Thursday, 16 February 2012
I’ve gone slightly off-piste with the last couple of blogs – talked about nurses and their importance, and I’m glad I did, but I should go back to the chronological adventures of having a bag, and if I remember correctly, and I do because I just read back and checked, I’d just got to the point where I was getting over the surgery. And now it was time to go home and start my new life.
My son was about to turn 18. And when I say about to, I mean seriously about to – like, less than a week after I got home, and I felt ill-equipped to celebrate. Clearly we weren’t going to be able to go out anywhere; I’d just had major surgery and anyway, leaving the house with my bag was a huge, scary thing that I was absolutely not ready for yet. He asked if he could have a party. Actually, I lie, he pretty much told us he was going to have a party, and though we could have forbidden it, it didn’t really seem fair. He’d been through a lot; his mother had a bag that she’d promised she was never going to have, and he’d been coping with 6th form, preparing for A levels and dealing with fears about his mum for such a long time, how could we not let him have a party to celebrate getting to 18 relatively unscathed? Of course we said yes. He could have 20 people. And although I wasn’t much looking forward to being stuck in my bedroom waiting for my husband to come home from his gig while my teen and 20 of his teenage friends partied downstairs, I felt it was fair enough and I would just have to shutup and cope. I felt a bit panicky about bumping into one of the teens in the loo. I didn’t want anyone walking in on me as I was emptying the bag; I’d have to remember to lock the door, and then there were all the accoutrements, I didn’t want to leave those lying around for teens to wonder at. He’d only told his closest friends about what was going on, and I didn’t want to open him up to questions he wasn’t ready to answer. But I’d cover all that. Now that I’d thought of those things, I’d head them all off. It wasn’t going to be my idea of fun, but my son would be having a good and celebratory time, and that was what was important.
Within 24 hours, 20 people had more than doubled, and when I expressed a bit of concern over logistics, what with me and the bag and all that, he looked at me aghast.
‘You can’t be here.’ He said. ‘I’m 18. It’s my party. I can’t have my parents here.’ He said it with such assurance that I didn’t even question him. Of course I couldn’t be there. I had to go somewhere else. I’d have been out of hospital for 8 days on the day of the party, and I had to leave not just my bedroom but my actual house so that a teenage party could occur. I wasn’t worried about the party – these teens are an unusually lovely bunch and were guaranteed to only throw up into some kind of receptacle, smoke nothing more than weed (we’d have to hide ours), and I was pretty sure a few of them would stay behind and help clear up – no, I was worried about me. I’d foreseen several weeks of lounging in my bed, getting used to my new plumbing, venturing out for the odd lunch after a month or so had gone by … but now I had to go out on a Saturday night in less than a week. I was scared. And I couldn’t lay that on my son, so I moaned to my husband and my friends and the guy who rung up to offer me a great deal on a new phone contract. I have a very good friend who lives around the corner – our children are close, and her daughter was coming to the party. She’s a very forthright person; you don’t mess with her, and when I finally got around to complaining to her (she has a proper job and isn’t always available for moaning at at irregular hours, like some of my other friends) she told me that I would go to their house. Her daughter would come to my house to party and I would go and hang out on her sofa with her and her husband and my husband would join us when he got back from work. I still felt a bit scared; I love my friend and her husband, but I didn’t want to leave the house without a husband of my own, so my one cancelled his gig and together we left the house on Saturday night as what seemed like hordes of teenagers dressed in the party’s theme of ‘the 90s’ (does that make you feel as old as it made us feel? Nostalgia about the 90s, for goodness’ sake) streamed up our street. There were Spice Girls and characters from the first Toy Story film; there was Princess Diana arm in arm with Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction. As we got into the car – yes, to go around the corner; I was just out of hospital, you know – we nearly ran into the Powerpuff Girls. I took one last look at the house and off we went.
It was lovely at our friends’ place. I lay on the sofa, we watched movies and ate dips and pitta bread like we were at a very small, low-key party of our own. I even had my first joint since surgery, which interacted quite amusingly with the pethidine but I won’t go into that now. And all the while I was aware of my bag slowly, quietly filling up. At about 11.30, I could feel it expanding, and I placed my hand over it, acutely aware of it getting fuller and bigger and I hadn’t been at this long, what if it burst? What if I got poo all over our dear friends’ sofa? Their 20 year old son was with us too, and though he was aware of what I’d just had done, he was 20 and he didn’t need to know any details; he certainly didn’t need to see an adult he’d known most of his life with the contents of an ileostomy bag gushing all over her skirt, and onto the sofa he was used to lying on as he watched telly. And besides, I like him; I didn’t want to put him through that. I didn’t want to put me through that. And yet I said nothing. I moved about a bit, thinking of the best position to be in when the inevitable bag bursting happened, and finally blurted out to my husband that we needed to go home as my bag was really full.
My friend looked at me like I was insane. ‘I thought the whole point of this was that you could empty the bag.’ She said. I nodded, yes, that’s right. But I needed to empty it now, so I should go home and do that. ‘Why can’t you empty it in my toilet?’ she demanded to know. And she made a fair point. An obvious point. A point that in my distracted madness, I hadn’t even entertained. Of course, I should empty my bag in her toilet. I could empty my bag in any toilet; it didn’t have to be the one next to my bedroom at home, otherwise my life was going to be as compromised with a bag as it had been without one. Except that the pain was gone; that was good, but not great if I was still at home all the time. My blinkered stupidity is somewhat excusable if you remember that I’d been home in bed for three and a half years; that I’d only had my bag for less than a fortnight; that the concept of going out was still slightly anathema to me, and though I’d got my head around that enough to finally leave my bedroom, go through the actual outside and hang out at a friends’ house nearby, the whole toilet thing was something else. But she was right, my dear friend. I could empty my bag in her loo. So I did. I went upstairs to her toilet and emptied it and of course everything was fine and I no longer needed to lie on the sofa wondering how bad it would be when my bag emptied itself all over it.
Back downstairs, with an empty bag, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment, and happily went on to laugh and hang out with my friends like everything was normal. Which I suppose it kind of was. And when we finally went home in the early hours of Sunday morning, the party was just breaking up, a few kids had stayed behind to help with the tidying, as anticipated, and only one girl had been sick. Luckily, she’d had no problems doing it in our loo.