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Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
In your bag you've got lipstick,
In mine I've got poo.

Row of Handbags

Row of Handbags

Thursday, 14 May 2015

New Froothie Optimum 9400 High Speed Blender

Froothie Optimum 9400

My wonderful new blender arrived this morning! Having done extensive research over the past few weeks on whether I really needed/wanted such a machine (the answer was yes!) and then which machine to purchase, I finally made the decision, and went ahead and ordered it.

I had originally been drawn to the NutriBullet but various reviews online suggested that it didn’t do such a good job at getting things completely smooth, and it really wasn’t as sturdily constructed as the more expensive machines, and also was rather small. I’d rather put off thinking about the VitaMix which everybody has been raving about, on grounds of the cost, but it really is a superb machine and would answer my needs.

While looking at different reviews of this one, I came across one entitled “Don’t buy this blender” on Google, so I hopped over for a look and found myself on the Froothie site, looking at the Optimum 9400, which superficially looks very similar, but which is faster, more powerful and best of all, cheaper! I decided this was the machine for me, and if you explore the site you can see just how impressive it is – it will even crush rocks!!! (Not sure which is more stoma-friendly, though – granite or limestone…)

Since hearing that I needed an ileostomy, I was grieving for all my favourite foods that would no longer be available to me because of their fibrous nature and because they would be likely to cause blockages: fresh pineapple and mango, coconut, nuts, seeds etc. Even though I may no longer be able to enjoy their lovely textures, I can at least enjoy the flavours I have been missing.

Of course, a blender like this does not remove the fibre; it merely pulverises it, so I shall have to be careful, especially initially, not to overdo the fibre intake or it might cause a blockage. I’m going to take it slowly, and my first smoothies will be small in size, and sipped slowly!

I will be able to make smoothies, nut milks and butters, soups, and all sorts of good things. The machine comes with a nice little recipe book full of healthy dishes, and of course there are masses of recipes online.

Now all I have to do is collect together some suitable ingredients and get started!

Friday, 8 May 2015

A Good Stoma Clinic Appointment

The second of two posts for today.

This afternoon I had another scheduled appointment at the stoma clinic. I had spoken briefly on the phone last Tuesday with one of the specialist colo-rectal nurses about my problems with one of the HCAs and asked that I didn’t see her again, so I was a bit alarmed that she appeared to be on duty at the clinic today. I asked the receptionist who I was due to see, and he told me it was one of the CNS’s (Clinical Nurse Specialists) so I was relieved. The receptionist knew me by name, which was nice – but it does indicate just how much time I am spending in that place!!

While I was waiting, Dr. Johnston, the gastro-enterologist came through, and I had a nice chat with him, and while we were talking, my surgeon, Mr. Pullan, also turned up, wearing his scrubs! We all had a nice chat, and he said how well I was looking after my operation. I told them both about the six months of chemotherapy that I am facing and they both wished me well, and agreed that I have to look on it as a positive thing, making sure that all the cancer is gone for good. Nice to see my two favourite consultants!

My hubby was still parking the car when I was called in for my appointment. I was able to have a more detailed conversation with the nurse about the problems I had experienced with the HCA and she said she was sorry this had happened. I told her that I did not like to complain, but I felt it was important to let her know how things were, in case someone else was also affected, and I also had the opportunity to give her some specific examples. I repeated my request that I did not see that HCA again. I was glad my hubby was not there because this sort of thing makes him very uncomfortable (not that I enjoy it much either!) and he would much rather I left things alone and put up with it, but as I said to him, this is too important, and I need to have confidence in those who are caring for me, and sometimes things need dealing with, however unpleasant it might be at the time; in the long run, the benefits outweigh the temporary discomfiture. I feel very much better for having done it now, anyway, and the nurse was very understanding.

I then told her about the problems I’d had over the past few days. She took the bag off and said I still needed a convex bag. I told her how much I would like to go back to a flat one, because I so much liked the Coloplast SenSura Mio which is not yet available in the convex version, and she said that some people are able to use a flat bag again eventually, because after a period of time using the convex bag, the stoma gets pushed forward more, but it doesn’t happen with everybody. I said I didn’t mind, as long as I could have a decent convex bag, and I would certainly want to use the SenSura Mio convex if and when it was available.

