Hospital 3 and Janus 11
For those of delicate sensibilities, skip this chapter.
I thought I should give the specific details as I know them of what my new body is like.
It was decided because of the crucial timing of my blockage, that they had to go with a fully open surgical method, rather than the keyhole they had planned on. So I was cut from just below the breasts to the pubis, right through the belly button. It is about 12 inches, and it took 35 staples to hold it together. The staples made it look a bit like a zip - badly done. When they opened me up, they found the cancer itself which was blocking the exit of the bowel was not the only problem. The ileum, which is the valve between the small and large intestines, was ready to burst. So they probably took more of the intestine than originally thought needed, and they made my stoma from the end of the small intestine. They stitched closed the other piece of the large intestine, now without a function.
The stoma looks like a cross between a very large tummy button and a nipple. It is sort of an orangey colour and the surgeon was very proud of his work. It is held together with stitches.
My first emptying of the stoma bag was a scary deal. The bags they use initially are transparent, so you can see what is coming out. From me it was a whole baby tomato (how and when did I swallow that?) a goodish size piece of broccoli and another of asparagus. They had travelled all the way from my mouth to the stoma without apparently any digestion taking place. I made the joke, which is a bit gross, that you could take them out and put them in the soup. But I was told, it would take time for the body to adjust to this new way of life. As well as the whole vegetables, there was a lot of water, and the solid product which looked a lot like coffee grounds.
Things did progress, and now, 13 days down the road, my bag contents look like a brown gravy - pretty much without anything identifiable left. The product doesn’t smell foul. There is a smell, but it is sort of like cooked vegetables - not exactly perfume like - but not unpleasant either.
The bags I came home with aren’t transparent. They look a bit like a patch pocket on a shirt, and are brown. I empty it while sitting on the toilet and it is easy and quick. I wipe off the end, roll up the bottom bit, and that is done. No problem. I am supposed to change the bag every 1-2 days. So far I have done it every day, although it is still a bit scary, as it is so close to my incision wound which is far from being healed. But I’ve managed without getting it wrong so far. (Next day, had problems twice today)
They took the staples out on the day I left the hospital, and they were starting to grow into the wound, so it was time. They use a sort of tweezers, but the nurse mostly cut the staple in two and then took out each half separately. The wound has not grown together yet, and there is perhaps a quarter inch of gap, but this is covered with a dressing and water proof bandage. They are coming to give me support from both the District Nurse for the wound, and the Stoma community nurse for the bag for the next few weeks at least.
So that is it for the time being. I will soon find out if the cancer spread to the lymph glands, but they probably will send me for chemo whether it has or not. Open surgery means the cancer is given a huge place to resettle in - so best to kill off any bits left before they have a chance to make things worse. The chemo will be for six months, once a week for three weeks and then a week off. Apparently it doesn’t cause nausea or hair loss, so I am very lucky with that.
So now you know, even if you didn’t really want to. But I did warn you.