Melissa Marshall's Bag of Tricks and Ostomy Tips

Sparkle for a Cause  Podcast

Three new colors were recently added to the No You Cant'cer butterfly collection, making it a fantastic time to remind everyone about what each color stands for and where all the proceeds from your purchases go. You may order these necklaces HERE and each one comes within the No You Cant'cer CD.

Royal Blue

Colorectal Cancer, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Addiction Recovery, Alopecia, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Apraxia, Arthritis, Brachial Plexus Injuries, Charge Syndrome, Child Abuse, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Colitis, Cri du Chat Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, Dysautonomia, Dystonia, Epstein-Barr Virus, Erb's Palsy, Familial Polyposis, Foster Care, Guillain Barre Syndrome, Histiocytosis, Huntington's Disease, Hydranencephaly, Ichthyosis, Koolen-de Vries Syndrome, Krabbe Disease, Leukodystrophies, Mastocytosis, Myalgic Encephalopyelitis, Myositis, Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Pompe Disease, Restless Leg Syndrome, Transverse Myelitis, Turner Syndrome, and West Nile Virus.

Light Pink

Breast Cancer, Birth Mothers, Breast Reconstruction, and Nursing Mothers.

Fuchsia (Limited Edition)

Breast Cancer, Birth Parents, Cleft Palate, Feminism, Breast Reconstruction, Nursing Mothers, and Pro-Life.

Opal

Lung Cancer, Blindness, Bone Cancer, Bone Disease, Congenital Cataracts, Dating Violence, Emphysema, Hernia, Gay-Teen Suicide, Invisible Illness, Mesothelioma, Multiple Hereditary Exostoses, Multiple Sclerosis, Osteoporosis, Postpartum Depression, Severe Combined Deficiency Disease, Retinoblastoma Cancer (Eye Cancer), Right to Life, Scoliosis, and Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia.

Black

Melanoma, September 11th Remembrance, Narcolepsy, Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, Sleep Apnea, and Sleep Disorders.

Teal

Gynecological Cancers, Addiction Recovery, Anti Bullying, Agoraphobia, Anxiety Disorder, Batten Disease, Bone Tumor, Cervical Cancer, Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, Dissociative Disorders, Ectodermal Dysphasia, Fibular Hemimelia, Food Allergiea, Fragile X Syndrome, Interstitial Cystitis, Knee Injury, Marker X Syndrome, Martin-Bell Syndrome, Military Sexual Trauma, Myathenia Gravis, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Ovarian Cancer, Panic Disorder, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Polycystic Kidney Disease, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency, Renal Cell Carcinoma, Sexual Assault, Scleroderma, Tourette’s Syndrome, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Tsunami Victims, Uterine Cancer, Vulvar Cancer.

Lavender

All Cancers, Acid Reflux, Anorexia, Bulimia, Craniosynostosis, Eating Disorders, Eosinophilic Disorders, Epilepsy, Esophageal Cancer, Gastric Cancer, Gynecological Cancer, Hypokalemic Period Paralysis, Infantile Spasms, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Pulmonary Hypertension, Rett Syndrome, Small Intestine Cancer, Stomach Cancer, and Testicular Cancer.

Emerald

Liver Cancer, Adreanal Cancer, Aging Research, BiPolar Disorder, Bone Marrow Donation, Bronchiolitis Obliterans, Cerebral Palsy, Childhood Depression, Craniosynostosis, Depression, Dwarfism, Eye Injury Prevention, Fanconi's Syndrome, Fibrodyplasia Ossifican’s Progressiva, Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders, Gastroparesis, Glaucoma, Literacy, Living Organ Donation, Mental Health, Nephrotic Syndrome, Neural Tube Defects, Neurofibromatosis, Organ Transplant, Organ Donation, Mitochondrial disease, Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, Spinal Cord Injury, Stem Cell Research, Tissue Donation, Traumatic Brain Injury.

It's in the Bag

Our informational pamphlets are currently available in dozens of medical offices in several states. We ship boxes to nurses, doctors, and support group leaders who display them as part of their medical pamphlet selection. Inside, we answer frequently asked questions, address common fears, and have information about support groups and the most trusted ostomy companies. The majority of your donations go toward the production of these pamphlets and the shipping costs, as we offer them to those who request it, free of charge. The rest goes to events, such as the No You Cant'cer Night of Stars to Benefit Colorectal Cancer and Ostomy Education or for Melissa to obtain the certifications necessary to be a greater voice within the ostomy community. You may read more about It's in the Bag HERE!

Facebook.com/NoYouCantcer 
Twitter.com/NoYouCantcer 
Instagram @Noyoucantcerfoundation 
Email: Noyoucantcer.Melissa@aol 
Phone: (609) 464-4647

 

 

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  1. No You Cant'cer (Dance Version)

Frequently Asked Questions  Podcast

Today, Melissa will be addressing some of the most commonly asked questions she gets on the blog. Hopefully, it will answer some of yours, as well. 