New Coloplast SensSura Mio Bags

She had another HCA helping her, who was also lovely and not at all like the other one! She made several trips to the cupboard for supplies for me, and the first convex bag they produced (can’t remember the name) I rejected almost at once, because the tail was horrible and it was a fiddle to undo, and like the OakMed one, it only had one rigid plastic strip so I could see myself getting output all over my hands again. The nurse suggested the Coloplast SenSura Convex Light bag – this is the convex version of my original bag, and I jumped at that one.

Coloplast SenSura Convex Light Bag

The tail is identical, and I really like this. It has the two rigid plastic strips, and when you press their edges together, the bag springs open beautifully, and I like the Velcro fastening wings too. This bag has a good viewing window, with the outer cover being divided so that you can lift it, and the top half of the bag under the cover is transparent. This is better than the Salts bag which was only transparent over the stoma itself. Another thing I like about the SenSura bags (flat and convex) is the fact that the edge of the flange is transparent, so you can see if a leak is advancing towards the edge, and deal with it in time.

The convexity is softer, and less pronounced than on my previous bags, and this is a good compromise between the rather hard and rigid deeper convex flanges and the flat bag.

Coloplast SenSura Convex Light Showing Ccnvexity

One slight disadvantage is the paucity of measuring rings on the flange, which makes cutting it to size a bit more difficult, but the nurse gave me the backing sheet from the bag she put on me, to use as a template. She cut the hole circular, not worrying about the slight bulge on one side of Kermit, and said that it shouldn’t be too tight a fit, or the stoma might develop granulomas (small nodules which form as a result of friction from the bag) and these can bleed a lot. She cut the bag to around 28 mm.

I told her I was running out of some of my supplies, so in addition to supplying me with plenty of the new bags, she gave me a new pack of Conti wipes (these are the dry wipes that you can use either dry, or with water, and they are larger than a lot of the wipes supplied by the manufacturers of stoma care products, and you can cut them in half and get double the amount!), and plenty of barrier wipes (which the previous HCA had considered unnecessary!!).

Pelican Protect Plus Barrier Wipes

I haven’t tried these Pelican barrier wipes, but my first adhesive remover spray was by Pelican and I liked that very much.

Finally, she gave me some more banana flanges to replace the few OstoMart ones I had left. I said I didn’t like those much because they made my skin itch (there are some small red spots where they had been) and she said she didn’t like them much either – a lot of patients had experienced skin irritation from them because they are far too sticky (even with adhesive remover spray they are very hard to remove) and do not allow the skin to breathe. She produced some by Salts instead.

Salts SecuPlast Banana Flanges

Salts SecuPlast Banana Flanges 2

These are thinner and more flexible, and although they look rather opaque when you first apply them, with the warmth of your body they become more transparent and adhere better than initially. They contain aloe vera and are a lot more skin-friendly than the OstoMart ones. Eventually I would like to get the Trio silicone ones through my supplier because these are a dream to use, but the nurse said they don’t deal much with Trio, because they only do accessories and the GPs are apparently pressing them to cut down on prescribing too many accessories. (The other HCA was just dismissive of Trio products and said, “We can’t stock everything…” and “I saw them at a trade fair and wasn’t impressed…”)

Trio Banana Strips

These banana flanges have backing papers on both sides. You remove the first one and apply the banana flange as normal, and then remove the top backing sheet, exposing a wafer-thin transparent strip which flexes with your skin and is breathable. I love these!

When the nurse removed my bag, she used plenty of adhesive remover spray without my having to ask her, and she peeled it off slowly and gradually, and I felt quite relaxed about it. She had no problem using barrier wipes either, but said the powder should only be used if the skin irritation was so bad that the surface of the skin was broken and moist, because otherwise the powder would not stick.

She said that we should now be thinking about getting a prescription set up for me, so that I can start receiving supplies via a home delivery service. I quite agreed, but said that things were still constantly changing, which was getting pretty boring! She said there was no point in setting up a prescription if the next week it had to be changed again! She has made another appointment to come in three weeks’ time, which will be on the same day as my follow-up appointment with Mr. Pullan, my surgeon, and hopefully by then, things will finally have settled down.

