Thursday, May 24, 2012

Penalties for Not Listening

Hockey player Paul Riome didn’t listen to his body or his doctor.  
Minor Penalty was undetected cancer.  Major Penalty was a permanent colostomy.  
Riome tells of his experiences, attitude adjustments, and comeback to hockey. 

The story is about overcoming colorectal cancer 
and showing other hockey “tough-guys” the importance of prevention.

Even with daily rectal bleeding for over 2 years, I refused tests and examinations.

“You got Cancer ...  Life-expectancy is uncertainReminiscent of nasty and unexpected hockey hits, I asked myself  “what the hell was that for?”  Of course there was no answer, but I adjusted quickly and vowed that after surgery, I would do everything that I could do before surgery, and I would play hockey again. 

Surgery day arrived.  A nurse fussed to be sure the hospital gown covered my backside.  I joked at the silly gesture, as a dozen people would see everything I had, from the outside and the inside. 
After 6 hours of surgery, “I am back and I am alive!”

During recovery at the hospital, I set my sights on completing what I named a sprint, a half-marathon, and a full-marathon (actually … a shuffle to the doorway, to the nursing station, then a full loop around the ward). 

The rehab routine was similar to hockey injuries, but the outcome would be drastically different, as the surgery damages could never be restored.  With trepidation, I started Public Skating, surrounded by grandparents teaching pre-school kids to skate.

Exactly four months after surgery, I was back playing hockey.  I was amazed at how many players made a point of acknowledgement, usually with the back-handed male style
‘… Nice you’re back, looking dangerous as ever’
‘… I always hated going into the corner with you, but now I’m really afraid of the sh*t flying’
‘… I thought with your butt sewn shut, that your stride would be shorter’  

After an aggressive altercation around the net, a large and hostile defenseman pummeled me with a verbal tirade of hockey-trash-talk.  I said ‘you can’t really call me that, because I don’t even have one’.  Instantly he went silent, smiled, put his arm around my shoulder, and said in amazement “you’re the one”

Hockey team-mates were curious, so I volunteered to answer any questions they had, and show them anything they wanted to see.  They all related to the red-neck attitude that prevents us from having rectal examinations and colonoscopies, even while knowing that these procedures are effective lifesavers.  
Earlier tests, with earlier detection, probably would have ‘saved my ass’ 
and I may have avoided the surgery and permanent colostomy  
Several wives (mostly with tears) told me it was my experience 
that convinced their husband to get a colonoscopy. 
I am humbly pleased that others have benefitted from my experiences

An ostomy is not as good as the original equipment 
but I get to live
Two years ago my doctor told me I could have a perfectly normal life with a colostomy. 
     I didn’t believe him then.  
     I do believe him now.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Greg Doesn’t Golf anymore

Greg was the spark that started this Living Bigger With Colostomy blog. 

Greg golfed 6 days a week for 30 summers, then was diagnosed with T3 colon cancer, which resulted in surgery for a colostomy, as well as chemo and radiation.  

Greg quit golfing, fearing the embarrassment of changing a pouch while his golf-buddies waited, or the horrors of a pouch explosion.

Greg also quit driving and riding in a car, for fear of the seatbelt rubbing on his stoma.

Greg declined to lift grocery bags, for fear of a hernia.

Greg stayed in his house, intentionally remaining inactive, and gained enough weight that his pants didn’t fit.  So he started wearing his pouch outside his pants.  With this new humiliation, he refused to leave his house … so both Greg and his wife became reclusive.  This soon dragged both of them into a depression which brought apathy, and lowered confidence and motivation.  Soon Greg’s wife was changing his appliances for him, and they spiraled down together.

Greg and I talked a lot.  Cautiously, I shared many of my positive and active experiences living a normal life with a colostomy – wanting to show that he and his wife could live bigger, yet not wanting to intimidate with my adventures that would be unbelievable and unrealistic for him.  We had a few successes:

  • Seatbelts – I drive, and carried a backpack with a hipbelt for 40 days.  Its OK for Greg to drive and ride.
  • Pouch on the Outside – Buy pants 2 inches bigger, wear suspenders, and get the pouch back inside your pants!
  • Pouch Explosions Golfing – I have golfed for 2 years and played over 100 hockey games (taking hits and blocking shots) and have never had an explosion. Greg is safe to golf ... and no reason to be embarrassed changing pouches on the golf-course, being much more environmentally sensitive than his buddies that relieve beer-overloads in the bushes.
 These small incremental successes are positive and encouraging.

Golfing with Greg is now on my bucket list !

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

King of the World

May 2012
Adventure opportunities sometimes just appear.  Take them before they vanish.  

I had flown to Toronto to visit ageing parents and attend a family wedding … where I learned that a boat was to be sailed from New York to Toronto. Crew was needed – Adventure was calling.  Five people and 5 days of provisions were unceremoniously stuffed into a Hyundai for a white-knuckled 7-hour drive to Troy NY. The pissing-down rain overpowered the wipers, so we joined a truck convoy and followed the trail of red tail-lights, arriving at our boat in the wee hours of the morning.

Our plan was to sail up the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, then through the 34 locks of the Erie and Oswego Canals, then across Lake Ontario to Toronto … in 3-4 days.  On day-1, the big diesel motors were uncooperative, and we did just 1 lock.

Locks are giant water tanks that fill / empty to move boats between levels.

The crew’s job is to keep the boat away from the wall and other boats, as we are lifted up to 40 feet!

Adventure means new experiences 
... New activities, new landscape, new people, and new ideas.  And new food … quinoa may be the perfect food, and fermenting fruit may be healthy, but the combination is an unfriendly new experience for digestive systems.                             My ostomy-plumbing was the envy of the captain and crew.

It's a 7 hour journey across Lake Ontario, with barely a glimpse of land

This adventure was unforgettably awesome!  

Yet why did I hesitate to go?  
     Office or Adventure? … which should I do?  

Most adventures have vivid memories 
Weeks of office-time blend into grey nothings 

King of the World !

Ostomy and Cancer 

gave me the attitude to