at 4:45 am

    I’m sending you prayers for quick healing! I totally understand and support your decision. Sometimes we do have to use surgical interventions. I love your attitude and outlook on this, you are giving your body its best chance of healing. Your so so lucky that you know the benefits of AIP diet while recovering That will make your body’s job of healing so much easier. Rest up and take care of yourself!

    • Martine Partridge Author at 4:48 pm

      Hi, Amanda. Thank you for such supportive and kind words. I’m grateful that I know AIP well and can give my body exactly what it needs to heal. Thank you also for being a source of inspiration to me. 🙂

  9. Jessica at 8:18 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I have ulcerative colitis and just am not making the improvements needed with conventional meds or my aip/scd lifestyle, so this really hits home for me right now. Acceptance is a hard place to get to, so you should definitely be proud of that! I wish you the best of luck and my thoughts are with you!

    • Martine Partridge Author at 4:57 pm

      Sorry to hear you’re struggling, Jessica. Hang in there! IBD is a frustratingly difficult disease to treat, but we can and will get there. 🙂 Thank you for your kind words. Love and light to you!

  10. joanna at 2:45 am

    i hope your recovery is going smoothly!! i have ulcerative colitis and have dealt (am dealing) with the same hard decisions. obviously, nobody wants to have surgery but if it improves and extends your life, that is the most important factor. it just gets worse the longer it goes untreated so i’m glad you got it while it was still minor!

    • Martine Partridge Author at 4:58 pm

      Hi, Joanna. My thoughts are with you as you confront some difficult decisions. Although IBD can be incredibly tricky to treat, I firmly believe we can and will heal. Keep taking care. 🙂

  11. Andy Perry at 11:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve been to Mayo Clinic for seton placement. It was only a month or so after starting strict AIP. I had to go back 6 weeks later, because it wasnt placed quite right, so, no fun there. But, its been smooth sailing ever since! I did start Remicade also, 2 weeks after my second mayo trip. I think that was what helped make the decision on that. I’ll be getting the seton out soon, as my GI doc doesnt want to leave it in too long. It does work though, so, I think you made a fine choice!

    • Martine Partridge Author at 5:46 pm

      Andy! Thanks so much for getting in touch. I’ve only ever spoke to one other person who had a seton placed, so I’m happy to hear this line of treatment worked well for you (albeit with it not being in quite right initially — ouch!). Now that I’m almost three weeks past the surgery, I’m starting to feel really good. And now that the infection is out and can properly drain, I’m confident it’s onwards and upwards from hereon in. 🙂 All the best to you as you continue to heal.

  12. Tara at 2:52 pm

    Wonderfully brave post, Martine. I completely support you in your decision. I’m praying for your full recovery. You are truly strong and resilient! Heal quickly, my friend.

  13. Cindy Berryman at 4:15 am

    Hi Martine,
    . I’am sure its not easy to talk about your bottom to the world, but I’am glad you did. We have talked about this before, I have the same problem,with the fistulas. I was doing really well, and then big flare. What made you decide it wasn’t going to get better, and surgery was your next option? Iam really getting to that point, I think. Any advice?
    Thanks again for posting about this, you really help others know we’re not alone with this same problem.
    Thanks Cindy

    • Martine Partridge Author at 4:17 pm

      Hi, Cindy. Sorry to hear you’ve had a flare. Here’s what made me decide to proceed with surgical intervention for the fistula/abscess: 1) I became dependent on antibiotics; I required them to keep the abscess under control, but even on major amounts of antibiotics over extended periods of time (a couple years!), the abscess never resolved completely. 2) My surgeon told me that any abscess less than 1 cm in size is treatable with antibiotics. Mine was 2 x 3 cm, so, as became apparent, no amount of antibiotics was going to fix it. Unlike many perianal abscesses, which are superficial and break through the surface of the skin, mine was rather deep, so the surgeon had to cut through some healthy tissue to get at the cavity. That’s why I ended up with a deeper-than-anticipated wound, which is healing well. The seton drain is placed high and helps keep the tract open to prevent another abscess from forming. I hope you find some relief soon — fistulising Crohn’s Disease can be so very frustrating to treat. Sending you healing/positive vibes — feel free to email me any time. 🙂

      • Cindy Berryman at 4:31 am

        Thanks so much, That was really helpful, I really believe I have something very simaler . It flares and calms down for awhile, never truly goes away. It’s 95 percent better since following Paleo/Aip, but I feel like a there’s a deeper fistula. So I think I should have it checked out. Thanks again, for letting me not feel like a failure, at this eating for health. Maybe we do need more help in some cases!

  14. Elizabeth at 2:16 am

    Hi Martine,

    I have fistualizing Crohn’s too. I was hospitalized last year for the terrible flare that led to the fistula and abscess and have had three seton placement surgeries on it since. I did SCD/GAPS for many months but noticed zero improvement. The only thing that seems to clearly bother me is gluten. Remicade and Humira gave me psoriasis. I have ups and downs now but the downs always leave my fistula incredibly painful with lots of drainage. I now eat a looser version of GAPS (I cheat on little things like cocoa powder and I’m not always strict when I go out,) because the testimonies with it are so convincing. But I’m really getting worn down and need something else to start working. I’ve looked into AIP before but am skeptical, given GAPS didn’t seem to do anything, and diet changes and cooking are so exhausting when you’re in so much pain. I’m always underweight and very hungry and I just can’t imagine cutting all dairy and eggs. I live off of safe cheese and eggs half the time. Anyway, just wanted to see if you had any thoughts. I can’t seem to get a clear understanding if it’s worth it for me to switch to AIP if I had no improvement on GAPS.

    • Martine Partridge Author at 10:09 pm

      Hi, Elizabeth. Sorry to hear you’ve been struggling. I understand first-hand how tricky it can be to get fistulising/abscessing Crohn’s settled down. 🙁 AIP certainly helped control a lot of the inflammation, but no amount of diet or lifestyle changes or even high dose antibiotics were going to fully address the fistula and abscess, which is why I decided to proceed with surgery and then Remicade (one of the few drugs known to help heal fistulas). It’s unfortunate that the two main biologics give you psoriasis. Perhaps it’s worth talking to your doctor about a different biologic? Dairy is a big no-no for me. I found once I cut it out along with all grains, I had the most marked improvement in overall Crohn’s symptoms, but, again, the perianal abscess required incision and drainage and the fistula required a seton placement. The seton has been in for three months now, and all seems to be going well. My fingers are crossed for you — I hope you find relief soon!

  15. Sandy at 6:05 am

    For the past 9 months we’ve been living in South Korea and while it’s been a wonderful experience on many levels my stress has been high and the food here is so different that I’m counting the days until we return home to the States in August. My IBS has been a nightmare these past three months, but the best I can do with my diet at this time is Whole30 low FODMAP. I’m sure that leaky gut is a big part of my troubles and I was wondering if the GAPS diet plan would be best for me when we get home or if the Paleo AIP would work just as well? I would appreciate any insight that you might have. Thank you and please take care and keep up the positive attitude. HUGS

    • Martine Partridge Author at 4:05 pm

      Hi, Sandy. Thanks for stopping by the blog and for your kind words. What an adventure living in South Korea! 🙂 I have IBD, not IBS, so I can’t comment for sure on how GAPS vs. AIP would work for you. I have experience eating SCD (similar to GAPS) and AIP, and I can tell you that both of these diets helped me keep excessive inflammation from Crohn’s Disease at bay. For more information on GAPS, you could have a peek at Hopefully that helps! Safe travels back to the states next month. 🙂

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