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My Cystectomy One Year Later – What I Learned

Well, today I’m privileged to be sitting in the Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai, celebrating my 35th Wedding Anniversary with my dear Husband. I’ve just had a 90 minute facial and massage. What a difference only one year can make! I’m feeling happy and healthier than I have in a very long time.

This time last year

One year ago today, I was being admitted into a specialist cancer hospital in preparation for my Radical Cystectomy the following day. The emotions that I felt that day were unreal, ranging from extreme fear of the operation and what lay ahead, to the relief in knowing that very soon my cancer would hopefully all be gone.

Reflecting on the past year

So, here I am one year later, looking back at probably the most eventful 12 months of my life. Yes, I had the cystectomy, and from that my new best friend was born, my stoma who I named “Winnie”. Now, in the early days, me and “Winnie” didn’t always get along too well. She was swollen and seemed to change shape daily as the swelling in my abdomen went down. This gave rise to a number of “leaks“, but after a couple of weeks, “Winnie” began to settle down and took a rosebud like shape.

Yes, immediately after surgery it was a little painful and the bowel took some time to “wake up” and get back into a regular routine. The changing of my stoma was initially a little time consuming and worrying, but it’s surprising how one day, everything just seems to fall into place and becomes “normal”, albeit a “new normal“.

Moving on

So what have I done since my surgery almost one year ago? Well, I have lived! My surgery hasn’t stopped me from doing anything, in fact it’s encouraged me to try more new and daring experiences. It’s given me a second chance at life. A chance that I am going to embrace with all the strength I can muster.

Beginning to travel with my stoma

From just 5 weeks after surgery, I started traveling with my Husband, flying to various European destinations. First, for just a short weekend break, then for a week. Then, just 5 months after surgery, me and hubby made the momentous decision to spend the next 7 months backpacking around SE Asia. Me and my “Winnie” were going on an epic adventure. It was somewhat daunting and a little frightening at first to be honest. Mainly because almost all of my luggage was for “Winnie”. 200 bags, 30 night bags, plus night stand. Cans and cans of adhesive remover and barrier sprays along with various glues in case my bags didn’t stick properly, etc. etc … I took less luggage when I had 2 small children.

However, this wasn’t going to stop me, and in June 2017 we set off on our epic journey. With only 2 flights booked, we were going to go wherever took our fancy, and plan the trip only as we went along with no real itinerary in place. For me, this was living life “on the edge” as I was a stickler for planning and always had to know where I was going, where I would be staying and for how long.

What I’ve learned in my first year

A stoma doesn’t have to define you. Your life with a stoma is what you make of it. I have traveled on planes, trains, overnight buses, bullock and cart, cyclos, tuk tuks, boats, and my “Winnie” hasn’t let me down once. We have dined in the sky in Singapore on a 2 hour sky ride cable car, I have swam, I’ve had massages. The only thing you need to be careful of is not lifting anything too heavy. Other than that, there is nothing that us “ostomates” can’t do! There’s a great life to be had after bladder cancer if you just choose to embrace it!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.