There are times when we all need support – and taking the decision to accept a colostomy and a stoma was certainly one of those times for me.
I want to be honest here – the idea literally appalled me. It’s something I’d always fervently hoped to avoid. And I truly thought I’d done everything possible to escape bowel cancer. How wrong I was.
But – as I’ve already mentioned – the logic of going for a stoma, in my new situation, was irrefutable. Whether or not I liked it. And my sole logical objection – that I thought it would limit what I was able to eat – had already been demolished. It turned out I’d misunderstood a conversation with another bowel cancer sufferer, and the truth was that once I had the stoma I could eat pretty much anything I liked. Given that my problems with the tumour were already forcing me onto a very unsatisfactory low residue diet – containing little or no fibre – it was clear that a stoma could, in fact, radically improve my life.
But my horror of the idea was still there.
Enter my good friend Jasper Bateley, who’s had his stoma for years, and had kindly offered to talk me through exactly how it was possible to lead a normal, active and fulfilling life even if you did have an arse in your stomach.
It was a good, productive and positive conversation, with someone who totally understood what I’d already been through, what I was concerned about, and what he could do to relieve my anxieties. We discussed diet (pretty much anything I liked, though sweetcorn tends to go straight through and asparagus is a no-no – good news for Rosemary, who likes it much more than I do). We talked about management (surprisingly easy given the benefits of modern technology). And we finally discussed the actual physical appearance of a stoma, with Jasper showing me exactly where his was, and what it looked like.
And the clincher? We were discussing ‘stoma farts’ – which can obviously occur at inconvenient moments – and Jasper shared with me his young son’s amusement at the idea that ‘Daddy has a whoopee cushion in his tummy’.
I love it. Children are great!