(Disclaimer: This post may very well fall under the "TMI" category for you...feel free to leave my blog today and come back tomorrow for a funner, friendlier topic. But in my desire to be transparent in my fight against rectal cancer and inform the masses, I decided to do this TMI post for anyone who's a bit curious....)
Luicy literally helped save my life.
diagram from google
Anyone who's been following my blog for long knows that in May 2015 I was diagnosed with rectal cancer. After months of chemo and radiation to kill the tumor, three weeks ago I underwent surgery to remove the damaged part of my rectum and colon and get a temporary ileostomy to allow everything to heal.
An ileostomy is similar to a colostomy, except that in my case the small intestine was disconnected from the large intestine and that end of the small intestine (called the ileum) was pulled through a small opening in my abdomen so that my waste by-passes the large intestine completely and empties into a bag on the outside of my belly. The end of the small intestine, which is literally folded over and sewn to by skin by the surgeon, is called a stoma.
image from google
No, this obviously is NOT me. This is what a "pretty" stoma looks like on a slim, young woman with a pretty belly.
This is what my stoma looks like...on a 58-year-old, not-so-slim belly. It's a little irritated in this photo...kinda like a diaper rash, caused by the intestinal acids getting onto the skin. Really, it doesn't feel as bad as it looks...
So every few days I put a new Luicy (affectionately named by my sister Maria when she was here...) bag on. This view is the side that faces my skin. I use scissors to cut the hole to the correct size of my stoma (which happens to be 1 1/4" inches diameter, in case you're wondering...) and then peel off the protective plastic. That dark brown section is a strong adhesive and sticks to my skin, and then the lighter border is also a tape-like adhesive that adds extra holding power.
At the bottom of the bag is a roll-up opening for emptying the bag. It rolls up several times and is secured with a velcro tab. Whenever I use the restroom, I simply unroll and empty it into the toilet, wipe the opening off, and re-roll it up.
As my body produces waste (much more watery than regular poop, since it is in the large intestine that most water is absorbed into the body), it comes out of the stoma and into the bag. Since the stoma has no feeling, there is no pain and no sensation when it is discharging waste. I don't feel it at all. Once in awhile it makes a gurgling sound...always at the most inopportune moments!
Yes, it's (as Kelsey says) "yucky."
Yes, it's inconvenient at times.
But it's definitely liveable and hey...it allowed me to have life-saving surgery, so I'm not complaining.
The plan is for the surgeon to put me back together and reverse/get rid of the ileostomy in April, after everything has had a chance to completely heal. Just a few more weeks...
Until then, it's not so bad...
...living with Luicy.