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Saturday, 23 January 2010

One month on

Clare and I on the Island of Islay several years ago
(I found a load of unprocessed films and this was one of the frames)

It’s a month now since the operation.

Physically I am pretty strong again, and I can do all the things I need to do. Walking into town is no problem, I can drive a car, I can eat what I like. Banquo is fairly well behaved and tends to venture into soliloquy mostly in the mornings, when he can be pretty loud. But after initial griping he calms down and is quiet for the rest of the day usually. I have had a few moments of worry, for example in the cinema when, in a quiet and tense moment in the film, I have feared Banquo was going to upstage the proceedings, but so far he hasn’t.

To give a quick, sanitised, wholesome run down of the waste collection and disposal system: There is a base plate made of thick plastic and rubber, with a hole in the middle. Its about the size of CD and flexible. The back of it is sticky with some extraordinary adhesive. Banquo sticks out through the hole, which I have to cut to the right size. Added to this, there is a bag which, about the size of a pitta-bread, sticks to the base plate. This bag is actually quite a wonder of invention. It is completely water proof and is made of a kind of thin papery material. It is also totally hermetically sealed so not a whiff escapes. The bottom of the bag is sealed in the three folds, and Velcro. This can be opened to drain the bag.

It isn’t pleasant, but the trick is to have everything you need ready, turn on the radio and just do it without thinking about what you are doing. Just listen to the radio, wash your hands and re-emerge into the world. After all isn’t this what you bum-wipers do really?

I have found that I have to learn to sleep in a different position. My preferred position- a kind of recovery position - being uncomfortable now. I slept like this one night and I think my body weight and the shape of my belly must have caused a bit of a leak which was really annoying. After speaking to the Stoma Nurse (who is brilliant) I was issued with a very attractive elastic belt which holds the whole thing in position more firmly. I have also discovered that attaching the base plate whilst standing up rather than sitting ensures a better seal.

Sometimes you feel a bit like a plate spinner who hasn’t got quite enough hands to keep everything going, but its OK I have learned it now.

Psychologically it has been OK, and I have not really lamented. I have wished to go for a swim and a sauna very much and I am working on the sartorial problems involved. I’m thinking of something like a triathlon suit which stretches from the thigh to the neck. I’ll solve it soon. I miss exercise and swimming and sweating a lot. I miss the chatter and gossip too.

I was asked the other day if, knowing how it is now, whether I would have had it done sooner? The answer is I’m not sure. Many people report an almost euphoric feeling and use phrases like “I’ve got my life back” I have not really felt quite like that. It is great to not have to constantly monitor my proximity to the nearest loo. It is great not to have to constantly carry what I used to call my “shit kit”. It feels a bit weird sometimes, and I suppose I do vainly wish I could disport myself in a pair of budgie-smugglers.

My scar is nearly healed. When I went to have my stitches out (actually staples like you find in stationers) I had every other one out the first day. Did they think I was going to open up like a book?

When I went to have the remainder taken out I felt a sense of freedom. Sadly when I inspected myself at home I found that she had missed FOUR! I had to return to have them hoiked out as well.

I have also discovered a well written, witty, and truthful blog by a man called Martin who has passed this way before. I recommend it to you. You can find it at

OK. Got to go back to sleep now; it’s 6 in the morning and I’m running a workshop later.