What is more important: fit, flexibility, stretch capability, or adhesion?

If you cannot decide, or there are two or more that are just as important, you are not wrong. Why not have all in one for your barrier selection? You can have fit, flexibility, stretch capability, and adhesion in one pouching system!

Fit

When selecting a barrier, many considerations can come into play. When considering fit, proper application and sizing is important to help reduce leakage and create a seal around the stoma. Utilizing a stoma measuring guide or template with each pouch change is beneficial to help obtain the proper fit. Stoma size can change after surgery, so measuring is key.  Deciding between a precut or a cut-to-fit barrier is also important to consider, as it depends on which option provides the best fit to your body.

Flexibility

A flexible barrier will move, bend, and stretch with your body allowing you to be comfortable as you go about your daily activities. Flexibility with stability helps achieve a seal around the stoma along with the proper fit. In day-to-day movements like, getting in and out of your car, vacuuming, getting a spice off the top shelf, or even a sport you enjoy playing, flexibility is important to move with your body.

Stretch capability

Can you have flexibility without stretch capability and vice versa? What if these two worked hand in hand to create the best seal and optimal comfort to help you with your daily activities? Think back to reaching to get a spice off the top shelf in the kitchen. You need to have flexibility in the barrier to obtain the stretch, but then when back in a normal standing position the ability for the barrier to go back to the original shape after completing the stretch—how is that obtained? Teamwork!

Adhesion

Lastly the ability for the barrier to have adhesion to the skin. This can be a challenge outside of the barrier itself. For example, what if there is a small area of irritation, moisture, or the landscape is not perfectly flat (which is very common)? The adhesion is important to provide the tact to the skin so that the barrier has all the capabilities: fit, flexibility and stretch! Good adhesive security is obtained by gentle warmth using the body heat of your hands, and a nice gentle pressure with application from the inside (near the stoma) all the way to the edges of the barrier. This helps activate the adhesive into those small nooks and crannies that our skin has even if we can’t see them with the naked eye.

Essentially, there are many questions that may come up when deciding on the best barrier fit for you. Let’s go back to the original question that was posed: What is more important: fit, flexibility, stretch capability, or adhesion? The answer can be any of the above, and it all depends on your own lifestyle and personal needs. Things to keep in mind when you are considering your barrier options are, “Does this barrier have a good fit to my body?”, “Does the barrier allow me to stretch without compromising the seal?”, and lastly, “Does this barrier give me the security to enjoy my activities?”. There are options available for many body types and challenges. Reach out to your WOC nurse so they can help you answer the questions that are important to you!

 

Mackenzie Bauhs, CWOCN, is currently an employee and Ostomy Clinical Consultant for Coloplast. She obtained her bachelor’s degree at Carroll University in Wisconsin. She has worked with ostomy patients in the post-operative period at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin as well as outpatient ostomy care at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois.

The materials and resources presented are intended to be an educational resource and presented for general information purposes only. They are not intended to constitute medical or business advice or in any way replace the independent medical judgment of a trained and licensed physician with respect to any patient needs or circumstances. The information presented or discussed may not be representative of all patient outcomes. Each person’s situation is unique, and risks, outcomes, experiences, and results may vary. Please see complete product instructions for use, including all product indications, contraindications, precautions, warnings, and adverse events.

 

Editor’s note: This article is from one of our digital sponsors, Coloplast. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

 

 

By Robin Glover

Oh, the holidays! When cookies, cakes, and delicious pies suddenly appear everywhere, beckoning you to indulge in their sugary goodness. Don’t forget about those casseroles and their incredible aromas billowing from underneath a melted cheese topping. And those nuts — salty little kernels of flavor often found hiding among the decadently seasoned pretzels and cereal in everyone’s favorite snack mix.

The holidays are delicious, and food and drink are some of the many traditions friends and families have shared for generations. But, for people with an ostomy, eating and drinking around the holidays isn’t just a matter of likes and dislikes. Depending on the individual, certain things should be avoided while others can be enjoyed with no issues. The following is a guide to holiday eating (and drinking) with an ostomy.

It’s important to remember that these are general guidelines. Everyone is different, and each person experiences food differently. Consult with your physician or a registered dietician to know what’s best for you.

That being said, there’s no reason your ostomy, whether a colostomy, ileostomy, or urostomy, should hold you back from enjoying many, if not most, of your favorite holiday treats.

