Just a little warning … if the thought of this topic makes you a little squeamish, I’d skip today’s post. May just be TMI for most. But somewhere out there in the blogosphere is someone just like me, a few months into learning to live with a colostomy bag and he or she needs to know they are not alone in their endeavor and how other people are learning and living with a bag.
In my final consultation with my surgeon before scheduling my colectomy surgery in August, my final questions were ‘What’s our best case scenario? What’s our worst case scenario?’ To which he replied, ‘Best case scenario: no surprises, we remove the bad section of colon, reconnect the good colon and sew you up just like in 2008. Worst case: we find an unexpected mess and we have to do a colostomy instead.’ I had a God inspired sense that I needed to expect the latter so I was really not surprised when coming out of anesthesia after the surgery and my wife confirmed the worst-case scenario had been what they encountered … no doubt I was disappointed … just not shocked or overwhelmed.
People ask me all the time about the cancer … NO ONE ever asks how are you adjusting to the colostomy? Perhaps that’s a bit too personal … too uncomfortable to talk about. Quite frankly my new bathroom habits can at times be more of a challenge than my battle with cancer and chemo …
There are currently less than 750,000 people in the US living with some kind of ostomy … they have different names based on where the exit wound is on your abdomen. We had a special nurse (so upbeat, positive and cheerful) at the hospital that came in teaching us how to change and empty the colostomy bags. My wife is such a saint and jumped right in and took responsibility for me at the hospital and most of the first 6 weeks or so. We watched a video about people … very active people … both young and old … sharing their testimonies of lives with the colostomy bag for years … and even decades. One of my beloved brothers shared how his step-mother has a colostomy bag and actually could have it reversed but has chosen not to … and I can understand that on a number of angles. A nurse shared about an aunt … a number of people encouraged me on this greatly while in the hospital.
Unlike how God created us, you don’t really control when you fill your bag (yes, I’m being careful with my wording). And unlike the natural release of personal gas into the atmosphere around you, your bag retains that as well … so sometime you have to find a restroom to deflate your ballooning bag … and sometime like an RV you’re looking for a dumping station.
My wife and I have found that the most efficient way to dump the contents of the bag is directly into the toilet with no middle containers … which transferred the responsibility to me from her once I recovered from surgery.
In commercial restrooms, the bowls and seats are bigger so you just slide way back and dump directly into the toilet bowl. At home, the bowls are much smaller and that doesn’t work. That stumped me for a while … but then I found a small shower stool (no pun intended here) on Amazon,com with adjustable legs. I ordered it, adjusted the legs to make the stool just a few inches higher than the toilet bowl and it gives me the perfect frontal approach to my RV dumping station. And the stool takes up little room in my bathroom when not in use.
Also, while most things I read say its not necessary, we buy protective gloves by the 100. Oh, yes and a supply company mails us our colostomy bags, gasket paste and bag lubricant once a month.
OK, so I’m already dealing with colon cancer … well, one of the rapidly dividing healthy cells that chemotherapy attacks in addition to the cancer are cells in the bowel … which during the chemo can mean diarrhea and/or constipation … joy in your trials and tribulation. I tend to the latter so I’m a bit more fiber conscious and the oncologist recommends Senekot-S (go with the store brand – about a third of the cost) … a couple of those pills each night and the bowel train seems to keep on moving thru the tunnel.
After more than two months, I’ve adjusted and its just part of life … no big deal but I am developing a couple of phobias when I’m out and about. But this post is already a bit long so I’ll share more on that later today or tomorrow.
Living in the midst of a peace beyond understanding …