Not without my Stoma

This time in a week I will have likely commenced my fasting for my last (hopefully) ‘major’ surgery, which is scheduled for some time on the 17th.

I had my pre-surgery clinic today which was essentially a waste of time, although I did have the pleasure of having a lovely nurse tell me that I’m not the usual person they see coming through the doors with bowel cancer. ‘No shit’, I thought.

Anyways, I met an anaesthetist in so far as he walked past, stopped in the doorway and waved, and then I gave blood for the purposes of finding out my blood type (I’m O+, and have been every time I’ve ever had my blood tested, but they need to be super, super sure) and making sure that I don’t have the AIDS.

The only real shock today was the nurse telling me that I would likely be in hospital for the day, overnight if it was an afternoon procedure. All of the reading I had done suggested that I would be in there for a good few days, waiting for my digestive system to reawaken and spring back into turd processing life.

When I queried her about same, she looked at me and explained it was simple surgery and seemingly no more complicated than removing an ingrown toenail. In regards the former she’s right to a certain extent, and re the latter, well I’m somewhat of an expert when it comes to removing those fuckers and even they can be tricky.

To be fair, I’m expecting the equivalent of a long weekend inside, and hoping to be out by Monday. If I’m out before that, great. If not, all good as well.

What will they do?

They cut a hole around the stoma, down through the muscle (and fat, lots of fat) until the stoma separates and is free. They then trim the sides, but don’t offer lipo or even sculpting (slackers) and then get to work reconnecting everything.

The easiest way to think of a stoma is to think of a thin sausage which has been doubled over on itself and then cut along the fold at the top. The result is something that resembles a volcano, with a larger hole, where the waste comes out of, and a smaller hole, being the opposite side which also releases some mucus because the digestive system still likes to do shit, even when it’s not doing shits.

Those ends are stitched back together and then my intestines are pushed back into my abdominal cavity. The join is tested for leaks and if all is well,  they stitch me up in layers from the inside out.

The whole thing should take between 30 minutes and an hour.

After my propofol nap, they send me back to the ward for a short rest before getting me out of bed and doing shit (hopefully literally). Their main concern is my bowels ‘waking up’ and getting back to business. Sometimes that can take hours, other times it can take days, and sometimes weeks.

Prior to my clinic I had read a study where they were introducing food at an earlier stage post surgery, as opposed to the usual protocol of waiting until there was evidence of bowel movement – stomach gurgling, farts, or a good ole fashioned fart.

The reason being is that strangely enough, our intestines don’t like being handled, and they go into shock, called ‘ileus’, which is when their usual action (peristalsis) comes to a halt and the shit hits the fan (well, gets backed up and causes problems).

The short stay estimate I was given suggests that they are utilising this new protocol because hopefully, they have some evidence that it works.


Recovery from this surgery is two-fold: First recovery from the actual surgery/wound; and Second, getting used to shitting from my anoos, as opposed to into a bag.

The former is pretty straightforward. No heavy lifting for up to 12 weeks and light exercise like walking to promote healing.

The latter is where the problems lie… You may recall from an earlier post that my surgeon took the majority of rectum out to ensure he got clean margins. The irony of course is that the neoadjuvant treatment was so successful that any margin would have been clean but that’s another story.

The result of losing most of my rectum is that they took away most of my waste warehouse. My surgeon helpfully built me a custom made one from part of my large intestine but it needs to learn to work as a rectum, as opposed to a colon.

The other problem is that I also had a portion of my sigmoid colon removed, and my descending colon was fashioned into my new poop storage yard. The colon’s main job’s is to remove water, and because some of mine was removed, and part of it was turned into a rectum, it won’t be able to absorb as much water which means… I’m about to buy shares in immodium.

Some people who have had similar operations speak of permanent bali belly, only stopped by kilograms of ammonium, which in turn blocks you up faster than Trump working for the TSA on the Mexican border.

The thing is, I won’t know how my body will react until it’s done. One thing that gives me some confidence is that I didn’t manage to shit myself after my barium enema which suggests that the ole turd cutter is still in good nick.

What then?

Hopefully, life as usual.

I’m really looking forward to going to beach and being able to swim and sit on the beach and have people look at me because I’m fat and not because I have a noticeable bulge that is a bag of shit attached to me. Don’t get me wrong, you can swim with an ileostomy, and many people do, for me it was more of a self conscious thing. I don’t mind people seeing my scars, but the bag was taking it a step too far. I take my hat off to those who can get past that aspect of things and show off their bag with pride, they’re stronger people than me.

I’m looking forward to being able to lie/sleep on my stomach. Sounds so stupid, right?

I’m looking forward to not being self conscious about whether people can see the bag under my shirt, or worrying that it’s leaking and I just don’t know yet.

I’m looking forward to being able to play with Annabelle and pick her up/wrestle without her accidentally kicking my stoma.

I’m looking forward to not smelling rancid shit each and every morning when I change my bag.

I’m looking forward to thinking that people see me as a normal person again. A lot of people have said that they don’t even notice my bag, and when I wear my suit to work they likely don’t. But I know it’s there, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t help but feel that everyone else does too and they’re. always. staring. at. it.

Most of all, I’m looking forward to/ hoping that my daughter stops thinking that going to the hospital is a normal thing. I hope she stops asking me “Are you alright daddy”? and “Can we go to the hospital”? thinking that it’s as normal as going to the park. Annabelle had a rough start to life herself, and she has passed those hurdles with flying colours, but in addition to that she has to see her dad lying in hospital beds with tubes coming out everywhere, shitting in a bag, being tired all the time and flinching when she accidentally kicks me. But by the same token, at least she has a dad, which so many kids unfortunately can’t say.

Lyndell as always, has been, and is, amazing. We haven’t spoken about it but I know that she must be worried, and I know it must suck being powerless while I’m in surgery, let alone having to look after our now 3yo terror, and a grown ass man who will likely be wearing nappies. I know that Annabelle gets her strength from Lyndell (and her temper/stubbornness from me) and I’m so fortunate to have such courageous women in my life.

So, we’re now up to speed, and my next post will either be “Hey, check out my new brown pants” or “Look at me, I’m shitting like a big boy again”.

Until then, be kind to your colons, and each other.