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I learnt something in high-school biology that has shaped all my subsequent thinking about the human body. It was this: the body can be thought of, quite simply, as a series of bags and tunnels.
The biggest of the tunnels runs right through your body, it starts at your mouth and ends at your bot-bot.
When things go wrong with this tunnel new openings are sometimes needed. Just like roadworks taking place in a city, major thoroughfares in the body can be blocked, bypassed, detoured or closed down for service.
My upcoming surgery goes by the acronym ULAR, but I prefer the term Ooh-la
The Ooh-la will remove parts of the colon and rectum affected by the tumour and then re-attach healthy bits (colon, it seems, is quite stretchy and can be pulled down to meet what will be left of my rectum).
As any good surgeon or plumber will tell you – where you have cracks and joins, you have leaks. To help the new join between my colon and rectum heal as quickly as possible after surgery, the whole area will need a break from the stress of handling poo.
Diversion + Ostomy = Diverting ostomy
In addition to the Ooh-la then, I need an ileostomy. The 'ostomy' means that some of my insides will actually end up outside. The 'ile' comes from the name of the inside bit that will end up outside, the ileum.
The ileum is small intestine and connects to the large intestine. During my surgery, the ileum will be (1) pulled through a tailor- made hole in my abdomen, (2) partially cut (like a fat sausage) and then (3) sewn to my skin. Ta-da, new place for poo to come out!
Ben, meet Abdo-Bum
The ileum + hole in abdomen + place for poo to come out is called a stoma. You can also have stomas that are made from colon (colostomy) or that allow urine to leave your body (urostomy).
The idea is to keep Abdo-Bum for 4 to 12 weeks, just long enough to let my newly joined colon-rectum heal and handle poo. Then this hole thing will be reversed.
I will still get to use my original bum while Abdo-Bum is around because the colon will be collecting cells and producing mucous that will need to leave my body.
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.