She warned me that the chemotherapy might affect the stoma – not necessarily its size or shape, but quite likely the output, which can increase in quantity and become much more liquid. She said I may need loperamide (Immodium) to help with this, but I said if I could correct the problem with jelly babies, that was preferable! (How I wish jelly babies were available on prescription!!) For the moment, the output is quite thick, which she was pleased to hear – although I did say I thought my blow-out this morning was partly due to pancaking because it was so thick!

As we left, both the nurse and the HCA were very sweet, and the HCA said, “Nice to see you again.” I said to my hubby on the way down, “What a great appointment! That’s how it is supposed to be!” I certainly didn’t feel like that on the previous two occasions! Coming out this time, I felt I had had a very positive experience, my questions and observations had been listened to carefully and responded to in a considered way; the atmosphere was friendly, and there was decent dialogue. Should be expect anything less?

My First Blow-Out!

The first of two posts for today.

Shoshi has ARRIVED! She has had her first blow-out!

I had major problems this morning. I woke to find my first blow-out!!! It was very thick, fortunately, and hadn't penetrated beyond my nightie, but it was on my right hand, and one very strange thing – I wear 2 silver rings, one on my thumb and one on the 2nd finger, and both these had gone a dark copper colour as a result of the reaction with Kermit's output, but I've polished it off with silver cleaner and all is well again. When I was in Iceland all my silver jewellery went black from the sulphur fumes constantly in the air there from the volcanic activity, but this was a coppery brown with a few patches of blue-black which looked like blued steel. Interesting reaction between digestive enzymes and silver!

The top right of the bag as I look down had blown out and there was a great splodge of poo sticking out! When I got up and cleaned myself up, I noticed that the moat around Kermit had returned somewhat – it’s worse at the top when I'm standing, where my tummy is sagging a bit forward. So I've gone back with a Salts convex bag again. Thank goodness I'm seeing the stoma nurse this afternoon, so I'll be able to discuss the problem with her. I'm also very glad that each time I've changed the type of bag I'm using, I have kept the remaining ones and not returned them to the clinic.
It's a real pain in these early days when everything is still shifting about and one's shape keeps changing!! Sometimes I wish I was Tin Man and had a nice rigid stomach to stick the bag to.

I think part of the problem was that last evening my skin was itching, not immediately around Kermit (although of course the skin is quite irritated again this morning) but I'd put a banana flange on (Ostofix large frame from OstoMart) and I really don't like them – they are hard to get off even with adhesive spray remover, and they do seem more itchy than the bag, and I had peeled it back a tad so I could have a good scratch, and the edge of the bag came up too – I pressed it all back firmly but the seal in that place may have been a bit compromised. Also, yesterday at lunch time my hubby made us a huuuuge cheese omelette (I keep on to him about portion sizes but he keeps giving me too much food, and I can't get over the childhood injunction to "eat up everything on your plate" lol!) and I think the eggs may have bound me up a bit. The poo was quite thick (good thing, actually, or it would have spread much further) and it had pancaked a bit, and a lot of it was at the top of the bag, and the pressure probably caused the blow-out. So I'm not 100% convinced that the SenSura flat bag was the problem. I was lying down, of course, so it had no reason to flow to the bottom of the bag and keep Kermit clear.

One amazing thing – as I woke up I was vaguely aware of a slight poo smell and thought it was drifting along the landing from my hubby's bathroom. There was barely any smell at all. I am now using a combination of a short spray of 3% hydrogen peroxide and a fresh mint tic-tac in the bag each time I empty, and it really does eliminate the odour!

I am hoping eventually to be able to have the Trio silicone banana flanges from my supplier – these are so fantastic. They have backing paper on both sides, and after you've applied the banana flange, you remove the top backing paper to reveal an ultra-thin, highly flexible and transparent flange which is practically invisible and which moves with your skin. Their silicone products are amazing.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

More Bag Problems and Changing Body Shape

Over the past couple of days I started to get some itching again, and last night when we were out, it got so bad that I couldn’t wait to get home and take the bag off and see what was going on.

