DEAR ABBY: I am a 54-year-old married man with two wonderful children. Two months ago, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. That was the first shock. Then I learned that I would need to have part of my colon removed and would have a permanent colostomy. I was devastated.
I had the surgery and am healing, but I don't know how to get on with my life. I need more help with self-care than my doctor can give me. I also have questions about intimacy, returning to my career and participating in activities with my family.
Is there any place I can find support from other people who have had this kind of surgery? I feel so alone. -- B.J. IN GEORGIA
DEAR B.J.: You are not alone. There are an estimated 750,000 people with ostomies in the United States, and I am told that number increases by about 65,000 each year. One of them is a woman who works out with me at my gym -- and believe me, she lives a very full life and misses out on nothing in her business or personal life.
You should contact the United Ostomy Association Inc. It's a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide education, information and support for people who have had ostomy or related surgeries. There are many resources available for you. Call the toll-free number, (800) 826-0826, between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. PST. An individual will answer your call and provide ostomy information and referrals to local support chapters and special-interest networks. The UOA Web site is www.uoa.org. It contains information about different types of surgeries, ostomy management tips, patient discussion boards, organizational activities, and links to sources for ostomy products.
Please don't procrastinate about contacting them. It will make a positive difference in your rehabilitation and help you to return more quickly to a full, productive life.