A journey with bowel cancer
been thinking over the last few months that perhaps I should write a short
history of my recent journey with bowel cancer, not in any way attention
seeking rather some of the things that I found a bit difficult and especially
the things I found easy, who knows it just might make somebody else's journey
that little bit easier.
starting point with me was a visit to the outpatients department of my local hospital for some help
with what I thought was a severe case of constipation, after some prodding and
poking it was decided that I should be transferred to a nearby Hospital with a
when the first alarm bells rang and then a few hours later when I was told that
I needed an emergency operation to have a stoma for a colostomy bag on my
abdomen as there was a severe blockage in my lower bowel which was possibly a
cancer, the four alarm fire bells started ringing about then.
because this was an emergency operation there were aspects of it that could
have gone better, like the super quick
prep treatment to empty my stomach and bowels, this certainly bypassed the
blockage in a big way, the other aspect
I could certainly have done without were 3 nights of horrendous nightmares
following what I can only assume were some pretty serious anesthetics being
aside, I woke up in the ICU with a colostomy bag in place and no more stomach
pains, in fact no pain of any kind which came as a pleasant surprise when I saw the two rather nasty incision's in
my abdomen for the first time.
for the benefit of anybody like me who had no idea what this involved, a
very non-medical description, an
incision about 5cm (2 inches) long is made across one side of the abdomen, this
is accompanied by a similar vertical incision through which the surgeon can
work on the small intestine which is cut so that the stomach side of the cut
can feed into the colostomy bag, I did say a non-medical description didn't I,
but like me, you may have had no idea of what it all meant.
followed by about 2 months of healing before Chemo-therapy and radiation can
begin, the healing process is stopped by these treatments, again something I
didn't know, next I had a PIC line inserted running from my right upper arm
through a vein to within about 2 cm of my heart, the slow release Chemo that
I was being treated with fed into this
PIC line from a bottle hung around my neck.
conjunction with the chemo I had 28 treatments of radiation, these were spread
over about 38 days as they didn't work on weekends, I was warned that there
were some pretty unpleasant side effects of radiation, nausea, vomiting etc and
surprised the staff by reporting no side effects at all, I think they were
inclined to dis-believe me when I said I felt fine and more than once asked..
how are you really?? in retaliation, I asked whether I was on the placebo
course, for the last 7 treatments they up the dosage considerably so I was
again warned that I would be feeling pretty awful at times... again I sailed
through almost unscathed, on the morning of my last treatment I reported a
small blister on my bum where the rays had been ever so slightly mis-directed,
without wanting to be harsh, the staff seemed pleased that at last I had had
explanation of what radiation treatment consists of... they lay you on a
"bed" which then raises about 6 feet from the ground enabling a huge arm
containing the radiation gun to be focused on the cancer site from above,
below, from the left and the right side, "lay very still and don't get off
the bed... you're 6 feet of the floor, while we go and hide behind our lead
screen" this last part is a bit
dis-concerting but hey, you get used to all this stuff, treatment time
is about 15 minutes each session.
VERY fortunate in that during this whole time I had no side effects beyond
feeling a bit tired, A walk in the park when compared to what some people have
during these treatments.
about 2 months to ensure the radiation has "Killed" the cancer growth
came the second surgery, this time they
got serious bout the size of the incision..
about 10 inches vertically from a point
wherein had they gone any lower I would now be female, up past the belly
button to the rib cage, through this the
surgeon cut away about 12 inches of my lower intestine then pulled the two cut
ends together and sewed them together.
months for everything to heal up again before the final surgery to reverse the
stoma and let me be rid of the colostomy bag which had been my constant
companion for 12 months before I had the reversal.
my cancer was very low down the section of bowel that was removed as luck would have it is the only section to have
duties beyond being a conduit to eliminate body waste, this lower section
stores and compacts the waste before elimination, to aid in the elimination
process it produces a lubricating mucous, my surgeon suggested that in 6 to 12
months time after the stoma reversal the new section of bowel would "learn"
these necessary skills... to date it has certainly mastered the art of mucous
production but shows no real sign of learning the other skills which we take
for granted in a perfect world, Oh to be blessed with a smart section of
OK so I
have obviously had the reversal operation done, this was just prior to
re-locating to Victoria in March 2014 and to wind up my
knowledge on bowel cancer here is a summary of where we are at now.
motions are fortunately pretty regular, any signs of diarrhea can best be
described as catastrophic, by "regular" if you imagine chocolate soft
serve ice cream you're getting close, now because this is not being expelled
with the normal amount of force it tends to just sit in place and requires a
fair bit of cleaning up, this in turn leads to a very tender bottom at times,
whoever would have dreamt there would be times when a colostomy bag sounded
appealing. To counter-act this tenderness I've found non-biodegradable wipes to
be better than toilet paper at times, after laundering these wipes are very
soft and quite absorbent so when inserted in the correct position they act
as an early warning system and are to
some degree at least, leak proof.
know a hell of a lot more about my bowel cancer than you ever wanted to... that's assuming you have read this far... and
you certainly know a lot more about it than I did when it was all happening, just maybe it could be
helpful to someone you know???
only one more bit of information I want to share with you but its worthy of a separate
post, stay tuned.