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The Aftermath

Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2004

I am looking for some help. I am 27 years old. I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer June 2003. I was married 2 1/2 weeks later and surgery 2 days after that. They removed my entire colon and rectum. I have an illeostomy. I had 5 mnths 5FU an Lecovorin and 5 weeks radiation. I finished treatments in Feb. and had my first CT scan in March all is well. Now that I am finished with treatments I am really stuggling with the aftermath. During treatments I was so focused on living that nothing else mattered. Now I am left with this distorted version of my body and now I am finding it all very hard to deal with. Just looking for some support and anyone who has or is dealing with similar situations. Thanks for reading

Posts: 37
Joined: Apr 2004

Hi there,
My husband was dx with rectal stage III in aug 03. He had a temporary ileostomy. Before surgery I asked him what he thought about the ileostomy, since we never discussed it. He told me that he would deal with it. Now 6 months later, he still has it and we both treat it as something that "just happened". We don't dwell on it, sure, it is an inconvenience, but he still does everything that he use to do. We look at it like it helped save his life, and it was just something that had to be done. There is more to life besides having that "bag", as we call it. My advice would be to focus on getting on with yourlife, all the good things in it. Don't focus on a part of your self that is only a physical thing. I think that you are also going through a small bout of depression, but I think that it is normal being all the other things that you went through. Hang tough, and be strong, things will get better.

kangatoo's picture
Posts: 2115
Joined: Feb 2004

Hullo Holly--I think Elaine has offered some great advice.Your current frame of mind could be considered quite normal--the trauma you have been thru with surgery and chemo impacts our lives enormously.
Although I was fortunate not to end up with a "bag" after surgery I still became extremely depressed and sought the help of a psychologist which helped immensely.
I realise that I have been more fortunate than you but would like to offer this advice.
After I completed 6 months of chemo I totally "fell apart"!
One would think things would get easier but I found that while visiting the clinic and having support from the nurses I was fine--then--when it was all completed(chemo) I developed a "fear" of being "alone"--so to speak.In other words--my veil of protection seemed to be gone!
It has taken a long time to get over this feeling and to this day I still am fearfull of --"whats next?"Further tests are always praying on my mind.

I discussed this with a friend who also has a colostomy--his attitude is positively uplifting--you know--he has had his "bag" for 18 years!!!!
You are here, and a survivor Holly---your reactions are normal--but in time--you will overcome your concerns.
Our best wishes--kanga n Jen

spongebob's picture
Posts: 2598
Joined: Apr 2003

Holly -

Some really good advice from Elaine & Kanga here. There are others here with the semi-colons who are in a very similar boat as you - hopefully they will speak up as well. Being a 40 year old guy, I tend not to be too concerned about my body image (much to my GF's chagrin!). Just a thought, have you gone over to the breast cancer site? I did my chemo with mostly breast cancer patients and I know they have some significant body image issues they have to overcome. Perhaps they can give some more insight.

Remember this, Holly; if you are beautiful on the inside, you will be beautiful on the outside - but not necessarily so the other way around.

You're a survivor. You're strong. You have a heart. I know you're a beautiful person.

Be well

- SpongeBob

Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

Hi Holly. My story is a little similar - I was diagnosed with cancer of the rectum Dec 2003. I had chemoradiation then surgery (resulting in permanent colostomy) then chemotherapy. I held up well throughout the whole treatment period -- friends and family thought I was weird. But, a little while after my treatment was finished, I started going through a tough time, emotionally. When I eventually went to see a therapist, I said "I think I am going through some sort of post-traumatic reaction" and she said "you are". For me, seeing a therapist for a while was very valuable. I've also done a little reading on the topic and found that this is a relative common reaction (ie after treatment is finished). I wish you all the best.

Posts: 835
Joined: Apr 2004

Some excellent advise above and not a huge amount to add. I haven't reached your stage of treatment yet myself as I'm now three weeks postchemoradiotherapy and about 5 weeks off having my op which will result in at least a temporary ileostomy and perhaps permanent colostomy (being a 31 year old with rectal cancer). So I can't offer personal advise on dealing with your stoma but in my day job I am a psychiatrist and know all to well the effects such things can have on people.
It seems in particular young people are more sensitive to changes in body image and a range of reactions from anger, despair and depression can all be considered normal and tend to pass in time (I'm talking months not weeks). If they don't or if they are so severe that they are majorly disrupting other aspects of your life then I would agree with the others above that independent help may be useful. Talking initally to your partner is important but they are dealing with their own emotions over the situation and talking to some one who has no personal emotinal investment is often more productive.
Don't try and hide these feelings what ever you do as they will come back and haunt you. Face up to them as you have the other aspects of your treatment and accept that as well as physical healing we all have psychological healing to got through too which can often take a little longer.
If it is of use to you feel free to email me as I'm sure Ii have stuff I can learn from you as well as you are further advanced in your treatment than me.

Hope this is of some use,

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