I bid adieu, to my bag of poo, and all of the shit that goes with it. I’ve been waiting for this day, to write and post this!
After three months of having my colostomy bag, I was able to bid adieu to it. It was a surgery I was looking forward to having! It was also quite the journey that taught me a shit ton about myself. As a side note: What the heck is a shit ton? Where does that fall in the metric system?
Anyway… On the 17th of December, my surgeon gave to me: a shiny new colostomy. (Stretch out the word colostomy and it’s totally has the 12 Days of Christmas vibe). He also gave me a new journey. A journey that I am totally grateful for. Listen, It’s possible to be grateful for it so don’t bother. He removed the cancer, and left me with a parting gift of a bag that collects my poo.
Over 6 days in the hospital, I became to learn about my new friend. First, food was not my friend. I had to learn what to eat, and when. I had a wound care specialist come in and help me clean it, change the bag, and teach me how how to dump it. I began to embrace it a bit, but It felt so odd against my belly and hung down to my leg. I didn’t know how to wear it in my clothing. It was an odd, new appendage that hung off from me.
I have to admit that while I was totally on board and having an attitude of gratitude, I was scared. I hadn’t even left the hospital when the damn thing exploded in the bathroom. Guys, it hit so fast that I rushed to go dump it, and when I opened it, it went all over the walls, toilet and floor. Not only was there the mess, but the smell was horrible. I was humiliated and discouraged instantly. My friend Penny was visiting and she told me two things: “Shit happens” and “Be grateful it was here and not at home.” Wise woman.
I had two weeks of recovery at home, before I headed back to work. Research began on what to eat and how in the hell people functioned with a colostomy. Not only do people function, they live life to the fullest. I read about people running, swimming, cycling and more. Heck, one guy even does Spartan Races. That one I looked at and said “Bless your heart because I can barely handle driving my kids to work with it.”
I had a major fear of heading out in public with it and I knew I had to tackle it before I went back to work. What if I got somewhere and it exploded? How would I dump it? Where would I dump it? What about the smell? What if I made a noise? Ohhh let me talk about the sounds.
I had become a human whoopy cushion. No joke. As my body adjusted to food, sometimes gas produced and it would literally go into the bag, making the noise, and filling the bag with air. If I didn’t empty the bag of air, it became so painful like the bag was about to push off my skin and float away. There were times that it happened while I was driving and I would have to unzip my pants, undo the bag, and release the air. Life became a time where I had to think ahead to every possible situation before I left the house.
I carried a huge purse with me. In it was a ziploc bag with all of the supplies to change the bag, things to clean the stoma with, and air freshener. Which, by the way, did absolutely NOTHING to cover the smell. In my car I kept spare clothing. I even started to carry food with me that would change the consistency of the poo. One day it could be liquid, another day it could be formed.
My girls found the situation horrifying. Our house would smell like sewage when I had to empty or change the bag. The smell was intense because the food never got a chance to travel through the entire system and break down. It was a personal fear that I began to smell like it and didn’t even notice.
Through this all, I kept my humor. There was no choice to it really. Humor is my salvation, my defense mechanism, my wall to hide my emotions.
One night I was sitting with the kids, eating dinner. They looked so sad and it was horribly depressing. I asked them was was wrong and they were just discouraged with my situation. I said, “Guys. It’s not so bad.” they just side-eyed me and ignored me so I went on. “Think about it. I’m sitting here, eating dinner with you, and none of you can tell that I’m pooping while I’m eating!” They of course started to crack up and thought I was joking. But I wasn’t.
One morning, I ran out of my room yelling: “Hey guys! We’re getting a cat!” They excitedly came running downstairs, asking what was going on and when were we getting it. I said “Actually, I think I”m turning into one. Check out the shape and size of this poop in my bag.” The response was one of irritation, but a few chuckles sprinkled in.
At work, I could be sitting there talking to my coworkers when my bag would start to squeal, or making a farting noise. Not once did any of them pause, or make a comment. I’m forever grateful that while I was completely embarrassed, they never said a thing.
As the time went along it became easier, and easier to function with my bag of poo. Two to three times a week, it would take me 20 minutes to change it. I learned to do all the prep and Haley would help me line up the bag so I wouldn’t make a mistake.
Here are the supplies that I would get out:
So the bag, where I would cut the size of the hole to fit the stoma. A large pad to clean off the site after I removed the old bag. Adhesive remover to remove the residue of the old bag. I would do another cleaning, and then apply the sting barrier. The poo can actually burn the unprotected skin and make it raw, so this had to go down.
