Leanne Hammond has taken to Facebook to talk about a very common but overlooked health problem. At 18, she had noticed changes in her bowel habits and was experiencing cramping and pain. After testing, it was discovered that she had 100s of polyps in her large bowel. After months of surgeries and complications, she was left with a stoma bag.
What shocked Hammond the most was how common this experience is an how little anyone was talking about it! Hammond explains, "For so long people had been asking me what happened and why I needed operations and people didn't realize how sick I was after my operations and they didn't understand why I needed surgery so I sat down on Saturday and decided to write out everything from start to finish and I'm in so much shock the response I've gotten, I've reached over 56,000 people and I'm getting mails off girls who will be getting faced with a bag shortly and I'm so glad I can help them."
Here's the full text of her inspirational post:
From the very beginning, I was an average 18 year old girl from Dublin. I was always very healthy throughout my whole life, loved nights out and having fun however I started noticing changes in my bowel habits, cramping and also bleeding, so eventually in 2014 at age 18 I attended my local doctor for a blood test and discovered I had a low Iron count and Vitamin B12 which was an indication to an absorbing problem and along with the my bowel symptoms I had my doctor decided to send me for a colonoscopy and an endoscopy (a camera down into my stomach),about 7 months later I received my appointment for the hospital to have these procedures done the following week so on the 27th of February 2015 aged 19 I had my colonoscopy and endoscopy.
To everyone's surprise, doctors discovered 100s of polyps in my large bowel and one polyp in my stomach which was very rare and there was no sign of bowel problems in my family previous to me. They removed 20 of these polyps during my colonoscopy to biopsy in the lab. I got the results back 8 weeks later when I found out the biopsies had come back abnormal, my world crashed down around me as I thought why me? No 19 year old should be faced with this. I was later transferred to another hospital to have a genetics test done, which then I was diagnosed with the condition FAP (Familial adenomatous polyposis) a genetic colon cancer but it was not genetic in my family, I was the first to develop this condition.
Within weeks I had met with a surgeon because surgery was the only answer to cure and remove these polyps as my bowel was carpeted with them and I was told it would only take one of these polyps to turn cancer before It would be too late, so we discussed surgery to remove my bowel and I found out I was going to need a temporary ileostomy. I was terrified and so upset and worried what my body would look like, I was upset because I didn't think my life would be the same, would I be able to wear the same clothes that I wear now? Can I eat the same food I eat now? So many questions ran through my head.
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As the weeks past and the anxiety was slowly worsening I realised .. Instead of worrying about the bad things I started looking at the good things and dealing with it in a positive way as this surgery was going to save my life. I was back and forth to the hospital for different scans and then 3 months later my surgery was scheduled and I went under an 8 hour surgery on the 10th September 2015 to have a total coletomy which meant I had my full large bowel and rectom removed and I also have a J-Pouch formed using my small intestine which was left to heal inside and this is the reason why I needed a temporary stoma, after my surgery I didn't improve and everyday i got worse, on the 14th of September I was taken for a CT scan which showed I had a parastomal hernia and my small intestine had twisted which was the cause to my nausea and vomiting because it had stopped my output into my bag, later that evening my surgeon made the decision to bring me down for emergency surgery, from then on everyday I started improving in hospital , I was slowly back eating a light diet.
I was discharged from hospital 10 days after but things got worse when I got home, I suffered with back pain which caused many problems as I found it difficult to walk for more that two weeks, I was then taken into A&E and my doctor suspected a clot in my lung because I had server pains but thankfully everything came back clear. I had a very bumpy recovery which was so terrifying, I saw no end to this pain and I started regretting ever having the surgery done in the first place, my body went through trauma because this was such major surgery and also the first surgery I had undergone and I was so afraid, but now I'm 9 weeks after both operations and I'm doing great and I love my bag, I adapted to emptying and changing my bag almost straight away, I wear the exact same clothes as I did before surgery and the bag is never noticeable, I also eat and drink the same as I did before, I also hope to return to work in a few weeks.
I'm so grateful for my stoma because it saved my life and gave me a second chance to do all the things I've wanted to do! All along I was worried about how I would feel about my bag..but in the end my stoma bag was the easiest part of it all and I wouldn't change my experience because it has made me a stronger person! I hope to inspire other young people to believe that ostomies are not the end of the world and a lot more people have them than you realise.
I knew nothing about ostomies before my surgery and now I can't believe how common they are. I'm waiting for my 3rd and final surgery in the coming months to have my bag reversed and to live with my J-Pouch, but I know in the future if my J-Pouch stops working I won't be afraid to face a permanent bag because Ive had the chance to live with an ileostomy. Everyone's experience is different but it's so important to look at the positive side to everything. Without the support of my family, boyfriend and friends I wouldn't of gotten through my struggles the way I did. I'm proud of how far I've came and how well I'm doing only weeks after such major surgery.
Leanne Hammond x
What a courageous young woman! It takes serious bravery to speak up when no one else is!
Are you coming to terms with a difficult diagnosis? What do you wish people would understand?
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