I was only in my mid-30s, a mother of small children and in a full-time career when I discovered blood in my stool. I simply did not have the time to worry. After a while, I started to feel pain. I went to the doctor. In just a few weeks, I had been diagnosed with cancer and had undergone surgery.
My whole life changed completely. I got a stoma, a bag on my stomach, and then I had to focus on healing, getting used to a new life and taking care of my children.
When the cancer was gone and I had recovered completely, the ostomy bag was removed – I was able to empty my bowel naturally again. But it was much more difficult than before the operation. The muscles didn’t work, and I suffered from accidental bowel leakage – I leaked stool, which became a huge source of anxiety. I used diapers and tried to cover them under my trousers at work. I was off work often and eventually went on long-term sick leave due to depression.
The expectation of me was: “be happy that the cancer was gone”, but my whole life revolved around poo and worrying about faecal incontinence
It was not only my stomach that didn’t work; my vagina became dry and I often got fungal infections. My sex-life ceased completely for several years. I lost hair and felt ugly and old. It was heartbreaking not to join my children and watch them play football. But risking leakage when standing next to other parents was too embarrassing. My doctor prescribed different diets, anal plugs and inserts, but my life just went downhill. The expectation of me was: “be happy, the cancer has gone”, but my whole life revolved around poo and worrying about bowel leakage.
My physiotherapist was compelled to ask how I really felt, noting that my physical condition was poor. I broke down and told her straight out about my present situation. I’ll never forget the words when she said "But Susan, there is help, you should not have to live like this".
There is help, you should not have to live like this
She helped me with an appointment with a gastrointestinal specialist. I was introduced to Transanal Irrigation (TAI); water is introduced into the bowel and empties it of stool, no medication is involved at all. At first, it felt scary with all the tubes, but when I practiced the technique it was actually not a big deal. I chose an electronic system that stored my settings and allowed me to optimise and automate the process.
I now perform irrigation once a day and my life has completely changed for the better. I can breathe a sigh of relief that the cancer is gone; I’ve started working 50% and now I can even drive the kids and their friends to training and games.
I have simply gotten my life back with something as simple as TAI.
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