Life on the outside- Sam and Stella’s story.
I opened my eyes- I had no idea where I was, what time it was or what had happened over the last few hours. To be honest, the last time I had experienced anything similar it had involved a holiday in Magaluf and some jaeger bombs – but that is a whole other story!
This wasn’t the case this time though- nowhere near in fact! Within minutes of coming around from the surgery, it all came flooding back.
It was 9th December 2010 and this was the moment I had been dreading for the last year or so.
I had been diagnosed with endometriosis which is where where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb form outside of the womb. For me, it had formed between the womb and the bowel and this endometriotic nodule was causing a bowel stricture. It was at that point I was introduced to the world of Stomas- in my case Ileostomies!
I had been advised that it was likely- although not definite- that I would have this stoma thingy for 12 weeks in order to allow my bowel to repair following removal of the nodule. Once over the initial shock, I then spent months focusing on “the surgery” and “the stoma”. I had researched stomas to within an inch of my life, speaking with my consultant, stoma nurses, reading leaflets and now, with all my preparation done, it was time to face my fear and potentially meet this stoma thingy.
I lifted the sheet to peek down at the part of my tummy where, 8 hours earlier, “X” had marked the spot. Indeed, there it was and it was at that point that, for the first time in 18 months, I wasn’t afraid anymore. It had been a fear of the unknown but it was here now and it didn’t look that scary! It was this little pink thing covered with a see through bag which, to me, resembled a little hoover bag!
I decided that she was a girl and she was to be called Stella. Within 2 days of surgery I was out of bed and changing my bag for the first time. Practically, it was easier than I had anticipated and Stella and I got gold stars from the nurses. Within a week I was discharged from hospital and it was then that it hit me that she was my responsibility to look after from now until the reversal.
I have to admit, it took me a few weeks to get my head around it all. There were good days and bad days as I recovered from the surgery and got used to Stella at the same time. I think the key for me was to realize that she was helping me by being there and on those days when she was “misbehaving”- it wasn’t her fault, she was just doing her job as best she could. I should look after her as she was looking after me. I had great support from my Stoma nurse Jill, my amazing friends and my family too- I owe them a lot!
In March 2011 we started to look at reversing the ileostomy and sending Stella back home. A scan, however, revealed excessive scarring around the anastomosis and that reversal of the ileostomy was not possible at that point. We have been on quite a journey since her arrival in 2010. We have gone through 3 surgeries together and are now classed as an “exceptional case” which is baffling my consultant! She is still here, approaching her 2nd birthday and is showing no signs of heading home anytime soon.
It’s not all about surgeries though! Life for me now is a little different but so much better in many ways. I am endometriosis free now- so pain free at last. I have a full social life as I did before- only difference now though is that she does remind me the next day of just how much fun I did have. We have enjoyed some fab girle holidays, she behaves so much better in the heat- I think Thailand was her favourite sunshine holiday.
All in all, I think that she is having so much fun on the outside that she doesn’t want to go home!