Donating medical supplies. CCGG2017 #8
Blogmas on the CancerCarerChats blog is a daily charitable Christmas gift guide with a twist - each post will feature an idea for a charitable act. Christmas is a time for giving whether it be for someone you know or for a stranger. Take the time at this time of the year to do a good deed, just one small act can help someone who is less fortunate than you are.
As a reminder, my mum was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer in March 2017 when I started this blog to raise important awareness of early detection of ovarian cancer and my life as a carer. I care for my mum, trying to ease some of the load on her and walk by her side on this journey. It’s just as hard to watch someone you love go through pain, than to experience it yourself.
My mum’s treatment for her stage IV ovarian cancer has not been easy, this is because it has consisted of 3 chemotherapy treatments, a 9 hr major operation and then a further 3 treatments for chemotherapy. Her surgery was called Ultra Radical Debulking Surgery which consisted of the removal of many organs where the cancerous tumours had spread. Of these organs, she had a bowel reconstruction where faeces is no longer passed through her anus but instead, through an opening in the abdominal wall of her stomach into a bag. A poo bag! As the ‘diversion’ happens at her large intestine, it is called a colostomy and the site where the poo comes out, a stoma – from the Greek word ‘opening’ by the way. It is estimated that over 13,500 people in the UK have stoma surgery each year. Technology has advanced so much nowadays that you can easily walk pass someone on the street, sit next to a person on the bus, have a coffee in a café and not know that the person next to you has a stoma - they may literally be pooing into a bag right next to you. It's not dirty, it's not smelly or weird, it's survival, for without this life saving surgery and this disability, they could be either in excruciating pain or worse. Stoma bags are designed to be discreet, placed under clothes, with filters to prevent smells and no chance of a leak. It is an invisible disability that you would not notice, so much so that actually I’ve heard people say they have had odd looks from people when walking out of a disabled toilet as not all disabilities are visible.
The stoma is an organ which can change in size and shape depending on the ‘occasion’. As such, as part of my mum’s stoma training, the stoma care team taught us how to cut the opening in the bag in accordance to her needs. At one point, her stoma was swollen and I pre-cut a bunch of bags for her with a large opening and then discovered the next day, that her stoma had shrunk down again. Doh! but we live and learn. When I mentioned this to the stoma care team, they suggested that I bring the unused pre-cut stoma bags into them next time and they would be able to donate the supply to those who are less fortunate in countries such as Romania, Ghana and Afghanistan and do not have the luxury of a stoma bag to hand. Donations can be made via either Stoma Aid on the Colostomy UK website or The Jacob’s Well Appeal via the Stoma Wise website. You can also donate other items such as adhesive remover and wipes, which are all essential supplies and for which you may have an excess of and no longer require.
Thousands of people with a stoma across the world are forced to use tin cans, carrier bags and bits of cloth because they are unable to afford the cost of a stoma bag. In Papua New Guinea, there are only two stoma care nurses in the entire country; in the Philippines a single bag costs a week’s wages. For people with a stoma in developing countries, infection and hernias are extremely common as a result of them having to use tin cans and carrier bags. Many people are left unable to work or leave their home because of embarrassment and medical complications. If you don’t have a stoma, changing a stoma bag is very much like changing a sanitary towel. Imagine not having a pad or a tampon available to you and having to improvise with tissue or something else. So if you have spare stoma bags or even other medical supplies, see if they can be donated or recycled as opposed to unnecessarily perishing.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
T – Toilet habit changes
E – Energy levels dropping
A – Abdominal pain/ swelling
L – Loss of appetite