A patient who underwent surgery for bowel cancer at University Hospitals of Derby and Burton has been dressing up his stoma bag in a bid to raise awareness of bowel screenings and remove the stigma surrounding stomas.
Steve Smith discovered that he had cancer following a routine bowel screening in August 2018, which showed that he had a lump in his bowel. In October 2018, Steve underwent a robotic procedure to remove the cancerous lump from his bowel and was then fitted with a stoma bag.
A stoma is often needed following bowel cancer procedures, and it involves diverting one end of the colon (a section of the bowel) through an opening in the abdominal wall. A pouch is then placed over the hole (the stoma) in order to collect faeces.
Steve has since embraced his stoma bag but can understand why many patients struggle to get used to them.
He said: “My sister suffers with Crohn’s Disease and she had a stoma bag fitted and it took her a while to get used to. So I decided to decorate mine to show people that you can still lead a perfectly normal life with one.”
Since his procedure, Steve has decorated his stoma bags in a number of themes and says that he has been able to help raise awareness of stomas and the importance of bowel screenings: “I’ve had a really good reaction to it. People have told me that they think it’s funny and have been telling me that they can’t believe how I’ve just carried on following the procedure. I’ve also had many people asking me about how I found out that I had cancer which has allowed me to tell more people about the bowel screening service and it’s encouraged people to be screened.
“All I keep saying is; ‘If in doubt, get checked out’. It’s not the worst thing in the world but it can have a massive impact.”
Steve also helped to raise more than £800 at a charity auction at The Blue Bell in Kirk Langley which he plans to donate to both Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK.
Marie Buckley, Stoma Clinical Nurse Specialist, has praised the work Steve has done: “Living with a stoma plunges the patient into this unsafe uncertainty that requires a period of psychosocial adjustment. Support encouragement and acceptance from family and friends alongside a rigorous follow up pathway provided by stoma care practitioners, allows for a smoother transition and return to daily activities of living.
“Steve is helping to create a culture of acceptance and normality regarding bodily functions and stoma bags. Bowel screening is an important diagnostic tool in the early detection and treatment of bowel cancer, but with this new technology comes a fear of 'what might be'. He has demonstrated what can be achieved once this fear is removed.”
Bowel screening is currently provided under the National Bowel Screening Programme for men and women aged between 60 years and 74 years, who are resident in Derbyshire and registered with a GP.