One year on – a scary and at the same time reassuring thought. 371 days since I last sat on the loo in a meaningful way – 366 nights since the quite literally shittiest and most painful night of my life – 364 days since I first nervously looked down at my new bright pink ‘arsehole’ tacked on the the front of my abdomen. 365 days of streak free underwear! I could go on but…
So what’s changed, well the scar has all but disappeared. It looked very Frankenstein like on the picture that appeared on Manbag#1 but as I said at the time I was never really bothered by it – I had other things on my mind. A year ago I wanted a reversal as soon as possible and then 9 weeks later decided that actually all things considered I’d keep it – see manbag#9 for the thought process involved in that decision.
I used to be a bath bloke but I’ve become a shower bloke. A bath wasn’t quite the same with my bag floating on the surface, it was the only time that I was really conscious of it as an addition to my body. Also, and this is just a psychological thing, a shower felt cleaner, the idea of water washing over my body and down the plughole. This was even more relevant post leak. Another psychological cleaning thing is that when you’ve had a leak Molton & Brown just doesn’t cut it. Black pepper with a cedar top note can’t beat the almost disinfectant like cleaning power of good old fashioned Wrights coal tar soap! That does make me sound like one of those rabid, generally male, Tory Brexiteers, who hark back to the days when Britannia ruled the waves – but I just feel cleaner.
Feeling clean is an important thing, again it’s psychological. It’s just the position that has changed, what comes out is the same as before and it’s easier to clean your bum when it’s up front and centre on your abdomen, strictly speaking up front and slightly off to the left.
In terms of bag handling I have moved from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence. I used to quite literally carry the kitchen sink with me in my bag when I went out but after a year it has been stripped back to the bare essentials. The main danger, as I’ve said before is over confidence. You think everything’s fine, you forget to take spare stuff out when you pop to the shops, then every so often you spring a leak and it brings you back down to earth.
I was lucky, I found the adjustment quite easy once we’d sorted out the correct bag and the pre Christmas leaks. I had some advantages, working in Adult Social Care and dealing with other peoples crap helps you when dealing with your own. I was able to recognise that the surgery was life saving. In the internet age you can tap in to a whole raft of support groups and services, nearly all are run by ostomates, so they really do know what they are talking about. I had some great Stoma nurses, they can deal with the practical stuff but they readily admit that they can’t deal with the psychological stuff and point you in the right direction. Friends, family and of course Gill were hugely supportive and understanding.
I was fortunate in the placement of my stoma, not that I had any say in the matter. It is quite high up my abdomen, so I didn’t have any issues with clothes, trousers sit naturally just under it. I do have a couple of issues, if I bend down to tie up my shoes then I compress my bag and stomafart. I have a similar issue when cycling, my position on the bike compresses the seal, causing me to leak, so I just put extra tape all the way round to keep things in. But other than that it’s OK. OK is a good place to be. Nowt wrong with OK.
I think the hardest part was dealing with the idea of losing control, with no sphincter at the end it just pumps stuff out and that takes some getting used to. Sometimes you are aware that it is active, other times you just realise that your bag is filling up. I guess the control thing goes right back to when we were kids. The three main things that we learn as children is to walk, talk and control our bowels and all of a sudden I lost that control. Factor in the shame factor of losing control when you begin to make that transition as a child and you can begin to understand why for me I found it one of the hardest things to get my head round.
So what next. I want to continue running and give something back to the ostomy community that have supported me so I will do some form of fundraising for a charity called Colostomy UK, they provide support around becoming active, including sponsoring a Rugby League team of ostomates, support around living with a colostomy and creative workshops. So it seems like a good fit. I just need to find an event and then I’ll let you know more.
I’m off to a party!
Thanks for reading.