Recently I noticed that where the convex flange of my Coloplast bags sticks to my abdomen, it has been making the skin a bit red, and now that the moat has disappeared from around Kermit, I wondered whether perhaps I still needed to use convex bags, or whether I could return to the flat ones, so I contacted the stoma clinic and they arranged for me to come in and see someone after I had seen the surgeon at the hospital this morning about my rectal mucous discharge (see my Cancer Diary entry today for details of that appointment), as it was in the same department.
I saw Nita this morning, and she had a look, and said that my skin continued to look very clean and healthy, and that all was well. She said that Kermit does not protrude very much – we laughed when we reminisced how freaked out I’d been before my surgery, by the stoma clinic’s DVD with the young lady with the red willy on her tummy and how I’d asked Mr. Pullan NOT to give me one of those!! – but sometimes a bit of protrusion is no bad thing! She said that I should continue with the convex bags for now, but there may come a time when I could return to the flat ones. I do not mind either way, as I am happy with the Coloplast soft convex bags, and am awaiting the arrival of the new Mio convex bags – I just wanted to be sure they were still happy with how things were, so I was reassured. The main thing is to avoid the possibility of leaks, and if the stoma doesn’t have a very long spout, the convex bag does make it protrude more, so that the output is sure to go into the bag, and not seep out under the flange and start irritating the skin.
She said I had done the right thing, coming in to ask. If the skin redness gets worse, then it might be time to look again, but probably there wouldn’t be likely to be any change during the next two or three months.
When she removed the bag, she remarked on the banana flanges I was using and asked if they were the Trio ones, which I confirmed was the case, and how much I liked them. They are their Silex Flange Extenders.
I was also able to report that I was getting on very well with Patient Choice, my supplier, and how businesslike they were, emailing me as to when to expect my parcel to be delivered, etc. She was pleased to hear that, because she said that not all companies were that businesslike.
We also spoke about support underwear. I mentioned to Nita that I had been experiencing a bit of pain around the stoma and in my abdomen lower down, but that the surgeon had reassured me that there was no evidence of a hernia. People with stomas are much more at risk of developing hernias because their abdominal wall muscles have been compromised by the cutting of an opening, and support garments are a good idea to prevent hernias developing. The surgeon said the pain I had been experiencing could just be the development of some scar tissue – there may be some adhesions, especially as I have also had a hysterectomy (20 years ago) and there’s been a lot going on in that area, but it was nothing to worry about. Nita could see that the rather large SupportX pants I had on were doing very little in the way of support; even if they were smaller, the fabric was not particularly firm or stretchy.
A few weeks after I received the two pairs I’d ordered from SupportX, they sent me another two, which have remained in the drawer still in their original wrapping, so I took them in today and gave them to Nita to put in her cupboard in case anyone else wanted to try them.
She said we could do better than this, and suggested I came in to see the lady who does the girdle fitting, so I have an appointment on Tuesday 17th November in the afternoon.
Nita said that they were getting very good reports of the support underwear now available in regular clothing shops such as Marks and Spencer’s, Matalan and PriMark, and they were not expensive. She said in the meantime I could try those, so after my appointments at the hospital we went off and I got a couple of pairs of pants (they only had two in my size, but they will keep me going for now).
You can see that there is a lace panel on the front. The fabric the pants are made of feels very firm and stretchy, and I think they will offer a lot more support than the SupportX ones.
I told her that the SupportX wraps I’d been wearing at night were a perfect pain because they are not deep enough and keep rolling up at the back.
In SupportX’s picture it looks nice and deep but on me it seems about 2/3 the depth!
She said the girdle fitting lady should be able to provide me with something better, and in the meantime I told her I’d ordered some cheap pregnancy body bands from Ebay which I thought I would try.
These look a lot more generous! They were very cheap, so I hope they will be stretchy and supportive enough. They are supposed to support one’s back as well as one’s abdominal muscles, but we shall see.
Another advantage of these garments (and my main motivation for waning them originally) is that they hold the stoma bag in place so that it doesn’t flop about – this was something that used to bother me quite a lot at night. During the day, they help maintain a smoother profile so that the bag doesn’t show so much through one’s clothes.
Obviously I have had to pay for the belly bands and the Matalan pants myself (the were not too expensive either - £6 per pair), and I bought two pairs, intending to wear them over my regular underwear as I have done with the SupportX pants), but anything recommended by the girdle-fitting lady or the stoma nurse, manufactured specifically for stoma care, should be available on prescription. The products designed specifically for stoma care use often have a separate pocket to contain the stoma bag, keeping it out of direct contact with the skin, which obviously normal support garments available in regular shops do not.
This whole thing continues to be a learning curve! An interesting one, though. I have found the whole process both fascinating and educational!
Part of the problem is having to shop online for certain products, and not being able to handle them to see how stretchy and firm they are, and not being able to try them on. The advice of the stoma nurses is extremely helpful, though, and I am sure the appointment with the girdle lady will be informative and useful.
I offered my services as a volunteer to help anyone wanting to speak to someone who has a stoma, and she was happy to put me on their list. We had a chat about what it is like for people in the early days – I reminisced about my tears on the phone and in the clinic, when I felt totally unable to cope, and wanting to phone the hospital lab and ask for my colon back (minus the cancer!) so that it could be sewn back in and I could resume my life as a butt crapper!
There are times when one thinks one will never get to grips with the bag, as one’s body changes shape and the stoma shrinks, and you get leaks and skin irritation. All being well, and in the absence of other complications such as prolapses or hernias, suddenly things slot into place and one starts managing like a pro, and it just becomes part of one’s daily routine. I said how very comforting and reassuring it had been during those difficult times, to phone up (usually in a bit of a state!) to be told to come in and they’d fit me in, and they always managed to sort me out, calmly and efficiently, putting my fears to rest. She said that this was the bulk of their work, helping people out in the early days and teaching them how to manage, so it’s all in a day’s work to them! They are the unsung heroes of the colo-rectal world!
I hope anyone reading this, who is struggling through the early days, will be encouraged and reassured. It really is not that bad once you get used to it, and always remember that the stoma nurse is your best friend!