Managing daily life with a stoma can take some getting right, there are wide-ranging discussions on what food to eat, what should be avoided, and things you should never do. My experience has been on the advice of my Surgeon “eat normally”, at this point I should highlight I have a soma to my left side so still have much of my large intestine intact.
I Irrigate each evening which allows me to go 24 hrs mostly with no output, recently I have started taking a probiotic yoghurt drink each day, I have noticed a difference in this stabilising output, whilst there is much research on how these so-called healthy bacteria can have health benefits, I can only comment on this having worked for me, so it may be well worth a try.
I would welcome your feedback in comments if you have found these to have made a difference.
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.
Firstly let me clarify this is not an article about being aloof and certainly not the practice of looking down on others.
This is more about adopting a life skill which leaves you more open to experience, and indeed can be your best friend at the toughest time in life where, looking up allows you to find hope and a way through even the toughest of times.
From a limited amount of life experience, I wanted to share my own thoughts on this subject.
Holding your head up is in itself a learnt or conditioned behaviour, as is looking only at your feet. Some will have been fortunate to remember being told to sit up straight, pick your feet up, stop slouching and other general words of advice around posture and conduct.
Truth is behind the simple advice there is much meaning and a great amount of reason why you to should pay heed to keeping your head up.
Perfecting this practice in life will prepare you for even the toughest of challenges:
Increased sense of your surroundings.
When looking up you also have your eye on what’s ahead (future).
You can also see the sky and feel the sun on your face or on. Clear night the stars.
You stand more chance of getting eye contact with a wider audience.
A mountaineer can not navigate with a map alone, it requires vision Interpretation and the full use of all senses to reach the summit and find the way back down to safety.
Take time to look at those around you, at those in particular looking only at the ground, this may well reflect their feeling, they may find they already have enough to deal with, without looking to the future. It is not our role to change this in others, more to make our own choice in life by holding your head up and truly appreciating what life has to give if you chose to live it.
Conversely those that choose not to hold their head up:
Miss out on conversation.
Miss out on body language.
Are less likely to feel the sun on their face or indeed have any concept of the beauty in a night sky.
Limit life experience
Their posture over time will determine how all things are seen and limit their vision to only what immediately surrounds them.
In my own battle through Cancer I found keeping my own head up and focusing on a vision for my own future to be not only a good choice, but the only choice I was prepared to consider at the time.
I also found this article adding more weight (literally) to my argument:
The human head weighs about a dozen pounds. But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds.
That’s the burden that comes with staring at a smartphone — the way millions do for hours every day, according to research published by Kenneth Hansraj in the National Library of Medicine. The study will appear next month in Surgical Technology International. Over time, researchers say, this poor posture, sometimes called “text neck,” can lead to early wear-and-tear on the spine, degeneration and even surgery.
Lindsey Bever Washington Post 2014
Thank you for reading feel free to share and comment.
I don’t know if I’ve ever really told you all what a mental head fuck this cancer shit is.
Firstly you have to process the diagnosis, the “oh shit” I have cancer!
Then theres the staging process. Did I catch it soon enough? Has it been caught soon enough for me to survive? Is it advanced? Am I now a 30 year old that’s gonna die?
Then you have to tell your kids, your mum, your extended family and your friends and break their hearts, knowing damn well the words your about to utter are going be some of the most damaging they ever hear.
Then comes the operations, the chemotherapy, the radiotherapy and if your are fucking lucky you get some clear scans and you go and try and piece your life back together…. but sometimes the clear scans are only in your wildest dreams… sometimes you have to…