1. What surprised you the most about having an ostomy? 

The first thing that I noticed was the amazing way our bodies actually work. The capacity to break down the foods we eat and the process our digestion system goes through is truly a miracle. It’s a constant force inside our bodies to keep us moving and living. The only difference is that we have an ostomy and our waste is released into our life-saving appliance, our ostomy bags, instead of through our rectums. 

2. What foods in your diet did you have to cut out after you received it? 

When you first receive your ostomy, even though you could have an ileostomy as opposed to a colostomy, you start with a bland diet. Liquids first, then some toast, broth or yogurt, cottage cheese, jello ect. For colostomy recipients, they are allowed small amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates. But for the ileostomate, it is a much more delicate dance. Usually, it is advised to avoid raw vegetables, especially those that have a stringy consistency such as celery or asparagus. No broccoli, carrots, no vegetables with a skin, absolutely no seeds, nuts, or pits. The stomach does not have the ability to breakdown the composition quickly enough before it is expelled into your small intestine, and it is there that you could suffer an obstruction. This could quite easily send you to the hospital with a medical emergency. But the diet as a whole varies from person to person, so it is up to you, and your medical team, to find out what works for your body. 

Melissa and some of her support group members and the WOCN.

3. What’s your favorite part about the ostomy community? 

Definitely the openness and welcoming feel of the ostomy group. All questions and problems are on the table to be discussed and everything you talk about stays in that room. But once you are with people that are experiencing the same pitfalls or achievements you are, you realize your going to be fine. And now have new friends you might never have had the possibility of meeting. And most importantly, the groups are usually run by WOCN, or wound care ostomy nurses, that know everything ostomy from A to Z . 

4. Has the way you dressed changed after receiving your ostomy? 

I am able to wear predominantly the same clothes as before, although some considerations must be taken into account. I have had to increase the waist size of my jeans so that the firmer part of where the belts lay aren’t pressing directly on my stoma. I have had several leaks due to not realizing this was the problem, so I’ve just simply adjusted and made slight changes no one else would know about but me. The ostomy bag is a stealthy accessory that isn’t obvious under your clothes. I’ve had plenty people try to look me up and down and try to see if they can detect a lump. But my advice is to always be prepared and have your ostomy supplies with you in case of a mishap and a change of undies. Better safe than soiled. 

Melissa and her bag of supplies.

5. You recently became a certified ostomy visitor. What will you do with your certification? 

Now that I am a Certified Visitor, I can help a patient with their pre-op questions and fears, talk to them while they are hospitalized, and also see them at home, while they adjust to their new appliance. My job is to listen to them and help to answer their question with the aid of my experiences and tips that I’ve learned along the way. It is my job to help them see that they will still have a full and happy life.

Do you have any questions? If you do, comment below and Melissa will be more than happy to help.

Facebook.com/NoYouCantcer     
Twitter.com/NoYouCantcer     
Instagram @Noyoucantcerfoundation     
Email: Noyoucantcer.Melissa@aol    
Phone: (609) 464-4647

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  1. No You Cant'cer (Dance Version)

OstoMyFamily  Podcast

This past weekend, Melissa flew to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to attend the OstoMyFamily conference, hosted by Ostomy 2-1-1. There, she met with health care providers and other ostomates to obtain the training necessary to become a certified United Ostomy Association of America Visitor. 

An ostomy visitor has a very specific job in the life of a new ostomate. While nurses and doctors are in charge of the health and recovery, it is difficult to fully understand something that you have never fully experienced. An ostomy visitor can aid in the well being of a patient by opening up to them with their own experiences and listening to their concerns. They are careful to not dispense any medical advice, but to act as a friendly, well educated, ear and help the patient to learn how to not only live with an ostomy, but to thrive. 

Melissa arrived on Oklahoma on Friday morning, giving her time to prepare for the first event…the UOAA Visitor training. The class went over the anatomy of the different kinds of ostomies, the current products on the market, and how to not overstep into the role of health care provider. They were taught visiting skills, how to help people make connections within the ostomy community, and how to help patients and their loved ones adjust to life with an ostomy. Afterwards, Melissa earner her certificate and will now be an official UOAA Visitor. 

On the right is Ostomate and conference attendee Becky Southerland and on the left is UOAA president Susan Burns both wearing a blue No You Cant'cer butterfly.

That night, Melissa was invited to dinner with the Ostomy 2-1-1 president Deb Fox, UOAA president Susan Burns, and UOAA Leadership Advisory Board member Ival Seacrest. They shared their unique journeys toward becoming ostomates and how they have adapted since. They also discussed how their organizations will grow in the coming year and how they might be able to lend their talents and knowledge to each other. 

(right to left) Ivan Seacrest, Susan Burns, Joy Hooper, Deb Burns, Thomas, and Melissa.

Saturday had a more relaxed atmosphere, with the center being open for exhibits and lectures. Joy Hooper, who Melissa had the pleasure of meeting, is an ostomy wound specialist and demonstrated her Anatomical Apron, which shows how the stoma is brought through the different areas of the colon and small intestine and how that affects the surrounding organs. Several companies were in attendance, such as Hollister and Ostomy Secrets, who specializes in special, beautiful, underwear. The lectures gave her a chance to become better acquainted with the health side of the ostomy world.