Maintain a Balanced Diet

Even during the holidays, maintaining a balanced diet is vital. No matter how good those sweets look, keep in mind that excess sugar and high-fat content can cause diarrhea, leading to the malabsorption of nutrients, leaving you feeling tired, irritable, and not in the holiday spirit. That doesn’t mean you need to deprive yourself, though. Just choose wisely.

For those with a urostomy, choosing non-citrus foods high in Vitamin C can lower the risk of infections. Examples of these include cranberries, broccoli, potatoes, strawberries, and leafy vegetables.

Chew Your Food Thoroughly

And while you’re at it, chews wisely too. For those with an ileostomy or short bowel, this is especially important. Both of these reduce the time your body has to digest the food you eat. Chewing your food a little extra can go a long way in helping your body get the nutrients it needs.

Eat Small Meals

Don’t forget to take breaks throughout the day to have a small meal or nutritious snack, even while you’re busy wrapping presents, decorating, and socializing. Eating several small meals is more beneficial than waiting to eat one large meal at the end of the day. An empty stomach can also be a source of gas.

Focus On Hydration

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easy to forget about the need to stay hydrated. That’s why it’s even more important to focus on good hydration during the holiday season. This includes drinking plenty of water while trying to limit drinks with added sugars, artificial colors or sweeteners, caffeine, or alcohol. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water a day.

Water alone won’t do it, though. Your body needs electrolytes, too. Sports drinks are a good source for this. However, you should dilute them with water to lower the sugar concentration. Electrolyte drops are also a good solution.

Low electrolyte levels can lead to many undesirable effects, including fatigue, irritability, and nausea. These symptoms only get worse the more dehydrated you get. So drink up!

If you have a urostomy, it’s crucial to drink plenty of water to avoid possible urinary tract infections (UTIs). And, since it’s recommended to consume plenty of Vitamin C, enjoy some holiday apple cider too!

Depending on the individual, certain things should be avoided while others can be enjoyed with no issues.

Ask About Ingredients

Things like casseroles, dips, cultural specialties, and cakes can often include ingredients you might not notice right away. During the holiday season, nuts can often be the biggest culprits and can cause discomfort or even a dangerous blockage for those with an ileostomy and to a lesser extend a colostomy. Other foods to be careful of are corn, if not fully ground in dishes like tamales, and dried fruits. Skip over foods, as tempting as they may be, that may include any of your trigger foods. Don’t worry; it’s ok to ask. Many people avoid certain foods for all kinds of reasons.

Know Your Safe Foods

 If you want to play it safe this holiday season, then stick to foods you know your body handles well. Consider keeping a food journal to help you keep track for next year. If you’ve recently had surgery for a colostomy or ileostomy, keep in mind these foods to avoid, but know that through trial and error you should soon feel more confident you’ll be able to enjoy most all of your holiday favorites.

 

Please read UOAA’s Eating With An Ostomy guide for more comprehensive information.

 

Robin Glover is a writer based in the Houston area. He has a permanent ostomy after being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2017.

me+ Community member, Sarah Biggart, shares how she experienced feelings of Medical PTSD throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic with her ostomy. Sarah’s blog was written in November of 2020, but remains relevant as we continue to navigate through the Pandemic.

Last Thanksgiving, following a beautiful dinner and a house filled with family and friends, I had to take my Dad straight to the emergency room. After a decline in health, my dad passed in January. The last months of his life had been a slog through the fog; however, saying goodbye was peaceful and everything about his passing brought me peace. It was time. Just as I was emerging from this fog, a new storm was approaching. A virus, spreading globally and forcing bustling cities into lock down: COVID-19.

As a person with a complicated medical history, I was definitely paying attention, and started taking precautions very early to mitigate risk. As anyone who lives with a compromised immune system and chronic illness knows, when we get sick, it can have a way of snowballing.

I was always aware of Medical PTSD, and recognized it in myself. The trauma of long health battles, surgeries and hospitalizations made my fears of the virus very real. I felt more affected by that fear than ever. It can be triggering for me to even smell rubbing alcohol; so smelling the strong hand sanitizers creates a visceral reaction.

When I saw people receiving nasal swabs, it took me instantaneously to having NG Tubes inserted. I could feel it, and I averted my eyes. When I saw images of people laying intubated, I automatically could feel the sensation in my throat. I remember all of those sensations so vividly. They are a part of my trauma.

It’s honestly hard to lay down exactly what this past year has been like emotionally for me. On one hand I am filled with gratitude that I am able to stay safe at home. I work from home, my child participates in remote learning, and although my husband does still go outside the home to work, we have stayed safe and happy in our cozy home. We’ve tried to keep our family traditions and make new memories.

