One of the most common forms of cancer is that relating to the colon or rectum. It is indiscriminate, often lies undetected in the early stages and where surgery is necessary, can lead to the formation of a stoma. This is as true in Romania as in the UK. It was to help potential patients and existing patients to overcome the problems associated with cancer of the colon and similar life threatening illnesses that we started this foundation.
It started in 1995 when a proposal to celebrate IA’s (The Ileostomy and Internal Pouch support Group) 40th anniversary and 1996 World Ostomy Day, was suggested to support a country outside of the UK; a developing country where ostomy patients were a great deal less fortunate than most of those in Western Europe. The request came from Sir Miles Irving then president of the Association of Surgeons’ of Great Britain and Ireland and previously the president of the UK IA.
This initiative was readily accepted and the chosen country was Romania. At that time Romanian patient support was at best rudimentary, stoma appliances were available only for the wealthiest and patients were all too often stigmatised for having a stoma and wearing a bag. Returning to a fulfilling life after surgery was near impossible. It was to address these problems that a small group of IA members set about the inception of the Romania project in offering help through training, patient mutual support and most importantly ensuring patients had access to proper ostomy appliances.
It was soon evident that the vast majority of Romanian ostomy patients underwent surgery as a result of cancer of the bowel and rectum and the surgical intervention necessitated a colostomy. While there were other illnesses affecting the bowel, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, cancer was the principal life threatening cause. As such IA worked together with its sister organisations, the Urostomy Association and the British Colostomy Association – now the Colostomy Association.
Very considerable help was given to this cause by UK ostomy patients, the patient support groups, ostomy manufacturers and distributors together with UK stoma care nurses and surgeons. It became apparent that there was a need for a separate charitable body; hence in 2000 the Romanian Ostomy Patients’ Support Foundation (ROPSF) charity was formed.