Melissa, Ival Seacrest, Joy Hooper, and Susan burns. Shown is also Hooper's Anatomy Apron.

But the highlight of the day for Melissa is when she was given the honor of being able to sing the ballad version of No You Cant’cer. 

Melissa left the event feeling more at home in the ostomy community than ever before. She met many ostomates and was introduced to more products and tips that she hopes she will be able to share with all of you. Events such as the OstomyMyFamily conference gives people the ability to interact with other and open new doors, such as the UOAA Visitor certification. 

 

 (L) Ostomy 2-1-1 president Deb Fox and Melissa. (R) Melissa with UOAA president Susan Burns.

As she embarks on this new role, with her new friends at UOAA and Ostomy 2-1-1, Melissa hopes that you will all come along on that journey.

Facebook.com/NoYouCantcer    
Twitter.com/NoYouCantcer    
Instagram @Noyoucantcerfoundation    
Email: Noyoucantcer.Melissa@aol   
Phone: (609) 464-4647

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  1. No You Cant'cer (Ballad Version)

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane 

My first flight after receiving an ostomy bag was an eye opening and trying experience. But through research, trial and error, and finding out what works for me, I now look forward to all my travels. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m on a plane from New Jersey to Florida, the first stop on my journey to the Ostomy 2-1-1 OstoMyFamily 2018 conference in Oklahoma. 

In addition to my ostomy, I have an added condition of a hip replacement, so I always have to go through the specials scanner while also carrying my emotional support dog, Mari. So between the ostomy, the little dog, the new hip, and my carryon, purse, and medical supplies, going through the security checkpoints is never fast, but I have learned a few things along the way that I want to chat about. 

My first recommendation is to obtain a TSA Notification Card. This card is available HERE from the TSA website, free of charge. All you do is print it out, fill out your information, and maybe laminate it for extra durability. While this card won’t prevent any screening, but it’s a way around getting doctor’s notes or having to loudly discuss your ostomy in front of other travelers. It’s a way to discreetly announce your needs with the TSA agents. 

My second tip may be the most important one. Precut your extra wafers and then pack your scissors in your checked luggage to avoid any issues. You are legally allowed to carry your ostomy scissors in your carryon bag on domestic flights, as long as the cutting length does not exceed four inches. However, having to justify your medical need can be difficult and time-consuming. So if you have a special pair that you love, pack them up and check them to prevent any confiscation. 

Once you go through the scanner, chances are that you’ll come out the other side, only to end up leaving your possessions on the conveyor belt and go to a private holding area. You will need to have to explain to the agent that you have an ostomy bag, and then you must rub your hands over your pants where your bag is hidden, and extend your hands. At this point, they will check your palms and fingers for explosive residue. 

It can feel invasive and degrading, but it is ultimately necessary in order for you to board the plane. Being informed and apprised of this process ahead of time is so important for your mental health. Being surprised of these extra steps isn’t advised. And if you do nothing at all, never ever run late to the airport because, depending upon how many TSA agents are available at the time, the process can take up half an hour to complete. 

(Mari-Melissa's Service Dog)

My third suggestion is to always visit the restroom prior to boarding and expel the contents of your bag. The seat belts can be very constrictive, and you never know how long you will need to stay seated, especially if there’s turbulence. 

My forth recommendation is to avoid carbonated beverages completely. This is because when the carbon from the drinks are combined with cabin pressure, it will result in more than usual air being dispersed in your bag and a leak is much more likely. A leak in the plane is the last thing you want. 

My fifth tip is to get a Riksack. This necessary accessory can be ordered HERE. It provides a cleaner way of changing your bag in the small airport bathrooms, should the need arise, and fits neatly into your carryon. Considering the tiny space you have in the lavatory on the plane, it is the most sanitary option by far. You can see my entire review of this product HERE

Speaking of carryon bags, my frequent flights have let me learn how to pack exactly what I need. In order to be as safe and thorough as possible, I always pack one extra pair of underwear and pants, should my ostomy decide to have a mind of it’s own. Let’s face it, a leak can always happen no matter how prepared you are. And in case of any issues, it’s nice to have an extra bag and wafer, or two, all set and ready to go. 

If you do the right research, have the right tools, and find out what works for you, you will travel with the peace of mind to know you have attempted to cover all the bases, or as the case may be, all the stomas.

Melissa hopes that you found these tips useful and informative. But the biggest tip she has for you is to never let your ostomy stand in your way. It's not a death sentence, but a normal, medical appliance that allows you to travel and live your life. Yes it may be new, and sometimes difficult, but it's still your amazing life to live.  

