Diagnosed, and then what?

For a period I had blood in my stools and strong pains, and in December 2005 I was diagnosed with rectal cancer. Everything went very fast once I was hospitalised. I got my diagnosis and treatment suggestions within 2 weeks. The cancer tumour was first to be treated with chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy - and then a stoma. My reaction was: “Better a stoma than a coffin”. That’s how I am, I wanted to move on and refused to let fear and grief lead me because I have in no way finished living.

"The stoma care specialist has been incredibly helpful."

Already at an early stage I was contacted by the stoma care specialist who gave me information on what a stoma is. I knew well what a stoma was, but I did not know anyone with a stoma. Before surgery, I met the stoma care specialist again to measure out where to place my stoma. We both agreed on where, and the stoma was placed so I could use the same clothes as before.

The stoma care specialists were incredibly helpful during the whole course. Even though I was confident about taking care of my stoma when I was discharged from the hospital, they came and visited me at home. It felt very safe.

The air has to come out..

I had surgery twice. In the first operation I had my stoma made, and shortly afterwards I was re-operated on and had my rectum removed. It is tough to go through chemotherapy, radiation therapy and two operations, so it was an advantage for me that I’d always been in good shape.

Although I was well prepared, it was hard getting used to the stoma. One of the first nights after surgery, there was too much air in the bag and it leaked. At that time I had no positive expectations to the life ahead of me with a stoma. Luckily the nurse reassured me, explaining that it was additional air in my intestines due to surgery, and I have never had accidents since.

Although I sleep heavily, I wake up if there is air in the bag, which is usually after a few pints in the pub with my friends. My bowels work very regularly. Most of the time I can control the emptying every morning by sitting down on the toilet just like before I got my stoma. The only difference is that the stools are in the bag.

The everyday life with a stoma.

I am now completely accustomed to my life with a stoma which is not different than it would have been without the stoma. I pay so little attention to my stoma that on one occasion after a bath, I was nearly finished dressing before I realised that I had forgotten to put on my stoma appliance. Simply because I do not think about the stoma being there anymore.

I have always done a lot of swimming, and I still go to the swimming pool followed by a sauna. I have had no problems with that at any time. I use a mini-cap, a very small stoma bag which most of all resembles a round band aid and nobody notices it through my hipster bathing trousers.


For Tania, deciding to have an ileostomy has allowed her to return to doing the things she loves best.


Emily is thankful for her surgeon and her stoma because she is alive.


Heather has been living with a colostomy and ileostomy since 2017.


One week after Grant's 60th birthday he was diagnosed with cancer.