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Lawrence "Dutch" Keen

- United States

Have ostomy surgery or die. I think I made the right choice.

Before retiring from engineering, I traveled the world with my job. I had been on assignment in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the night before flying home to Texas, I had a restless and uncomfortable night. The next morning, I noticed some rectal bleeding, but chalked it up to hemorrhoids. On the long flight home, I noticed more bleeding and was very uncomfortable. Once back home in Houston, I went to see my health care provider the next day. He examined me and advised that I see a surgeon. The surgeon didn’t have good news. There was a tumor in my rectal area, which turned out to be colorectal cancer. The surgery was supposed to be somewhat minor – simply to cauterize the tumor. But because of the location, the surgeon had no choice but to perform radical colorectal cancer surgery. I was beginning to adjust to the colostomy when I developed a small bowel blockage. I headed back into surgery for a small bowel bypass.

Would I prefer to have gone through this stage of my life without the complications of a colostomy? Of course. But it was better than the alternative that my surgeon first offered.

Since those surgeries, I successfully managed my engineering career until I retired recently. I lived in several foreign countries, including Japan, Korea, Venezuela, Mexico and Trinidad. I’ve snow-skied in Austria, snorkeled in Hawaii, visited St. Peter's in Rome, drank Soju in Seoul, Korea and visited temples in Japan. Today, I play golf, albeit poorly, when I can. Four years ago, I suffered a stroke which left me a little less able to handle my colostomy, but I manage. My wife of 52 years is always ready to help if I have problems. Would I prefer to have gone through this stage of my life without the complications of a colostomy? Of course. But all in all, it was better than the alternative that my surgeon first offered, "Have the surgery or die!" I think I made the right choice.

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