Ostomate speaking out to save more lives
can’t contact new ostomates but stoma nurses give them a booklet which invites them to
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.