Annie Gammell’s Story

My colostomy story began when, at age 56, I discovered that I had late-stage colorectal cancer.  A large tumor was discovered during my first colonoscopy, and it was cancerous.  Thus began a long journey that eventually led to colostomy surgery on my 64th birthday.  After the initial surgery to remove the tumor and part of my colon and rectum, I had radiation and two rounds of chemotherapy.  The radiation permanently damaged my intestines and caused a bowel blockage that required more surgery, followed by years of chronic diarrhea and abdominal pain.  I finally found a surgeon in my home state who cut out some of the intestinal damage and gave me the surgery that infinitely improved my quality of life.

Before the colostomy, I was on a very restricted diet, but I can now eat many raw foods, including what I had missed the most for six years—salads!  It has taken me a while to adapt to changing and wearing the pouch, and I have had some “accidents” along the way.  These are usually caused by my skin allergy to adhesives, which causes the skin barrier to fail when I have had a significant amount of stoma output.  Still, I usually have enough time to get to the bathroom before the leak causes a major problem.  I have, however, received some valuable tips on handling and preventing problems online, because there are no ostomy nurses or support groups near where I live.  I have also shared information on how to reduce skin allergy problems and passed on what has worked and not worked for me.

My background:  I am originally from Baton Rouge, LA, and have a Master of Journalism degree from Louisiana State University.  I am a retired Army officer, having spent 20 years on active duty, mostly as a Public Affairs Officer.  I served two overseas tours in Germany and met my husband when we were both Army majors stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco.  My cancer was diagnosed in 2007, while I was working as a civilian for the US Army Cadet Command at Fort Monroe, VA.  My colostomy surgery was performed by Dr. David Beck at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.  He is also retired from the Air Force.

1 reply
  1. Claudia J. Underwood
    Claudia J. Underwood says:

    I had Endometrial Cancer. Radiation helped to send my bowels and insides to losing my rectum. I lost a kidney and have type 2 Diabetes. Having a Colostomy has been lonely. Not knowing anyone with an Ostomy has led me to do a lot of research and looking for ways to feel like a human being. My Endometriosis started when I was in my early twenties. The history of my disease includes up to more than a dozen surgeries and finally the colonoscopy which showed my disease in full throttle!

    The doctor who did my Colostomy did an awesome job as he was on call and jumped in to help my surgery proceed. I didn’t know I had had a Colostomy until 5 days later. My husband became my nurse and we started this journey together.

    I would lke to know of other ostomates who have had this cancer and developed an Ostomy.

    Thank you
    Claudia Underwood


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