The last few days have sort of normalized regarding wound care for the MEAT FLAP.


Nothing has changed. It looks the same as the first day I removed the dressings to take a peek. The only difference I could see was a greyish creamy matter at one end of the opening. Any changes, to me, are to be regarded with suspicion and concern for more potential complications.

I had put in a call to a resource referred to me by the bedside nurse after my procedure called “Wound Care Clinic”. She listened patiently to Matt’s description of what the surgeon told him to do to care for the incision, then she said, “There are better ways”, like in this whispery, far-off, mystical tone.

“Better ways,” Matt and I repeated looking at each other. Huh. She wrote the contact name and number down on my discharge instructions, and away we went.

Then, after a few days of this seemingly ridiculous routine of Matt performing his interpretation of what the doctor instructed him to do each morning and evening, we decided we needed to see this Wound Care specialist.


Florence Nightingale

Today Matt and I went to the Wound Care Clinic at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center. The nurse, Sue Wilson, was like a refreshing breeze. She was the Florence Nightingale of Good Sam. She kept reaching out to put a tender hand on my wrist or hand, to express reassurance, that she was truly sorry that I’d had to endure the disease and procedures that I had, and she wants to help as many patients as she can take the complication out of their post operative wounds. There were a number of patients waiting to see her in the lobby.

She listened to Matt regale the story of Dr. Childs and the meso-rectal envelope and the stoma-gone-wrong to the hernia “blow-out” and repair surgery, then the instructions that Dr. Tseng had given to care for the “meat flap”.

Florence, I mean Sue, proceeded to lay me back on the exam table and examine the unbandaged wound. “Well, it looks great,” she said, mildly impressed. “It’s a clean cut, consistent color; it’s been well cared for” (I gave Matt a high-five later). Then she warned me she would clean and poke around to inspect it, that it may hurt. I noted that I don’t really feel hurt with this one. Apparently, in ostomy sites, which this was, nerves are damaged and it’s common that people will not feel pain. (That was our first ah-ha moment. That’s why I did not need my pain meds much after the surgery!)

Then she cleaned inside the wound, and to our surprise, a 5-inch long Q-Tip slid easily into a channel under the skin about 2 inches (Ayayay!). That’s where the infection track went. An infection leaves a trail, like snails do! (Another ah-ha.) Or at least like a train track.

She noted the measurements; how deep the tissue was, how long the incision, how far the channel went…

She then introduced a product that is seaweed (kelp?) -based. It looks like angel hair in a bag. With this, instead of packing with gauze, it helps the tissue stay nourished and it absorbs wound drainage. The name… blah blah, it’s a new one, …KALTOSTAT. Then she loaded brown paper bag of water-proof bandages that I can wear while showering, some Q-Tips, adhesive protection spray (to make it easier to remove the adhesive bandages from my skin) for me to take.


The Last Ah-ha

Now, naturally, I think, Matt and I have been gravely concerned about the cleanliness and preparation of our at-home exam table (the bed) and countertop, hands, etc, to avoid any possibility of introducing a whole new infection to the area. Rightly so. When you cut your finger, you use alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls, Neosporin, band-aids for protection, you name it, on the wound to keep it from getting infected. And if you don’t? It gets infected! And the infection gets worse and worse until you do it right for long enough that it heals up.

In this case, that’s not necessary, it turns out!

Sue said, “You can change your dressings every 1-2 days, and if you shower every day, just let the water run over the wound” (??!?). Yeah; just shower like you normally do, and don’t pay any special attention to the incision (?!?!). Soap and water will not hurt anything, it will be good for the cut to be irrigated by the water (!!?!).

Gah? Totally counter-intuitive, no? I knew that the surgeon just knew something we didn’t or he would have given WAY more specific care instructions. So weird.

Other than that, I feel more energy. Kombucha, green tea, lots of fresh turmeric root, ginger, garlic, water… kind of what I usually do, just more of it. I introduced wine last night for the first time in over a week, and I maintain a strict regimen of ice cream after dinner. I can exercise (walking and not too much upper-body stuff), watch Matt work/play out in the garden. In the next few months we will be eating from home-grown bounty!

Anyway, that’s the short story (ha ha) of what’s been up the last few days.