Facebook.com/NoYouCantcer  
Twitter.com/NoYouCantcer  
Instagram @Noyoucantcerfoundation  
Email: Noyoucantcer.Melissa@aol  
Phone: (609) 464-4647

Let Me Count The Ways...  Podcast

Melissa is currently still healing from the proctocolectomy that made her ieostomy a permanent fixture in her life. A large part of having an ostomy is the ability to make light of the realities of the lifesaving appliance you rely on. So to break up the monotony of checkups and medical worries. Melissa is thinking back to all the places she and ostomy love to go. Literally.

As I’ve learned to live with my ileostomy, the most liberating realizations have become my secret pleasures. In a world where people who have a regularly functioning colons and sphincters, humans have learned from toddlerhood to hold their poo until they are in the proper establishments. Given such names as bathroom, restroom, potty, loo, the head…the place is universal with worldwide understanding. Everyone, everywhere in the world has to poop and everyone, everywhere in the world does it in private…except for ostomates. 

So it is with complete enjoyment that I share with you my life with my traveling potty in my pants. 

I wake up and I’m full of poop. I’m in the shower and I’m pooping. I’m driving in my car and I don’t have to pull over because, you guessed it, I’m pooping. 

I‘m having lunch with my best friends and I don’t have to stop the conversation to use the powder room, because I’m pooping. I’m singing on stage and I’m dancing and I’m pooping. (And for the record, I am anything but a shitty singer.) 

I’m on the floor playing with my granddaughter and she has to run to the potty, but I don’t, cause I’m already there. I’m watching a really good movie and never have to run out during commercials because the rules no longer apply. Have you ever been to a huge stadium and the bathrooms are a mile away with a line just as long? Well it’s no longer a worry for me. I’ll hold your seat for you as you wait thirty minutes and miss half the main act.

Oh, and don’t you just hate it when you’re on the plane and have a window seat, and when nature calls, you have to climb over the old woman knitting and the business man on his laptop? Or when the captain turns the seatbelt light on and you need to pray you don’t have an accident? I’m good to go. Literally. 

I can saunter down 5th Ave in New York City, amidst hoards of people trying to find a decent restroom. But I got a smile on my face because no one knows that I have the best and cleanest port-a-potty in the world. 

That’s right…I’m dressed to the nines, drinking fine wines, and dining at a five star, roof top bars, but I won’t miss a shooting star…that’s right, I’m pooping. 

Another full day done and it’s time to crawl into bed. My husband wants sex but I have the best excuse in the world… 

Not tonight, dear. I’m pooping.

Melissa hopes that you found these tips useful and informative. But the biggest tip she has for you is to never let your ostomy stand in your way. It's not a death sentence, but a normal, medical appliance that allows you to travel and live your life. Yes it may be new and sometimes difficult, but it's still your amazing life to live. 

Facebook.com/NoYouCantcer   
Twitter.com/NoYouCantcer   
Instagram @Noyoucantcerfoundation   
Email: Noyoucantcer.Melissa@aol  
Phone: (609) 464-4647

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  1. No You Cant'cer (Dance Version)

Go With Your Gut 

As Melissa heals from her latest surgery, the one that made her ostomy bag a permanent fixture in her life, she took the time to reflect upon the journey that brought her to where she is now, as a life-long ostomate. This is her first blog post since her Bag of Tricks and Ostomy Tips had to take a backseat for her health, but the start of a new chapter in her life and growth as a proud ostomate.

Three days after my Lower Anterior Resection, rectal cancer surgery, my stoma awoke and I named her Steel Magnolia. Many of the support groups I visited and articles I read had informed me that giving your stoma an identity was a crucial part of learning to love your latest body part. But before she and I could get better acquainted, I received a visit from my surgeon, informing me my lymph nodes were compromised and I became a Stage III cancer patient. 

Let’s start at the beginning to my first visit with the surgeon at Sloan Kettering in Manhattan. The initial moments are forever imbedded into mind. When I stepped out of one of the famous New York City yellow cabs, I looked up at the sign on the side of the building. It was then that I heard tympani drums, the ominous da da dah resounding in my head. Two hours later, after sitting in the waiting room, and realizing half of the people there had cancer and the other beside them was the person who had to come with, my name was finally called. 

After what seemed, yet again, like another excruciating long wait, the doc walked in and examined me. She prodded and poked, then told me to dress before escorting me to the consultation room. Anyone who has ever had to have some kind of cancer-related surgery knows that nothing good ever happens there. 

She proceeded to explain my options, which were basically nonexistent. Yet there was one she left out, and since I had already started investigating options for myself, I asked the questions. 

Why can’t you just make it all permanent in this operation? Why do I have to wait to receive the results of my lymph nodes if the tumor is the size of a golf ball? If it’s sitting on my sphincter and the odds are I’m always going to have the ostomy, why not just seal the deal? If the chances of reversal are so low, why cant you just do the protocolectomy and get it over with? 

“That’s pretty radical when we don’t even know what stage you are,” she replied in the cool, calm, and collected voice of a woman who has probably had the same conversation a dozen times or more. 

