Not enough is written about stomas, not just on this blog, but generally. Here are five things you wouldn't know about 'having a bag' unless you've had one.
1: I now fart in a more controlled manner. No more holding in wind, clenching muscles and worrying if the person next to me is going to smell it. Having a bag means that all gas is safely collected and ready for release at my convenience. Now that's civilized.
2: I can no longer sleep face down. Not sleeping face down is so much easier than the alternative (think popped water balloon filled with gravy).
3: There are as many types of bags as there are types of abdomens. Bags come in different shapes and sizes and with different ways of attaching and being emptied. I have had to change the type of bag I use many times because my belly has changed shape.
4: Stomas change. They can get smaller, bigger or redder. They can become more raised or less raised. They can develop little features such as bumps and sores. They change and keeping an eye on these changes is important.
5: Bags can fail. I have had small leaks where adhesive has come loose or where the adhesive hasn't properly sealed around my stoma. I have also had catastrophic leaks while driving or walking around town.
Everyone loves a good poo story
I decided to try jogging again 7 weeks after surgery. I emptied my bag and then strapped on my fancy support belt. This is a wide stretchy belt that supports my abdominal muscles. My abdominal muscles need supporting because I have a hole in my abdomen.
Thirty minute walk, 10 minute jog, 30 minute walk home. About 15 minutes into the walk home I felt warm chunky stuff running down my abdomen. It was one of the those sensations that didn't require prior knowledge to know what was happening.
I was walking along a major road in one of Sydney's most alternate suburbs. I did what anyone would do and used my hands to stop the flow. I created a type of dam on the outside of my running shorts - trapping the brown flow between my thigh and man organs, preventing it from running down my legs. This worked, but I now know that my running gear is not impermeable to poo.
I continued walking home, hunched over and clutching at my genitals. This inner city suburb is such that I didn't look at all out of place. The smell didn't seem out of place either.
The freedom experienced by the poo outside the bag encouraged more poo to attempt escape and my stoma went into overdrive. I reinforced the dam wall, hunched over a little more and began walking with my legs together in a type of waddle.
An emergency call ('But weren't your hands dirty?' Yes) to my Sister meant she was outside her apartment block waiting with wipes and cloths. She has been living in this suburb for way too long. As she rushed towards me she said not to worry: 'You're not the first person I've seen sh*tting in this street.'
See the blog entry and images here
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.