***warning: this post contains drama, blood, and butthole talk.***
***disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, this is not medical advice***
Isn’t it nice of me to attach a warning label? You’re welcome. I’m about to poop talk. This is one of those posts that’s meant to help others with a stoma, and then indulge rest of you who are curious about what it’s like to have a front-butt. hehehe. front-butt.
Thursday I was feeling ill. My stoma was hardened and angry and a bit swollen. This didn’t scare me. It’s been like that before when I’ve accidentally eaten foods on my allergy list. But when it felt worse on Friday I got a little worried and decided to change my bag early so I could have a look at it. A long shower and a clean bag is always a good solution to an angry stoma. I removed the bag and followed my usual routine of wiping down the area with baby wipes. There was a bit of blood on the stoma, something that used to freak me out, until I came to learn that it’s normal for the outside of a stoma to bleed in tiny amounts pretty frequently. Now it’s weird if there isn’t a tiny spot of blood somewhere. So I take the baby wipe and dab it over the entire stoma, and pull it away to see more blood on the wipe than I was expecting. My heart starts to race. It’s not coming from the outside, it’s coming from the inside of the stoma. HOLY SH*T. I dab it again and again and each time there’s a spot of blood on the tissue. While I’m trying to remain calm and get the bleeding to stop, I notice the underside of my stoma has some sort of white tissue. And immediately I think it looks like the pre-cancerous polyps that regularly grow in my intestines. This time it’s on the outside? I’M GOING TO DIE.
After 15 minutes of dabbing blood and crying about my baby-front-butt tumor, I call my surgeons office. They put me through to the nurse line to leave a message. I’m assured I will receive a call back today. An hour and a half of crying-and-freaking-out later I call back and get the after-hours line,
“I called at 3:30 and left a message for the nurse, if it’s after hours should I still be expecting a call back?”
“No, they go home at 4:30. Would you like me to page a doctor?”
He took my info and, after hanging up, within 30 seconds a doctor calls me back. I explain what’s going on and he tells me,
“Okay, first of all, this is not a sign that your cancer has returned.” Smart! It obviously isn’t this guy’s first day on call. He knew exactly what my biggest concern was. We talked about stomas and he explained that this wasn’t unusual at all. He says it will probably go away in a matter of hours and I should wait at least a day before I rush in to see a doctor about it. Even if it doesn’t go away the treatment would be a colonoscopy to find the source of the bleeding, and that would mean waiting several days so that I could go through the typical steps of flushing out my colon. He continues,
“Do you feel light headed or dizzy?””I do right now!” I say half-laughing, “but I didn’t before I saw the bleeding.”
“That’s understandable, but you’re fine. Stick some toilet paper in the hole and if it’s still bleeding tomorrow, call back.”
I checked it later that evening and the bleeding had stopped. Today I changed my bag and checked on it, and that white “growth” is gone, I think it was scarring from the outside being pinched and a bit cut by my colostomy bag’s stiff seal that is glued to my stomach surrounding the stoma. It’s no longer hardened and the swelling has gone down by half, but it’s still a bit puffy and irritated looking.
The cancer roller coaster never stops. My therapist keeps telling me that emotions are passengers, so during the hours I was waiting for the bleeding to stop, I would listen to my worry and remember that it’s a passenger, not a driver. It’s here, it might not be going away for a while, but it will only take me over if I let it. When worry takes over it turns into stress, and that turns into muscle tension, stress eating, and I’m sure plenty of bad habits to try to ease the discomfort. All of those little things never really work. When I thought of my worry as a passenger, it worked. I was able to laugh and joke with my husband and go about my evening as if I’d just scraped my knee. I had moments of worry, but as fast as they came, they left. Thanks, therapy.
In good news, I had all my lady parts tested, and I don’t have any signs of cancer. I got my test results last night and they are all normal. Yay for another small win.