In that moment, I was reminded for the way Angelia Jolie was praised for her decision to have a double mastectomy due to her BRCA test results. She was applauded for taking charge of her health and her body in that moment. My thoughts and opinions were disregarded in that consultation room. It was then that I wryly considered the phrase, “Go with your gut feeling.” I was put in a position were that feeling was ignored, setting me up for future complications. 

And on day three of becoming an ostomate, I knew that the proctocolectomy had to happen one day. But until the surgery, every day would be a roll of the dice about if I got a hernia, an obstruction, or any other of the “typical” medical issues that happen to ostomates. And instead of the neat and tidy proctocolectomy, I would risk a hasty procedure in the emergency room with a surgeon who didn’t know anything about me and I’d be cut like a fillet of fish. No matter how many rounds of chemo or radiation I endured, that risk was always prominent in my mind. 

After the initial surgery, while I successfully returned to my singing career and developed the No You Cant’cer Foundation, everyone in my life celebrated my reemergence into the world of the cancer-free. Little did they know, it was merely a façade that I had created to keep my world together. Inside my head, the clock was ticking, and the coo-coo bird would pop out every night saying, Made it another day, Made it another day. 

I had, over the previous three years, sought out several surgeons to find a perfect fit. I wanted the security of no longer having to wonder if and when disaster would strike. The dream team I imagined would respect my needs and wishes, taking my lifestyle into consideration, and giving me the autonomy to decide for myself what treatment and procedures I would have. 

Ultimately, Penn Medicine was where I felt comfortable. The team made me feel as if they approved of me being an informed and educated patient, whose opinion on her own course of care was valued. Led by Dr. Nichole Saur, I knew I could trust them implicitly. 

On December 14, 2016, I scheduled a colonoscopy with Dr. Saur, in which they also probed my stoma and small intestine. The procedure was unsuccessful in every way. They were unable to enter my colon, for although I still had the organ in question, it was inert and served no purpose. Well, it wasn’t completely inactive, as I actually still got colitis attacks, which is called Diversion Colitis, something that was only possible in my state of incompletion from the original surgery. 

Upon returning home from the procedure, I was in a great deal of pain and the pain quickly progressed through the night until I was running a dangerous fever. I rushed to Penn Medicine to meet with the team. The entire time I drove, my mind was racing with, “Oh, God, this is it! I’m going to end up in surgery, my luck has finally run out.” And after many tests, they discovered that I had a small tear in my small intestine. They gave me a course of antibiotics and a diet of ice chips to see if the tear could heal itself. But as I recovered, I vowed that I would not only trust my gut, but voice my opinions. 

Before I left, Dr. Saur entered my room and sat beside me. She explained that if my tear were to heal without complications, then we could plan the proctocolectomy I had initially wanted. She understood my profession and she addressed my desire to be as minimally cut as possible. With her on my side, I was able to make a plan. After my tear healed, I made an appointment for a September surgery and made a pre-surgery bucket list. 

I Visited China and Macau, sang as much as I could, built and developed my foundation as much as possible, enjoyed my summer at the race track in Saratoga Springs with all my friends and family, and even attended the AONN+ conference where I won the Hero of Hope Award. I did this all while knowing that right after my granddaughter’s third birthday, I would have to put my life on pause to recover. 

Oh, but of course the best-laid plans never turn out like you want. Just after returning from China, all was initially falling into place. I had been psyching myself up, watching the clock tock down to surgery day, then BAM, CRASH BOOM, I was rear ended by a limousine. 

I suffered a very severe concussion, whiplash, sprained neck, sprained shoulder and sprained shoulder blade. The concussion had caused my speech to be impaired, my eyes and hearing to be compromised, and I was exceptionally dizzy and off balance. With the vertigo and Post Concussive Syndrome, I had to go to physical therapy three days a week, couldn’t work, couldn’t drive, couldn’t think, and couldn’t remember words. And, you guessed it, once Dr. Saur was informed of my condition, she postponed the surgery until my neurologist would give me clearance. 

I couldn’t believe it was happening. I had taken nine months to prepare my mind for the proctocolectomy, and in one crashing second, my life was yet again put on hold. Now don’t get me wrong, I completely agreed and knew I was in no shape to go under a knife, and they would never administer the anesthesia for fear I would not wake up…but it was still a crushing blow. 

Now, after this stretch of bad luck, my friends and family were telling me to forget about the surgery, to not do it, that the crash was a sign I shouldn’t get it done. They didn’t understand that I had been living with that coo-coo clock for four years. I knew it was time, and as soon as I could be cleared I wanted to get it over with and get on with my life. 

When I finally met with Dr. Saur, she felt assured my brain was cleared for surgery. We set the date for December 8, 2017. We talked at length about the incisions and recovery time and I my eagerness to be over with. I was ready and no one was going to stop me. 

December 8th, after eight and half hour surgery, Dr. Saur greeted me in recovery and said she had great news. She was able to use robotics in my abdomen and spare me the major incision that would have cut through all my stomach muscles and tendons. She pulled my colon out through the big incision, where my rectum had been amputated and later sealed up. Even as groggy as I was in recovery, I knew she went above and beyond what I wanted and went the extra mile to insure the best outcome possible. 

