Warning: This will get messy with medical details.
In 2012, ten months after my radical hysterectomy due to cervical cancer, I was facing an unfamiliar surgery… a pelvic exenteration.
A pelvic exenteration is the removal of the vagina (I opted for no vaginal reconstruction), bladder, urethra, rectum and part of the colon. I was left with a colostomy (I call Ethel) and a urostomy (I call Fred).
Colostomy = An opening in the abdominal wall in which the end of the colon is brought through the opening to form a stoma. The stoma looks like the lining of your cheek. Unlike the anus, the stoma does not have a shut-off muscle so I cannot control when I go (or the sounds that emit from my stoma – yes, it farts).
Urostomy (Ileal conduit) = Uses a section of the bowel, surgically removed from the digestive tract and repositioned to serve as a conduit for urine from the ureters to a stoma. One end of the conduit attaches to the ureters and the other end to the, in my case, second stoma.
I have bags that attach to appliances (adhesive patches with plastic ring openings) that collect my waste. In the ostomy world, I am a ‘double bagger’.
It took several months to get used to my new life as an ostomate. My husband, an earthly healer, changed my appliances/bags for the first couple months. Getting the appliances to stick to your skin is something most ostomates struggle with. If it doesn’t stick, it’s a hot mess everywhere. My husband’s warm, healing hands held on the appliances for a few minutes, helped fuse the appliance (and made for lovely bonding during this challenging time). Now that I perform weekly changes myself, I resort to using a heating pad for about 10 minutes to adhere the appliances.
For earth-friendly folks like my husband and I, using all this plastic and non-biodegradable stuff motivates us to find alternatives. So far, we’ve found biodegradable colostomy liners that allow me to flush my poop so I use far less exterior bags. And with the drought we are experiencing here in California, I pee outside with the dog every chance I get. That’s right, I pee standing up.
In addition, finding information on ostomies and people with ostomies was not easy. I did find a very helpful, insightful blog, uncoverostomy.org. In a recent blog entry, Jessica talks about a Tosh.0 segment he did on a girl named Laura who posts YouTube videos about living with an ostomy.
I think the Tosh.0 segment was brilliant (lots of poop jokes, yes, but poop can be funny) and Laura’s videos are wonderful. I don’t think the average person even knows what an ostomy is and I like bringing enlightenment through humor.
Watch the Tosh.0 segment by clicking here. In the extended interview here, Laura mentions the difference between an ileostomy (hers) and a colostomy (mine) = watery output (ileostomy) vs. more ‘soft serve’ (colostomy).
That was a butt load of information I know. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of ostomies so the next time we are together and you think me rude for farting in your presence, you’ll know it’s just Ethel.
Thank you so much for posting this! I was looking for comments on the segment for an upcoming presentation I’m doing! I’m so glad you liked it. Also, I love your site! This post is so informational and positive!
That segment was wonderful! And thank you for taking the time to write and praise my site – it means a great deal to me that you find it helpful!
I saw that Tosh.0 episode. Laura was amazingly matter of fact and open – demystifying and normalizing life with an ostomy. It’s funny how poop and pee are so hilarious to us from the age of 5, but when it becomes ‘real’, it’s somehow not so funny anymore. But really, it’s all just poop and pee in the end (everyone poops), even if it’s just a little harder to make it funny.
You are amazing!
No, *you* are amazing!
On the days when I hurt, when I am “mental”, when I think life is just pushing too hard…I consider your journey and ask myself….is your shit really that bad Cory? :O) Thank you for the smile in my day.
Carol…and you’ll pardon the expression…you’re the shit. I’m very lucky to have met someone as funny, warm and kind as you and Pete. There’s the 300-pound linebacker that looks like a tank and then there’s REAL toughness in people like you that look cancer in the eye and kick it in the ass. You rock! 🙂
Al, *you* rock! xoxo
I loved your blog entry. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, who can we laugh at. You are also doing a great service to those who need to know that there are alternatives. But once again, I am reminded of what a wonderful, supportive husband you have. Carol, you are blessed that you were able to fight the disease and still have your sense of humor intact. Everyday is a blessing. Love to you and Pete.
Laughter is indeed the best medicine! Each day is truly a gift and I am thankful for your friendship.