Summer is coming and it is the perfect time to not let your ostomy define who you are or what you are able to do. Enjoy these wellness tips by Elaine O’Rourke. In this video Elaine shares her insights into diet, getting moving again, confidence and even her passion for surfing.

“Look at your mindset, that may be what is holding you back not your ostomy.”

 

Make sure to grab your FREE GUIDE: ‘3 simple ways to eliminate fears about your ostomy” by visiting Elaine’s website www.ElaineOrourke.com

Elaine O’Rourke is the creator of the program “Surviving To Thriving: Overcoming Ostomy Challenges So You Can Live a FulFilling Life”. She is a certified Yoga Therapist & Teacher since 2003, Sound Healer, EFT & Reiki Practitioner, Recording Artist and International Retreat Leader. Her lighthearted and fun personality shines through her teachings/programs as she loves to inspire others. She is a contributing writer to the national Phoenix Magazine and UOAA, presenter at the UOAA National Conference and speaker at Girls with Guts retreat.  

Web: www.elaineorourke.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ostomyibdlife/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elaineorourkeyoga/ 

Email: Elaine@ElaineOrourke.com 

By Ed Pfueller, UOAA Communications and Outreach Manager

In-person peer support has always been at the heart of UOAA. Though people worldwide now routinely connect online with others living with an ostomy, the in-person experience of UOAA’s over 300 Affiliated Support Groups continues to endure and grow year after year.

The arrival of COVID-19 is challenging groups to maintain continuity after often decades of holding a routine meeting schedule. Ostomates new and old continue to need support during this time and video conferencing technology is making this happen. Zoom meetings have emerged as the platform of choice as our world strives for human connection during this period of isolation.

The South Texas Ostomy Support Group has been ahead of the curve and before this current crisis was already live-streaming with Zoom meetings as an option to in-person attendance. “Now that we are not able to meet up, we are still using the same meeting ID (link) but now that’s our only form of meeting,” says group president Christine Miller.

Christine recognizes that some may struggle to adapt to the new technology. “I made sure it was in the newsletter so those who needed help could call me and I could walk them through how to use Zoom prior to the meeting started. I had several calls the day of. It was exciting that we had so many people participate (10 people logged on). It was much less than a normal meeting but it was still heart-warming that they were still participating. We even had a newbie come! It was fun having her because she mentioned some of her problems and I immediately texted our Coloplast rep who jumped on for 15 minutes and became a very last-minute speaker for us.”

The Morris County New Jersey Ostomy Association, which has been in existence for over 40 years, is another group adapting to the times. UOAA Treasurer and the ASG’s board member George Salamy says that, after a trial to test for bugs, he and newsletter editor and webmaster Walter Cummins sent a broadcast email telling everyone they wanted to do a Zoom call.

“On April 15th around 23 people signed on with no issues. It was a mixture of older members and a few younger members, some with spouses, and our group’s WOC nurse,” George reports. “The original purpose of the call was to see how everyone was doing and if they needed anything. Everyone seemed to be okay. We talked about if there were any issues in obtaining products. I indicated UOAA works with the manufacturers and determined there were no manufacturing issues.” George adds, “People talked about shopping, which grocery stores were stocked, and some sanitary things we should all be doing (closing the toilet seat before flushing to eliminate germs). All in all, it went well. One member, who now lives in Florida, signed on and contributed much to the call. We decided to do this in May and will continue if needed. It’s a great way of keeping the members engaged.” After the meeting, members commented and made suggestions about future topics such as; the depression aspects of this “lock-down,” yoga, sound therapy for relaxing, and suggestions on where to shop and which stores had supplies.

Bob Baumel of the Ostomy Association of North Central Oklahoma sees potential in the virtual meetings because the organization’s meetings rotate between locations. “It will be interesting to see how Zoom works for our group. We may actually get better attendance using Zoom than we’ve been getting with physical meetings, considering that members who don’t feel well enough to travel to meetings, or who live far from our meeting locations of Stillwater and Ponca City, may nevertheless join meetings which are conducted electronically. Maybe we’ll like Zoom so much that we decide to continue holding some meetings with Zoom, even after the Coronavirus pandemic is over,” Bob says.

