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Rectal Cancer / Vagina Shrinkage and Shortening / Chronic Diarrhea

HealthyIsTheGoal
Posts: 5
Joined: Jul 2014

I'm 48 years old and last year I was diagnosed with Rectal Cancer stage 4 and had 28 sessions of radiation, surgery to remove my rectum and 18 inches of my radiated colon with an illeostomy bag, 2 months later had the bag removed and 4 months of Chemo which finished in November 2013. The radiation fused my rectum and vagina together so when the rectum was removed the vagina became smaller.   I was told the cancer is completely gone.  Overjoyed!

I now deal with the inablility to be intimate with my husband and diarrhea at any inconvenient time.

My current solutions:

Vagina- I have a series of different dialators that range from  extra small to large including half sizes.  I've gotten to medium plus (not big enough for my husband yet - still forging ahead)  Taking a hot bath or getting in a hot tub before using the dialator helps soften.  Always use lubricant because radiation causes long-term drying.

Diarrhea- I have had to take 2 tablets of Immodium 3 to 4 times a day.  When it gets real bad I have to take Norco (pain killer) to stop down my system because the maximum immodium is 8 pills per day.  I only take the Norco before bed to sleep otherwise I get up to go to the bathroom 4 to 5 times at night - hard to get a good nights sleep. The stool is caustic to sore skin tissue and if it's soft or loose it will continue to hurt.  A barrier helps keep the stool away from the skin.  There are many out there but some sting.  My suggestion is Desitin generously coated and then put a small folded up tissue in your crack.  You get used to the feeling.  Don't wipe harshly after going to the bathroom.  Having a generous amount of barrier helps with wiping because you won't irritate the anus as much.  Re-apply I also take Citrucel to help form the stools and also Align Probiotic.  I haven't had an inconvenient diarrhea incident in a long time. I wear liners just in case.

Goal:

-I would like to eventually get off of the Immodium and Norco.  Does anyone have any suggestions?

-I would like to be intimate with my husband again.  Any suggestions?

 

 

 

 

GaMeof5
Posts: 4
Joined: Feb 2013

HeathyIsTheGoal,

I completed chemo/radiation of 12-12-12.  Due to the extensive radiation to my pelvis, I too, had issues with being intimate with my husband due to scar tissue in my vagina.  Although I am 56, and was thrilled to still be alive, I wasn't willing to give up intercouse.  I, too, used dialators and have FINALLY came to a place where intercourse is enjoyable again.  Don't give up, use them everday and when insertion isn't painful any longer, move to the next size.  IT"S WORTH IT!  (I found that AstroGlide Gel worked better for me than KY)  Good luck and don't give up!

NoTimeForCancer's picture
NoTimeForCancer
Posts: 549
Joined: Mar 2013

God bless you ladies.  People really don't have a clue. 

Ouch_Ouch_Ouch
Posts: 226
Joined: Aug 2014

Hello,

I had/still have? anal cancer due to HPV-16. My last radiation zap was three months ago this Thursday. I still have a lot of bumper soreness (the looser the stool, the more pain it causes) and my pocketbook acts more like a diaper bag these days. I have read a lot of the posts on the Anal Cancer Forum and posted there, too. So, nearly all I know comes from those supportive souls.

Vagina -

The oncologist wanted me to have a gynecology exam to see if my cervix was effected by HPV. Oh! My! GOLLY! - the pain!!! The gynecologist kept telling me to relax so it wouldn't hurt. I assured her that what I felt was true pain, no doubt about it, and relaxation had nothing to do with it! Her well-lubricated single finger digital exam did not hurt, thank goodness. I found out later that she should have used a smaller, "virginal" speculum on me since I had received pelvic radiation with possible vaginal stenosis. She said I couldn't use a vaginal med with estrogen since I had cancer and suggested using over-the counter Luvena once a week. I found out later that anal cancer was not a contraindication for an estrogen preparation and is commonly prescribed for anal cancer patients.

The gyn changed her mind and said that I had pain with the speculum "because I wasn't having enough sex". She clearly had little to no experience with pelvic radiation. I asked the radio oncologist's nurse about vaginal dilators. She gave me a "small", but it looks huge: it's 7/8" in diameter and much wider than a woman's finger. I used it once so far, inserting very gently and kept it in the full 10 minutes while holding very, very, very still. It stung, but no sharp pain. If that's too big for you, I've heard that you can start off using a junior tampon as a dilator. The nurse told me that Spencer Gifts (in many US malls) sells dilators in multiple sizes as well as online medical supply and sex toy companies.

Moisturizing and lubrication is valuable. In addition to prescribed meds, one woman over at Anal Cancer uses Vitamin A oil daily as a vaginal moisturizer and some of them use coconut oil. AstroGlide is a slipperier lubricant than KY Jelly and both are much better than water.

Colon -

There are 2 main kinds of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber is indigestable and passes through the colon unchanged, forming much of the waste's bulk (the old "nature's broom"). Soluble fiber will absorb water in the colon to form a gel. This can prevent stools from getting too dry. Diametrically, it congeals loose stools. An example is psyllium husk, available from any vitamin shop and health food store. Your response may be different, of course. Examples of these kinds of fiber are readily found on the 'Net.

Cancer rehabilitation may help you with feeling stronger, have more stamina, and deal with the so-called chemo-brain. The STAR Program certifies therapists in the cancer rehabilitation specialty. I recently finished the physical therapy part and am much stronger myself. No more feeling like a wobbly noodle and no more dropping full, sticky glasses of ginger ale or Gatorade all over everything! Especially pleasing, they helped me learn some pelvic floor excercises that greatly reduces the amount of anal pain I have (not the Kegel excercise you always hear about). At the STAR website, look in the upper right hand corner to find your nearest certified program: http://www.oncologyrehabpartners.com/star-certifications/

I have been having lots of bulky stool. Not in diameter, but in length. It's painful passing all that stuff and causes me to have intermittent vaso-vagal episodes. A new friend, who had anal cancer 6 years ago, advised me to try a "low residue diet" (*). Ingested fiber would be no more than 15 grams per day, less if possible. It's a rather white, bland diet that's not balanced without great care, so a Registered Dietician should be consulted. A low residue diet is highly digestible, reduces the amount of waste passed, and allows the colon (and one's bumper) to rest. Sources of information for the diet can be found at these sites, and others. Each version seems to stress different aspects, so reading through several of them can be helpful:

American Cancer Society - http://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorshipduringandaftertreatment/nutritionforpeoplewithcancer/low-fiber-foods

Northwestern Memorial Hospital - http://www.nmh.org/ccurl/84/948/lowfiber-diet07.pdf

University of Virginia - http://uvahealth.com/services/digestive-health/images-and-docs/Low_fiber_Low_residue_diet_3.pdf

University of Pittsburgh Medical Centers - http://www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/education/nutrition/Pages/low-residue-low-fiber-diet.aspx

(*) This friend also told me that she has very few stool problems these days and only rarely has a small incontinence after 6 years. She said it took her at least a year to begin to feel normal.

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