Unfortunately, this year has also been a very bleak reminder of how my health and quality of life hang in a very delicate balance. If I were to get the virus, I have major concerns about my ability to survive. Seeing my community’s complete disregard for the health and safety of those around them has also been disheartening.

I often think about my ostomy supplies. When it became hard to get essentials this Spring, the thought of not having access to the pouches and wafers that I need was especially daunting. What would my life be like if I was unable to pouch my stoma?

Doctors figured out how to create ostomies long before companies like ConvaTec were around to innovate. Hearing stories of ostomates before me who had life-saving ostomy surgery, but could not manage them in a sanitary way, weighs heavy. What would my life be like without my supplies? I think of the pioneering ostomates, using rags and mason jars, and other archaic methods. They were true survivors!

So here we are in November. Instead of a full Thanksgiving table, it will be just the three of us this year. While our country is facing an unprecedented public health crisis, my family will continue to stay safe, stay home and mask up. I wish nothing but peace, health and happiness for all of us.

The Pandemic Tree

Early on, to make things fun we pulled out our Christmas Tree, topped it with a roll of toilet paper and strung up some lights. We crafted ornaments and added them to commemorate milestones and events. It was silly and fun, and for us, all bets were off during quarantine. Our family mantra became healthy, happy and sane, we did what we could to get ourselves there. The Quarantree became a Halloween Tree, and now has transformed into a Fall tree. It continues to make our home feel cozy and festive and truly brings us joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editor’s note: This article is from one of our digital sponsors, ConvaTec. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

People often wonder what to say to others, especially to children or grandchildren, when they first learn about an ostomy. While what kids ask can sometimes be surprising, their sincerity can brighten your day. Hollister Incorporated brought kids and ostomates together to learn about stomas for the first time. Hear what they had to say by watching this video –

About the Ostomates:

LeeAnne Hayden @leeannehayden

LeeAnne Hayden stepped away from a successful corporate sales career to build an online social selling business at age 40, and then was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which resulted in ostomy surgery. This would serve as her wake-up call to find ways to help herself and others overcome the stigma of living with an ostomy. Now, at age 50, LeeAnne has created a podcast called The Beautiful Bag. Read more about her story here.

Stephanie Bension @missbension

In 2004, when Stephanie was in high school, she was diagnosed with a combination of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. At 24 years old, she found herself in the emergency room faced with the reality of receiving an ileostomy. With time and support from her family, she started to share her story with others on social media. She is now a professional speaker who charms diverse audiences. She holds a degree in Radio-Television-Film from The University of Texas at Austin, which has allowed her to have unique experiences in several professional fields. You can learn more about her at www.stephaniebension.com.

Collin Jarvis @collinjarvis

Collin Jarvis was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when he was a junior at the University of California, Berkeley. His body rejected drug treatment to the point where he lost 30 pounds and was sleeping 15 hours a day. Due to this, he underwent emergency ostomy surgery with the removal of his colon. Barely five years after his ostomy surgery, however, the news headlines screamed: “Collin Jarvis Runs Sub-2:30 in One of the Fastest Marathons Ever With an Ostomy.” As evidenced by his marathon-running success, Collin now has the wind at his back and a whole new purpose in life, including being vice president of Stealth Belt, an ostomy support belt manufacturer.

Hollister Incorporated is a proud sponsor of United Ostomy Associations of America and dedicated to delivering the highest standard of quality in ostomy care products. To learn more, visit www.hollister.com/ostomycare or call 1.888.808.7456.

Why You Should Join UOAA as an Official Member

By Alyssa Zeldenrust

(National Conference attendee since 2011, DuPage County Support Group (suburban Chicago), Co-Chair of Events for Young Adults)

UOAA friends, educational tools, and vendor fairs have been lifesavers for me, so I’d like to share a bit about why I’m a member and what UOAA has to offer.

United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. (UOAA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports, empowers, and advocates for the 725,000 to 1 million of us Americans who are living with an ostomy or continent diversion (like a J-Pouch.) There is no need to feel alone, approximately 100,000 new life-saving ostomy surgeries are performed annually in the United States.

Without UOAA and medically diverse friends, I don’t know where I’d be today.

You can join one of the 300+ Affiliated Support Groups in the U.S. for local peer support and information. Whether you’re new or an ostomy veteran, you can get a lot out of UOAA resources.

I make sure every younger person I see at UOAA’s National Conference is welcomed into our group.

