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Many Stories Through the Voice of One Woman – PNG Stoma Association

Image: Janet Yaki (right) with Kumuls Captain, David Mead

About a week ago a colleague of mine sent me a link and asked me to do some research on stoma. I didn’t know what this thing/word was, but by looking at the word itself I figured it must have something to do with the stomach, but what it actually was, I had zero idea.

After the reading and a little research I found out that stoma is actually a Greek word that means “mouth” or “opening”. A stoma surgery results in a small opening on the surface of the abdomen being surgically created in order to divert the flow of feces and or urine. Every year it is estimated that over 13,500 people undergo a stoma surgery. The most common causes of stoma creation are colorectal cancer (bowel cancer), bladder cancer, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s decease.

After all that reading I met this very sweet and gentle lady named, Janet Yaki. When I saw her I forgot we were meeting an Ostomate (person who has had a stoma formed outside of the abdomen through surgery) she was as normal as anyone except that, as she put it, her plumbing system had been diverted. This inspirational woman shared with me her story of how she survived cancer and has come to terms with life as an ostomate and how she’s helping other ostomates in PNG.

Janet started the PNG Stoma Association after her battle with bowel cancer in 2011. Because it is a decease that concerns human waste and the “unmentionables” she was embarrassed and very scared of how her community and her friends would see her. Her diagnosis of bowel cancer was made when her cancer was in stage 4 which is an advanced stage. She needed to get treatment soon and it was recommended that she receive that treatment overseas.

Treatment in Australia for Janet was estimated at around three hundred thousand kina, money that her and her family did not have. Her family decided that they would sell their family home to get the money she needed. Janet was on the verge of giving up, “I’m only one and I don’t want you all to sacrifice for me, don’t sell the house”, she told her family.

Thankfully, in the family’s search for help Taichung Christian Church in Taiwan stepped in and paid all her medical bills, airfares and lodging to get the much needed operation in Taiwan which was estimated to be around sixty thousand US dollars.
After the treatment Janet, in fear of being stigmatized stayed indoors for a year. That was until she visited the Port Moresby General hospital and realized that there were other ostomates like her living in the communities.

It also struck her that there was a great need for stoma bags. Ostomate here in PNG were using other methods like gauzes and bandages to absorb their waste.

Janet took it upon herself to acquire stoma bags. As an Ostomate herself she knows the struggle and felt the need to help other Ostmates in PNG. After researching and getting in touch with Ostmates overseas she has created a network with Ostmates in Australia that help her by donating stoma bags to the PNG Stoma Association.

Janets selflessness and drive to help others like her live a comfortable life has changed a lot of people’s lives. She now has more about 200 Ostmates that she helps by supplying them stoma bags for free. She has been doing this with the help of donors, friends and mostly her family. She is currently operating out of her home in Korobosea Port Moresby but hopes that one day she can have enough to build a facility to help Ostmates. Janet is thankful for the continuous help of friends, family and donors.

Picture courtesy of PNG Stoma Association

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