There is barely anything more important than choosing the doctor, team, and hospital that makes you feel like they understand they are reconstructing you body, your vehicle that you use to protect your soul in this life. You must treat your body as your temple, and only the most deserving are allowed to remodel and strengthen its foundation and pipes. 

After only a five-day hospital stay, I was released and brought home. I was in a great deal of pain, but mostly concentrated from my rectal incision and amputation. The only thing hitting me in my abdomen was the foot long drain that wrapped inside my core where my colon used to be. So strange to know you don’t have a colon. But here are the perks—I’ve lost weight just by it being out with a flatter stomach automatically, I don’t have colitis attacks, and the best one so far…I haven’t had a single hot flash in a month. Not sure why not, but I will gladly accept that for me, my womanly suffering is over. 

It has been four weeks and one day since my proctocolectomy and my healing is coming along amazingly. I do still have to sleep or sit on a medical cushion, I’m just now getting back to driving, and I am experiencing recent nerve rapid-fire stabs all about the rectal region. I’m certain they are just waking back up after being pulled wide apart like the cleaning out of the Christmas turkey. 

 But as I reflect upon the path that led me here, I wish to share the most important lesson I have learned. We all have the power to make decisions for our body and for the way it functions. Do not be afraid to speak up about your own care, because no one has to live with your body but you. You can and should be your own best advocate, because no one knows you better than you. 

The surgery I thought would cause me to miss half a year of my life is nothing like I imagined. I was already walking and singing three weeks after the initial incision. I believe this is because I communicated and built a relationship with the doctor my gut told me was the right choice for me. Dr. Nichole Saur was the one that allowed an open dialogue and listened when I communicated what I wanted. She went the extra mile during surgery because she understood how I wanted to life my life and what it would take to get me, and Steel Magnolia, there. That is the type of doctor you want on your team. That is why you listen to your gut. 

Melissa hopes that you found these tips useful and informative. But the biggest tip she has for you is to never let your ostomy stand in your way. It's not a death sentence, but a normal, medical appliance that allows you to travel and live your life. Yes it may be new, and sometimes difficult, but it's still your amazing life to live. 

Facebook.com/NoYouCantcer 
Twitter.com/NoYouCantcer 
Instagram @Noyoucantcerfoundation 
Email: Noyoucantcer.Melissa@aol 
Phone: (609) 464-4647

The Hero of Hope Patient Award  Podcast

Melissa is so proud to up against these three strong and beautiful survivors for this year's Hero of Hope Patient Award. We at the No You Cant'cer Foundation would appreciate your vote, as a win for Melissa will highlight colorectal cancer and the ostomy bag. Below is the article that Conquer Magazine attached to Melissa's voting section on their website, which you can visit HERE.

Melissa Marshall chalked her symptoms up to trouble with her hip and age. 

A longtime Atlantic City singer and performer, Melissa’s hip had become so painful that she was preparing for hip replacement surgery. She thought that the other symptoms she was having at the time—bowel irregularity, bloating, rectal bleeding, and pain—were a result of turning 50 and her reduced physical activity. 

But when she described the symptoms to a close friend before a planned hip replacement surgery, she realized something else might be afoot. 

“She didn’t even let me finish my explanation,” Melissa recalls. “She told me to get off the phone right away and call my doctor. Before that moment, cancer wasn’t even a thought in my mind.”

Melissa was referred to a colorectal cancer surgeon, who right away performed tests to confirm the diagnosis. The doctor found a tumor the size of a golf ball and tried to excise as much as possible during a colonoscopy. 

“If I had ignored it and gone ahead with my hip replacement surgery, the tumor would have continued to grow, and I wouldn’t be alive today,” she says. 

In November 2013, Melissa underwent surgery to remove most of her rectum and lower part of her colon. She was also fitted with an ostomy bag that she will use for the rest of her life. 

“I’ve always accepted that my ostomy would be permanent, but I noticed that people would pull away the moment I mentioned my bag,” she says. “There’s such a stigma, that many people end up retreating from society.”

But that wasn’t Melissa’s reaction. On the way home from the hospital after surgery, she had a vision of what is now her foundation’s insignia: a butterfly with a cancer awareness ribbon in the center. She also wrote an anthem called “No You Cant’cer.” 

“As I wrote the words, I felt that I was speaking directly to my cancer,” she says. “The song is for people who, through the power of music, find the strength to take on their illness.” 

Melissa relied on her friends and family during the treatment period that followed her surgery. She endured 7.5 months of chemotherapy, radiation, and complications from her cancer treatment.

Through it all, she maintained a passion for her music and her butterfly insignia—2 creations that gave hope and encouragement to others. Her third creation, the No You Cant’cer Foundation, would bring all of her work together. 

“The foundation’s funding comes from the sale of my music and butterfly necklaces,” she explains. “Funds are used to print and distribute my educational pamphlet—“It’s in the Bag”—which teaches patients with cancer about life with these appliances and helps to dispel the negative myths surrounding their use. We distribute these pamphlets to doctors’ offices across the country.”