This is my actual stoma. Stoma is an opening made to allow for drainage. In this case, it was my intestine, brought to an opening created, attached, and it would allow for the drainage.
Next to the stoma you can see where they had to open me up in December to remove the cancer. The scar goes from my belly button, down to the top of my pubic area. The ring you see around the stoma is the irritation from the previous bag. There were times that my skin was raw and bleeding. But it was saving my life.
This is the completed project. Totally DIY! Let’s see Chip and Joanna Gaines do this one!
Now… I am telling you right now, this was super hard for me to share. But I reminded myself that I began this blog to share my journey and here it is. Why it is hard, is not what you might think.
As I went through this process of the colostomy, I always had my gratitude, but it also created a huge insecurity in me. You see… I am single. How that is possible I don’t know, but I am. But I was dating. I was completely enjoying dating and having a blast. Please don’t mistake that for “I was banging everything I could” because I wasn’t. Dating can be a fun and crazy experience, and for once in my life, I was enjoying it.
What this new appendage did, was make me say “Heather, you can’t even accept this. You are counting the days till it’s gone. How can you date? How can you let a guy be near you with this attached to you like a leech?” Man… this weighed so heavily on me. I refused dates, I put people at arms length. I became a bit depressed.
Listen, I know it wasn’t the end of the world. I know it was only temporary, but it made it made me really ashamed. I couldn’t even love me, with this attached. How would someone else?
By me, posting these pictures, showing you the process, telling you how it felt to me, and how I conquered these thoughts, is a huge step for ME in self love.
The day I took these pictures, I was totally a mess. I had such a hard time finding an angle, or good lighting, whatever excuse I wanted to place on it. It’s not about the size of my body, or how eerily pale I am. I love my body. I love that I have hips and a booty and it took me years to own it, and love it. It was strictly about a bag, hanging off the front of my body, allowing me to heal. This process of sharing, putting it out there, helps me heal emotionally.
I went in last week and had my reversal surgery. It was so exciting to me! Not because I wanted to get rid of the bag, because I missed my complete mobility. I couldn’t twist or turn a certain way. I couldn’t massage people. Days I felt guilty for being such a wimp and complaining about it, and wishing it gone because some people had to live their entire life with it. I never want to be ungrateful or insensitive.
Oh, and I lied. I totally just wanted to get rid of the bag. Call me selfish, and if you do, fuck you. You try it out and let me know if you would like to keep it if you didn’t have to. And I’m COMPLETELY lucky for having this option.
Let’s get full circle on this. This was me, three days after my reversal surgery.
The surgeon told me it was difficult to put Humpty Dumpty together again. He almost gave me an ileostomy, but he didn’t. He did however, have to remove my right ovary because it was enlarged. And due to the previous removal of cancer, he didn’t want to chance it. So with the extra time and a whole lot of patience, he reconnected me.
Oh and the ovary he removed? Benign, but it had a large cyst. But want to talk about about something weighing on your brain? Holy shit… give this girl a breather.
After surgery began the big wait. The wait for gas and poo. I had surgery on Friday and came out to having just ice chips. The doctor insisted I go extremely slow as he was a bit nervous.
Every day, every few hours, I would get messages of “Any movement?” “Farting yet?” “Did you poop?” The answer was “Nope. Not yet.” Finally on Tuesday, it happened. Poop and Farts galore! It meant everything was working. I could finally breathe.
After a day of soft food, and soft poo, the surgeon sent me on my way. Wooohooo!
As I sit home recovering, enjoying my kids, enjoying running to the bathroom to poo, I have a thankful heart. I am so lucky that I was able to have this reversed. I am also thankful that I faced a demon of being super honest about my insecurity.
Remember, It’s okay to not feel okay. It’s okay to hate a situation you are in. But please remember, you have to face demons to get past them. You can’t sit in those feelings of sadness, dread and shame for too long or they will eat you alive. You have so much power to change your situation. It’s a matter of IF, and WHEN, you are going to seize that power. I dare you to seize it!
Now… for shits and giggles…
I Bid Adieu to My Bag of Poo
I bid adieu to my bag of poo
No longer will I have to worry that you might spew.
No more smell, from the depths of hell,
Or the raw, bloody skin that came with you.
I welcome the time it takes for food to digest,
And allowing the poo to come out my fess.
You helped my intestines heal, and the gratitude is real
But now it’s time, to head on down the line.
Namaste Bag of Poo. The shit in me, honors the shit in you.
I never said I was Robert Frost, Longfellow or Dickinson.