By Robin Glover

The Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k is set to return for its eighth year beginning on Ostomy Awareness Day, October 1, 2022. This year’s event will feature both in-person races around the U.S. and the worldwide Virtual Ostomy 5k. Individuals and teams will be running, rolling, or walking to raise money and show their support for the critical programs and services of United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA).

Ostomies Are Life-Savers

No matter their story, there are two things all ostomates have in common: incredible resilience and a life saved or much improved by ostomy or continent diversion surgery. The Run for Resilience 5k is a celebration of that. And while every participant can get a run t-shirt with “Ostomies are Life-Savers” emblazoned on the front, each of them have their own stories and reasons why.

For Sydney, a 23-year-old living with an ileostomy, she’s participating and fundraising for the Virtual Ostomy 5k to share the story of how ostomy surgery saved her life. She also wants to serve as an inspiration to other young people facing similar challenges and let them know they can “live the life they want because of the ostomy bag” and not in spite of it. Sydney exemplifies the resilience of the ostomy community.

Liz exemplifies that resilience, too. A month and a half after being diagnosed with bladder cancer, she underwent a radical cystectomy (bladder removal) with a total hysterectomy and stoma placement. Liz is now an advocate who wants everyone to know that her urostomy saved her life. She and a fellow UOAA Support Group leader are hosting a Virtual 5k walk in Cincinnati  because “we are living proof that ostomies are lifesavers and that you can have a fulfilling life with an ostomy.”

The need for an ostomy or other continent diversion isn’t always directly due to a medical condition. Stefphanie was hit by a drunk driver and underwent eleven surgeries in the two weeks following the crash and required both an ileostomy and a mucous fistula. Though hesitant to talk about it at first, she’s now thriving and wants to share her story to inspire others.

If you don’t want to run or walk yourself, consider shining a light on this resilience by supporting the fundraisers of people like these.

In Person Events Are Back This Year!

In addition to the Virtual Ostomy 5k which can be held anywhere by anyone, in-person Run for Resilience 5k events are back this year!

These events are family-friendly gatherings and a chance to share ostomy awareness in communities all around the country. Most events take place on beautiful parkland or waterfront trails. They also all feature an opportunity to visit with ostomy product representatives in person and visit other event sponsor tables. Race participants will also receive a goodie bag with promotional items and educational materials.

Don’t worry if you are not in running shape ­– do what you can. Walkers outnumber runners at many of these in-person fun runs. More serious runners looking for an event to attend however may want to travel to the Durham, North Carolina Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k as it takes place on a timed and certified 5k course.

Past participant Lianne Weller shared what makes these events special, “The 5k race allows other ostomates to build confidence and breakdown barriers to getting back into physical shape; going one step closer to their goal. I feel more confident and less self-conscious because I’m surrounded by individuals who have all gone through similar obstacles.”

As envisioned by the 5k founders, all locations will get an optional ostomy pouch provided by Exclusive Diamond Sponsor Hollister. Non-ostomates are encouraged to wear their ostomy pouches during the race. (Don’t worry. They’re easy to put on.)

The Arizona Run for Resilience Arizona 5k will have a great new location in Scottsdale on October 1st, 2022, with a 5k run/walk and a fun run for the kids.

The newest in-person event is the Miami, Florida Ostomy 5k taking place at the University of Miami Campus in Coral Gables on Saturday, October 1st, 2022, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Organizer Ana Restrepo says the event will include food, drinks, games, giveaways, and more.

Other in-person Run for Resilience 5k events being held across the country in celebration of Ostomy Awareness Day on Saturday, October 1, 2022 are:

Vancouver, WA

Nashville, TN

Boise, ID

Birmingham, AL (October 8th)

(Please follow each individual link to get more information about times and types of races.)

 “I Intend to Be Victorious”

For every person living with an ostomy or other continent diversion, there’s a story of resilience to go along with it. A virtual participant who goes by Poo and Friends, is working to take their life back one step at a time and they “intend to be victorious.

