Ostomy, Ostomy Canada Society

Living with it… Stepping up to an Ostomy

Nineteen years ago, I knew I needed surgery. Did I want it?

Yes, I did. I was tired of being sick, so sick that this disease disabled me for several years. My life was difficult. Mornings were horrid. WHY? I could not eat, I could not leave the house until my bowel emptied, I had no energy, I was often late for work, as unexpected “accidents” most always happened in the vehicle, we stopped going for drives or even taking vacations. The joke in my household was “Don’t drive with Ann by the Dairy Queen, she’ll have an accident. It also affected what I could  eat-which  was not  much. I could not even eat my favorite thing-ice cream.

The worst part of this disease is that I felt I had lost respect. Respect from others and for sure loss of respect for myself. Just getting through a day was tough. And it was obvious that the relationship with my husband was not normal and I felt helpless to do anything about it.

Yes, he gave me lots of support; I did not have the strength to give it back. I also became aware that the world around me was revolving-but I was not in it.

You know that old saying, “What goes around, comes around”. Well, in 2002, a wonderful surgeon performed a complete colectomy. Was the surgery easy? Nope.

Recovery was not an easy road either. Introducing food was not a tasty experience. When facing blended foods, I thought, “What the hell-I’m going back to being a baby.”

Foreign to me was the BAG. I hated that word, so I used the word, “appliance” instead. It was a mind thing with me, so it was easy to solve that problem. Not so easy was to get that appliance on my tummy to cover the chunk of my bowel that protruded from my abdominal wall. I am an organized person, so my husband and I laid everything I needed to change this appliance out on a table stuffed in a corner of my bathroom. Decor change! I was blessed with a VON visit each time I needed to change this appliance . I do not think she liked it when I said, “Oh no, I want to do this, you just sit on the toilet and watch and if I pass out then pick me up.” She never did have to pick me up.

My husband was so supportive and kind, but he sure could not read what was going on in my head. I struggled with things like: how long it will take me to get back on my feet? Will these 79 clamps ever be able to come out of my gut? Will this appliance fall off and put me back to having those dreaded accidents again?

Then there were the thoughts of telling my grandchildren that I carried poop around in a BAG on my tummy. Darn. There is that awful word again -BAG. And what about my dog, Maggie, who thought I had something under my clothes that spelled like food?

Of course, let us be honest here. There’s also that other word: SEX. Just how were we going to cope with that BAG between us? Years later at a teaching day at the local college, I told a class of nurses that the first-time having sex following ostomy surgery was like a threesome, Me, him and the BAG. There is that word again.

I could go on with many more obstacles. But guess what? I survived with a lot of support from family, friends, the NSWOC Nurse, a local Ostomy Chapter and even Maggie. They all loved me as I always was.

As I write this, I thank that local Ostomy Chapter here in Yarmouth for making me realize that the solution to recovery was giving back. I joined Ostomy Canada and am ready to walk, run, dance, bike, jump, chill, play cards, or whatever I can do to raise funds and awareness for Ostomy Canada’s “STEP UP FOR OSTOMY.”

Join me, won’t you to help people with ostomies live life to the fullest? And be ready to take part in STEP UP FOR OSTOMY with or without that BAG!

Telling like it is from Yarmouth NS.

Ann Durkee-Macisaac

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