In my personal experience with my local support group, it’s a great way you can make friends who truly understand your situation. If you’re an ostomy veteran, you’re incredibly important to the new members of the group because you can guide them through difficult situations. Local ostomy friends are great because you can do social events in addition to support group meetings. I’ve gone to concerts, dinners, and parties with local buddies and it makes me feel so welcomed because nobody judges my body and we all tend to have a little bit of a dark sense of humor after a few years of illness or surgery.

Everyone should also become an official National Member, there is a membership for medical professionals as well. UOAA offers the National Membership for Individuals for an annual fee of $20.00. As an Individual Member you will receive UOAA’s:

  • National Membership pin and a stoma rose pin
  • Monthly e-Newsletter
  • New Ostomy Patient Guide
  • Plus, you’ll be notified when new or updated educational materials are available.
  • Have voting rights for our national elections
  • Can be nominated to be elected to serve on our Board of Directors
  • Will get a membership packet that includes a special promotion code to subscribe to The Phoenix magazine at a discounted rate.

Joining is also about standing up and being counted for advocacy purposes.

When I was too sick to attend the Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k my parents and fellow support group members made sure I was there in spirit with my face on masks.

Some local support groups host regional conferences that can be great. I had so much fun at the Midwest Regional Conference when I was lucky enough to go, and I left with a bunch of notes and new products to try.

National conferences are usually held every two years (Houston, Texas Aug 11-13, 2022 is next!) and are major events that turn me into a tornado of attempted hospitality. I make it my personal mission to find all the younger crowd and make sure nobody is left out and everyone has a chance to bond outside of the educational sessions. We have fun going all out with the parties and dancing up a storm. One of my favorite things has always been the vendor fair because you always find new things to try, and you can talk to people directly about their product. The educational sessions are so good that sometimes I truly have trouble choosing, so then we split up and take notes for each other.

A few people admitted to me later that they didn’t expect to leave with new, actual friends. That sort of thing just makes my heart happy. Without UOAA and medically diverse friends, I don’t know where I’d be today.

 

A version of this article first appeared on Allysa’s blog Partially Unstuffed

 

 

Join ConvaTec for a live discussion with ostomates, nurses and other healthcare professionals at their two-session, one-day virtual summit on Friday, October 1, 2021.

“Ostomates’ Rights Are Human Rights – anytime and anywhere” is this year’s World Ostomy Day theme, which is why ConvaTec is bringing together ostomates, nurses and caregivers to lead open discussions that will be patient rights-focused fostering awareness, education, and advocacy.  Together we will have conversations that matter!

The Patient Summit will be broken into two sessions:

Session 1, 1pm EST: This Is My Life Now: A Patient’s Guide to Advocacy:

Joanna Burgess, BSN, RN, CWOCN. Is a WOC Nurse at Convatec and is Co-Chair of UOAA’s Advocacy Committee

Jeanine Gleba, MEd., UOAA Advocacy Manager

Ellyn Mantell is a UOAA Advocate, Author and Ostomy Support Group Leader.

Did you know that by knowing your patient rights and feeling empowered and exercising those rights – you can take those situations where you felt down and make it positive. Think, “This is MY life now. I have the right to be me.”

Learn about your local and international ostomy support resources, understand your patient rights, and feel empowered to exercise those rights in this session.

Scheduled panelists:

• Ellyn Mantell (United States), UOAA Advocate, Ostomy Support Group Leader

• Jeanine Gleba (United States), United Ostomy Associations of America, Advocacy Manager

• Joanna Burgess (United States), WOCN, ConvaTec me+™ Nurse, UOAA Advocacy Committee Co-Chair

Register now for Session 1: https://us02web.zoom.us/…/reg…/WN_i7MWMk7RQ7mmtPpWGsrDbQ

 

Session 2, 3pm EST: Creating a Healthy Bond: Healthcare Support for Your Patients:

Allison Rosen is UOAA’s World Ostomy Day Champion, a colorectal cancer advocate and Ostomy Support Team Member at MD Anderson.

Healthy bonds in life are all around us. But there may be times it feels difficult to bond. Do you know, or do your patients know, about the resources available for support? Whether that is support with a nutritionist so they can learn about fiber intake, or with an exercise therapist to get guidance on hernia prevention. It could even be the support a therapist can provide navigating new emotions in your personal relationships. There are healthy bonds that can be built between an ostomate and their healthcare professionals.

Create a strong bond with your patients and healthcare providers. Get to know the different types of pre and post-operative support available.

