147. Zombie Storms and Zombie Forms

Naturally, being the year 2020, the news is reporting zombies. Not the undead human type, although nothing would surprise us. (Even the Pentagon and US Military releases of UFO material went virtually unnoticed.)

When I was a driving instructor, we would approach the vehicle. “Get in, lock the door, start the car.”  I repeated it every time, hundreds of times, thousands of times. The getaway plan. Drivers often looked over at me with curiosity.  “Zombies, there might be zombies.”  Laughter.  

I remember one student expressed, voice altered, “You’re scaring me.”  That was exactly what I was trying NOT to do.  The zombies were supposed to be fun.  The reasons you immediately lock yourself in and prepare to drive off quickly are rarely entertainment, and certainly not worthy of laughter.

Naturally, being the year 2020, the news is reporting zombies.  Not the undead human type, although nothing would surprise us. (Even the Pentagon and US Military releases of UFO material went virtually unnoticed.)  

Zombie Storms.  They have lived among us.  But now they have a name worthy of the year.  The storm dies down… only to rise again and wreak more havoc.

A UW student assisted at my wound care appointment yesterday.  She is nearing graduation from her program.  She measured for Nancy.  Seven and a half centimeters.  Nancy asked me to repeat the surgery date.  I didn’t remember.  May 17.  Nearing four and a half months ago.  

Nancy explained the possible suture theory to the student.  If my body does hate sutures, they should be fully dissolved in the next month or two.  Then the wound could magically be dead, or undead.  Or dead undead?  Be able to heal.  Zombie wound. 

146. Awake for the Sunrise, and Ostomy Fun

A nurse in the hospital (after surgery) told me to empty the bag when it is one third full. That is equivalent to saying “Eat a third of the bowl of ice cream, and wrap the rest for later”, or in a less polite tone, “Poop a sixth of a bowel movement, then wipe, flush and walk away.”

The title should be in reverse.  I am awake for an ostomy blow out. The sunrise will be an added benefit, as it will appear long before I finish typing.

No worries on the ostomy bag failure, if you are sending empathy; the ramifications were minimal.

Sometimes there is too much air (gas) in the ostomy bag, making it fill like a balloon.  In the daytime, it is totally noticeable, mainly because I am awake.  Anyone would notice that a balloon was tucked in along the waistline of her pants.  When sleeping, it is different. 

Ostomy bags are flexible.  They move and adjust.  They are resilient and squishable without explosion, to a super high level of pressure really!  It is difficult to imagine the process of the design and experimentation in this field.  I am grateful for those who were in the bowel filled trenches, exploring new territory as necessity.

So, when sleeping, the ostomy bag can fill with gas or material, or more naturally both, and go unnoticed.  A nurse in the hospital (after surgery) told me to empty the bag when it is one third full.  That is equivalent to saying “Eat a third of the bowl of ice cream, and wrap the rest for later”, or in a less polite tone, “Poop a sixth of a bowel movement, then wipe, flush and walk away.”  

The feasibility and frequency required in that statement makes me ponder.  How, 20 year old medical assistant girl, would you know?  Do you have any personal experience whatsoever?  Once you were trained to attach and detach an ostomy bag (something a Kindergartner could do), were you also told to interview 100 users for experience related and situational knowledge?  Perhaps.  Doubtful.

Short story turned exceptionally long, I woke up.  I was aware that I needed to allow air to escape from the bag.  While in the process of cooperation, the circular tupperware seal against my body opened from the combined pressure of the air and my work to release it through the flange (yes, I definitely googled that.  The velcro closure is apparently called a flange).

It was not messy.  It just meant I went through the multi step process of changing out the entire set up, something that probably takes ten minutes, but I will exaggerate and say 20 because I was still half asleep.  For the record, I could have attempted to reattach the old bag (risking seal ooze, really not an option in my book), or I could have just replaced the bag alone in this particular case.  

But today was scheduled for a change anyhow.  I usually go for a new operation every third day, because the seal to my body degrades where there is a natural bend by my belly button. 

At any rate, the whole ostomy experience is no more trouble and no more mess than normal, youthful female endeavors.  Different challenges, but entirely similar ramifications.  And now I am awake (pun intended).

The dark, blue-gray skyline faded.  The shadows of the tree line became evident, and slowly the color of the branches brightened to hues of green and black. The tones of the heavens met the mental lethargy of society, as the rain pounded the rooftop and the winds whipped the chimes, music filling the morning air.  Blessed new day!

123 Name That Ostomy

Choosing a name is serious business to my mind. It requires a lot of historical research, defining, rhyming, singing the name game. Checking the initials, running the numerology. Leave nothing to chance.