Liz Hiles of the Greater Cincinnati Ostomy Association has already hosted several Zoom calls for her group and hopes participation will increase. “I like the option on a number of levels and hadn’t previously considered it. I need to learn more about how to conduct and make it more productive. I like it for the younger folks who may be on the go or traveling. Though that could also apply to older populations too. I also like it for those that may be homebound or in a facility for whatever reason. Hospital, rehab, nursing etc.” Liz also organized a Zoom call for a group of young adults who all connected at last year’s UOAA National Conference and have tried to stay in touch on Facebook ever since.

Remember even if you have never attended a UOAA support and information group in the past you can always reach out and call a local leader nearby you for support. If they are not holding virtual meetings and you are familiar with the technology, perhaps ask if they need a volunteer like you to help them set it up for the group. Use whatever technology you and your group are comfortable with.

You can also use a landline to call into the group to chat, if you don’t have a smartphone or a camera on your computer. Zoom offers a free version if your group does not want to invest in a professional account. Members will just need to log back in when the meeting time hits its 40-minute limit. In recent weeks Zoom has responded to privacy concerns and it is suggested to use the password option for added security. Also, the Federal Trade Commission recently shared guidelines on staying safe while video conferencing.

This is a time for all of us to reach out and make sure our community is safe and supported. Although we are apart for safety, we can still remain connected and together.

By Elaine O’Rourke

With the increased and heightened attention on the coronavirus, it is naturally creating a lot of fear and anxiety. This fear not only affects the mind but also the body. Right now, you want to keep your immune system strong and focus on calming your mind and nervous system and of course use necessary precautions.

Proper Breathing, as well as other techniques, will help reduce cortisol levels (one of the stress hormones that can wreak havoc in your body) and helps promote the relaxation response in the body.

Deep focused breathing has so many benefits and there is a lot more science behind what the ancient yogi’s already knew. As a long time yoga teacher, I know firsthand how amazing proper breathing is. I credit it for helping me recover from surgeries much faster and for regaining strength. Wim Hof (the Iceman) has been instrumental in recent years for promoting the benefits through his method. Many scientific studies have been done on him proving that you can control the autonomic nervous system and immune response. The following is a basic guided breathing and relaxation video. 

Make sure to grab your FREE GUIDE: ‘3 simple ways to eliminate fears about your ostomy” by visiting Elaine’s website www.ElaineOrourke.com

Elaine O’Rourke is the creator of the program “Surviving To Thriving: Overcoming Ostomy Challenges So You Can Live a FulFilling Life”. She is a certified Yoga Therapist & Teacher since 2003, Sound Healer, EFT & Reiki Practitioner, Recording Artist and International Retreat Leader. Her lighthearted and fun personality shines through her teachings/programs as she loves to inspire others. She is a contributing writer to the national Phoenix Magazine and UOAA, presenter at the UOAA National Conference and speaker at Girls with Guts retreat.  

Web: www.elaineorourke.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ostomyibdlife/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elaineorourkeyoga/ 

Email: Elaine@ElaineOrourke.com 

By Ellyn Mantell

Setting the scene for you, imagine the patient who has controlled ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease, or diverticulitis and is suddenly terribly symptomatic with infection and unremitting agonizing pain. Or consider the patient who has an accident in the intestinal region of their body. Or the patient who hears the news following a colonoscopy that there is colorectal cancer. Or the patient, like me, whose motility issues have made it impossible for the bowel to function. All of these scenarios are happening every day, all day, in hospitals and households and they all may very well lead to either a colostomy or ileostomy. (I believe a urostomy is always a permanent surgery)

Frequently, depending upon the physicality of the ostomy, a reversal in a matter of six months to a year is either discussed or promised to the patient. It is usually explained that for the connection to heal, it requires that time, and once healed, the reversal is smooth sailing. Except, in many cases, it is not, and that is what I want to bring to your attention, based on the people with whom I have spoken. Please remember, I am not a medical professional, but I interface closely with many patients in many situations, so I speak from my observations.