You can learn more about other participants of each race location or the worldwide virtual by clicking on the circle above their name and reading their story.

Don’t forget to click “Load More Fundraisers” to see them all, including Tanya who’s one of the many wonderful Certified Wound Ostomy Nurses (CWON) and Wound Ostomy Care Nurses (WOCN) taking part in the 2022 Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k.

Share Your Story Too

Are you someone who wants to help break the stigma around ostomies and be an inspiration to others? You’re encouraged to sign up, create your own fundraiser, and share your story. After all, the story of your journey can be what helps someone else make it through theirs.

To participate in the Virtual Ostomy 5k and get this year’s awesome Ostomies Are Lifesavers T-shirt in time for Ostomy Awareness Day you have to register by September 9th.

  • Run, walk, roll or pedal a 5k (3.1 miles) route of your choice. You can even use a treadmill!
  • Take pictures of yourself during your race and email them to info@ostomy.org or message or tag UOAA on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or TikTok
  • Hashtag your photos with #OstomiesAreLifesavers and #RunforResilience

Friends, family, members of the medical community, and anyone else who wants to support ostomates and celebrate their resilience are also encouraged to donate or create their own fundraiser. Fundraisers will receive special promotional items depending on how much they raise.

Help Support UOAA

Funds raised during the 2022 Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k will support United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides national advocacy, support and resources for the 725,000 to 1 million Americans who have had or will have ostomy or continent diversion surgery. These surgeries are lifesaving and have allowed many people to return to living a healthy life.

To find out more about the Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k please visit www.ostomy.org/5k.

 

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

Actress, model, businesswoman, and cancer survivor LeeAnne Hayden shares diet and fitness tips that can help you live your best life with an ostomy.

Learn simple lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health and wellness.

Living a healthy lifestyle. We all know we should be doing it, but sometimes it’s not so easy – especially after having ostomy surgery. When it comes to eating and exercise, we’re worried about the possibility of blockages and hernias. I get a lot of questions about those issues.

I have had my colostomy for over six years now, and after doing a lot of testing of what my body can and can’t tolerate, I feel great. Regardless of any concerns you may be experiencing, it is so important to live a healthy lifestyle. When we feed our bodies the right foods and move our bodies with exercise, over time we will see, and more importantly FEEL, the positive results.

6 Tips for Healthy Eating With an Ostomy

So, what do we do? Our Moms always said, “Eat those vegetables and have an apple!” However, most of us must watch our fruit and vegetable intake so that we avoid intestinal blockages. Here are six tips that can help you eat well and safely:

  1. Cook your fruits and vegetables. When foods are cooked, they are easier for the body to break down. Try sautéing, baking, or even air frying your favorite fruits and vegetables. I am constantly sautéing spinach, red peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and then tossing in some lean protein and jasmine rice or sweet potatoes to complete the meal.
  2. Blend your fruits and vegetables. After every workout I have a protein smoothie. I combine one cup of unsweetened almond milk with one scoop of vanilla whey protein, a handful of spinach, a half of a banana, and one tablespoon of peanut butter.
  3. Chop your salads. The smaller the pieces, the easier they are to digest. I’ve been loving the bags of pre-chopped salad that are in grocery stores now.
  4. Take a digestive enzyme after a meal. These supplements can help your system break down vegetables and fruits even more.
  5. Chew slowly. Our lives are so busy that when we sit down to eat, we often don’t take our time. Slow down at the table and chew your food more. This will help you digest it better.
  6. Keep a food log. Writing down what you ate and how it made you feel will help you make better choices.

Be sure to check with a dietitian about what foods you can safely eat. For example, mushrooms can cause intestinal blockages for some people living with an ileostomy.

3 Tips for Exercising Your Core After Ostomy Surgery

When you have an ostomy, working on your core is important. It can be scary prospect, however, since the fear of getting a hernia is a real thing. So, always check with your doctor before starting any fitness program.

