Living with Cancer #10

Coming out of my anesthetic haze after about three hours of colon surgery, I noticed a very interesting thing right away. The only extra ?hole? in my body was a small opening accommodating a drainage tube; and the only bags on, or near my body were full of Ringer?s Lactate and antibiotics flowing in, and a Foley catheter taking urine away.

To my relief, I had emerged from the procedure that removed a cancerous tumor from my sigmoid colon without a colostomy bag. I explained that device, briefly, in an earlier article; but perhaps an update is in order here.

When a cancer like mine is surgically removed, the surgeon will make every effort to join the disease-free sections of the bowel back together. Sometimes this can?t be done immediately because of a greater need for the surgical site to heal. A colostomy is then performed by joining the upper part of the colon to a surgically created opening in the abdomen, to which a disposable bag, or pouch is attached. Stools are then eliminated into the colostomy bag.

Medical experts agree that, given the advances in surgical techniques and knowledge, most patients with colorectal cancer do not end up with the bag. And unless the tumor is more advanced, or located in the rectum itself, most colostomies are temporary. After a period of healing, further surgery is performed to reconnect the two parts of the colon, and the colostomy bag is discarded.

Along with a myriad of other pros and cons of surgery, I had been advised that I might come out of the operating room with just such an external waste disposal system. Dr. Basmajian was fairly confident going in that I would not need a colostomy; but surgeons are practical, prudent types, and the possibility of waking up with one had to be made clear.

I had visions of making regular trips to Wal-Mart, or Zellers looking for mini white trash bags to tape to my belly. Being the economical type, I would search tirelessly for the family-sized packages, thereby cutting down the number of trips to the store. I would not hesitate to ask the staff for assistance.

?Excuse me, please,? I would say cheerfully,? But can you tell me where to find colostomy bags in the economy size boxes??

?You see, I have this new hole in my lower abdomen, and my poop will now be passing through it into little Glad-type bags; so I might as well buy them by the hundreds, don?t you think!?,? I would say.

?While you?re at it, where can I find the surgical duct tape to keep the bags in place,? I?d continue eagerly. ?There?s little chance my wife will find me handsome, so she might as well find me handy!? (Sorry, Red Green, but I couldn?t resist!)

Fortunately, I was able to spare both store clerks, and my long-suffering partner from having to endure that rather silly conversation. I had no need for the sanitary Man from Glad or any other pitchman for the fascinating world of plastic bags.

It will take some time, the surgeon said, but it?s now up to me to get my bowels working properly again, following the natural route. And, about four weeks after surgery, things seem to be moving along smoothly.

Starting this new lease on life without a colostomy bag, even on a temporary basis, is just one more blessing I?ve received.

Still, I can think of some other uses for surgical duct tape!