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What to expect from colon surgery

Posts: 6
Joined: Mar 2004

I will be having my ascending colon removed in the next couple of weeks due to higrade dyspasia and the possibilities of cancer in the lining.

They will be removing the end of the small intestines, including the valve that opens and closes to the large intestine, as well as about a foot or more of large intestine.

I just don't know what to expect. How will this effect me? It seems my BM's will change as well as the way my colon will work.

Just a little heads up will help my head in this period of despair.

Thanks to anyone who responds.

Posts: 1
Joined: Feb 2004

Hi Bill I had my whole colon removed and i have to go to the bathroom about 6 to 8 times a day depending on what i eat, My mom lost 75% of acending and transverse colon and yes your bowel does change. my mom says its like pudding. and some times you go a couple of times a day. depending on what you eat. it will take a few months before things get bank to a so so normal. but it gets better.

Sheepy's picture
Posts: 48
Joined: Nov 2003

Bill - everyone's experience is different so you'll have to read a few replies, but I'll give you my own personal experience.

You don't say how old you are - I was only 38 and otherwise in good health, which might have some bearing on your experience.

Have you ever had general anaesthetic?

It sounds like you're having a right hemicolectomy, which is what I had - this didn't involve a colostomy at any point.

The surgery itself was easy, because I was asleep....before the op. I was pretty scared, but the time asleep is just a blank.

Spent a couple of days on morphine, a drip, and oxygen (because of the morphine).

I can't remember exactly when my bowel started moving again, but I had an urgent visit to the toilet, when black loose stools were passed - this was apparently mainly blood from the surgery.

Once I started eating I had problems because of an irritated stomach, and suffered vomiting for a few days - this was the low point.

Discharged after nine days, I was eating normally within another week (I think most get there sooner). Stools were loose initially but became normal in only a few days.

Within a month or so of discharge my bowel habits were pretty acceptable - maybe a couple of motions a day instead of one, but perfectly manageable.

I'm now on chemotherapy, which has brought looseness back on occasion, but overall I feel pretty good.

I know things don't always go this well, but at least you know that it possible to have this surgery and return to pretty good health.

Let us know how you get on - you are always welcome here! How soon until the surgery?

Posts: 6
Joined: Mar 2004


Thanks for the reply. I need these assurances now.

You are correct, I am having a right hemicolectomy.

I had back surgery 2 1/2 years ago, so I have been under the knife before.

I am a 56 year old male in good health. I have excercised my entire life and I am really in good shape for someone my age. I know this is to my advantage.

The fear of the unknown is what worries me the most. This is why I came on line and posted this question.

Could you give me a little information on how long it took you to get back to normal physical activity. The thought on not being able to exercise and do the athletic stuff I currently do makes me a little depressed. I am not a couch potatoe and need my exercise.

To let you know, after my back surgery, I was back to work in three weeks and back to bowling, which I enjoy and don't want to abandon, in 4 weeks. This was after repair of a herniated L3/L4 disc. So you can see I push myself to recover so I can get back to normal as soon as I can.

What are the repercussions of trying to get back to normal physical activity too quickly. I have already made plans to get back into physical activity by May 1st. My surgery is on March 23rd.

Again, thanks for this information on your similar surgery.

Posts: 3
Joined: Mar 2004

Here's my experience, which is very recent. At 37 years of age, I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer on Christmas eve 2003 and had colon re-section on new year's eve. They removed 1.5 feet of the right side of the colon. The cancer measured 4cm x 4.1cm x 1.1cm, it had come out of the colon wall, fortunately did not exit the fat tissue surrounding the colon. 15 lymph nodes were removed, all tested negative.

Prior to surgery, I was given epidural in my back which was used to inject pain medication for the next 3(in my case) days. General anaesthesia was administered and the surgery lasted for 2 1/2 hours.
I was up out of my bed the next morning within 14 hours of surgery, and started walking in the corridor the following day. On the fourth day, I had my bowel movement and the very next day I was discharged.
After 70 days of surgery, today, I am about 90% recovered. The remaining 10% is due to the effects of chemotherapy. As for BMs, I don't see any difference. If you just lose 1 to 2 feet, within a few weeks your body will adjust to the new size and you'll get back to as normal as before.
Go into the sugery with an open mind and let time take its course.