Core exercise is great for improving pelvic floor strength, posture, and balance. It also can help prevent ostomy bag leaks because the flange will fit better on your peristomal skin.

Here are three gentle core movements that you can do to help strengthen your core:

  1.  Standing single knee lift. Stand with your feet hips-length apart, and your hands on your waist or down by your side. Tense your abdominal muscles and lift one knee. Do as many as you can or three sets of 10 to 20 on one side before moving to the other side.
  2.  Holding a plank position. Planks put less strain on your spine and hip flexors than abdominal crunches or sit-ups. A beginner version can be done against a piece of furniture (e.g., a chair or a low table). Place your forearms on the furniture, keep your back flat, don’t sag into your forearms, keep your core tight, and hold that position for 15 to 30 seconds. The further away your legs are from the furniture the more activated the core will become. Advanced options are done on the floor. Put your hands directly under your shoulders, grind your toes into the floor, and tighten your gluteal and core muscles. Neutralize your neck and spine by looking at a place on the floor about a foot beyond your hands. Hold this position from 20 seconds to two minutes.
  3.  Stomach crunches. Lie on your back with your knees bent to a 90-degree angle and your feet on the floor. Make sure your back is flat. Squeeze in your abdominal muscles and bring your head to your knees. Your glutes will try to play too, but don’t let them. Focus solely on your abs, hold for three to five seconds, and then release. Do three sets of 10 to 20.

I hope these wellness tips have been helpful to you! Share with us on social media your favorite fruit and vegetable recipes, and what you think of these moves!


To learn more about LeeAnne Hayden, listen to The Beautiful Bag podcast, visit leeannhayden.com, or follow @leeannehayden on InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

People who provided testimonials received compensation from Hollister Incorporated. The testimonials, statements, and opinions presented are applicable to the people depicted. These testimonials are representative of their experience, but the exact results and experience will be unique and individual to each person.

 

Editor’s note: This article is from Hollister Incorporated, a digital sponsor in support of the free online resources of ostomy.org and UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Are you a new ostomate? Or a soon-to-be ostomate? No matter how far you are in your ostomy journey, adapting to your new situation is an inevitable part of the process. Talking to others who have already been in your shoes can help you in adjusting to this time of your life. That’s why we asked Josh Nelson, the first active-duty U.S. Airforce Pilot living with an ileostomy, to share his story and his experience with his ostomy journey to give insights on how getting an ostomy can be just the beginning of an exciting new chapter.

Before surgery

What was your life like before your ostomy surgery?

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in November of 2017. Throughout the next year after my diagnosis, I tried maximum medical therapies starting with oral medications, then biologics, and then transitioned to combination therapies with biologics. Unfortunately, my body just did not respond to the medications, and the disease just took over my life. If you want to talk about quality of life with ulcerative colitis before I had the surgery – I didn’t have one. I was 145lbs. I was having 18 to 20 bowel movements a day. I wouldn’t leave my house. I knew where every bathroom, rest stop, and gas station were from my house to where I work. Any time I did leave the house, the only thing on my mind was, “Where’s the bathroom?” in case I had that sudden urgency to go. My wife and daughters left me alone. They wouldn’t even ask if I would go with them anywhere because they just knew I did not want to go anywhere. I had no quality of life. I was a prisoner in my own home, and that’s no way to live your life.

How did you feel when you learned you would be having ostomy surgery? What questions of fears did you have?

I made the decision to have an ostomy surgery in November of 2018, and I had about three days’ notice before the surgery was going to take place. The staff at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, where I was inpatient for 30 days prior to surgery, did a great job of introducing what life with a stoma will be like. My questions were, “What is a stoma?” “What are the appliances that I’m going to have?” “How do I care for this thing, and how do I recover?” and  “How do I slowly adapt to having an ileostomy and then getting my life back?” The WOC nurses were great, because they would just simply start to explain, “Oh, here’s what a wafer or barrier looks like,” “Here’s what a pouch looks like,” “Here’s what some of the accessories are.” They also explained, whether it’s ileostomy, colostomy, or urostomy, people do go on to live fully functional lives.