Sometimes, during those 6-12 months, the sphincter muscles of the rectum stop fully functioning, and the patient may be tied to the bathroom as never before. Or the connection is narrow and there may begin a pattern of bowel obstructions due to the backup of stool. Other times, the surgeon had good intentions for a reversal, but the patient is simply not a good candidate due to illness or stepping out of remission of some disease process.

The reason I am writing this graphic and perhaps uncomfortable blog for many to read is that an ostomy can happen to anyone for a variety of reasons. UOAA estimates there are 725,000 to one million of us in the United States who have ostomy or continent diversion surgery. I want to educate all ostomates that making peace with their new anatomy may be safer and provide a more predictable future than hopes for a reversal. I believe and have heard from others who give ostomy support that those who know they will be an ostomate for the rest of their life tend to be more open to embracing their new body, physically and emotionally. Those who have been given (false, in some cases) hope for a reversal are frequently disappointed and angry, feel betrayed and lose faith they will ever be “normal” again.

Support Groups are a wonderful way to begin to think of the new normal. It is so beneficial to meet like people, learn about appliances, clothing, foods, sleep, intimacy, maintaining health and to simply share experiences. If you cannot find one in your area, contact the United Ostomy Association of America or your local hospital. Take a family member, caregiver or friend if it gives you comfort. I guarantee you will feel empowered by taking this step, whether you are having a reversal in your future, or are embracing your ostomy for life.

Ellyn Mantell is a UOAA advocate and Affiliated Support Group leader from New Jersey. You can follow her personal blog at morethanmyostomy

 

 

 

You are not alone, A Community of Support is Here to Help

By Ellyn Mantell

Upon returning from a day of errands, my hands full of packages and bags of food, the phone rings, and it is a familiar call. It is from a woman who is fighting tears (this I recognize from the many calls I receive) and immediately, bags and packages left on the floor, I go into SUPPORT mode. I imagine this lady has used every bit of determination and perhaps energy she has to call a total stranger to discuss the most intimate details of her health and anatomy. She needs my full and undivided attention, because if I am remiss in that area, she may never reach out for help again. Before we even move past the pleasantries of conversation (hello, how are you?) I know she has been through so much. She will tell me the details, and each survivor is unique, but I already know she is scared, suffering and feeling terribly alone.

This lady tells me she is extremely disappointed because she just discovered that her colostomy, which resulted from the loss of some of her colon, will not be reversed, as she had hoped. It is too dangerous, and her ulcerative colitis is rearing its ugly head. Instead of the reversal, she needs her colon and rectum removed, and will, therefore, have an ileostomy. It has taken her a year, she tells me, to accept what she thought was a temporary colostomy, and now she will need a permanent ileostomy. Not only is her head spinning, but she is feeling like she has lost total control of her life.

These are feelings we all have, and my heart is right there with her as she laments the loss of yet another part of her body. Looking ahead to at least another major surgery, we discuss the fact that she is in mourning and grieving, and then her tears began to flow. I tell her to please cry, sob, let out her feelings, whatever they may be, I am up to the task of listening and comforting. After all, I have had 23 major abdominal surgeries…I have had my share of tears and need for comfort.

We end the phone call with each of us making a promise: she will attend our next Ostomy Support Group at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, New Jersey, and I will be there to listen to her fears and concerns as long as she is in need of sharing them. I told her I wear a flower at each of the Support Group meetings I lead, because I have had so many sent to me over the years and that it is a great way of identifying myself to new members. Flowers always bring a smile to others. She will find me the day of the meeting, because I will be waiting in the foyer to bring her in, make her feel comfortable, introduce her to many like herself, and show her how special she is for reaching out and asking for SUPPORT!

Reach Out to a UOAA Affiliated Support Group near you and learn more about the emotional impact of ostomy surgery.

Ellyn Mantell is a UOAA advocate and Affiliated Support Group leader from New Jersey. You can follow her personal blog at morethanmyostomy

 

By Elaine O’Rourke

During the winter of 2005, I went from being an active, strong, 35-year-old yoga teacher to being completely debilitated, feeling like I was 100 years old and barely able to move or walk.

An extreme flare-up of Crohn’s disease resulted in a temporary ileostomy which was then made permanent after a year. I was down to skin and bones and had lost most of my muscle mass. My hips and whole body hurt when I slept as I was so skinny. There was very little that I could do. My body just needed to rest as it took too much energy for anything else.

