Woman finds surgery leads to service

October 06, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

For 31 years, Claire LeCompte was ashamed to talk about the pouch beneath her clothes, the remnant of cancer surgery that saved her life.

But 20 years ago today, she became a charter member of the Anne Arundel County Maryland Ostomy Association and has been convincing others that there is life after the surgery that leaves patients with an abdominal opening that allows them to urinate or defecate.

"I lived 31 years with no one to talk to and I was feeling like I was the only one who had this. I thought I was an oddball," said Mrs. LeCompte, 66.

"But when I saw all these other people with it, I realized I wasn't an oddball," she said.

When she had her surgery in 1943 to remove cancer from her colon and rectum, she said, such operations didn't cure many people.

She helped to charter the county ostomy association because, "I wanted to let people know, hey, people make it after the surgery."

The stoma, or opening, has no feeling. Usually the operation leaves patients without the muscles necessary to hold their bladder or bowel movements, therefore patients wear small, odor-free plastic pouches that fit around the stoma to collect waste.

Mrs. LeCompte says the 180-member county Ostomy Association, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary today, also helps patients learn to live after surgery.

The group meets the first Thursday of every month at North Arundel Hospital in Glen Burnie, and helps provide emotional support and reassurance for those who have had or will have an ostomy surgery.

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