The skin was quite irritated again so obviously there had been some contact with output from Kermit E.G. Robinson. I cleaned the area thoroughly and applied some Head & Shoulders shampoo which I left in contact for a few minutes (zinc content very good for skin problems) while I measured Kermit again – he now about 28 mm in diameter with a slight bulge – and cut a new bag to size. Once the H&S was rinsed off I prepped the area well with stoma powder and barrier wipe, and applied the new bag.

Within a short time – after I had put all the stuff away, of course! – I realised that there was a problem with this bag too, and pressing on the flange, realised that it did not seem to be sticking down properly, so I got everything out again and took it off.

This time I examined Kermit closely, and the surrounding area, and noticed that the “moat” which had developed recently and which had caused so many problems with leaks, had virtually disappeared. The stoma nurse had given me some Salts convex bags to help with this problem, and they were no longer working properly.

I decided to go back to one of my original Coloplast bags, with a Hollister ring, and also added a banana flange on the side nearest my tummy button, where there is still a crease in my abdomen where the first leaks occurred, and was pleased that for the rest of the evening everything seemed to be OK.

It is now mid-afternoon the following day, and so far so good! The itching has disappeared, and there don’t appear to be any leaks.

I shall be delighted if this situation lasts, because of the several bags I have tried, it is the Coloplast that I like the best. Fortunately I had several left when I was transferred to the convex ones, and when I see the stoma nurse tomorrow I shall discuss this with her.

The Hollister ring is rather thick, and I was a bit concerned that together with the bag flange, it came all the way up to the top of Kermit and I thought he might leak underneath again rather than outputting straight into the bag. Ideally what I would like is to use one of the new Trio silicone rings with the Coloplast bag – these are much thinner and automatically shrink to the size of the stoma, providing a good seal. I shall see what the nurse says tomorrow.

I am particularly pleased because the original Coloplast bags I was using are now available in the updated model which I like even better, with their very nice new covers, and I do hope I shall end up being able to use these permanently, and eventually get my home delivery set up, with these, the Trio rings, and also the Trio banana flanges which are brilliant – really thin, and transparent too.

I want to get this all sorted out before I start my radical chemotherapy which is due to begin perhaps next week. (See the Cancer Diary page on my other blog for full details of that.) Once the side effects of the chemo kick in, I am sure the last thing I shall feel like doing is messing about with bag problems.

This is quite a rollercoaster ride, getting the right bag and accessories and a good fit – one minute I’m “up” and feeling we’ve finally got it right, and the next I am in the pit of despair and wondering if I’ll ever get this sorted! Eventually I know I will, and a year from now I shall probably be doing it in my sleep and looking back on this time with amazement. It’s just getting there that’s the problem!

The changes are due to my body settling down after surgery. The swelling from the operation is going down, Kermit is shrinking, and also my weight has been changing a bit. I lost about a stone (14 lb) in hospital, and then, when I came home, because my dear hubby will keep giving me delicious and tempting little pots of desperately fattening puddings, and the fact he needs continuous lessons in portion control lol – I gained about 7 lb! I also battle with the habit of “finishing everything on my plate” with which I was indoctrinated as a child – I hate waste! – if it’s on my plate, I will eat it!! Anyway, I am working on this, and so far have managed to lose a couple of pounds. I am not dieting as such; before the operation the surgeon had told me to hold off my diet until everything has settled down and I am better, because my body needs the nutrients for energy and healing; but I do want to eat as sensibly as possible and not undo all the good I did before. After he told me to stop the diet, and with the postponements in my surgery, I managed to gain 7 lb before going into hospital!

With all these changes to my body, the shape of my stomach is bound to be in a bit of a state of flux. The operation wound now forms quite a valley vertically down my belly, and I have noticed that I have developed a couple of “love handles” running diagonally downwards from my hip bones since the swelling has reduced – some internal bulk has been removed with the colectomy, and together with the weight loss, there is some sagging of my belly. Gravity, gravity, all is gravity… Maybe the NHS would be good enough to give me a tummy tuck if I tell them it’s for the benefit of Kermit E.G. Robinson? Hmm.. I don’t suppose they will! I thought it was jolly mean of the surgeon merely to laugh when I asked if he’d scrape out all my tummy fat while he was in there – all he said was, “No… I’m afraid everybody asks us to do that!” Shame.