Making the most of life after a total pelvic exenteration

On April 3, 2007, I had a surgical procedure at MD Anderson called a total pelvic exenteration. During the procedure, Dr. Michael Bevers removed my vagina, bladder, anus and rectum. Then, he made an artificial vagina using two of my abdominal muscles, and an artificial bladder (known as an “Indiana pouch”) out of part of my ascending colon and small intestine. He also created a stoma (or surgical opening in the abdomen) for use with a colostomy bag, which collects stool outside the body. That surgery might sound pretty radical. But when Dr. Bevers suggested it, I didn’t hesitate. Due to a recurrence of uterine fibroids, I’d already had a total hysterectomy. That’s when my surgeon discovered I also had cervical cancer. I had six rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation therapy to treat it. Only 13 months later, the cancer was back. I was only 42 at the time, and I wanted to give myself the best possible chance of survival. So, I decided to go for it. In retrospect, I had no idea what was in store. Even after looking into it, I didn’t really have any concept of what life would be like afterwards. And you can’t know, unless you’ve actually experienced it. But I’ve always been a positive person. So, that’s the way I’ve tried to look at this. The total pelvic exenteration was just part of my path. And I was going to make the best of it. Life after my total pelvic exenteration The first four years after my total pelvic exenteration were the hardest, because I kept getting urinary tract...