I definitely had some goals, but I had no fears when it came to having the surgery. I mean, okay, fine – I had maybe a couple fears of having surgery, but the stoma itself I was not afraid of. The reason for that is because I was kind of at my lowest of lows, and I thought to myself, “How could this be any worse than what I’m dealing with right now?” I remember my surgeon and the medical staff told me that once the surgery was done, I would no longer have the pain, and each day moving forward I could start to focus on getting my life back.

What advice do you have for people who are considering ostomy surgery?

My advice to anybody who is considering having the surgery is to keep an open mind. It will take some work. You will need to adapt to what you have. That means taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally because it is a step-by-step process. It is a big transition, but I’ve done everything I could to make sure my quality of life has improved. I do not regret my decision one bit. I have my life back and that’s what I think is most important.

Coming home

What was your experience like right after your ostomy surgery?

I had about five days in the hospital after surgery, and during that time I was focused on recovery, protecting my abdomen, and getting my strength back. The nurses did a great job of explaining step by step what it takes to change out the pouch and care for my stoma. Before I left the hospital, I needed to make sure that my pain was under control, starting to move around, and understood how to change my appliance by myself.

What were your goals after your surgery?

I focused on transitioning to home life again, figuring out how to slowly heal my body, and how to start eating foods again.

My goals were:

  1. Getting healthy food into my body so that my body can recover.
  2. Finding out what schedule I should be on for changing out my appliance.
  3. Observing my stoma area regularly to keep my skin healthy, prevent skin breakdown, and make sure that my stoma was healing properly.

What would you tell someone else returning home from their surgery?

  • Don’t be afraid of touching the stoma because your stoma doesn’t have any nerve endings you can feel.
  • It’s extremely important to have a solid understanding of how to change your pouch and ask for products before you leave the hospital.
  • Your WOC nurse will probably explain that what works best for you in the hospital may change after you go home and are healing up. Initially, it might be multiple times a week that you’re changing your whole appliance out because your abdominal area might’ve been swollen from the surgery, and as it starts to reside some of those wafers might fit differently.
  • Everybody’s different. Everybody responds to products differently. Those first couple of weeks to a month is just trial and error to find out which products work best for you. After you figure out your change routine, your quality of life can start to improve. You no longer need to worry about having multiple leaks or having multiple issues with your appliance, and you can start to focus on making other goals for your life with an ostomy.
  • Just take it day by day. Don’t think of the end state right away because it’s going to take time to get there. Create small goals on a day-to-day basis and then think long term and how to get there. It’s definitely a marathon; it is not a sprint. You’re going to learn something new every single day until you get comfortable living your life and understanding how to handle your ostomy.

Managing life with an ostomy

How has your life changed now that you have an ostomy?

I’ve had my ileostomy for over three years, and I can honestly say I haven’t looked back or had any regrets whatsoever to surgically remove my colon. I try to tell people my worst day as an ileostomate far exceeds my best day ever living under the umbrella of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I am no longer bound by any type of medication. I have no special diet, nor do I have any restrictions, and my quality of life is through the roof. I could not be happier, and I do not regret the decision one bit whatsoever. But how did I get there?

First off, I accepted the fact early on that I was going to have an ileostomy for the rest of my life because it was a decision I made for a better quality of life. After accepting it, I could focus on moving forward versus dwelling on the “how’s” and “why’s” with ulcerative colitis.

Secondly, after trying multiple different products, I came across a Coloplast product that worked really well for me. Once I found the product that worked well for me, that gave me the confidence to continue moving forward with my life and not have to worry about having leakage or skin issues. I have a couple routines, I’ll change my pouch no more than twice a week, but no less than once a week. I observe how the wear and tear of my wafer and appliance is working.