What do I make of this?


I posted some graphic photos at the bottom of this. For anyone who has a sensitive stomach, do not scroll down to see these shots.


Enjoying a contented, easy day of post surgery rest and relaxation, I had no stress, Matt had made sure I was comfortable and was now onto the work that he’d put on hold to be with me through surgery day. I was being ever so cautious and gentle with every movement so as not to stress my abdomen.


He had volunteered to change my surgical dressings, which were to stay in place for 24 hours post-op. Oh, my angelic husband; he was installing an air conditioning unit, and when it came time I carefully removed the dressings which had soaked up a good amount of fluid from the wound. What I found, I just couldn’t comprehend. I thought, “Did the doctor forget to stitch me up?” There was a surgically clean gash about 2-1/2 inches across my abdomen looking at me like a piece of raw, flayed steak, and underneath that, some kind of matted mass of gauze.


Matt dropped what he was doing and rushed over while questions were reeling through my mind and my mouth. I didn’t feel so well, and sat on the bed to allow some nausea and light-headedness to pass. As Matt prepped new dressings, he explained that the doctor said that this would be the only way this sort of wound would heal, “from the inside out”, and not to panic, it would be ok.


I lay down on the bed while Matt used some rudimentary tools to pull the gauze from underneath the meat flap, which did not want to let go where it was holding on. Oddly, it did not hurt, yet I was in shock from the sight of the gore.


Matt turned on my camera phone and handed it to me and said, “We should film this. Here, take some pictures!” Oh, Matt! I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do less… yet, I knew he was right, I mean, isn’t this a once-in-a-lifetime event, dealing with a live wound on his wife’s belly? So I obliged, making a pathetic mug for the camera, which didn’t take much effort.


After several minutes of gently tugging, the gauze finally pulled free and Matt finished dressing me with the fresh materials.

“I can’t believe they let me do this,”

he mused, referring to the medical staff sending him home with the responsibility of keeping the flesh clean and alive. I couldn’t either. Doesn’t it seem like something a trained professional should be doing given the risk of infection, or flesh necrosis? It seemed like a big responsibility for my husband to take on for me, let alone for me to do on myself??

Baffled, I am!

The hissing in my ears from the shock of the ordeal finally wore off and I napped until dusk.

I felt better when I woke up, but was extra-cautious of my movements now that I knew I had a meat flap to protect!








Grossed Out









Yeah, kind of like that!













Meat Flap


Our Very Most Pathetic Mugs


Gross Gauze Extraction


Surgery for the infection underneath my abdominal skin went as well as it could have yesterday.

Abdominal_Infection_SurgeryMatt delivered me to the hospital and stayed with me the entire time (that they would allow him). He was such a good sport, yet I felt badly that he would have to take an entire day away from his obligations for this little medical hic-up, and worry about me for hours on top of it all. Argh! Well, what could be done?


After a fast from midnight building up to the procedure, Matt & I made it to the hospital on time at 9:00am for an 11:00 procedure. The surgeon was running an hour and a half behind, so it was quite a long wait, but no worry, I could catch up on all the wonky politician statements in the voters pamphlet, ha!


Then the anesthesiologist appeared. Oh good, I thought, we’re getting close. I just wanted to get home. After the hernia repair, back in October 2012, I remember waking up and fighting nausea for hours. That kept me at the hospital until 11:30 at night when my stomach finally settled. I made sure they would mind the anti-nausea medication this time. Ok, it was a deal. Dr. Tseng came in and reiterated the planned procedure. We told him to go take a break and get lunch, we would be happy to wait until he felt ready (he was 1-1/2 hours behind schedule, for some unknown reason, possibly a stressful one!). He laughed assured us he would.


Next think I know, I was in the recovery room (funny, the passing of time). The nurse was buzzing around my bedside and I heard Matt’s voice coming around the corner. All went well, and I passed this test. No nausea to speak of. I ate some ice chips, then sipped some water, then added saltines on top of that. I was out of it, but felt good. About an hour and I took two Oxycodone for some creeping soreness, and got dressed, and we left! It was about 4:00pm; a full day.