One of the interesting aspects of being in a club is ritual.  Apparently, some of my ostomates like to name the ostomy.  I’m slightly perplexed.  My mind goes to Wanda Sykes.  In her comedy, she names her fat roll Esther.  Esther is quite difficult for Wanda to control.  She is always trying to escape her Spanks and eat destructive foods.  I think of my definitions and experiences with people named Esther.  And I wonder why Wanda didn’t choose Roley or Fatima.

Choosing a name is serious business to my mind.  It requires a lot of historical research, defining, rhyming, singing the name game. Checking the initials, running the numerology.  Leave nothing to chance.  But this is just a body part.

People name their cars.  When I was a teen, other people named my huge blue Plymouth “the Beast”.  But I could never get into it.  The car, yes.  The name, no.

Shante and Mark named their car Kelp.  There is a reason.  It is a Leaf.  Their couple’s name is Shark (Shante and Mark merged).  Kelp is a Leaf for a Shark. Brilliant.  I hear Kelp Kelp bo belp, bananan fanna for felp… in the back of my mind.

"What's in a name" in cursive letters with a dark background with red and yellow balloons.
Choosing a name is serious business to my mind. 

A lot went in to naming my kids.  They will never know how much thought, research, and contemplation led to the end results.  After finalizing the birth certificates, I let go.  You can’t really choose a name for another person.  Much like gender identity, each will fall into their own “perfect” over time.  Oddly, they HAVE kept them.  Oddly, since Nyasha and Shante are names with challenging aspects with pronunciation, cultural identification, and for Shante, there is an accent on that last letter that is left off of standard English keyboard choice.

I chose a new last name after I was divorced.  I kept Stowell as a last name for the time because of the kids.  Even though they were in high school, it was incredibly useful to have a last name that matched, even for later college interactions.  And then it was complex to change it with work and students.  And in the last handful of years, it’s virtually impossible to change to it with all of the legal paperwork around being my father’s Power of Attorney.  It will never happen.  Maybe there is a Divine reason.  

How about Wind?  A very nature based ‘60s kind of name. Shrek?  Maybe Bart?  Bart goes well in the name game for an ostomy. The more I write, the more pressure that naming the ostomy creates.  Sigh. I’m up for suggestions.  I can’t wait to hear your ideas.

120 Ostomates

I am now an Ostomate! I have compatriots, friends in the experience, members in my club. They know what all of this is about, and it’s exclusive. You can’t be an Ostomate without an ostomy.

Avoid searching the internet.  It’s my medical motto.  There is nothing to be gained, and everything to be lost.  Surely that hangnail will progress into gangrene.  And that zit, the zit will grow into a goiter at record speed!  Or not.

The controversy:  Sometimes I actually need information or insight.  Or the plethora of options available in the universal department store.  The internet search begins.

I was thinking about my medical staff.  Not every aspect of my care is intertwined with the colostomy.  Maybe, just maybe, some of the staff doesn’t want to work on my wound, for example, while staring at the contents of my ostomy bag.  It’s a concept.  And it required some searching (and I haven’t chosen or purchased a thing).

Yes, I slid down the rabbit hole in Youtube.  I am grateful that people post their ostomy experiences and even show their devices there.  It means I will never be called to do that.  It is done.

I learned things I did not know.  There are more options for bag styles.  If I feel done with the clear exterior, I can just get the bag in an opaque option.  

Also, many etsy stores have covers.  The advantage of a cover is that it could protect me from the sharp edges of the drain.  Some have quippy words across them.  “My other bag is a Gucci.”  “Shit happens.”  Prints, there are lots of prints with cats and flowers, motorcycles, forest scenes…

Some members of the United Ostomy Association of America

While I looked at pictures and listened to videos, I discovered that I had joined a club.  That day in the hospital.  No paperwork.  No entry fees.  No one told me.  

I am now an Ostomate!  I have compatriots, friends in the experience, members in my club.  They know what all of this is about, and it’s exclusive.  You can’t be an Ostomate without an ostomy.  And there are t-shirts.  Imagine wearing “Ostomy Survivor”, “It’s in the bag” or “Ostomy Warrior”.  Difficult to fathom the popularity there.

Moral:  Everyone has someone.  What club are you in?

102 The Stubborn Nature of a Surgical Wound

It heals a centimeter here or a centimeter there. Then it unheals a centimeter here or a centimeter there. What? That can happen? A body can choose to unheal?

A body is a miraculous thing.  Almost three months ago, what the surgeon had hoped would be a laparoscopic procedure turned into a large, open, surgical wound, and an abdominal experience.

