Monty: My Journey
In the summer of 2002, I started to get gripping pains in my left lower abdomen with fluctuating constipation and diarrhoea but after a few days it would subside. That autumn my GP referred me to a gastroenterologist who performed a colonoscopy which could not be completed due to restrictions in my colon, a barium enema was also incomplete and a course of antibiotics for inflammation diagnosed. Two months later, another colonoscopy with a paediatric scope proved impossible and I was sent for a CT scan which revealed a “mass” in my colon, surgery therefore being inevitable.
Like most people, I assumed it was colon cancer and three weeks later was admitted to hospital. Fortunately cancer was not the cause but extensive diverticulitis revealed. Prior to my operation, having read the possible consequences of a “sigmoid colectomy” (the procedure to be undertaken), I learned that a colostomy was sometimes the result and I asked the surgeon if this was likely, which he doubted. However, due to the state of the tissue revealed during surgery, there was no alternative to forming my stoma which needless to say initially left me devastated and somewhat traumatised. During my stay of about six days in hospital I started to come to terms with my situation and getting used to changing the bag. On the day I was discharged I had a further visit from the stoma nurse and said to her “I have a problem – I am booked to fly to Rome in three weeks time for my daughter’s 30th birthday party.” She then said “that’s not a problem, it is an opportunity for you to realise that this will not really alter your life. Provided you use a wheelchair to and from the plane, lift nothing and take plenty of supplies, you will be fine.”
That was the beginning of a completely new experience for me and a very steep learning curve. The weekend in Rome was amazing following which I returned to running my business as a property developer and have travelled all over the world changing my pouch on trains, in planes, behind bushes whilst on safari to name but a few. Yes, there have been some disasters like getting a tummy bug on the Yangste cruise and going to see the Chinese ship’s doctor who had never seen a stoma before. He gave me a Western cure and a Chinese cure – and said “see how you get on with both.” The Western cure was useless but the Chinese one cleared it up in 12 hours!!
My philosophy is therefore “bag or box.” A colostomy gives you back your life which without the skills of colorectal surgeons and health care professionals would have taken you from your family and your loved ones far too early. Some people lose limbs, sight, hearing etc., I have changed the way to use the loo – so what – I am still around.
My message is therefore “get on with your life and make the most of the extra time you have been fortunate enough to have received.” When fully recovered I contacted the Colostomy Association to become a volunteer, enjoyed being involved and would encourage any colostomate who feels able to do the same. The best way to prove to anyone about to undergo this procedure is to let them see that you are no different and to realise that it is not the end of the world.