“I thought my activities would be very limited, and I’d have to stay on the sidelines,” he says.
But today, Loosier is playing golf, riding horses, chasing cows and enjoying life.“The colostomy was an adjustment, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined.”
To perform a colostomy, a surgeon creates an opening called an ostomy in the abdomen, then brings the end of the large intestine through the opening. This provides a new path for waste materials to leave the body while avoiding the rectum. A pouch worn beneath a person’s clothing collects waste.
Initially, Loosier was self-conscious about how he looked and anxious about being in public. He assumed everyone would notice that he was wearing a pouch. But the truth was, most people couldn’t tell.
“And if they did figure it out, they didn’t care,” he says.
Today, Loosier has formed a two-person support team to assist other MD Anderson patients who’ve undergone colostomies. Loosier and fellow volunteer and cancer survivor Billie Bond traverse the hospital hallways, meeting with patients before and after their surgeries to answer questions and offer reassurance.
“If we can walk into a room looking normal, it helps put people’s fears at ease,” Loosier says.
Those one-on-one interactions give him the opportunity to provide for others what he wishes had been available to him: someone to talk to.
Patient to patient
Natalie Gallagher, a nurse who teaches patients how to care for ostomies, says the patient-to-patient connection Loosier and Bond provide is a gift.
“Patients ask me, ‘What if my pouch falls off while I’m asleep?’ I tell them they’ll get used to the pouch and begin to trust it, but they don’t necessarily believe me,” Gallagher says. “But if they hear it from Marshall, they’ll know it’s true because he lives with it every day.”
That kind of connection can make the difference between someone getting back to living life and living in fear, Gallagher says.
“When we think about the future after this type of surgery, we tend to imagine the worst,” Loosier says.“But I’m still chasing my grandkids and having fun.”