a man and woman wearing large backpacks walking through trees

Life After a Cystectomy: Following Our Dreams

So I received my bladder cancer diagnosis in September of 2017, and by February 2018 I’d had a Radical Cystectomy.

I now had my “bag for life” and a stoma. Don’t ask me why or how it came about, but I named my stoma “Winnie”. It seemed more personal and friendlier somehow.

Hubby had now taken his early retirement and was at home looking after me. Just as life should have been becoming easier, everything was seeming to fall apart. Yes, the first few weeks were difficult, but I was determined we would fulfill our dreams of traveling. All the years we had spent sensibly preparing for our retirement were not going to be in vain. The plans we were in the process of making when I received my diagnosis, I was determined to fulfill.

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After surgery

I had the initial issues of leaks; we all do until we find the right appliances. Plus, initially the abdomen will be quite swollen. So it takes a few weeks of trial and error until the swelling goes down and our stoma takes on its new shape before we start to experience our “new norm”.

I did experience quite a bit of pain in those first few weeks, I won’t lie. But with the correct pain medication the pain can be controlled and it does get easier with each passing day.

The bowel took a little time to work, but with the aid of natural senna and following the prescribed diet given to me by a dietician, things did, after a few weeks of awful wind (gas) and constipation, eventually return to “normal”.

My “new normal”

Once I had gotten into my new routine, my life got a sense of normality about it. I was now confident in leaving the house and going out for lunch with friends. I had even had my first overnight stay with “Winnie”, in a rather plush hotel. My confidence was growing and for the first time in what felt like forever, I was beginning to look forward to a future. A future that previously I didn’t think I would have.

Making plans

I had my first check up with my Urologist, and I was told that all the cancer had been gotten “rid of”. I can’t begin to explain the relief I felt. It was like I had been given a new chance at life, a life that I was determined to live to the fullest. So, although I had my stoma, my “Winnie”, I also had been fortunate enough to be given a new lease of life.

Those plans that me and hubby had sat and discussed for many an evening, that I thought would never happen, now felt possible.

Following our dreams

So, five weeks after my Radical Cystectomy (RC) we went to Croatia for a week. Then at seven weeks post RC, we went to visit our son who lives in the Netherlands. The two trips were extremely enjoyable and went pretty much without incident.

So at just five months post surgery, we set off to India! This was to be the starting point of our backpacking adventure around SE Asia. The start of living the dream we thought may never happen.

For me, a RC wasn’t the end of my life. In fact, it was the start of a healthier new beginning. One that I was going to grab with both hands.

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