When I had stoma surgery nine years ago, I knew that I would eventually be faced with a big decision. I have the choice between an ileo-anal pouch, a procedure that would reverse my stoma, or a rectum removal, which would leave me with a permanent ileostomy. I had spent the last nine years burying my head in the sand, reluctant to think about more surgery. Now, it’s time to face the music and make my decision.
From my research, the results of the procedure appear to be mixed. Some have had complications, whereas others have had a very positive outcome. One of my clients at my nail salon had the reversal operation and was left in intensive care. Everybody heals differently, and our coping mechanisms are all different, so I can’t predict how successful the procedure would be for me. If only I had psychic powers!
My decision has been further complicated by bowel problems that I’ve had in the past. For five years after my stoma surgery, my bowel was prone to twisting, which caused blockages even when I had a liquid only diet. I had four operations to try to fix it, but it continued to happen. I have read that the ileo-anal procedure can involve several surgeries, which I would prefer to avoid, having already had multiple operations. In the end, the solution to the twisting was to insert a catheter into my stoma to straighten the bowel. Now, I don’t panic when it happens because I know exactly how to correct it. I finally feel that I have some power over my health. If I were to have the reversal surgery, I couldn’t use my stoma to fix a bowel blockage. On balance, I would much prefer to insert a catheter into my stoma than my bottom!
Having a stoma can be annoying sometimes. The inappropriate noises that you can’t control, the occasional cracking sound, the inflated balloon you can wake up to sometimes, the risk of leaks and odour – it isn’t ideal! There are negatives, but it really isn’t too bad. If you didn’t want anyone to know that you have a stoma, then you could keep it to yourself. My stoma doesn’t stop me wearing the clothes I want to wear or from having relationships. I’ve been surprised at how past boyfriends have reacted to my pouch. They were always accepting of it and never found it off-putting. If it affected my confidence, I think I would jump at the chance of a reversal, but it doesn’t.
For me, a stoma doesn’t feel like the end of the world. After numerous operations, I am reluctant to go through more surgery. If I had the reversal and was left incontinent or with complications, I would be in a far worse position than I am now. Deep down, I think I have always known which route I would take. I am coping with my stoma, and I will continue to cope with it.
I am sticking with my stoma, the procedure that saved my life nine years ago. I have days where I struggle to be positive about my pouch so I would understand why somebody would decide to have the reversal. People who opt for a reversal are strong and brave and I admire them. Lots of people are thrilled with their results, and that’s fantastic. Personally, I am comfortable with my stoma and I want to avoid extra stress on my body. I have had active colitis in the rectum since the ileostomy so I will need the operation to have the rectum removed. Hopefully, this will be the last operation, and the final step in my journey. Here’s to me and my very own bag for life