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Rectal Cancer Surgery

Posts: 11
Joined: Feb 2004

Hello All,

My husband is scheduled for rectal cancer surgery in May. What can we expect from the surgery and recovery for this type of operation? He has been informed that he will need a temporary illestomy. He is anxious to say the least about everything involved. I appreciate all your responses. All of you are such angels and we are so very grateful for your experience and guidance.

grandma047's picture
Posts: 381
Joined: Feb 2004

Hi, I too have rectal cancer. I had a colon resection in July, 2003. I did pretty well. The first two days after surgery was the hardest. I was only in the hospital 5 days and really seemed to heal pretty fast. I didn't have a colostomy or chemo or radiation at that time because I was stage I. I have had a recurrence and will also be having surgery in May, on May 20th to be exact. If there are any questions that I can help answer, feel free to ask and I'll try. If I can't I'm sure someone on this site can. They are so very helpful. Good luck to your husband and I will be praying for you both.
Love and prayers, Judy H(grandma047)

drmrgirl47's picture
Posts: 129
Joined: Mar 2004

I was diagnosed with rectal cancer, stage 3, with 3 nodes out of 6 involved. I had my surgery Jan. 27, 2004. I have a temporary colostomy. My surgery lasted 6-7 hours. I chose the epidural for the pain medication. This did not work for me. Of course, you know everyone is different. My surgery went very well considering I lost a lot of blood and also had my left ovary and fallopian tube removed due to excessive bleeding from it. The tumor was removed with the nodes. I was in the hospital for 7 days. The only discompfort I felt was due to the fact that the epidural fell out and no one knew so I do remember suffering. Also I don't do well with morphine so once the pain medication was changed I did not suffer so much discomfort. I started walking 3 days after the surgery. I am not going to say this is easy. My surgeon said expect to feel better in 4-6 weeks. And he was so right. I began to feel my old self at exactly that 4 week time period. Also when I got home I could hardly walk. Now my husband and I walk around the track and the marina by my house and I am back to normal, or close to it! Every day I felt better and better. Since my 3 nodes showed involvement they sent me for chemo and radiation. The temporary colostomy will be reversed in June as soon as my treatment is complete. It is amazing how fast the body heals from these operations. I too was a nervous wreck and I look back and say "WOW" did I do that?! :) My advice is tell your husband that as soon as the doctor says it is okay to get out of bed, that he should walk as much as possible around the hospital corridor. I made an amazingly fast recovery because I got out of bed even though I certainly did not want to. I forced myself to walk with anyone who came to visit. Surgery is very scary but what alternative do we have? My doc sent me home with Darvocet and I took it as needed. Your hubby will do okay...Feel free to email me if you have any other questions.

Posts: 30
Joined: Nov 2003

Hi Kelli
My husband had rectal cancer surgery in May 2002. He was 71 at the time, diabetic with HBP. His surgery lasted about 4-5 hours if I recall, but that's "normal". The surgeon said it all went very well. At first, the surgeon was going to try to do the surgery without having the temporary ileostomy, but then decided to have one due to the healing issues. Make sure, before the surgery, that the surgeon shows your husband where the ileostomy will be placed, so it won't interfere with how he wears his clothing (waistbands, etc.) or doesn't go in a skin fold or something that could interfere with any ostomy device. Immediately after the surgery, my husband had a catheter and a one or two drainage tubes in his abdomen. He had staples for the incision. He was first put in ICU for observation mainly. My husband had a mild stroke two days before the surgery, so it was a complication (duh). There was significant pain that was "controlled" with morphine. My husband was really wigged out - hard to tell if it was the stroke or the drugs, but he insisted that he had a baby. (LOL) Anyway, he was in ICU for about a week, primarily because there were no regular rooms to move him to for about three days. Then he was in a regular room for about a week, then he was transferred to rehab, both to get to walking after the surgery and to help with stroke recovery.
One thing I would strongly encourage you both to do is to make an appointment with your colorectal surgeon's ET nurse. This is a nurse with special qualifications to help patients learn to take care of ostomy devices. He/She can answer a lot of questions and really help you adjust to having the ostomy. We had an excellent ET nurse and she about saved my sanity after the stroke and everything. I found that "regular" hospital staff is not well trained in dealing with ostomies and they can be very careless or ignorant in caring for them or providing information. Get the straight story from the ET nurse and then if you get the same information from the regular staff, you know you're in a good place.
In the end, the incision healed well for my husband. He had no infections. Because of the stroke, he wasn't able to learn how to care for his ostomy completely by himself, so I had to do that for him (draining it and changing it). It wasn't too bad. He had the ostomy for a little longer than he absolutely "needed" to have it because the surgeon said with having more chemo, the diarrhea was less messy to handle with the ostomy than running through the normal exit. (Boy, is that true!). He had the ileostomy reversed in September 2002 and that surgery went very well too - no infection, very little discomfort (he took nothing stronger than aspirin). One thing we didn't count on was having to retrain the rectum for bowel movements - that was a dismal discovery that there was a complete lack of bowel control at first. A nurse at MD Anderson sent me a package of information about regaining fecal continence (can't think of her name, but you can do a Google search and get to the info). Your surgeon might also provide information about this.
Two years later, my husband is healed from the surgery - he had a colonoscopy in 2003 and it was all clear. Unfortuneately, there are mets to his lungs that were discovered in October 2003. Hope this doesn't bum you out, but the goal of this is to make you positive about the surgery and the ileostomy. It wasn't as bad as we anticipated and if the lung mets hadn't happened, everything would be great! My husband has almost fully recovered from his stroke. Sorry if this is too much information.

Moesimo's picture
Posts: 1080
Joined: Aug 2003

Make sure he sees the ostomy nurse for the marking for the stoma. When he wakes up from the surgery, he will have a tube in his nose to drain the stomach. this prevents vomiting. He will have a catheter to drain urine and a tube near the incision to drain blood. I had the epidural for pain control. It worked great for me. Ask anesthesia about this on his visit with them. I would bring his list of questions to the surgeon on the preop visit. that way he won't forget anything. Good luck.

kangatoo's picture
Posts: 2115
Joined: Feb 2004

Hi Kellie--pretty much all been said above so I will offer you our luv and prayers and wish you would pass this on to your hubby.He will do fine after surgery--just give him all the luv andsupport yu can muster.There will be highs and lows but improvement will come in time.
luv and best wishes-kanga n Jen

Posts: 11
Joined: Feb 2004

My husband and I are so grateful to each and everyone of you for your responses. You all radiate such love and caring. Its overwhelming. Thank you so much.

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