213 Ostomy Adventures

The stoma is like a superhero with shape shifting capacity, keeping it real, real(ly) unpredictable anyway.

My ostomy is like a mountain climber.  It enjoys finding new heights, new adventures, new challenges to overcome.  Do I appreciate this?  My face is distorted with puzzlement.  We all enjoy the other side, the overcoming part, the win.  So, maybe.

man wearing hoodie and black pants climbing up pile of rocks
Like a Mountain Climber Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

I have no idea what is normal.  With great intention, I have avoided research.  Information that leaps in front of me has been disturbing at best, and better to avoid.  An example of something I cannot unknow:  The stoma can separate from the abdominal wall.  No.  No it cannot happen.  Not here.  I am closing my eyes and plugging my ears and loudly singing la la la. 

Since chemotherapy is infinitely creative, constantly changing up the side effects, never the same from one cycle to the next (for me anyway), this is where I place the blame.  Not scientific.  Not proven.  Just a scapegoat in my moment.  I think the chemo changes the world of the stoma, and the outlook of the ostomy overall.

The stoma is the part of the colon that meets the world.  It sits a little lower than my waist line, to my left of the belly button.  It looks like, well, l like a round dark pink, wet circle.  It is a part of my colon that has been attached to the outside of my abdomen, making a makeshift anus without muscles, direct truth.  I have no emotion around it.  I am grateful that it functions well!  It is more a novelty than a problem.

So the stoma reacts to the chemo drugs.  It gets darker and larger.  It has actually changed shape, color, and size.  Or rather, it is like a superhero with shape shifting capacity, keeping it real, real(ly) unpredictable anyway.  

Ostomy products assume consistency, and they certainly don’t assume shifts that happen over hours of time.  I can watch the stoma change in the mirror, moving from 2 1/2 inches down to 1 1/2 in a matter of seconds.  Challenging.

I need to adhere a bag to the outside of that ring, with the correct opening size, without a shift that could loosen the bond.  Challenging again.

This will be fun for the fashionistas.  The company that makes the products is called Hollister.  The clothing company.  The ostomy product company.  I assume they are unrelated, yet, I do ponder which came first.  Is it like the Magnum ice cream company and the Magnum condom company?  

Do try the Magnum ice cream bars, highly recommended.  I will say the same for the condoms too, if that is something your world rocks… but not necessarily from memory of my experiences. I just don’t remember. But one of my life quotes to the outer world is “Wear a condom and get a two-year degree.  You will regret neither.”  No bias to one condom company or another.

Hollister.  I called Hollister.  There are very helpful consultants for all of these things.  It would be like if you owned an emu suddenly… from our family Christmas virtual gift exchange perhaps… and the emu had a breeder and vet tech professionals that helped you learn what to feed it and where to keep it.  Ostomies come with professionals, and some of them are at Hollister.

Heidi at Hollister listened to my story.  Then she had a couple of new product options shipped right to the mailbox, free and easy.  And the adventure, what works?  Try one, try the other, work with rings, no rings.  

Our lives do this to us every day.  Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes behind the scenes.  We know the big challenges.  We fight and complain and focus on the hardship.  As if climbing a mountain, I want to stop at the peak and appreciate the view.  I want to acknowledge the beauty of the journey, the moment in time where I have come to the accomplishment, and maybe even take a quick peek (peak) at the easy path down.  Just in the moment.  Here and now.

Challenges are what life is all about.  We forget.  We want to stagnate, stay off the mountain.  It isn’t a choice, the emu grabs your jacket, lifts you off the ground and violently trots your butt over to the mountain trails.  You have to climb to grow.  Grow with acceptance.  Grow with grace.  Take the moments to enjoy the adventure.

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!

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?