Scheduled panelists:

• Lorena Eltz (Brazil), Patient Advocate

• Lorraine Grover (United Kingdom), Psychosexual Nurse Specialist

• Allison Rosen (United States), United Ostomy Associations of America- World Ostomy Day Champion

Register now for Session 2: https://us02web.zoom.us/…/reg…/WN_Hi7CnbBVSIuUW68bAQBjXw

 

Editor’s note: This blog is from ConvaTec, Platinum Sponsor of the 2021 Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k. This event raises ostomy awareness and helps fund the services and programs of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

 

Hollister is proud to support World Ostomy Day! In partnership with United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA), Hollister Incorporated is proud to stand with the entire ostomy community in celebration. Here are some ways you can learn something new, show your support, or connect with others in the global ostomy community.

Tune in to a Virtual Panel Discussion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hollister has joined up with their sister brand based in Europe, Dansac, to bring you a virtual panel conversation with ostomates from around the world about their experiences and how they engage with the ostomy community. Tune in for a great conversation! Sign up for a reminder, and to submit a question for the Q&A.

Order Your Stoma Sticker

Stoma stickers are a great way to raise awareness, start a conversation, or show support. Order your free Stoma Stickers in time for World Ostomy Day, shipped anywhere in the US.

Share a photo or video of your Stoma Sticker on social media using #StomaSticker to be part of the conversation. Or show off your Stoma sticker while running the virtual Run for Resilience Ostomy 5K and share how you celebrated #WOD2021.

Share your #OstomateVoices and personalize your next Instagram or Facebook Stories with Hollister digital stickers. Search for them in the GIF library when creating an Instagram or Facebook Story and you’ll find a whole new collection.

Start Listening to #MyOstomy Podcast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join Eve, Chris, Kelly, Ed, Gill, and Alice as they describe their challenges and breakthroughs with illness, symptom management, mental well-being, pregnancy, workplace conversations, and more in this limited run series. Each conversation helps to shine a light on the lived experience of illness, the positive impact stoma surgery can have, and the power of every person living with a stoma. Learn more

For more resources and interactive ways to get involved, visit Hollister.com/worldostomyday.

 

Editor’s note: This article is from Hollister Incorporated, Diamond Sponsor of the 2021 Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k. This event raises ostomy awareness and helps fund the services and programs of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Have you ever wondered what you should be doing to fill your time as you recover from ostomy surgery?

After my first surgery at the age of 17, and even after my third surgery at the age of 23, I spent most of my time lounging around my parents’ house, waiting for the day that I would be cleared by my surgeon to return to “normal” activity. My parents would coax me out of the house to go on one walk a day, but I spent almost all of my time watching television and YouTube videos and sleeping.

Fast forward to age 30. At age 30, I ended up having my sixth major abdominal surgery. And by this point in time, I had been working as an Occupational Therapist (OT) in a hospital setting for six years. For six years, I had been helping other individuals recover and rehabilitate from major illness and injury. I had also spent years recreating in the mountains and enjoying a highly active lifestyle. So when I found out that I needed a stoma revision, I knew that my recovery would look very different from my previous surgeries. I knew that in order to improve my recovery time, decrease my risk for complications, and get back to the mountains, I had to put in more work.

For those who are less familiar with the rehabilitation professions, “Occupational Therapists enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent – or live better with – injury, illness, or disability” [1] and “Physical therapists [PTs] are movement experts who improve quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education” [2]. Although I’m an OT, seeking out my own rehab professional to work with was the best thing I could have done.

I already knew a lot of the basics of how to rehab myself, but having someone else who I would be accountable to and who I could bounce ideas off of was a bonus. I knew from my training as an OT that one 30-min therapy session prior to abdominal surgery, reduces the risk of complications by 50% [3]. So the first thing I did was set up an appointment with a pelvic health therapist prior to my surgery. I was able to find a local pelvic health PT to work with, although, both OTs and PTs may specialize in pelvic health. I sought out a pelvic health therapist because of her specialty training in digestive and urinary systems and the interaction between the abdomen and pelvic floor. In my time working as an OT, and in my time spent working with many PTs, I’ve learned that there are fundamental areas that ostomates should be targeting after surgery to improve their outcomes. Working with a therapist in the following areas can be quite beneficial:

Therapeutic Breathwork. Breath is necessary for life. If you aren’t breathing properly, you certainly won’t be getting back up on your feet and recovering from surgery any time soon. Breathing properly can also help decrease the pressure in your abdomen (i.e. intra-abdominal pressure) which decreases your risk for parastomal hernia and other complications.

Mobility Training. Focusing on walking in a strategic manner following surgery can also set you up for success in the long run. Not only is walking good for building up your endurance again, but it is a great way to begin engaging your core in a gentle manner.

