Just get out there and do it!

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. In between working full time, I have been planning, packing up for and carrying out successful hikes of a few of Colorado’s famed 14ers. This hasn’t left much computer time for blogging. Stay tuned for an entry and video highlighting these ascents soon!

Until then, suffice it to say that so far my ostomy has caused me no issues in returning to the things I love again. I spent a lot of time in the hospital and at home during recovery wondering how in the world I was going to get back into outdoor activities with a stoma and appliance. I have finally discovered the simple answer to this question: just get out there and do it!  Of course, you must keep in mind what is sensible in your healing progression, but beyond that, the answers of how to how to deal with your ostomy while you are out there will present themselves as you go. The will to succeed and enjoy your favorite activities again will go a long way in helping you overcome any challenges you might have.

Scaling the upper flank of Mt. Harvard, a Colorado 14er, on July 3, 2011.

The Nature Nook

Today I went in for a visit with my stoma nurse for a very minor skin irritation issue. Her office is right next to the hospital where I had my surgery and also next door to my surgeon’s office. As I was pulling into the parking lot, I realized I had not been back to this area of medical establishments since mid-March. Quite a record after driving there every couple of weeks for four months while I was preparing for and healing up from my ileostomy surgery. As I drove by, the tiny park next to the hospital caught my eye.

I had some complications after surgery due to my body being difficult and stubborn in its healing, which required some additional hospital stays. At first, I had no idea this little nature-nook-of-a-park even existed. One day, knowing of my love of the outdoors and my somewhat anxious state during one such hospital visit, my surgeon phoned my room and told me that the weather was gorgeous and that I should head outside to visit this place.

Though it was nice outside, it was a bit chilly and I had left my jacket in the trunk of the car before checking in to the hospital a few days prior. I also had a large drain hanging from my butt cheek. Not the most ideal situation, but I had been given permission to go outdoors!!! Nothing could have stopped me. As I headed through the gate of the park, and situated my sore butt carefully on the bench, peace came over me. It was winter, so there were no leaves on the plants, and I only saw one bird up in the branches. Still, this tiny bit of nature provided just the soothing effect I needed. For the first time since checking in, I found my mind wandering away from the hospital to thoughts of future adventures. I wrote in my journal for a while, soaking in the sunshine and fully enjoying the moment until the cool air finally hastened me back inside. I returned to my room feeling rejuvenated and hopeful.
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A wonderful community of people

I just returned from a four-day backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was an amazing adventure with some unique challenges including some extremely cold temperatures, deep snow and National Park Service requirements to pack out our human waste due to the winter conditions. We shot lots of footage for our next film, so stay tuned!

On a separate topic, last week I went to my very first local ostomy association meeting, sponsored by the Ostomy Association of Metro Denver. I had intended to go much sooner, as I am sure it would have been very benecial right after surgery. Unfortunately, during those first couple of months, I had a few healing hiccups and didn’t feel up to it. After that, other scheduling conflicts always seemed to crop up. Finally, things lined up and I headed to my first meeting.

I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect, but those fears quickly vanished as I found myself among some of the most welcoming people I have ever met.

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Packing for a trip: could GORP come along? (feat. new video)

It is crazy what goes through your mind before surgery. Of course, I was worried about all the big things like how painful surgery would be, and how well my stoma would function, and if I would have any complications. But many times, other goofy little worries would pop into my head that should not have been on my radar screen. One of those was whether or not I would be able to eat GORP.

GORP, or good old raisins and peanuts, was a staple of my wilderness diet. I would create all sorts of great mixes with dried fruit, nuts and a variety of chocolates and candies. Yet nuts and raisins are both on the list of foods to be cautious with when you have an ileostomy. I feared that I would never be able to take one of my favorite treats into the wilderness again.

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The “what-if” Game

People can be good at all sorts of games. Some are awesome tennis players, and others play a mean game of poker. A few might even be able to pull off an amazing backbend to win a Twister tournament. I am great at the game of “what if,” and wish I wasn’t so competent at it. I find that my mind constantly likes to worry itself over how I will handle some challenging aspect of having an ostomy.

This week, despite no differences in diet or timing, I had a nightmare appliance change. The second I took my wafer off, my stoma started to spew like crazy, and it wouldn’t stop. Minutes whizzed by, then an hour, as I went through half a roll of paper towels trying to keep up with the mess while still trying to make progress with the change. As the clock struck the two-hour mark, I finally had successfully placed a new pouch on. At that exact moment, my mind also decided to play the “what-if” game.

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