Any Port In A Storm...a
Updated: Nov 13, 2019
One of the rather strange consequences of having level 4a stage bowel cancer, is that depending on your severity, sadly sometimes it means that you can no longer use the bottom, or rear passage for those of a nervous disposition, for the purpose that nature intended.
I recall vividly the rollercoaster ride that was my diagnosis and dramatic journey once the huge tumour on my abdomen had been identified. I was ordered straight into hospital where the magnificent NHS machine was waiting to greet me, and within hours I was being spoken to by my wonderful, life-saving surgeon Miss Busby.
She explained to me what she was going to do. Namely, open me up, and seek to remove the large tumour that was attached to my abdomen. Once she explained that, she told me that it would be necessary to fit a stoma bag, as my bowel would not work again like it used to do following life-saving surgery. To be honest, I had no idea what this meant. Yes, I knew what a bag was; if truth be told I have about 200 of them in the boot of my car. However, until it was explained I did not have a scooby doo what a stoma bag did. So, Miss Busby enlightened me.
Basically, when they operate, it becomes necessary to pull your bowel out through the wall of your stomach, where it is exposed. This then becomes the funnel through which human waste is passed, therefore obviously to collect said waste it requires the addition of a bag, known as a stoma bag. No idea where the name comes from, probably named after a Dr Stoma, who first pioneered the procedure. Either way, it is a strange experience to wake up as the proud owner of a stoma bag. At first it takes a bit of getting used to, and from day one of waking up, the amazing stoma nurse team are straight in there to show what to do, and how it works.
Now, there are two ways to deal with this, option 1 is to treat it with contempt and not learn to love your bag and try and work with it. Trust me, this is a serious error of judgement, because like it or not, neither your bag, nor your waste, are going anywhere else. And as I found out, rejection is a seriously bad error of judgement. In my case, I never felt this. I simply took the view that this is quite literally a means to an end. So, from very early days, I learned to live with it, respect it, and appreciate it. So, clearly I was an option 2 person, I loved my stoma. Don’t get me wrong - I was at first very nervous, and treated it very carefully. Frankly, a mistake, you really need to learn to manage it.
Prepare the bag, cleaning materials, black disposable bags, new stoma, cut to size and ready, and then you just get stuck in. Hesitation and preamble can result in calamity and sadly bad news for immediate clothing, local floor surfaces, and in extreme cases horrendous embarrassment in public places, when the bag decided to go Braveheart, and seek to liberate itself in public places. Shades of Mel Gibson here "You can take my poo, but you cant take my freedom, which by the way I am about to share with anyone in the local vicinity, whether you like it or not."
My worst close encounter of the third kind took place after a black tie dinner in Blackpool, where I had presented an award at the UK Coach Awards. It had been an excellent night, a superb 3-course meal, a few glasses of wine, and convivial company on what was the eve of my, yet again, 21st birthday. All was splendid as I headed back to the hotel for a late night snifter with the lads. When to my eternal shame I looked down and noticed that my crisp white shirt, was no longer a crisp white shirt. It had become the master of its own destiny, the strong adhesive had fallen victim to the fourth course cheeseboard, and suddenly the escape committee were off and running. Luckily for me, I was in the lift with two other lads. A discreet tug of my jacket was enough to remove the evidence from view and off I went. I suspect that anyone seeing my face as I exited the lift might have been forgiven for thinking they had just seen Edward Munch’s The Scream.
Anyway, suffice to say a swift clean up operation, a change of attire, and a trip down to Timpsons executive dry cleaners at Morrisons in Rubery, and all was back in order.
So, my dear chums, it is very important that no matter what happens, you work with what you have. My stoma and I are good chums, I look after it, and it looks after me, and we had some great adventures together, but more of that later.