In the beginning, there were an incredible number of stitches.   Within two weeks, the body had closed the tissue and the skin to leave just a couple of small openings.  Another two weeks, and the belly button was healed.  One left.  Miraculous.

And that one wound, the one that is left, is entirely stubborn and unyielding.  It heals a centimeter here or a centimeter there.  Then it unheals a centimeter here or a centimeter there.  What?  That can happen?  A body can choose to unheal?

It’s about depth.  What am I missing?  Protein.  30 grams of protein every two hours, a lot of weight gain with that, and I’m definitely not good at it.  Water.  Apparently, lots of water is required.  Exercise.  Even though strenuous exercise is totally out of the question, lots of walking is highly encouraged to keep the blood flow at work.  

The wound is still in a dance.  Back and forth.  

It’s about depth.  What am I missing?  This entire experience is about depth.  It is about the dance, back and forth.  Walking the line, experiencing the idiosyncrasies of the relationship between life and Eternality.  There is something that I am missing.

Or… maybe I am whole… even with a hole.

101 The Surgical Binder

The only instructions I ever remember getting: “Some people like them. Some people hate them.” No one ever gave a reason or a mandate for a surgical binder.

When I woke from the surgery, there was a tri elastic strip velcroed tightly around my abdomen.  The “binder” is about 12 inches up and down, wraps around and covers the space between my lower rib cage and my hip bone.

At hospital check out, the nurse gave me a second.  The only instructions I ever remember getting: “Some people like them.  Some people hate them.”  No one ever gave a reason or a mandate for a surgical binder.  

In the hospital, it was very clear.  My mind was quite certain that if I sneezed or coughed, the incision would explode and leave my intestines in my lap.  Illusory ramification, but it certainly felt that way.

I had worn the two, trading off, washing one once a week or so (ew) and allowing it to drip dry.  It was nearly two months.  They were losing threads, strips of elastic separating, becoming tattered and stained.  I was feeling pretty healed with just the small wound, and appeared at an appointment with the surgery nurse, Nancy.  

“Where is your binder?”  She was kind, but entirely clear.  It was NOT an option. I ordered a new one from Amazon.

In history, if you ever watched your mom wiggle into a girdle, it’s the stuff that makes a great cartoon.  Writhing, squiggling, pulling, adjusting.  A binder is the surgical version of a girdle!  Since the binder is literally a wide strip, composed of four rows of three inch elastic, the battle is mostly with the Velcro.

The rough part of the Velcro reaches out to grab anything and everything.  Underwear, got it.  Soft shirt (avoid putting it on ahead), the Velcro sneaks from the side and grabs that.  Any part of the binder whatsoever, the Velcro edges are driven to adhere to that too.  

As I twist and turn, try to get the thing tight, the Velcro is working hard to sneak to some other clothing, to grab its own surface at the incorrect position, or to adhere at some odd angle or overlap an edge.  One try, two, three.  And then again.

And even in the end, the design makes the alignment hard on the skin.  The edges of that rough side often overlapping the soft part at the top and scratching the skin.

Binders.  Can’t live with ’em.  Can’t live without them.

99 10 Week Anniversary

The relationship that I have with my bowel movements surpasses that of the young boy in the poop phase of his existence. I know the color, consistency, the effects of what I have ingested, the odor, and more. And ‘the two of us’ are up close and personal on a very regular basis.

Party!  I am 10 weeks beyond colon surgery.  The ostomy is functioning well, and healed neatly.  And an anniversary gift arrived in the mail, a one month supply of ostomy supplies!  Hurray for me.  It’s like winning on the Price Is Right.  

There are so many supplies, and several options.  Some of the items in the box are foreign to me.  Some have extra, mysterious details.  Since I have spent very little time researching the situation, I don’t know what to ask, or how to decipher the idiosyncrasies of the products.  

Since the wound is still working itself out, I get to visit the post surgery nurse every week or two.  We’ll sort it out.

This is what I know:  

1-Do NOT use lemon as a scent for the ostomy bag.  Peppermint or clove, ok, but definitely not lemon.  If you think the bathroom odors can’t get any worse, think again.  Just add lemon to the toilet bowl and be ready to run for the hills.

It appears that the pores of each cell of plastic in the ostomy bag wear down a bit over time, or maybe the nose gets better as the days pass, but there is an odor.  I am particularly sensitive to scents, so this is a double edged sword.  Or, two scents for the price of one.

2-Plastic ostomy bags don’t puncture.  Everything around is testing their integrity, but they don’t explode, and they do not get holes. Dogs, cats, flying circus knives… no worries.