The doctor had found some extra suture material under the smaller of the two pimples on my abdomen, which would have made it impossible to fight off an infection, then removed some of the mesh from under the larger pimple. He found no tracks of infection leading to other areas under the skin, so was confident he excised everything he needed to in order to vanquish the infection. Let’s hope. Now I will be “packing the opening” with gauze to draw out fluid as the infection drains. The nurse recommended instead that I see a healing specialist who will have some alternative methods of healing the wound. I guess packing went out of fashion? Not too fond of it, myself.


I felt some wetness on my clothes and the wound had been weeping through the bandaging and all three layers of clothing, already! I think this is good? My body is expelling the infection? I am not to change the dressing for 24 hours, so I packed on a hand towel and pulled up a fitted cotton skirt to aid holding it in place. I looked as white trash as possible with my hot pink tank top, short, fitted skirt and bulging belly bandages. Ha!


It was such a beautiful, sunny day, a good day for recovery on the couch! And Matt stopped at the grocery store to buy some salmon and halibut to barbecue. It was peaceful at home. I snoozed for a while. We watched The Social Network, which we enjoyed. Even though we were both tired, we had a lovely date!


Fingers crossed, now we wait and see. Only if the infection does not go away or the hernia reappears will I be back in the hospital.


Infected sutures from my prior surgeries are creating a complication today.

My next surgery happens tomorrow morning.

Let’s back up.

The 3 weeks of antibiotics prescribed to me took care of the infection in my hernia area for a few days. Then it came back. GRRR! Well, I had to expect it would happen that way, as it was foreseen by the fates. So, less than a week after the antibiotics ended, a pimple formed where an old one was. Then over time a redness appeared in the hernia scar itself and grew to a large pimple and opened up again. Ok, we’ve got to take care of this. Now.

My hernia surgeon is not on my new insurance plan, so I scheduled consultations with two alternate surgeons to get their opinions. Their opinions were in agreement on the approach to clean out the sutures and mesh from the hernia repair, thank goodness, and I scheduled a procedure for tomorrow! Rest assured, it should be a minor procedure. My surgeon wants to put me under, so he can really get under the skin and make sure he understands the problem and gets rid of all infected material. Ok, I don’t really want to be aware during that. Very likely that he won’t replace the mesh.

The hernia may not come back, but it could. It could come back tomorrow or it could come back any time in the future. Then it can be repaired – again – at that time. But tomorrow it will be an in-and-out procedure. I will come out of OR (the operating room), then once my vitals prove stable I can go home, probably mid-afternoon, then back to business the next day. Ok, I can deal with that.

The surgeon who provided the second opinion cautioned, a full fix on this hernia could take “a while”. Yeah, I kind of figured. It’s quite amazing how complicated these hernias can be to fix. You could have a handful of surgeons review the same situation, and have a handful very different opinions on how to fix it. There are lots of material and technological options for surgeons to use, and there are a lot of body types among patients. Every patient will respond differently to a chosen treatment.

So, it seems to be a moving target.

Wishes of luck will be appreciated! I will update here once I am out.


Not back to normal, but can’t complain.

It’s been 2 years since a rectal cancer diagnosis, and nearly two years since accompanying surgeries and following hernia event. Life has seemed more normal at times, and at times less normal. All in all, nothing really to complain about!

Normal days I will go on walks, enjoy a good wine or beer with Matt, keep busy with chores, work on hobby art, etc. Then there are moments when I am concerned with a stubborn sore on my hernia scar that won’t heal, a lumpy and scarred Franken-belly, most uncomfortable diarrhea and gas, night sweats, hot flashes, persistent insomnia, anxiety, foggy brain.


Hope that doesn’t happen to me! Frankenbelly

Let’s back up. Starting last summer I had a rogue suture from my closed-up ileostomy hole spring out of the skin on my belly. The suture was meant to be permanent, not absorbable. It poked out like a bee stinger, but didn’t give me any problems, really. In the fall, one year after the surgery, it was yanked out by my hernia surgeon. It healed over, and that was that. Until a few weeks later, a pimple formed and opened up, and it refused to go away.

