Monday, November 21, 2011

More irrigation

So more notes about irrigation ... while I'm thinking about it.  I've been traveling quite a bit this year, and taking the irrigation show on the road has been OK.  No problems, really.  As long as you have a bathroom with hot water, and *plenty* of supplies you're good to go.  Really can't emphasize having the plenty of supplies thing.  I bring twice the amount of supplies I need at home, plus a few extra.  Something about being on the road screws things up, and I'm been VERY glad I brought as much supplies as I did more than a couple times. 

So, anyways ... all my friends know what I've been through and that I have this neat and cool front-facing exhaust port, so when I camp out in the bathroom for a good 30+ minutes, they don't question it.  Staying in a hotel room is cake, but I wonder what the help staff thinks when they see my whole irrigation setup (irrigation resevoir hanging from a carabiner, the 'biner clipped to a sling swung over a shower rod, the funnel, the control valve).  I tend to leave it out on purpose just to them something to think about.

Now ... take away the conveniences of modern plumbing and hot water and things get more involved.  In early October, I went backpacking for a few days in the Wallowas to clear my head and do some critical thinking/soul searching (subject of a upcoming blog entry).  I brought all of my irrigation supplies and gave it a go.  I made it work, but it took a lot of time.  Irrigation takes about 1.25 liters of water, and it took time to filter the water and get it to the right temperature (96-102 degrees F - too cold and you really cramp up, too hot - just not good for the colon).  I'm an experienced backpacker and now I know I'm going to have to bring a lot of extra stove fuel on trips if I want to irrigate.  And, then the actual irrigating was awkward as I had to find a place to squat/sit/stand for half an hour where everything could just kind of pour out.  I dug a hole big enough, decided that I'd stand over it, and then did the irrigation.  It went fine, but I'm sure had someone turned the corner on the trail while I was irrigation, they would have wondered what in the HELL I was doing.  I'm sure I made for an interesting site.  I was lucky that it was later in the year and that the were no 'skeeters.  Having to stand or sit with a fair amount of flesh exposed to the elements would be horrible if there were swarms of mosquitos around.

Lessee .. what else about irrigating.  Can't think of anything else.  Never had any problems with airport security.  The scissors that the medical supply companies give you with one of their supply carrying packs is small enough that you can bring it on the plane and doesn't result in a full body cavity search by TSA (which, by the way, I'd love to see them try).

But, the backpacking was good practice for how to irrigate in interesting situations.  I'm considering going to Peru for a few weeks this summer, and I know I'm not going to have reliable plumbing or reliable hot water for a good portion of the trip.  Not just because I think Peru may not have modern conveniences everywhere I stay, but because I'm planning to do a 3-4 hike to Machu Picchu (yeah, I know ... pretty damn cool, huh?) and a bunch of other fun outdoor stuff.  And there's not going to be bathrooms/hot water along the way.  You're required to do the hike with a tour operator, so I'm going to have to tell them what my "special needs" are, and see if they can accommodate.  It's one thing to dig a small pit in the ground, do the deed, wipe your ass, burn the toilet paper, and then cover the hole up; but it's another thing to generate have to sit somewhere for half an hour, get 1 1/4 liters of properly-warmed water, and to generate a fair amount of plastic waste that you're likely going to have to pack out.

Okay, more thoughts tomorrow ...

670 days since diagnosis

That's a loooong time since being diagnosed.  Seems like it was both yesterday and an eon ago.  Also, it's been 352 days since treatment ended -- almost a year.  Almost time for my next visit 3-month visit with my oncologist and my 6-month visit with my surgeon, which means time for another blood draw.  I'm looking forward to this one because I want to see my CEA level still pegged at "so low they can't read it," like my last two.  I'm a little bit extra eager to have this draw as I'm had some dull achy pain going on in the right side of my chest the past month or so, and, after going through cancer, I think that every ache or pain is cancer rearing it's ugly head.  I'm sure it's nothing as going to my chiropractor and getting adjusted along with some massage therapy in my right shoulder seems to have helped things.  I have my next CT in January, which is right around the corner, so I'm eager to have that done too.  Kinda wish I could have it done now (like, tomorrow) so I could now that my lungs are OK and that I don't have to go through two months of slowly building scanxiety.  I know, I know, perhaps I'm a bit of a hypochondriac and that there's probably nothing to worry about, but still ... I wanna know.

