The Ileostomy

My sister-in-law’s experience with cancer continues to be quite challenging.  After the initial nightmare of surgery and associated complications, she was released home with an high output ileostomy.  This in itself is quite challenging for the obvious reasons.  She never ever anticipated having an ileostomy, the lifestyle change that it has required is quite significant.  The care and maintenance required are very demanding and she has had more than her fair share of challenges in managing this device.  The ileostomy is reversible but only after she finalizes her chemotherapy treatment.

The chemotherapy treatment has been hard on her over and above the anticipated side effects. With her first treatment my sister-in-law had quite a reaction to the chemo cocktail even before leaving the hospital.  Her hands as well as her neck had turned a bright red – luckily a nurse spotted the reaction and she was whisked back into the Cancer Treatment area and provided with intravenous medication to counteract the allergic reaction she was having. This was her first experience with chemotherapy and it wasn’t even a full dosage, it was a reduced dosage of  75% of the normal amount administered, so likely a good thing she didn’t get the full dose.

She has her chemo treatment every other week.  Shortly after receiving her first round my sister-in-law was experiencing another issue related to her stoma – the opening for her ileostomy.  It was quite swollen and painful, and the fluids passing had diminished significantly consequently she was worried about a blockage.  Prior to getting the next infusion of chemo, she wanted to make sure that there would be no more adverse effects on her stoma as well as ensure that all her medical team was aware of what she was experiencing or if there was cause for concern.  Her GP and surgeon advised her that she should be able to have the chemo on schedule and that she should inform the staff at the oncology suite prior to commencing her chemotherapy.

Once at the hospital for her second round of chemo she duly informed the staff about the issues with her stoma.  No one was overly familiar with what she was experiencing; after consultations with three oncologists on roster that day, a decision was made to reduce the chemo dose to 50% as well as provide the preventive meds prior to administering the chemo.  After the treatment my sister-in-law went home, again with the baby bottle attached to administer more chemo over the course of 48 hours.  Thursday past was when she went to the local hospital to have the baby bottle device removed.  By this time her stoma was quite painful with sores as well as extremely swollen.  When the baby bottle came off there was a fair bit of blood in the ileostomy which was quite worrisome.  A quick visit to the surgeon eased her mind somewhat but not entirely.  He was satisfied that her ileostomy was not blocked since some fluid was still coming out, but thought that she may have developed a condition known as mucositis in the gastro-intestinal tract.  There was also a suggestion that they may have to drop her chemo down to 25% dose since she is so sensitive to the meds. This is where she is at now, trying to get a definitive about the mucositis and a prescribed treatment.  Today seems to be a better day, and in speaking to her she sounds a bit more optimistic and the swelling seems to be lessening.  It’s hard to keep spirits up since every day there seems to be a new challenge but she certainly is trying to look forward and ahead and just get through this.