When I began to regain my strength after my temporary ileostomy, I had a renewed appreciation for walking and what a good simple exercise it is. Just getting out for fresh air, step by step, seeing people and walking the beach. I had missed simply going to shops. Ahhh, to be able to move again, what a gift.

I had never considered going for my daily walk as a “gift” until I couldn’t do it. For many people, including myself, it’s not until things start going wrong that you realize how much you take your health for granted.

As I recovered I was able to slowly get back into my yoga practice and doing everything that I wanted to do. In fact, last year I started surfing which is now my greatest passion. It was previously the one thing I thought I could never do with an ostomy.

My point being, having an ostomy does not mean you can’t exercise or do sports. Just do them mindfully and within your limits. Taking good care of yourself is now of utmost importance. Real self-care not only addresses how we take care of our physical bodies but also how we deal with our emotions and how we think. After all, everything is connected.

Life with an ostomy has a lot of pent-up emotions, thoughts, and challenges. The physical body also holds on to memories and traumas within its cells. This is why you may experience or even hear of people who recall things when getting a massage, or you might start crying when you get bodywork done or when you are moving mindfully in a yoga class. The “feeling experience” is providing a release for these memories.

In my program “Surviving to Thriving: Overcoming Ostomy Challenges so you can Live a FulFilling Life” I focus a lot on the mental and emotional issues that occur but also on the importance of keeping active and making healthy lifestyle choices. As you journey into the New Year and decade what are the more tangible things you can do for your physical well-being? We all know that New Year’s resolutions go out the window by the second week in January, or that they never happen at all.

Instead, consider doing things that will contribute to your health and happiness and set a plan in place. If you find it hard to keep yourself motivated or don’t know where to start then reach out and contact me.

Strategy tips for self-care

1) Move your body
Buying a gym membership is useless– unless you use it! Our ancestors did not live sedentary lives, yet, these days in general, we are very attached to sitting around. Many people work at desks, sit in cars commuting and then sit on the couch to chill out! But our bodies are designed to MOVE.

Tip: Get up and walk around more, even set a chime to go off on your phone to remind yourself. As mentioned, walking is a great way to keep things moving and it’s free. Even a quick five-minute walk is beneficial. Meet a friend for a walk instead of coffee, or both! Move your arms over your head more. Add in some simple stretches. Basically, MOVE as much as you can as that is what our bodies are designed to do.

2) Food choice
If we think we are going to be “depriving” ourselves of something, then we will do anything we can to sabotage our best intentions. For example, If we say we are “giving up chocolate” then chances are we become obsessed with thinking about chocolate and our resolution only lasts a day! Your body is like a temple and keeping it healthy requires the right choices. This will affect your ostomy output, energy levels, muscles, organs, bones and joints.

Tip: Focus on adding in certain foods that you know will be healthier for you. Hint – these foods are mostly in the fresh produce sections of the supermarket. Before you eat and drink ask or even visualize how your body will respond, how your organs will feel, how well your GI tract will digest. Eat slowly, chew and enjoy your food. Notice how it affects your system, energy levels, and your ostomy output.

3) Make it fun
If you dread doing something, then it won’t get done. So find something that is enjoyable. Not everyone likes exercise or sports but there are many different ways that you can treat your body with more kindness.

Tip: Dancing is a great way to move. Maybe go out to hear live music where you can move on a dance floor, or take a dance class. Put music on at home that energizes you. Walk up and down the stairs a few more times. Use a fitbit watch as a way to incentivize yourself.

4) Schedule time for yourself
There are a lot of distractions that pop up during the day and before you know it, you haven’t done anything you intended to do and the checklist is still staring at you.

Tip: Schedule in your planner when you are going to do your (walk, fun movement, cardio class, yoga, meditation, etc.) Be consistent and try and have it at the same time and on the same days each week.

5) Know that you deserve it
There is nothing like a promise of a “treat” or “something special” or to plan out “bribery” if you do something! Self-discipline comes more naturally to some but it takes practice.

