Got “Pancaking”?

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Yesterday my ostomy decided to give me a hard time. I changed my colostomy bag the same way I always do (or at least I thought I did) but a couple hours later I felt the skin around my stoma start to sting. I knew right away what that meant; My stoma was “pancaking.” The term pancaking is new to my vocabulary. Eric from Veganostomy, made a video about “problems that can occur with your ostomy” and he talked about this issue, referring to it as “pancaking.”

Before knowing there was a technical term, I called it, “Shit not again!” Actually this time I changed it up a bit, “Shit my ostomy is pancaking!”

The number one reason ostomies pancake is because air somehow seeps out of the bag; from not having a tight seal between the wafer and the bag. Colostomy and ileostomy bags work best when some air is left inside the bag. There is something about the air that helps draw out the stool, instead of it coming out and just mashing up against the stoma. If enough stool “pancakes” around the stoma,  the wafer can breach and nobody wants that, especially if your out in public. There will be poop everywhere… ok, not everywhere but at least your underwear will be messy.

A couple of months ago I was dealing cards for a charity event. My stoma thought it would be funny to pancake and since I was the card dealer I couldn’t just stop what I was doing and fix the problem. Instead I prayed that the poop was done coming out and I could fix it on my break, but my stoma had other ideas. Thirty minutes later my bag felt heavy. I knew I couldn’t wait so I excused myself, brought along my back pack that has extra supplies and headed for the ladies room.

The event was held at a golf clubhouse, so the bathrooms were pretty fancy. I found an open stall and cleaned myself up as best as I could. The bag breached so that one had to go and I put a new one on. Now I had another dilemma; do I put the dirty bag in the plastic baggie I brought and stash it in my back pack or do I leave it in the sanitary napkin box? Either way somebody wouldn’t be happy. I decided to spare the guests at my card table from the unpleasant “scent” and sacrificed those who entered the bathroom.

Three hours later, the event was over and before going home I stopped in the bathroom to wash my hands. The smell hit me as soon as I opened the door. Two women were at the sink frantically washing their hands, then quickly walked out the door.  What did I do? I giggled of course; its my go-to response when I’m in an uncomfortable situation; then I thought about the poor cleaning crew that would come later; by then they might need to wear hazmat suits.

I don’t know if anyone figured out it was me and if they did, who cares? I won’t see those people again anyway.

This time the pancaking happened while I was home so I could monitor the situation and try to fix it. I found out that I forgot to securely snap the wafer and bag closed. I cleaned the bag and snapped it shut. It kept pancaking, so today I figured I had to just start over and put on a new one. I hate getting only a day out of one bag though; ostomy supplies aren’t cheap.

I have been wearing the bag for four hours now and it is working just fine… thank you for asking.

Be well and remember to always have a sense of humor when “shit happens”

Ingebird

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Christmas: A Time for Reflection

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The Christmas season has many meanings; for some it’s the celebration of the birth of Jesus; others enjoy the hustle and bustle of shopping for that perfect gift and going to the holiday “office” party. Christmas was never a huge deal for me; I like celebrating birthdays more. Most of my adult life was spent working on Christmas Eve as a waitress. I always volunteered to work so someone else could go home to see their relatives. For many, Christmas is the only time they see loved ones, although when my son was young, I did stay home so we could eat Christmas dinner with relatives and open presents.

Now, Christmas has a new meaning for me. For the past four years I think about the events that led up to my cancer diagnosis. I was working on a small boat dealing Black Jack for a Christmas party December 24th. I remember the exact moment I felt bad, although at the time I couldn’t explain my physical symptoms. All I knew was I felt bad. Real bad. I couldn’t wait to get off the boat and go home. Two days later I was admitted to the hospital and my journey back to wellness began.

For years I suffered bouts of constipation and diarrhea. Every year it was worse and the year before I was diagnosed, I stopped going to public places, like flea markets (my favorite place to go) or walking my dogs in the park. If it didn’t have a public bathroom I could reach within two minutes, I stayed home. Work was a whole other problem. I got up two hours earlier than necessary in hopes that my morning bowel movements were completely done before my morning commute. Freeways were off-limits, so I took surface streets instead, in case I had the urge to go. Fear of having an accident in my pants was always on my mind because it already happened several times before.

Today I have a colostomy bag. It makes my life better. Some people say they would rather die than have to wear one, but maybe if they were given the choices I had, they would change their minds. It doesn’t matter. We all have our own ideas of what “quality of life” means to us. As the years go by I am more and more grateful to not only be alive, but healthy as well. I have everything I need to live a comfortable life. There isn’t one single thing I would ask Santa for… except… to help those going through cancer treatments to experience peace, love and faith so they too will find healing.

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I hope you are spending this day doing exactly what you want. After I’m done with this post, I will walk my dogs, eat a healthy meal and curl up with a good book. Hubby has to work but will be home soon.

Merry Christmas! Happy Chanukah! Happy Holidays!

Ingebird
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Who Farted?

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Who farted? If I’m in the room, more than likely it’s me, but if there are kids or dogs around, I will look at them as the culprits. Farting is something every single one of us do. It’s a natural bodily function, but for most of us when it happens to us in public, we “freak out” from embarrassment or if you’re me, you learn to laugh and make some smartass comment.

Before I was diagnosed with cancer, my life revolved around staying close to a bathroom. Not only did I have flatulence issues, I constantly worried about making it to the toilet in time. All the doctors I saw over the years told me I had gas and loose stool problems because I was stressed out. No kidding! They would be stressed out too if they had to run to the bathroom every few hours. Then I had colorectal surgery and I now have a permanent colostomy bag. The great thing is I no longer worry about finding a bathroom, but my ostomy seems to enjoy playing pranks on me. I call her “Whoopee,” after the Whoopee Cushion, a toy that I used to love playing with, hiding it under a chair cushion, waiting for some unsuspecting person to sit down. As soon as they did, the cushion let out the loudest “fart” noise imaginable and I laughed so hard I cried.

These days the jokes on me. My ostomy is part of my intestine that sits on the left side of my abdomen. It doesn’t have muscles so I can’t feel a fart coming on like I could when it came out my tush. I usually had a few seconds notice so I could squeeze my sphincter muscles to keep the fart in long enough for me to leave the room. My ostomy doesn’t give me that courtesy. Maybe Whoopee is my karma for playing pranks on all those people years ago. She sits under a colostomy bag that acts like a balloon when it’s filled with air, such as gas. The bag is about six inches in length so if there is more air than the bag can hold, it makes a loud noise. Sometimes it sounds like a balloon leaking air slowly, or (my favorite) machine gunfire. That’s always an ice breaker! People don’t know whether to duck or laugh.

I always had a wicked sense of humor, so for the most part my bag is no big deal. Many times when she sounds off, I use the opportunity to tell people my cancer story (if they don’t already know).  Whoopie gave me back my quality of life and for that I am grateful, fart noises and all!

Be Well and Happy!

Ingebird