So, it's been awhile since I've posted.  Been busy with "real life" stuff.  I have more than enough things built up that I want to write about, so this is likely to be a long one.  Or a series of posts to get a lot off my chest.

First off, I want to talk a bit about irrigation.  Irrigation continues to kick ass.  It's been part of my daily routine now for almost six months I think.  It's a hassle in that it takes 30 minutes out of my day, every day, but I get it back in spades -- it allows me to not think about having a colostomy and I go about merry way, which allows to focus on all the petty concerns I have about of real life.  Other things that are nice -- since you've purged your system in the morning, it's not until mid-to-late afternoon that any gas comes out.  That means no sounds for most of the day.  With a bag, there are always noises.  Not much mind you, but still -- noises.  Oh, and I'm still wearing the Be-band on a daily basis to keep the stoma cap under wraps and to muffle noises.

After doing irrigation for a few months, my ostomy nurse said I could try irrigating every other day.  I was pretty psyched for that.  She said that most people are indeed able to do that, but I was skeptical.  So, I tried it.  About 32-36 hours in, I started having output.  I was at work, and immediately I was taken back to where I was before I started irrigating.  Blugh.  Hated that.  And it was all I could think of.  I irrigated as soon as I got home and said that was it.  I'm resigned to irrigating daily.  Even if it were possible for me to go 48 hours after several months of "training" my colon, I'm not interested in doing that.  I just don't want to have to deal with colostomy bags or having to deal with crapping into them ever again.

Now, even though I'm a big fan of irrigation, and I highly recommend it to any colostomates (yes ... there's a dumb name for people who have ostomies) who are able to partake, it's not all sunshine and daisies.  Irrigation has its problems.  More than a few times I've been burned by the "late return."  I don't know if I'm talked about late returns before (it's late and I'm too tired to look through my blog), but it's when you think you're done irrigating, but you're really not.  You start breaking down the irrigation setup, clean things up, slap on the stoma cap and *whomp* another surge of crap hits.  If I'm lucky, I have a stoma cap on, on that immediately fills (A stoma cap is like an oversized glorified band aid - it's meant to provide a protective barrier for the stoma, and to collect the tiny bit o' mucus that comes out during the day.  While it can collect *some* volume, it's not meant to capture much - that's what the bags are for.)   A filled stoma cap needs to be swapped out immediately, so that eats up supplies (I now get a 4 month supply of caps every 3 months to account for this) and it takes more time with.  Sometimes, the next surge hits before I have the stoma cap on.  That's when things can get VERY messy and it takes even *more* time to clean things up as bleach, gloves and lots of paper towels are involved.  Those mornings are a bit of a drag.  And, on the very rare occasion, there's the double late return.  I don't think I need to explain that one.

But, in any event, irrigation and I are friends.

As far as brands.  I started with the Coloplast stoma cap, but that didn't really let gas out.  At all.  You have a stoma fart, and your cap fills up like a balloon.  It's a terrible design if you have any gas at all.  So, I switched over to Convatec.  Their stoma caps work great.  They let gas out very easily, and there's only a slight odor to it, which is fine to me.  So, in a regular day, the amount of waste that I generate is one used stoma cap, one used irrigation sleeve, and one plastic blue bag.  That's *much* better than the 1-2 colostomy base plates, 3-4 bags and 3-4 disposable bags if you're using a bag.

That's all I have the energy to write about for now.  Long day today.  Looking forward to Thanksgiving on Thursday with my friend's family.  All my family is back in the Midwest, about 2,000 miles away, so I usually celebrate with friends out here.