Core Recovery. After surgery, your abdomen can be very tender. But it’s important to begin exercising in order to coordinate your abdominal muscles again and gain strength so that you will be less likely to injure yourself in the future.

Functional Daily Activities. Finally, as you go about your day-to-day routine, some tasks will feel more difficult than they used to. For example, bending to put on your socks can be painful and can pull at your incision. Working with a therapist on strategies to increase your independence and return to the daily activities you enjoy is invaluable.

I’m lucky that I decided to become an Occupational Therapist. It has enabled me to empower myself with knowledge about the human body and recovery from surgery. But you don’t have to be a therapist to have a positive recovery experience and lead a fulfilling life. If you’re feeling stuck, seek out a rehabilitation professional. You deserve quality care and support to feel confident and strong after surgery.

Wishing you well on your ostomy journey,

Charlotte

As you start your journey to recovery, you’ll experience that life after ostomy surgery is a new reality. No matter how far after surgery you are, you will need to adapt to your condition and cope with your new situation. If you’re looking for additional support during your ostomy journey, consider enrolling in Coloplast’s free online support program, Coloplast® Care! It is a personal product support program designed in collaboration with nurses to provide you with individualized product support and lifestyle education, and product access coordination. Coloplast Care is available when you need it – whether it is through our online educational resources offering reliable product and lifestyle advice, news and tips customized for your situation, or over the phone with our team of dedicated Ostomy Advisors. We’re here to help!

Visit us at www.ostomy.coloplastcare.us or call 1-877-858-2656.

Information from Coloplast® Care is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice and should not be interpreted to contain treatment recommendations.

About the author:

Charlotte Foley, MS OTR/L, CBIS, received her Occupational Therapy degree at Boston University and began her career in the adult Inpatient Rehabilitation setting. She now works in the adult Acute Care setting at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Because of her own personal and professional experience, Charlotte founded and runs her own education and consulting business, Restorative Ostomy Solutions, to empower individuals to feel strong and confident as they recover from ostomy surgery.

Charlotte has received compensation from Coloplast to provide this information.

Editor’s note: This article is from one of our digital sponsors, Coloplast. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

 

References

[1] AOTA (2021). What is Occupational Therapy? Retrieved from

https://www.aota.org/conference-events/otmonth/what-is-ot.aspx.

[2] APTA (2021). What Physical Therapists do? Retrieved from

https://www.apta.org/your-career/careers-in-physical-therapy/becoming-a-pt.

[3] Boden, I., Skinner, E., Browning, L., Reeve, J., Anderson, L., Hill, C., Robertson, I., Story,

D., & Denehy, L. (2018). Preoperative physiotherapy for the prevention of respiratory complications after upper abdominal surgery: pragmatic, double blinded, multicentre randomised controlled trial. British Medical Journal, 360:j5916. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5916

A year with an ostomy provides challenges and blessings

My name is Jasmine and I was diagnosed in 2016, at the age of 23 going on 24, with stage three colorectal cancer. I am a survivor. I went through multiple surgeries, chemo, radiation, and an ileostomy.

Many people think that having to wear an ileostomy bag would be unpleasant and very difficult. There is some truth in that at first, but I learned on the journey that it was a blessing.

Without an ileostomy, I would have not have been able to have my cancer (tumor-size of a peach) taken out. Without having my cancer out, I might not be here today. There are challenges that I faced such as my bag leaking. There were some nights when I would wake up and the stool would be everywhere. It was very frustrating but I managed to get through. One day I asked myself, “is this life?” Just like anyone else I would feel down. I knew it was ok to go through the emotions but I started praying to God that things would get better. My faith, family, and friends is what got me through.

Once I explained to my treatment team about what was going on, they insisted that I have a nurse come out two-3 days out of the week to help assist with my ostomy. Thanks to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, they gave me resources as far as where to order good quality bags that were covered by my insurance and I ordered from a supply company. They started by giving me free samples to try and then I started to order them frequently because I liked the quality and they also provided a kit that included scissors, ostomy bag holder, and barrier rings. The scissors were for me to cut the baseplate to get it to the exact size of my stoma so that it could fit properly. This was all new to me but in due time it became the norm.

The barrier rings were great because it is what protects the skin because I had issues with my stool getting on my stoma. Whenever the stool would rub on my stoma it would burn so the rings help protect the stoma and leaks.

I do not regret anything I went through though because I came out a stronger person.

