Sunday, June 14, 2009
A couple of days before having surgery my stoma nurse told me about one of her patients who continued to play rugby after he’d had an ileostomy. I found this hard to believe. As an ex-rugby player I know the physical abuse your body takes during a game. I’ve got the scars to show for it. So the idea that someone would put themselves through 80 minutes of the roughest kind of rough and tumble, with little more than a plastic sporran covering an actual opening to their intestines, was to my mind, ludicrous. Not big, or hard, or brave, but madness. Of course the purpose of telling me about the crazy rugby playing ostomate was to reassure me that as far as physical activities go, having a bag doesn’t mean it’s game over. If you were active before surgery, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be active after it. I’m sure my stoma nurse has a similarly inspirational story tailored for girls. Probably that one of her patients continued to appear regularly as Biffette on Gladiators after she’d had a colostomy. Or singlehandedly sailed around Ellen MacArthur in a cup and saucer. I suppose when you’re staring surgery in the face it’s comforting to hear that having a bag needn’t stop you getting out there and leading a full life. Since becoming an ostomate I haven’t done anything so courageous/mad as actually playing rugby, but this weekend I did enjoy a bit of a kickabout with my brother in my parent’s garden. A rugby ball is like a time machine for us. The moment we get our hands on a Gilbert we’re instantly transported back 20 years. We might warm up with a few sensible passes, but then the old competitiveness kicks in and soon each ball we drill at each other is harder than the one before. Then we’ll work our way through a repertoire of kicks – grubbers, box kicks and drop kicks – trying to make the other fumble the ball. The whole time we were playing I didn’t really think about my bag at all. I was slightly aware of it flapping a bit as I jogged about, but it didn’t give me any problems. The only thing I had to worry about were the evil spiral kicks my brother kept aiming at my head. Some things never change.