My herniated stoma caught the attention of my oncologist at my last appointment. I was referred to a general surgeon to review and see what, if anything, needed to be done about it.
A couple weeks ago now, I was in to see the general surgeon. He confirmed that it was indeed herniated, and my belly button region was as well. A hernia stoma is when the ligaments surrounding an area tear thus allow what is behind it, internally, to push outwards.
Around my stoma, a hernia had developed resulting in bulging of my belly. This is a common occurrence with a stoma. The stoma is the part of the small intestine that is routing the waste from the kidneys out through the abdominal wall. A hole in the abdomen is required for the stoma to protrude. A common effect of that hole is tearing of the muscles and ligaments in the area; a hernia.
Things like the ileal conduit that is meant to remain inside, start to push out. The natural response is to fix it. Surgery would be required to repair the tears in the muscle and ligaments. The reality of the fix is that there isn’t a foolproof method to fix these types of tears. There are a number of different procedures that can be employed, but none have yet proven to be permanent. The result is a need to go back in and fix it again.
With a conduit and stoma, there are few places the stoma can exit the body. The ureters from the kidneys are picky and don’t like to be moved around much. Any fix that would essentially be temporary is, therefore, the last resort.
The decision was to not do anything about it at this time. Nothing internally is currently in jeopardy and I am not in any discomfort, so a critical need doesn’t exist. If my herniated stoma becomes an issue in the future, then we will look at doing something. For the time being, however, we will just leave the status quo. Naturally, I asked how I would know when something needed to be done. He simply smiled and said, “Oh, you will know.”
I laughed. Good enough. Onwards and upwards.
I am in for my next CT Scan on the 5th of December. We’ll have a good look at the herniated stoma then and see how it is doing. We’ll also be looking at the abdominal aortic aneurysm as well as looking for any overt signs of cancer developing anywhere else. I am in to see the oncologist again on the 12th to review the blood work and scan to plan where we go from here. Hopefully, I will be graduating to the annual check-ups. That is the goal. One goes from 3-month follow-ups post-cancer to 6 months follow-ups and then on to the standard annual checkups. Graduation, for lack of a better word, is when one hits the annual check-up routine.
I just got back from vacation in California with my family. It was the first real vacation I have had in years. Over the last several years any vacation time I had was used up with medical procedures, appointments, tests and the occasional hockey tournament, and with my previous job, work. This was the first vacation where I actually didn’t have anything to do other than relax and spend time with family. Needless to say, it was great. We are home again and back to our daily routines, looking forward to the next vacation.
While in California I read a book by Randy Pausch called, “The Last Lecture”. An excellent read and would recommend it to anyone (You can view it here). Randy had terminal cancer and the book was all about perspective and the life lessons he wanted to leave behind for his kids. Both of his kids at the time, were of an age that neither will remember much of him when they got older.
Stories like these do help put life into perspective and to help one learn that some things, in the big picture, just don’t matter. I read and hear people go off on tirades about this or that. All I can do is shake my head; How nice it must be that such a minor, insignificant things can be such a disaster in their life. Perspective.
When I was going through my email after I got home, there was a notification from a woman I had been talking to on cancerconnections.ca (a website by the Canadian cancer society that facilitates cancer patients interacting and supporting one another) asking me to reach out to another woman that was just starting the process of having her bladder removed.
I wrote that woman immediately offering to talk to her about life without a bladder. It was that communication that renewed thoughts about what it was truly like living with a urostomy and a reminder of what cancer had taken from me. It wasn’t a hard thing to think about, but it was a very definite reminder of just how far I had come.
Living with bladder cancer and having a urostomy is annoying, inconvenient, frustrating at times. One has to deal with it every minute of every day, it never leaves your mind. There are leaks, there are complete failures, there is the planning of everything one does around the urostomy and the needs it presents. But at the same time, these things do become simple routine parts of life.
In some ways, the thing is almost a badge of honor. Yes, it is annoying, no question, but because of it, I get to live. I get family vacations in California, and I get to see my wife, and I get to watch the kids living their lives, and I get to watch my grandson learning about the new world in which he finds himself. It is a constant, daily, non-stop reminder that I had cancer, it took a lot, but I won. I beat the bastard and I get to live. It is a constant reminder, don’t sweat the little stuff.