Tip: As you decide the new ways you are going to do things in 2020, also give yourself a promise of a self-care present when you complete your goals. As you try more nutritious food, exercising, moving your body (because that is what it is supposed to do) then treat yourself to a massage, tickets to a show, a work-out outfit (that you now must have because you actually enjoy exercise) a good book, and so on!

 

Elaine O’Rourke is the creator of the online holistic program “Surviving To Thriving: Overcoming Ostomy Challenges So You Can Live a FulFilling Life”. She is a certified Yoga Therapist & Teacher since 2003, Sound Healer, EFT & Reiki Practitioner, Recording Artist and International Retreat Leader. Her lighthearted and fun personality shines through her teachings/programs as she loves to inspire others. She is a contributing writer to the national Phoenix Magazine, presenter at the UOAA National Conference and speaker at Girls with Guts retreat.
A free guide is available: ‘3 simple ways to eliminate fears about your ostomy” by visiting Elaine’s website
www.ElaineOrourke.com
Elaine@ElaineOrourke.com

My View: By Connie Confer

Most of the nation is gearing up for Halloween, with all of its tricks and treats. But as a lesbian who wears an ostomy bag, this month also includes some more personal holidays worth celebrating, especially if we want people to feel more accepted and safe.

Did you know that Oct. 5 was Ostomy Awareness Day? Just like the more established National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11), it brings an opportunity for people to celebrate their differences and their courage as they announce, perhaps with some trepidation, that they live with certain realities. They hope their family and friends will not shy away. They hope their bosses will not fire them.

That fear is completely rational. Just this week the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in cases that could indeed decide whether someone can be fired for being gay or transgender. We will have to wait for months to hear their decision and how it will impact our laws. But in the meantime, I want to advocate for acceptance, not alienation. I want to argue that open communication creates community and reduces stigma for people in my own life circumstances.

Yes, it is tricky to navigate the reactions of the world, and it takes some courage. But the treat continues to be that we are not alone. The LGBTQ community is indeed a family, with gay pride parades in every major city, and support groups for people who want to come out to their friends or family, or for parents and other family members who want to support a gay or transgender young person navigate in an unfamiliar world.

Connie Confer, left, at the California General Assembly where she has been key to getting proclamations to recognize Ostomy Awareness Day.

Similarly, my local Southern California, Inland Empire Ostomy Association, offers support and practical advice for people who find themselves facing surgery for an ostomy pouch. As do over 300 other United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) affiliated support and Information groups nationwide.

No wonder people worry when they hear they will be among the 100,000 people in the United States who will get an ostomy this year. The treatment for diseases such as cancer or Crohn’s almost sounds worse than the disease. People wear a pouch attached to the abdomen that holds urine or feces that must be emptied and changed regularly. It can be embarrassing to talk about it, but just the same, we must.

That surgery is life-saving. I am living proof. And the routine of wearing the pouch seems quite easy and normal to me now. I find that I can talk about it with people close to me, and that I do not feel any stigma. For others who want to get to a place where an ostomy pouch feels routine, you should consider attending a UOAA affiliated support group near you.

There is no reason to suffer in silence and there is every reason to be fully and proudly yourself, no matter what your reality. And if you are not impacted by these specific things, make sure you are supportive to friends and family who are.

Life lived honestly can be a real treat.

Carolyn “Connie” Confer served as the assistant city attorney for Riverside, California and has advocated for the LGBTQ community for decades. She was there in September when Assemblyman Jose Medina declared Oct. 5 as Ostomy Awareness Day in California in honor of the work of the Inland Empire Ostomy Association.

By Elaine O’Rourke

As I yoga teacher I was fortunate that I had developed mind-body practices to really help with the emotional roller-coaster ride of getting my ostomy. I was 35 years old when I got my ileostomy due to Crohn’s disease. I opted to make it permanent after a year and then I made a full recovery and have felt amazing for the last 13 years.

While I was deathly ill and recovering from surgeries, the focused breathing practices helped me the most. I had complications from the surgeries so it took some time to really get back into the physical practice of the yoga poses. I had to be very mindful of any poses that stretched my scar sites. But gradually my body healed and I am able to do everything.

