This post originally appeared on Cancer Owl.
Maybe it’s because I liked living on the edge, but I was almost always moments away from a tragic, publicly embarrassing spectacle. I was like the dad on a summer road trip who pushed the “E” as far as it would go, bypassing gas station after gas station as the family watched in horror.
I’m talking about my ostomy bag days, and how I always cheated catastrophe by trying to stretch my bag as far as I could before emptying it. I often compared my bag to an udder because I often let it fill up so much that it would hang off of my stomach like a cow's udder. It would bulge through my shirt and feel like a crude water balloon ready to burst anytime.
In my head, I would think of the horror that would occur should the bag burst out at the bottom. It happened once at home in front of my ostomy nurse, and my wife spent over an hour having to scrub all of the contents off of our kitchen counters and the floor. It was a terrifying spectacle, and one I would not want to have happened in public.
But yet… but yet I would let the things fill to its maximum capacity. Call it laziness, or call it insanity. I think a lot of it had to do with my struggle to accept my new reality. I had my ostomy bag for a total of nine months while my resection surgery from colon cancer healed up. And I suppose that because I never crossed the one-year marker, I was still in that stage of trying to accept what was attached to my stomach.
Every time I would go into the bathroom to empty that bag, it would cause me to reflect on how I got to this point. I imagined that the reversal might not be able to be possible like we thought and I might be stuck with this bag rest my life. I was learning to be okay with that possibility but also facing a very different change in my life. Something as simple as taking a crap while sitting down was taken from me because of a diagnosis. And every time I watch that bag empty out and looked at myself in the mirror, I was reminded that my life as I knew it was over.
Even now, as I am reversed, going to the bathroom is still not even close to the same as it used to be. My bowels don’t behave the same and my back end can no longer hold anything back like it used to. I’ve had many accidents, and some worse than anything the bag brought on.
My life changed and I changed, but that bag was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Not only did it help save my life, but it also reminded me that my life, just like my body, is fragile and subject to change at any moment. I am sure, that given enough time, I would’ve gotten better and better with timing my bag emptying times in my bag change times. I am sure that over time it would stop feeling like an udder and become so second nature that I would hardly imagine life without it.
But that experience reminded me that there are people, such as some of you reading this article, that just received a permanent ostomy. I understand what many might go through, that mental hurdle that you have to go through in order to accept your new life. It’ll take time, and that is okay. Give yourself time to accept any new changes that were brought on you, whether you wanted are it or not. Change comes to us all, and sometimes it’s ‘udderly' crappy like adjusting to a new ostomy bag. Acceptance isn’t always easy, but it is necessary.
Now go change that bag.