Os­to­m­ate speak­ing out to save more lives

Manawatu Guardian - - NEWS - By MERANIA KARAURIA

‘We

can’t con­tact new os­to­m­ates but stoma nurses give them a book­let which in­vites them to

’ join.

Len John­ston is an os­to­m­ate with new de­ter­mi­na­tion for the Oc­to­ber 6 World Os­tomy Day theme, Speak­ing out, chang­ing lives.

He's speak­ing out to reach new os­to­m­ates to join the Palmer­ston North Os­tomy So­ci­ety.

A stoma is an open­ing cre­ated by os­tomy surgery, in the ab­domen.

For most os­to­m­ates a pouch is worn over the stoma, a pros­thetic added with surgery, to col­lect stool or urine.

“We can't con­tact new os­to­m­ates but stoma nurses give them a book­let which in­vites them to join.”

Len says they buddy-up new os­to­m­ates with those in the group. He's also speak­ing out to draw at­ten­tion to be­ing an os­to­m­ate, with Palmer­ston North hav­ing the fourth high­est of os­to­m­ates in the coun­try.

Len, an os­to­m­ate for 12 years, says the way he looks at it, he was given an ex­tra life he would never have had.

But Len's health sta­tus changed when he was di­ag­nosed with stage 3 myeloma bone mar­row can­cer on Au­gust 30.

“It felt like some­one had slammed the door shut.”

But his de­ter­mi­na­tion is to keep go­ing, do as much as he can, and to raise pub­lic aware­ness of bowel can­cer.

The 71 year old says chemo­ther­apy is “keep­ing things at bay”, and he has praise for the Palmer­ston North Hospi­tal and their treat­ment over the years.

Len says he's been dead four times and this is his 68th visit for treat­ment as an os­to­m­ate.

As he faces a fi­nite time, Len is philo­soph­i­cal and says his wife Mary is his rock.

He looks back at his life as an en­gi­neer and where he be­lieves the can­cer first took hold in his body.

“I was weld­ing and grind­ing met­als. In the 60s we did not wear breath­ing masks or ear muffs — they came in the 80s.”

Len also points to the chem­i­cals that peo­ple use, and “any­thing we breathe goes into our lungs and into our blood”.

But for now, he's speak­ing out to in­vite peo­ple to the Palmer­ston North Hospi­tal main foyer on Oc­to­ber 5 and 6 where

■ Palmer­ston North Os­tomy So­ci­ety meets 10.30am ev­ery sec­ond Tues­day at the Es­planade Cafe and new os­to­m­ates are wel­come.

There are about 6000 peo­ple in New Zealand who are os­to­m­ates. For more in­for­ma­tion: www.os­tomy.org.nz

Len John­ston is speak­ing out to change lives.

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