3-Surgical binders, those elastic girdle things, serve a double function.  Although ostomy bags don’t fail, there are many other ways that a bowel blow out might arise.  This is not to spark fear into those with an ostomy future, because honestly, it just isn’t that common… but… it does happen.  And a wound binder keeps “things” contained.  Ugh.

4-Pectin rings (the round doughnut shaped attachments that stick to the skin like glue and keeps the bag in place) are both amazing and FRUSTRATING. I have no idea how they discovered the adherent quality of pectin.  Or that it can be in a solid form, or used as a pliable mini doughnut. I am both grateful and horrified.

I am horrified when the loop doesn’t adhere well. It can cause a mini leak, where bowel just lightly touches the skin around the ostomy (colon outlet), burning the bejeebers out of it.  It can also cause a full on escape of bowel matter, made worse by the pressure of the wound binder.   And that’s a mess no one wants to imagine.  Again, don’t live in fear of this.  It would be like fearing tigers, yet visiting the zoo. 

5-A person should remember to close the velcro at the end of the bag.  Seems self explanatory.  There’s just so much going on in life.  I forget things.  Don’t forget the velcro.  (I will spare you that story.)

The bags arrive in the box with the velcro open.  Is that supposed to be funny?  

6-I like to empty the bag when I notice that it isn’t lightweight or small anymore.  Some people have bags that they remove and throw away once or twice a day (poop stays with the bag).  Hmm.  Thoughts? 

I am thinking of the garbage can at the end of the week, and I am going to stick with emptying a bag into the toilet!

7-Gas still happens.  It inflates the bag like a balloon.  Cost to benefit anal-ysis:  The sound is more like the Minnions and their raspberries.  The scent is contained, or virtually contained.  See number 1.

8-The relationship that I have with my bowel movements surpasses that of the young boy in the poop phase of his existence.  I know the color, consistency, the effects of what I have ingested, the odor, and more.  And ‘the two of us’ are up close and personal on a very regular basis.  

Speaking of that, nature calls.  Time to put the facts into action.

97. Phantom Colon

The colon stump has been messaging the brain.  It thinks there is still a connection with the digestive system, and it believes it has work to do.  But it’s just a wee stump.  No job.  Retired. Maybe a little gas escapes that way, just for old time’s sake.  But the ostomy has taken over.  

If I lost a toe, I might perceive the toe.  Similarly, the absent colon is calling from beyond.

There is “organ” music, and I hear “The phantom of the colon is there, inside my mind.”  

87. Surgical Wound Stings

2020 is a year of valiant works. We are all doing incredible healing work, world changing work. I have incredible gratitude for all of your contributions. And I know that they hurt.

Today I was talking about my wound.  The surgeon changed the packing schedule.  Although a lot of things have healed for me, the main surgical opening still has a gap that might be ¾ inch long, and more like three or four inches deep.  It drains fluids.  And it is not healing quickly, or perhaps not healing at all.

They changed to packing it with gauze tape twice a day.  It was always getting packed.  For two weeks it has been filled every other day with a silver laden tape that repels infection, but it isn’t drying out.  So the tape is different now, and the schedule is twice a day.

For me, packing hurts.  It doesn’t hurt a little.  It hurts to black out level.  And the pain hangs around for eight to ten hours after the wound is packed.  I was describing this to Shante.  I said “it is stinging”.  Later I went on to say “it is like there is a knife lodged in the wound, and it sends shooting pain when certain movements are made”.  Shante said, “Mom, that is not stinging”.

It IS actually stinging; it stings a lot!  But maybe the word isn’t strong enough, doesn’t convey the impact.  When I pack the wound, the sensation does not stop much before it is packed again, if it stops it at all.  I am back on Tylenol, and considering trying something stronger… because of packing.  It reminds me of the MRSA.

So, the body has pain.  It warns me with pain.  It talks to me of transition and healing and world change. 

 Amisha and I have had many conversations that look at this from varying angles.  Pain is a body thing.  But memory of pain, or the way I experience the pain, is mental or spiritual, or a combination of the two.  What is opening here for healing?  (Puns… There is an opening in my abdomen. Physical healing is necessary.)  Are there people in my lineage that endured great pain that need me to resolve it?  Do I have historical work from my own wounding that has come up again for higher resolution?  

2020 is a year of valiant works.  We are all doing incredible healing work, world changing work.  I have incredible gratitude for all of your contributions.  And I know that they hurt.  I am so thankful for the process that is unfolding within me.  I pray for all of us, that we endure the stinging, and get to the other side, to insight.