With much in the Media around mental health and coping with life post-COVID-19, I’ve given some thought to my own inner resolve in dealing with life beyond bowel cancer.
Firstly some background information – Pre Cancer, I’ve always been very practical and quick to grasp the nettle. Generally, I have a positive outlook and think myself to be solution focussed, though this skill set in no way prepared me for facing up to life beyond cancer, this very same skill set would provide me with the stepping stones to returning to a near to normal life.
So my diagnosis was Bowel cancer of the rectum, meaning that without the rectum being removed and a little plumbing to create a new bottom in my tummy life would have quite literally been a bit shit.
So the optimist in me would say that thanks to modern day surgery advances, and a bloody good surgeon who treated me as a person and not a number, I stood a pretty good chance of having a life beyond bowel cancer.
Fortunately, my cancer was stage 1 and caught early enough to allow for my operation to be complication-free, some two months after my operation I had the option of being able to irrigate, in simple terms, this fills the colon through the stoma (hole in the tummy) with water, this stimulates the colon to expel all solid waste through the large intestine, without the need to constantly poo into a bag.
Returning to farming in and a normal life was my primary goal.
Never underestimate the strength of a good relationship, my wife and soulmate has helped me through the most difficult times.
Not wishing to normalise this process in any way, believe me I’ve cried at both the process and inconvenience, however there is a mindset in overcoming this. Firstly what if has little comfort, let alone any solutions going forward.
Pre diagnosis would often have a sense of urgency, needing to get to the toilet fast only to find I would get there with nothing to pass, in my case this was due to the cancer or lump sitting in my rectum triggering the brain to feel the need to get to the toilet pretty quickly.
The process of irrigation takes around 3/4 hr, its not nice but seldom these things are. For those whom also irrigate, this article and further guidance is for you.
Tips on Living Life and Irrigating
Tips on Living Life while irrigating:
Life is a gift, whatever its new form for you.
Find a routine that works for you, don’t be afraid to change it ie switching from night time irrigation to morning irrigation.
personally I prefer to irrigate last thing at night, as I like to start my day without having to deal with my own shit.
Don’t let your stoma define you, by this it should not significantly limit your life options.
Drink plenty of water, never will this have been more important than now.
Don’t get fat, managing your stoma is hard enough without complicating things further.
Look for ways to use your irrigation time constructively, treat this as Me time, the chances of anyone wanting to interrupt your time are slim let alone stick around, listen to the radio, watch a box set on the iPad, whilst zoom meetings may be popular currently, this medium should be avoided for the purpose of irrigation.
Accidents will happen, prepare for them, carry a spare shirt etc.
If you feel sore you shouldn’t, change your appliance, use barrier sprays, stoma powder and talk through with your stoma nurse.
Access help, talk to others with a stoma, use forums, however, avoid spiralling into negativity, this neither feels good nor fixes anything.
Aviod negative people, look for ways to sever ties with negative people and instead actively seek friends that will lift you.
Look for the funny in the situations you find yourself in, here is my take on this: My Stoma and The Bomb Squad
Finally focus on the things you can do, and do these well.
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Thank you for reading please feel free to add to this post in the comments section.