I remember the first time I was able to get out of bed after having the colostomy bag. I looked in the mirror and was mortified, actually terrified. It felt like a scene from a horror movie. I had been cut open (they couldn’t remove all the diseased bowel without a major surgery), bloated, bruised, and the colostomy bag was transparent. Visually seeing your bowel poking out of your guts through a transparent bag was repulsive. I’ll never forget that moment. My Mum said, “It’s like watching a scary movie…the first time it’s scary, but after watching it multiple times, you say, ‘Oh, that old thing!'” God, she was so right.
But before that…
At the end of 2017, an intern doctor (a general surgeon) entered my hospital room. I had encountered her a few times that year. Her name was Alice. She said firmly, “Katrina, that’s enough. I mean it. No one wants to keep seeing you in the hospital. No one wants to keep prescribing antibiotics and draining abscesses for you.” Her firmness almost made me defensive. It felt like she was being rude and bossy. I couldn’t help but burst into tears. I knew she meant well, but it still shocked me. She left the room, and I understood what she meant. It was time for me to have the dreaded colostomy bag.
I’m not exactly sure how it all came together since I was unwell, but I ended up in Sydney for a consultation with a colorectal surgeon who would perform the colostomy bag surgery. The clock was ticking (because I was getting worse), and at the end of February 2018, I underwent the surgery. I was scared and unwell, but I was determined to make this new bag work for me. I was tired of being sick, and if I was going through with this surgery, I wanted to embrace it and excel.
The surgery was life-changing for the better. I put on weight, felt good about myself, could go back out in the world and work again. But it didn’t end there. In 2021, I underwent proctectomy surgery, which involved the removal of my entire rectum and sewing me up. They humorously refer to it as a “barbie butt.” Hahaha. I needed this surgery because even though I had a bag, I still had Crohn’s disease affecting my backside.
That surgery was quite difficult, especially considering I wasn’t in a good mental state at the time due to my marriage separation. Additionally, the surgeon had to redo my stoma, so the recovery was challenging. It took a lot out of me. Am I glad I had that surgery? Yes, absolutely! You have no idea how good it feels to have everything closed up. Does it look strange? Not at all! I’ll spare you the graphic details.
Where am I today? I’m facing yet another surgery head-on. My stoma has a hernia, and it’s prolapsed. This means I’ll have another surgery, but it’s the reality of living with a chronic illness.