The advice I’d share would be to empty your pouch on a regular schedule to avoid overflows. I ate small frequent meals because I notice when I ate a lot, my bag would fill up. Make sure you’re drinking enough fluids throughout the day as well. I had to Introduce foods to my diet one at a time to determine how it would feel. I always made sure that I had bags everywhere I went.

I had the ileostomy for almost a year and I was told that it did not have to be permanent unless I developed problems down the road. In April of 2017 I was able to get it reversed (taken off).

Some other challenges from the cancer were that I had a section of my rectum removed and one of my ovaries removed. I cannot have kids on my own because both of my Fallopian tubes were removed as well so I will have to go through a surrogate, knowing this, I chose to freeze my eggs.

Being that a part of my rectum was removed I have complications from time to time. I am now 29 and although I still have complications I’m so happy to still be here and share my testimony with others as well as help any others who are encountering the same illness.

My recommendation to others with an ostomy and going through this process would be to be confident in your bag. I never looked at myself as disabled, I wore my bag with pride. There were a few times when I made a design on my bag to make it my own.

One thing I went through was being able to see who my real friends were through this process. I lost some friends in the process but gained even better friends. I had trouble dating due to the fact that people were intimidated by my bag and everything I had to go through.

I do not regret anything I went through though because I came out a stronger person. Life is too short to be down, I survived cancer, I was almost at the end of the road. I was in way too deep to just give up. Do not give up, I want those who see my story to reach out to me if they need to vent. It helps to talk to someone who actually went through the same experience.

With the help of my family real friends, and God I was able to go through this process gracefully.

At sixteen, I got my first job doing janitorial work at an amusement park. As you might imagine, I wasn’t thrilled by the work, which included cleaning the restrooms. I remember coming home and complaining to my mother that I wanted to quit. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, her response would soon take on important meaning for me and the way I would approach the rest of my life. She said, “No, honey, you can’t quit. Our family does NOT quit.”

Her message of perseverance was never more critical than following the moment that changed my life forever – a turning point that resulted in my diagnosis of short bowel syndrome (SBS), a serious and chronic malabsorption disorder. Since that moment, I have had to show up for myself every day and make the decision to never quit.

In October of 1999, during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, my family’s car was hit head on in a two-lane highway when someone crossed the center line and struck us. I was in the backseat with my then-girlfriend (who is now my wife) buckled in with a lap belt when we were struck. The seatbelt wrapped around my waist and caused me to lose blood flow to my intestines, which then had to be removed. I was left with no absorptive function and diagnosed with SBS. Though some people may arrive at an SBS diagnosis as a result of other gastrointestinal (GI) conditions, my introduction to SBS was abrupt. One day I was a college basketball player and homecoming king. The next I woke up in the ICU being told I would likely never eat or drink again.

The accident left my wife similarly injured — and also diagnosed with SBS — while my mom and stepdad also suffered injuries. Following the accident, our family church would bring food to the house to help out, only I couldn’t eat it. Seeing those casseroles had always been a sign of care, but in those early moments it was torturous. Getting the care I needed early on was a struggle – so much so that my grandma, an amazing supporter of mine, was one of the first people to step in and learn how to administer my total parenteral nutrition (TPN). I’ve been on TPN every night since then.

Due to my SBS diagnosis, for nearly two years, I also needed a jejunostomy, which is an opening created through the skin into the jejunum (part of the small intestines) that can be used for a feeding tube or as a bypass during bowel resection. The sudden need for an ostomy was difficult to accept at first, as I adjusted to my new life with SBS. As time went on and I finally became a bit more comfortable with my ostomy, I remember landing an interview for an internship I really wanted. However, I was so nervous during the interview that my sweat actually caused my ostomy to leak. Although I got the internship, which was a big step towards my personal goals, the experience was a learning curve in becoming confident in the balancing act I’ve had to develop over the years.

I was able to have the ostomy reversed before my college graduation and even graduated on time – a huge victory in the early stages of my SBS journey! But despite triumphing over those physical challenges, I had more hurdles to face, particularly in terms of my mental and emotional health.

For so long I had identified myself as a basketball player, an athlete, and in a single moment I was told that I would never play again. I cannot describe how devastating that was to hear. I wanted to fight, to call on the determination that had been a large part of my high school and college athletic career, but it was so hard to have that motivated mindset after being blindsided by a diagnosis of a rare disease.

