Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[cancer] Living with a colon resection

I recently had occasion to write an advice email to someone who's just undergone a colon resecting similar but not identical to mine. After a bit of thought, I've decided to post it here, mostly for reference. If someone in your life is undergoing this kind of treatment, it might be useful to know. Likewise for certain kinds of story research.

1) Bowel movements will likely be painful and weird for quite some time. In my case, it took several months before I could properly 'push', so I spent a lot of time hanging around on the toilet waiting for gravity and intestinal gas to be my friends. Seriously, the more you fart, the better off you'll probably be, because farts are part of what propels the stool down and out. Bring a laptop or a book and settle in. Also, watch for hemorrhoids from all that sitting on the pot. Keep some witch hazel or something around to sooth the anus on those 12-poop days.

2) That being said, avoid greasy foods or other triggers for a while, until you're ready to experiment with reintroduction.

3) I cut out red meat and caffeine. To this day, I've never taken up caffeine again, though I have reintroduced red meat, simply because I like it so much. The idea there (and elsewhere) is to reduce colonic irritation.

4) The patterns of passing stool will change a lot, and they may never stabilize. Even now, four years after my colon resection, I am still wildly variable. I have days with twelve or more fully productive bowel movements (where the hell does it all come from?) and I have days with nothing at all. Never hold it in except at absolute necessity (like being stuck in traffic). If you think you have to go, for the love of God, go right then if humanly possible. Do not let the call of nature roll over to voicemail.

5) Also, re farts, be very careful with them. Never trust a fart. Even now I occasionally have a payload. In effect, I can no longer reliably tell the difference between gas and stool based on the internal signalling. I use context -- if I've recently eaten a lot of dairy, I won't pass gas without sitting down on the toilet first, for example. If I had a salad with a lot of fiber, I can generally believe a fart is a fart.
Tags: cancer, health, personal

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