Another month or so and a large pimple formed along the hernia scar. Jeez, what now? I called the hernia surgeon’s office, concerned, and they advised me to apply heat and try to get it to open up. It did not, but the top layer of skin became so stressed that it cracked and peeled off. Over a week, the skin became raw and then the pimple opened up and refused to go away for a month, continually oozing. I kept cleansing it and dressing it, waiting and waiting for my new insurance plan to kick in. Besides that, it was not painful, itchy or a bother, I only worried about it getting infected.

1 ½ months altogether, insurance kicked in, and finally I was able to see my GP, Dr. Yeh. Turns out I had a staph infection which would require  one week of antibiotics, and my hernia surgeon, would have to look at it again. My healthy, fit alter-ego told me, “Oh, no! Not more antibiotics! I’m being punished!!” I sincerely loath medications.



Ok, well now that I have a new insurance policy, my old hernia surgeon, Dr. Reger, is not covered so I had to find a new one, but before I did, his office cautioned that this infection might mean a whole new surgery.

I visited the new surgeon and lo and behold he pulled two gigantic, wiry sutures out of my abdomen, left over from the original hernia repair.


Sutures in a stuffed bunny.

Side note: Jeezus! What is it about my abdomen that makes people want to poke things into it and dig around?? It’s so creepy! Every doctor I’ve seen within the last two years, it seems, can’t help themselves, they’re almost drooling as they’re hovering over my naked ab. “Hmm, there’s a hole here, let’s see where it goes, what will fit in there, what comes out of it? Fluid? Wires? Innards? Hmm!…” AAAAH! NOT cool! If Matt was there in the exam room with me, he would no doubt hit the ceiling!

When there was nothing left to pull out of that hole, he moved onto another one, but nothing came out of there. I didn’t understand why he was extracting the sutures, but then he explained that bacteria follows foreign bodies, like sutures, mesh, etc. Sometimes antibiotics are disabled by these foreign objects, and bacteria are harbored along side them. That’s bad. So removing the sutures was good (not pretty or comfortable, but good). Then he put a gigantic gauze patch on me and prescribed two more weeks of antibiotics and a two week follow-up visit. Good lord, I hope this ends soon!

No formal complaint, getting back to normal takes a while, but no more surgeries, please!


Frustrated-Angry-medical-billingRegarding medical billing, this continues the saga.

This has been a pain in my a** since the diagnosis. I hired a medical billing advocate last year whom I optimistically believed could help me with my crappy insurance plan. Maybe guide me through approaching medical billing offices and my insurance company about unfair billings, and possibly win me back some of the medical costs.

Nope. All the money I won back I did on my own. I was tired of it, too. Wasting time on hold, writing letters of complaint, examining EOB’s, bills, statements… After a while, I just paid the balances, and eventually avoided seeing doctors altogether. Thanks to the broken medical insurance system and my being forced into an inadequate insurance plan years ago, then no hope to change it. I realized I had no control over what would get billed to me. Receiving surprise bills for procedures, doctors, treatments, etc, which should have been covered and having to contest every bill, I was tired. Yep. Not cool at all, especially for a cancer survivor.

This year I was given the hope of starting a new “Cadillac” insurance plan with no regard to pre-existing conditions that was *affordable* because of Obamacare and my insurance broker, and I was going to wait for it to begin before getting anything more done!

Kiss my A**, Assurant Health ~ Hello Moda! 

ARTICLE – Colorectal Cancer and Younger Adults

Colorectal cancer is getting more attention from the science community


The medical community is shining more light on the causes behind the spike in colorectal cancer diagnoses in younger adults. This article was sent to me by family friend and local surgeon, Dr. Earl Schuman. Because cancer is now a part of my life, as with some of my peers and my generation of family, it’s worth sharing:

Colorectal cancer incidence rising sharply among younger adults

By: SUSAN LONDON, Frontline Medical Communications

SAN FRANCISCO – The incidence of colorectal cancer is rising sharply among younger adults in the United States, a study showed.

Researchers analyzed Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data for 383,241 patients in whom colorectal cancer was diagnosed between 1975 and 2010.

The results showed that the age-adjusted incidence rate of colorectal cancer fell steadily among patients aged 50 years and older at diagnosis, lead author Dr. Christina E. Bailey, a surgical oncology fellow at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, reported in a poster session at the annual Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium. But the rate rose among younger patients.