In addition to her pamphlet, Melissa also hosts a live YouTube series geared toward people getting used to an ostomy bag. Titled “Melissa Marshall’s Bag of Tricks and Ostomy Tips,” the videos detail new ostomy products and offer advice for people who are new to an ostomy bag. 

As the No You Cant’cer Foundation enters its third year, Melissa continues to blend her passion for music with her goal of educating and supporting those with cancer and newcomers to the ostomy community.

In March 2017, her foundation hosted a cabaret with performers from across Atlantic City—an event she plans to grow into a full-fledged concert in March 2018. 

“I’ve returned to singing and dancing. And I wear clothes that I wore before, even with my ostomy,” she says. “Nobody would ever know unless I choose to tell them. That’s the message I’m trying to share: that it’s possible to find a level of comfort in your life, even after cancer.”

To help Melissa win this once in a lifetime award, please click HERE and cast your vote.

 

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  1. No You Cant'cer (Ballad Version)

Traveling Internationally With Your Ostomy  Podcast

Melissa recently traveled internationally for the first time since her ostomy surgery. She visited Macau with her two dear friends Linda and Donna. While International travel is sometimes stressful under the most ideal circumstances, the added stress of the ostomy bag was very worrisome to Melissa. Since much of the general population doesn't live with an ostomy, it was a bit difficult for her to find many resources for how to prepare and what measures to take to ensure she stayed healthy and free of any unwanted issues. So she took notes as she went and hopes that you find this post informative and helpful on your journeys both nationally and internationally.

Packing

What to bring is always on the top of every travelers list. One must pack for the weather, the activities, and then pack some more, just in case. Packing for an ostomy is much of the same. You need to be prepared for your activities and then add a few most appliances just in case. You never know what will happen while you're traveling and it will be next to impossible to buy new bags or adhesive while abroad. Also take several additional changes of undergarments and pants with you in your luggage unless you'll have access to reliable laundry services.

Your Carry On Bag and the Flight

  1. The first thing Melissa put in her carry on bag was her Riksack by Stomaworks, a UK ostomy accessory store. The Riksack is a portable ostomy bag changer that was a lifesaver in the small airplane bathroom. To see everything about the Riksack, please look at Melissa's past review of it HERE. If you are traveling a long distance, please considering ordering one!
  2. Pack two to three new appliances that are easily accessible in your bag. The pressure changes or length of time you may need to be sitting could cause you to need to change your bag. Sometimes accidents happen for no reason at all and it's better to bring too many new bags than not enough. Some airlines do not allow you to travel with scissors to cut your bag, so make sure you pre-cut your wafers. Leave your scissors in your checked baggage.
  3. Pack an additional pair of pants and undergarments in case there are any leaks. It's possible that a leak may happen and the "seat belt on" light means you're unable to go to the restroom.
  4. Through trial and error, Melissa found that beverages like sparkling water or soda could make your bag gassy that could make you uncomfortable.

On the Move

No doubt you will be seeing many amazing things on your travels and your ostomy shouldn't slow you down at all. Melissa just has a few things to keep in mind while you explore exotic locations and try new things.

  1. Stay hydrated! While constantly sipping water is important for all humans, it's especially important for ostomates. Add in hiking, exploring, and long walks through new cities and your body will lose water quickly, before you realize. Stop often for breaks and carry a water bottle with you at all times.
  2. Carry a new appliance on long days sightseeing. Leaks, the loss of adhesion, or a faulty bag can happen at any times. 

Dining

By now you probably know how the foods in your average diet affects your ostomy, stoma, and regular output. If you are traveling to a place with new, foreign food, you may be unaware of how their food may affect you. Research menus ahead of time and familiarize yourself with the local dishes. Learn the ingredients to find "safe food" that you can enjoy without issue. In Macau, and later Hong Kong, Melissa found that with a few modifications, like ordering a local meal without sesame seeds, she was able to enjoy all that her locations had to offer.

Melissa hopes that you found these tips useful and informative. But the biggest tip she has for you is to never let your ostomy stand in your way. It's not a death sentence, but a normal, medical appliance that allows you to travel and live your life. Yes it may be new and sometimes difficult, but it's still your amazing life to live.

Facebook.com/NoYouCantcer  
Twitter.com/NoYouCantcer  
Instagram @Noyoucantcerfoundation  
Email: Noyoucantcer.Melissa@aol 
Phone: (609) 464-4647

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  1. No You Cant'cer (Ballad Version)

Episode 11 

Melissa Marshall is proud to present the newest addition to the No You Cant'cer Foundation, Melissa Marshall's Bag of Tricks and Ostomy Tips! Every Tuesday, Melissa will be back to introduce you to an all-new ostomy product, or accessory, and tell you where to get it. She will highlight products you may already have, some imported from other countries, and a few little items that you may have never thought to include in your own ostomy regimen.