Good Luck

bryancarson's picture
Posts: 47
Joined: Jan 2004

Hi Bill.
I was 29 when DX with colon cancer and had about 18" of my colon removed. First, they gave me a colostomy which was reversed just this past Oct. after my treatments were finished. It took me a while to have my bowls get back to normal -- if they can be normal again -- really a new normal. At first, I was going to the bathroom multiple times a day - about 4 to 5 times. Now, I can count on two a day. That's my new normal. However, if I am going to be someplace like the movies or a place I don't want to use the bathroom, I cut back on food earlier in the day - it always helps. Get some flushable baby wipes, you'll be using lots of TP, and these help with the "diaper burn" best of luck, I am sure you'll do fine

shmurciakova's picture
Posts: 910
Joined: Dec 2002

You poor thing! I know having part of your colon removed SOUNDS really scary, but luckily we have lots of extra! From an anatomical standpoint, the function of the large intestine is to remove the water from the waste coming out of the small intestine and form "stools". So, I think the closer to the small intestine your surgery is, the more likely you are to have "the runs". Like one of the replys said, this varies greatly from person to person. I had my sigmoid colon (lower curvy part) removed and now I go the the bathroom around 3-4 times/day (it has been 2 years), and the stools are normal. I can deal with this, and of course it depends on what and how much you eat! I think you could realistically expect to have loose stools at least for a while and to go to the bathroom more often than before but it will probably improve w/ time! The surgery is not hard to recover from. At least on me, they did not cut through any muscles (unlike liver surgery), but you really need to make up a list of questions to ask your doc before the procedure. If you feel really uncomfortable w/ all of this, perhaps you should seek a second opinion first!! Good luck, Susan.

jsabol's picture
Posts: 1156
Joined: Dec 2003

Hi Bill,
It certainly was a shock for me to get my "routine baseline" colonoscopy (at age 53) back this Nov and discover I had a cancerous polyp. Surgery was a few weeks later, removing 6 inches of part sigmoid and part descending colon.
I was surprisingly calm about the surgery, having had 3 abdominal surgeries before. I was most concerned about pain relief, since morphine and it's derivatives make me horribly nauseous. My pre-op appt with anesthesia was key; the anesthesiologist listened to all my concerns, and we decided on an epidural, inserted just before surgery and general anesthesia, and like Kaqueel, left in for 3 days post op. It was like a miracle for me...no pain, no nausea, up walking the next day, home after 3 nights. Although my polyp was very small and did not penetrate beyond the sub-mucosa, I did have 1 microscopically positive node and am now on to chemo.
During my recovery from surgery, I moved slowly from bland, soft, comfort food to my more regular diet. I did find Metamucil helpful for a time to regulate the too loose stools, but things were getting back to normal before chemo.
I don't know what effect losing the connecting valve between small and large intestine will be, but I hope you can pose this question to your surgeon...I called back to the office with the questions I had after my initial appt...hope you have a doc with whom you can communicate. I really liked my surgeon and had great confidence in her skill. Good luck to you; you will get through this; and we are all here to help. Judy

nanuk's picture
Posts: 1362
Joined: Dec 2003

Hi Bill: looks like you got a good variety of semi-colon stories..you can probably plan on a week or so in hospital depending on your overall physical condition. If you have a couple of weeks, try to get some daily cardiovascular exercise..it really helps your body get through
surgery, and will probably save you a few hospital days... best wishes, Bud

Posts: 6
Joined: Mar 2004

I want to thank all of you who took the time to answer my question. I am just now going into this and even though the biopsy came back as higrade dysplasia, I know anything can be discovered during surgery. I lost a cousin to colon cancer when he was 52. This is why I went in to have a colonoscopy. I didn't feel sick or anything, in fact I am quite healthy.

These responses have been very helpful to me.

Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2004

Bill, I am a 58 year old female and I had my colon surgery 4 years ago. I was in the hospital for 6 days, but they had me up and walking the day after surgery. Each day you will feel a little better. When I came home I felt weak, but not terrible. The only change in my bowel movement was the fact that before the surgery I was always constipated and now I'm not, so that's a plus. I had to have 6 months of chemo, but even that wasn't as bad as I had imagined. I never got physically ill, just very tired. You will do just fine. Try to think positive and after the surgery do everything your doctor tells you. You'll be in my prayers. Pat

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