The annual percentage change in the age-adjusted incidence rate of colorectal cancer during the 35-year period was a significant –0.92 in the cohort overall. In stratified analyses, the annual percentage change fell significantly among patients aged 50-74 at diagnosis (–0.97), and aged 75 years and older at diagnosis (–1.15). But it rose among patients aged 35-49 at diagnosis (0.41) and especially among patients aged 20-34 at diagnosis (1.99).

The findings were similar for colon cancer separately (with strongest results seen for disease that was distant at diagnosis) and for rectal/rectosigmoid cancer separately.

A predictive model suggested that if the observed trends persist between 2010 and 2030, the incidences of colon cancer and of rectal/rectosigmoid cancer will rise by 90% and 124%, respectively, among 20- to 34-year-olds, and by 28% and 46%, respectively, among 35- to 49-year-olds.

Much of the decreasing incidence among older adults “can be attributed to the fact that screening is recommended beginning at the age of 50,” Dr. Bailey commented in an interview.

“We saw dramatic rises in the predicted incidences of both colon and rectal cancer in our younger cohort that point out that further studies need to be done to determine why this is happening and what can we do now to prevent this trajectory from occurring in the future,” she said at the symposium, sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Likely explanations for this sharp uptick, she suggested, include increasing population levels of obesity and physical inactivity, and consumption of a diet high in fat and red meat – factors implicated as risks for colorectal cancer.

Another possibility is that primary care physicians are now more alert for this cancer in young patients with symptoms such as rectal bleeding, which previously may have been attributed to conditions such as hemorrhoids, delaying diagnosis until an older age.

Recommendations still call for routine colorectal cancer screening only in those patients younger than age 50 who have risk factors such as familial adenomatous polyposis and Lynch syndrome, Dr. Bailey noted. And even though the incidence is rising in the younger age groups, it is still considerably lower than it is among people aged 50 years and older.

Dr. Bailey said she had no relevant financial disclosures.



How to care for the pancreas


Happy pancreas

Since learning of high blood sugar results from my annual physical, I looked up articles on caring for the pancreas.

The internet says, what pancreases like:

-      Fresh lemon juice first thing in the morning, then throughout the day (acidic fruit, yet the body treats it as alkaline)

-       Lots of fruits and vegetables

-       Lean foods, low fats

-       Beans, brans, fibers, gelatin, pectin, agar

-       Green tea

Dr. Yeh reminded me told me to eat a healthy diet and stay active. The American diet usually means heavy dinners, but this is not always best. Try to spread dinner out to smaller portions over a longer period.

Then, my mother-in-law heard on the news that everyone in America is pre-diabetic (I assume, besides those who are diabetic already). REALLY!? Why don’t you hear about this? And why would I not believe this stat? Even some of the healthiest people I know still include candy in daily diet, sugar drinks, alcohol, refined sugar and carbs. Kids trick-or-treat, have birthday cake, pop, candy with terrible ingredients and are rewarded with doughnuts larger than their heads… no wonder we grow up to be diabetics. frowny-face-high-blood-sugar

And most people aren’t “the healthiest people”, yet they live long, comfortable lives, assuming they don’t die from diabetes or cancer or vehicle accidents… Maybe this news of “high blood sugar” on my annual physical blood test is not so alarming. Maybe I can not panic about it.

So, with that in mind, my revised diet strategy is *less* ice cream, alcohol, sugar at snack time. Less quantity of food per serving with more small snacks. At least to start out, and then move into a more refined diet plan. Then I will live a long, comfortable life, assuming I don’t die from diabetes, cancer or some kind of vehicle accident!scoop-of-ice-cream

The result?

So far, after a week, I feel better! Less gas, less diarrhea and discomfort at night. That’s the biggest difference. I still eat a little too much quantity at dinner (I am quite the cook), yet compared to the previous extravagant meal and dessert routine and glass(es) of wine with accompanying discomfort, I do feel much improved!

Of course, few will argue that food is a culture. It is my culture. Matt & I eat well and we feed people who visit us very well, like *good* food. Anything in moderation, and so that is the key with this new diet plan: moderation.

Pancreas: What say you? I guess I’ll find out at the next annual physical!


Meeting the new primary care physician for my annual physical went well, but some discouraging results…


New primary care physician!