Melissa knows how hard it is to get back to all the things you did before you received your ostomy. This is especially true for bathing, swimming, and water sports. Melissa, like many of you, has feared her flange losing its adhesive quality and causing a leak, or the waste of a bag. But, luckily, she was introduced to the Sure Seal Ring by Active Lifestyle Products Inc. It promises a watertight barrier for the flange to allow the wearer to fully immerse themselves in water without fear.
Melissa was particularly excited about this product because, before her ostomy surgery, she loved soaks in the hot hot tub, trips to the beach, and days in the pool. This is especially true after her granddaughter, a true water baby, was born. Melissa wanted to get back in the water without fear.

Luckily, the Sure Seal worked! Melissa soaked in a jacuzzi tub without any messy leaks or ruined seals. And it goes on clear, so it's like it's barely there! The best part is that you can order a free sample of the Sure Seal from their website, so you can try it for yourself before purchasing. For the Sure Seal Website click HERE


After a long soak, your bag might be damp. But that's not a big deal when you have a Quick Dry Ostomy Bag Cover by C&S Pouch Covers! Melissa had gotten one from C&S when she received her adorable pink high heel bag accessory. But, she had never found the perfect time to give it a try before now. With her bag soaked from the bath, the Quick Dry Bag Cover dried her bag in minutes, while Melissa dressed for the day. And at $19.99, this reusable, machine washable, bag cover is the perfect accessory. Say goodbye to hair dryers and damp bags for good!
Learn more at their website HERE
Follow them on Facebook HERE
Like their Instagram HERE
Tweet at them HERE

Recently, on one of our Twitter polls, many respondents said that odor was a big concern when it comes to their ostomy. While the odor might only be imaginary, it's still a valid concern and many companies have created odor blocking drops, filters, and covers. One of the most trusted companies, that many of you might recognize, is the StomaCloak. The StomaCloak is a specially made bag cover that is created with activated carbon and zeolite, which quashes any odor and reduces bacterial growth. It's also moisture resistant and adds an extra layer of protection if there's a bit of a leak. The StomaCloak is also compatible with basically all brand of bag, including such names as Hollister, ConvaTec, Coloplast, and Nu-Hope.
Melissa was pleased with the StomaCloak and loves the extra protection and comfort the soft fabric allows her. It's also sturdy and machine washable, so it's good for weeks at a time! At the affordable price of $25.00, it's a great addition to your daily ostomy routine.

You aren't invisible, but with StomaCloak, your odors are.

Learn more at their website HERE
Tweet at them HERE
Follow them on Facebook HERE


Love these products? Have you tried them? Let us know! We'd love to hear about your experience!

Facebook.com/NoYouCantcer      
Twitter.com/NoYouCantcer      
Instagram @Noyoucantcerfoundation      
Email: Noyoucantcer.Melissa@aol      
Phone: (609) 464-4647

Episode 10 

Melissa Marshall is proud to present the newest addition to the No You Cant'cer Foundation, Melissa Marshall's Bag of Tricks and Ostomy Tips! Every Tuesday, Melissa will be back to introduce you to an all-new ostomy product, or accessory, and tell you where to get it. She will highlight products you may already have, some imported from other countries, and a few little items that you may have never thought to include in your own ostomy regimen.


February is National Cancer Prevention Month and Melissa hopes that this will be the month you take charge of your colorectal health. After beating colorectal cancer Cologuard made Melissa a Cologuard Champion, armed with the task of spreading the word about this new cancer detecting tool, in hopes that it can save lives. Melissa initially ignored the signs of colorectal cancer, thinking it was to do with her bad hip or general aging, and she had never gotten a colonoscopy before. Like many, the idea of one made her uncomfortable, but with Cologuard, there is no discomfort or prep, and is a noninvasive way for those over the age of 50 to detect any cancerous cells. If something like Cologuard had been available several years ago, Melissa may have gotten the early detection needed to avoid receiving an ostomy.

Learn more about Cologuard by visiting their website HERE and ask your doctor if Cologuard is right for you!

Prevention is also discussed in the No You Cant'cer Foundation's publication, It's in the Bag. Cololrectal cancer, when not caught early enough, often makes receiving an ostomy necessary to save the life of the cancer fighter. Family medical history is vital in early detection, as is knowing your body and having the courage to speak to medical professionals about some of the issues that are generally seen as embarrassing. You can learn about It's in the Bag HERE and have the strength to say, "No You Cant'cer!"

And finally, the official ribbon color for National Cancer Prevention month is lavender, which is the color that represents all cancer. The No You Cant'cer Foundation currently carries a lovely lavender No You Cant'cer butterfly necklace that pays homage to all those who are fighting cancer, those who survived, and those we have lost. When you order a No You Cant'cer butterfly necklace, be comforted in the fact that 100% of all proceeds goes into colorectal and ostomy education. You can order in our store HERE and receive a complementary No You Cant'cer CD.

Facebook.com/NoYouCantcer 
Twitter.com/NoYouCantcer 
Instagram @Noyoucantcerfoundation 
Email: Noyoucantcer.Melissa@aol 
Phone: (609) 464-4647