Understandably, I was completely down in the mud for the first few months. I would lie in bed watching movies for hours because facing my reality was too heavy. After months of watching others live out their lives in those movies, I decided that I needed to stop avoiding the fight. I decided that, just as I had trained as an athlete, I now needed to train myself to live. I knew I had to focus on what I could control, lean into the discomfort and push through the obstacles to live life on purpose. Something I’ve come to call “living an intentional life.”

My decision to adopt an intentional mindset and train myself to live turned small steps into monumental milestones. The first thing I tasted after those initial months without any food at all was a red cherry Life Saver candy (ironic, right)? That was my small step. When I tried to make the leap to solid food, I admittedly pushed too far, too fast. Doctors told me that I could eat three bites of food, that was all. So, I bought myself a six-inch Subway sandwich, cut it into three pieces, and ate it in three bites! Regrettably, this wasn’t great for my digestive system at the time. But, it was a learning experience and it felt like progress to me.

To the disbelief of my doctors, and others around me, this shift in my mindset – my transition from victim to victor – translated to my physical health as I began to make steady progress. Nevertheless, I experienced challenges as I navigated how to best advocate for myself and balance my SBS management goals with my personal goals for living my best life.

It took a while to understand which types of care were best for me and the way I wanted to live my life. I am very thankful for my wife, who is a wonderful advocate, registered nurse and fighter. She is the one who was first able to step in and say, “No, this is not acceptable,” when working with my care team. It was hard at times to identify the right care solutions. For example, I initially had a Hickman (or central line), but the wires meant I couldn’t swim or shower. Both were too important to me to give up. Since I do not need to access my port for most of the day, I chose to have a high access port (chest level) that I can access each night instead of a central line that would interfere with my daily routine.

Adjusting to the new port was yet another obstacle, as I need to access it via needle. At first, I would get so nervous every night before that needle stick and I would just cry. But I am grateful I can trade that small amount of time each night for the ability to hold onto some important parts of my pre-SBS routine when I’m not hooked up throughout the day. For example, I remember how happy I was to take my first shower, something that I used to take for granted. I definitely used up all the hot water in our house that day!

These adjustments taught me to accept that I was not invincible and to instead focus on what I can control, taking small steps each day and forming habits to benefit me and my health. Though I have been on TPN every night since the accident, my TPN has evolved and is no longer my only source of nutrients. Now I take in ~30% of my nutrition from food and ~70% from TPN. I’ve also learned that sufficient levels of sodium and hydration are important, so now I salt everything and use lots of hydration tablets.

With my doctors’ support, I was able to start running again. In the beginning, I started with a few steps. Over time, I build up to just one mile each day. Then, I slowly built myself up to two miles, then three. Now, I have completed five half marathons! I continue to swim and play basketball, some of the things I worried I had lost forever because of my SBS diagnosis – I am so grateful they are still a part of my life.

I am also fortunate that my workplace includes a supportive team made up of healthy, go-getters who share similar mindsets to mine when it comes to living an intentional life. This work environment has encouraged me to meet my personal goals, including starting my own financial advising firm. Living with SBS can make the workday uncomfortable and unpredictable. But I establish boundaries and habits that set me up for success, such as the ability to avoid having meetings first thing in the morning or right after lunch when I might need to step away to manage gastrointestinal issues associated with my SBS. And my assistant is a great support in that area. Having those people in your life who have your back is everything.

Self-motivation is big for me, but connecting with others in the SBS community has been motivational in a different way. My wife and I went to advocacy group conferences early on, and I found it encouraging to hear from others with SBS. For example, a man who had been living for 55 years on TPN while continuing to thrive and take control of his journey inspired me to share my own story in hopes that others will see how it is possible to still live a great life with SBS.

I have experienced some very deep lows in my SBS journey, particularly in the beginning, but have learned to embrace the victories. I’ve even faced death, on one occasion in a very close call due to a staph infection near my port. It had brought my blood pressure down to 15/10 and forced the doctors to remove the port immediately. Yet, I’ve also seen the beauty of life – I have witnessed the first breaths of my children and so much more. I truly love life, and these experiences only further solidify my faith and perseverance.

This is a journey of ups and downs, but the downs don’t last. I believe we are not given more than any of us can handle, and I know that I can handle so much more than I ever thought I could. My faith, the blessings I have experienced in my life and the support of my care team, family and many others have brought me back to life. I would encourage anyone living with or caring for someone with SBS to be transparent about the challenges they may be facing and embrace them. Find opportunities within the obstacles and be intentional with your life.

To learn more about Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS), visit https://www.shortbowelsyndrome.com/. To join the community and talk with others who are living with SBS, check out https://www.facebook.com/TakedaSBS.

This article was created by Takeda.

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