Recently I changed my primary care physician. Matt and I met Dr. Susan Yeh last year when I made an urgent trip to the doctor due to one of many bladder infections I had been getting since the 2012 rectal cancer surgery. My nurse practitioner, Cathi, was not available then, but Dr. Yeh was. I was in amazing discomfort, so we could not afford to be choosy. We learned that Dr. Yeh (pronounced ‘yay’) had a specialty in colon issues (!!), AND she is covered by my insurance plan (!!!). What a jackpot!

I saw Cathi for my physical once again after that, and my feeling was, as a cancer survivor, that I am a vastly more complicated patient this year than last, particularly my colon and rectum. Time for a change. I would miss Cathi, but I needed Susan.

Dr. Yeh performed my latest annual physical, and I felt in good hands. What a relief. I could ask questions about my digestive quirks that I didn’t know who else to ask, and she could give me answers – even more, a whole range of “could be’s” relating to my body since the cancer treatments. Why are my stools runny at night? Why so much gas? What are the lumps on my belly, and what’s with the stitches poking through my skin? Since she understood the procedures used during my surgery and treatments, she could ascertain what was going on in there. Then she spent extra time with me to catch up on everything she should know of my history. 

When she went over my blood test, I scored high on blood sugar, possibly for the 2nd, 3rd year in a row. That’s not a mark you want to score high on. It’s not in the “pre-diabetic” range, but still, it’s high!

What the hell? This sucks! What’s happening to my poor body?

I can’t deny that other people my age and older (even younger) all over the world are going through this same reality check at this time of life that our body parts are wearing down. Things aren’t working ‘like they used to’. Yet my expectations of my own body are high. Higher than high blood sugar! I’m very discouraged! Especially after recovering for the last year from a major illness!!

Dr. Yeh tells me, with age it’s expected that things may not work as well as they did before. For different people some things wear down earlier and some later. Eyesight, hearing, memory, joints, liver, hair gets grey… Things wear out. It depends on family genetics, personal habits, environmental factors, etc. It is the pancreas which processes carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and it produces insulin in response to regulate sugar in the blood. Then, in a matter-of-fact tone, her advice is to keep eating a healthy diet, lots of fiber, but not too much to cause gas, and stay active.

Huh, that’s it?

I drove home slowly, a bit dazed at my new mortal imperfection.

Oh my god! My pancreas is sick!?

I could not stop thinking of it after leaving the appointment. My mind was going over and over all the naughty sugar trysts over my 40 years of living:


- all the trips to the 7-11 candy isle during my babysitting years…

- all the overeating of sugar, cake, ice cream…

- all the alcohol over the years…

Sugar highs, eating till I was ill, movie candy, Ben & Jerry’s by the pint, late night Voodoo Doughnuts… I’m not sure how I am not 300 pounds today! Oh, what have I done?!

What can I do? Will my poor pancreas forgive me?

GUEST BLOG – Finding Beauty in Cancer

Friends of Kimberli – Finding Beauty in Cancer


Finding Beauty Photo Shoot

This is a blog written by Kimberli Ransom, a professional photographer diagnosed with breast cancer. I met her because of our mutual friend Dan Betenbender. Dan told me I should connect with her, which I did through her blogsite, and possibly offer resources or support from my own experience with rectal cancer.

As with other cancer blogs I follow, Kimberli’s has a beautiful strength and openness and a desire to share her feelings, experiences and how she copes very creatively. I like her blog because she writes about a rich set of friends who share their expertise to help her express her fight. They contribute photography, fashion, poetry and other media. I think she is really giving her immediate community an opportunity to participate and learn, like a large-scale art project. An opportunity where all will come away with deeper connections with each other, and a deeper understanding of their feelings toward life and mortality. Really cool.

This post, The Real Thing Shoot, is a collaboration with her friend Paige, a photographer, shooting one of Kimberli’s chemotherapy sessions, and particularly capturing the tension, emotion and humorous moments between Kimberli and the hospital staff. Paige had had a major illness herself and had lost a family member to cancer, as well, and was particularly astute in capturing the light moments and the anxious moments. It is too big to add here on my blog, but very worth visiting her blog.


Kimberli with staff

Teamwork very well done.


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