Luckily yoga has so much more to offer and there is something for every body. There are deep healing practices such as restorative, yin, breathing, mindfulness, meditation, mantra. The philosophy provides insights into being more aware of our thoughts and then in turn how they may be affecting our emotions and physical states.

Personally, I have gained so much insight and a much broader perspective on how to look at life. No one wants to get ill or have an ostomy but it has taught me first-hand how to be resilient, how much inner strength I have and to value my life and live it to the fullest.

I truly believe in the importance of moving the body (provided you are well enough) getting outside, breathing the fresh air, absorbing the sunlight or sitting under a shady tree is so good for us this time of year. Personally, I try and get up early in the summer months and go down the beach to walk, swim, do yoga and surf (being out early is best for my Irish skin). I also teach yoga on the beach which is a great experience.

It can be intimating to go to a yoga class and to find the right one. There is a wide variety of classes and styles. How you resonate with the teacher has a lot to do with the experience too. If you are brand new to yoga then I suggest starting with gentle, restorative or beginner yoga. If you don’t like a class or teacher then try other ones. It’s like shopping, not everything fits right and it’s the same with yoga. Do tell the instructor that you have an ostomy and you can educate them on what it is! Always empty your bag beforehand and don’t hesitate to go to the bathroom throughout the class if you feel it fill up. You want to create a comfortable environment for yourself. It doesn’t matter what other people think. If you have a hernia then make sure to wear your hernia belt and move cautiously.

I’ll be teaching Rise and Shine Yoga for Every Body at UOAA’s National Conference in Philadelphia this August. It will be a fun way to wake up and be part of this experience. Whether you are brand new to yoga or a seasoned practitioner I hope you will join me. I am a lighthearted teacher and I definitely don’t take the practice or teaching too seriously. In fact, if you can have a bit of a laugh while doing yoga then that is a bonus in my opinion!

I hope you enjoy the short yoga video of some standing poses.

ElaineOrourke.com

 

Walk Through that Door and You Might Surprise Yourself

 

By Ellyn Mantell

There are support groups for many issues but until I, myself, was in need, I never gave much thought to what they can provide. We have seen representations on television and in the movies, and they seem to have merit, but I have learned that they can be a lifesaver, or at the very least, a way to begin to live a life.

During all of the over 20 years that I suffered from constant bowel obstructions and abdominal surgeries, I longed for others to tell me “it would be alright.” But there were no “others” to be found…nobody seemed to have what I had, and therefore, I could never ask what I could do, what did he/she do to live a fuller life? And then I had my ileostomy, and everything changed. After my 23rd abdominal surgery,  something happened that hadn’t happened before…I now had the name of something that could actually garner support, and I took to it like a duck to water!

My ostomy nurse, Angela Natale-Ryan invited me to the Union County Ostomy Support Group in New Jersey, and I was quick to take advantage. Little did I know that, fast-forward, I would find a home for myself, become president for the past five years, and go on to start other support groups. But that is only one piece of the wonderful puzzle I find myself putting together. As president, my name is given to those in need who call the American Cancer Society, or United Ostomy Association of America, or even the local hospitals. The connection I have to so many reaches into every interaction I have, since each new encounter teaches me something.

As much as we are all individuals, new members are frightened and worried, hesitant to walk through a new door, and filled with misconceptions. Letting someone know “it will be alright” because we have all been through it, is invaluable. And most importantly, we welcome each new member of the group with open arms.

At the beginning of our meetings, we go around the (ever-growing) group and say our names and type of ostomy we have, and if we are new ostomates. Additionally, I ask if anyone has any issues that they would like discussed, and we will circle back to those after everyone has a chance to introduce themselves. Our Wound Ostomy Continence nurses address the medical concerns, and we discuss lifestyle concerns with each other.

I have garnered a wealth of knowledge about the medical, the physical and daily life of living with ostomies. I also now know where to gain more information and knowledge when needed. Rarely does too much surprise me in those areas over these past five years. But I am so appreciative, and feel forever treated to the magnificence of the human spirit, as I see the emotional growth that takes place as we lean on each other for support, and I can count on that!

 

United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) has over 300 Affiliated Support Groups around the country. To find support and information near you click here. To start or affiliate an existing group with UOAA click here