* please note my stoma and ileostomy pics included
My treatment for my colorectal cancer has been many steps but the one step that gave me the most anxiety is being told that I would have to have an ostomy. The location of the tumor was very low in my system and the possibility of not being able to reattach my colon was very real. My doctor, who is top in his field, reassured me he would do everything he could to put me "back together". Let me back track a bit to what an ostomy is. Depending on where the colon has to be resected depends if there is a need for a temporary or permanent ostomy. The two options that were considered for me was a temporary loop ileostomy which is a small amount of the small intestine pushed through an opening in the abdominal muscles on the right side near my belly button or a colostomy which is pushing the end of the colon through the abdominal muscles on the left side near my belly button. (Hot and sexy right???) Where the majority of my anxiety came from was not knowing until I woke up from surgery what it would be. This was because of many factors, how low my tumor was, if there was too much scar tissue from the radiation treatments I had, the amount the tumor shrunk because of the radiation and if they would have to cut into any of the muscles. Facing a complete life change that I could have forever was overwhelming. I had no control or choice about it and had to completely trust in my doctors and their abilities. I prayed and meditated that I could handle what was going to be given to me and also warned everyone around me that a complete breakdown was a possibility! I had an appointment with my stoma (a stoma is the small part of the intestine that pokes through) nurse a week before my surgery where she mapped out where the incisions would be for my ostomy. One X on the right and one X on the left depending on what was found during surgery. I had to look at the marks for a week knowing it would be one or the other, talk about a friggin' mind trip!!! "Just tell me which one it is going to be so I can wrap my head around it" constantly rolled around in my head! I tried to learn as much as possible without Googling too much and scare the crap out of myself. I found a great blog and YouTuber's that had great advise to live with and deal with an ostomy. Surgery day came and I nervously walked into the OR with that ridiculous gown they make you wear. The door opened and Lady Gaga was being played in the operating room. I asked one of the nurses who the Lady Gaga fan was. My doctor wasn't in the room yet but she said it was him. Seriously?? I thought, I actually thought she was kidding but when he came in I asked him and he loved her! He wanted to know what music I listen to and I told him I am an alternative 90's girl all the way. Then he had me pick a song to play so that when I went under I could hear it. I asked for Foo Fighters - Best Of You and he had one of the nurses pull it up right away. This guy is a little odd and I love it!! He made me feel completely at ease and I am sure I was smiling when I went out. This was such a relief after a very stressful couple of weeks. As I woke up and reality set in, I nervously realized "holy shit this is it!" Before anyone came in to see me I slowly felt over my stomach and it was on the right!! It was temporary! My doctor did what he promised and even took into consideration that my incision look as neat and tidy as possible. I was so happy and felt a huge weight taken off my shoulders. I felt like this was where my cancer started and it was now gone. This was the big one and I could turn a corner to the up swing hopefully to this battle. Having an ileostomy bag for the first couple weeks was definitely a learning curve and I had days where I was so frustrated and thought I couldn't deal with it but it has become very manageable and something I don't often have too much concern over. I lovingly refer to my stoma as Nubbins and even though she can be a little bitchy sometimes when getting her bag changed she is usually pretty good and I am learning more and more how to deal with her. It's amazing medically what they can do and crazy how something so different can very quickly become normal. I might be saying good bye to Nubbins in a couple weeks and have to relearn a new "normal" but I am really glad I had her. She saved my life really :) In the midst of my stress my friend Sarah reminded me "At the start of this journey when you were diagnosed and things seemed very grim if someone in that moment said "I can save your life but you will have to have this bag" what would you do?" I stopped in that moment of self pity and thought perspective!!! " I would take it in a second".