Well, that seems to have gone fairly quickly!
Yes, it really is six months since I had my surgery and the good news is that my CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) level was 1, the same as the three month check up. All of my other blood ‘numbers’ were the same as well. My consultant had a look at the wound and was very happy with it.
He is happy to push my next check up to four months so I will be back in November for the next test.
So, what have I been up to? Well, living!
I consider myself fully recovered now so I am back at work ‘properly’ and back into the old routine, with just a few differences. I am trying to not get as stressed about things that I have no control over (not always successfully!) and try to spend more time doing the things that Paula and I like to do. This does involve quite a lot of eating at our favourite restaurants and finding new ones that have or will become favourites.
We have been on a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords, my first long trip away from home since Cecil arrived on the scene. I honestly wasn’t too worried about the trip, lots of checks to ensure that I had all of Cecil’s equipment as I would imagine that colostomy bags are not readily available whilst at sea or easy to come by in another country.
He behaved himself and pretty much stuck to his usual routine which is very helpful.
I spoke to the cruise company before we went to let them know of my situation and to see if I had to do anything differently. The only thing I asked for was a larger bin in the bathroom as the bins are quite small and would be full once I had changed my bag. Unfortunately they did not supply a bigger bin but as it turns out, it was fine anyway. The bins are emptied a couple of times a day so it was no problem.
Going through security you are ‘patted down’ so I told the guy patting me not to pat too hard where the bag is (didn’t want any explosions!) and he seemed to know what I was talking about. I have read that some people are put off travelling as they don’t want to have the embarrassment of having to tell people about their bag. I suppose it largely depends on the reaction of the people who you tell – yes, there is still a stigma attached the whole colostomy thing – but the way I look at it as that we all have to carry our poo around until we can deposit it somewhere, I just carry mine on the outside!
Do I feel self-conscious about people seeing the bag or the outline of it under my clothing? A little, but there is nothing I can do about it so I just have to get on with it, which, is kind of my attitude to it and people’s reaction to it. If you see it, I am sorry but I am not going to lose sleep over it. As they say, #dealwithit
Anyway, the holiday was fantastic and we met some really interesting people and are now looking forward to planning the next!
One of the concerns about the bag is what happens if it comes unstuck? Well, a few weeks ago, I found out!
It was about 0130 in the morning and I was awoken by a peculiar and not altogether pleasant smell, I felt down to the bag and what I felt was not what I was hoping for! Yes, the bag had been pushed off by the waste coming out of Cecil and was everywhere. Luckily Paula is a very sound sleeper so I was able to get up (carefully!) and clean myself up and put a new clean bag on. Then I had to wake Paula to tell her that we were going to need to change the sheets etc etc. Luckily, we have always used a mattress protector which I had always poo pooed (yes, that is a deliberate pun) the use of these as I didn’t think they would do very much. Well, let me tell you, I poo poo them no more! The mattress was unscathed and after changing the bed, we retired once more and I am pleased to report that he behaved himself for the rest of the night.
This was the first incident and I put it down to eating overly ripe fruit that evening that my bowel decided it wasn’t very keen on so thought it would get rid of it.
If this is going to happen once every nine months, I can live with it, not so sure Paula would agree!
Another first also happened since I last blogged, I changed Cecil in someone else’s house. A good friend of ours recently moved ‘to the country’ and we have become frequent visitors to his new house and the pub just over the road (as per the above!) We went for dinner and when we got back to his house I needed to change in readiness for the journey home, I commented that his was the first house other than ours that I had changed Cecil in and he said he would make a note in his diary!!
So, you see, for me, this cancer has not meant the end of anything (other than having a poo like you) but actually the start of something only slightly different. I won’t lie, having a bag is a bit inconvenient at times, I have to wear baggier clothing (one of the nurses on one of my early wound checks asked if I was wearing someone else’s shirt!) so that the bag is not so easy to spot, I have to wear my trousers a bit lower or very much higher (Simon Cowell style). This is because you cannot wear anything over the stoma as it would block the output. I always go for lower and always have to decide before I go out, do I wear the bag out or tucked into my trousers, which restricts the amount of waste that can be held?
If I am amongst friends it is generally out, I am sure they won’t be too offended if a bit of bag is showing, or if I am wearing a long enough shirt that it will cover the bag.
Obviously if I am wearing a shirt that is tucked in, the bag has to be tucked in.
But, if they are the only things I need to worry about, I am not doing too bad, better than the alternative!
Well, that is about it I think, as always, if I can think of anything interesting to write I will do so, and, thank you for reading my ramblings.
Lastly, I have been asked by the Helen Rollason charity to write a piece for their September magazine that will be focusing on men (as we are hopeless at going to the GP, especially to talk about our bums) so when this is published I will put a copy on here.
In the meantime, keep well and remember if your body is doing something that it shouldn’t be, go the GP and get it checked, it may just save your life!