On top of that, I wanted to do everything that I could to make sure that I am living the best life that I can. I made some personal decisions, such as eating better and taking care of myself. I exercise quite a bit, and I try to eat fairly well. I try to focus on eating healthy foods so I can get the nutrition that my body needs.

What are some other tips you want to share about managing life with an ostomy?

It’s important to understand that this affects everybody differently, and it’s up to you to determine what works best for you to adapt, overcome, and live your life with any type of ostomy. I reached out to local support groups, and I think that’s extremely beneficial because you get connected with like-minded individuals. No matter whether they have a colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy, you can touch base with them and share your fears and concerns. A lot of these people have lived decades with their ostomy, and they’re proof to you that you probably can too. Finding that help and resource is extremely beneficial in helping you understand how to navigate life now that you have an ostomy and what’s out there for you.

 

I hope this helped you to understand what it was like to be diagnosed with the disease, have a permanent ileostomy, and how I live my life moving forward. Thank you! -Josh

 

 

*Josh has received compensation from Coloplast to provide this information. Each person’s situation is unique, so your experience may not be the same. Talk to your healthcare professional about which product might be right for you.

At Coloplast, we strive to provide innovative solutions to support people with intimate healthcare needs and make their lives easier. Now, we’ve got an app for that!

If you’re looking for additional support during your ostomy journey, download MyOstomyLife by Coloplast® Care. The app is designed to help you be successful and build confidence in managing your ostomy by providing you with personalized tools and resources for your daily life with an ostomy.

With MyOstomyLife, you can create a digital stoma journal to track your pouching changes over time and easily download to share with your nurse, if requested. The app also provides you with educational resources offering reliable product and lifestyle advice, tips customized to your ostomy type, and inspirational videos from other ostomates like Josh.

You can also easily contact one of our Coloplast Care® Ostomy Advisors for product and lifestyle support within the app. We’re here to help!

Download MyOstomyLife for free on your smartphone or tablet today to get started!

Have any questions about the app? Visit Coloplast® Care at www.ostomy.coloplastcare.us or call

1-877-858-2656.

Information provided in the app and 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. You should rely on the healthcare professional who knows your individual history for personal medical advice and diagnosis.

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.

 

There’s no bond more important than the one with your own body. ConvaTec helps you create a healthy bond with yourself, your stoma. And then, with the world around you.

We want to show the world that people living with Ostomies have deep, beautiful nurturing relationships with everyone and everything around them.

This is Kya’s story: Coming out of the hospital postpartum and post-surgery, I honestly never thought I could never go swimming again. I never thought that I could get back to my normal life, I never thought I’d be my normal self. Turns out, I’m a better version of myself. I’m stronger and with Healthy Bonds, I am doing so much better. This is my life now. I used to think once I got an Ostomy that date nights would be stressful and less romantic, but I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Happy anniversary, baby.

 

Editor’s note: This blog/video 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.

By Robin Glover

Oh no! An ostomy! You’re going to be pooping or peeing into a bag attached to your stomach?? Your life is over, right? No more dating. No one will ever like you. Children will run from you! It’s so gross!

Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. As great as they can turn out to be, the idea of getting an ostomy is never really welcomed news. Add on to that, you’re probably very sick and haven’t eaten well in weeks and you’re tired and worried and feel alone. You know nothing about ostomies and are wondering what life will be like with one.

Will having an ostomy bag eventually become second nature and you won’t even really think or worry about it? Yes.

First of all, life is going to be great! You’ll feel better. You’ll eat better. You won’t be bleeding out of unspeakable places and constantly panic-stricken about finding the nearest bathroom. Your life will become more consistent and routine and you’ll end up being happy you had a lifesaving, life-improving surgery.

It’s possible that you don’t believe that right now, though. And while it does turn out to be a good thing for most, there is an adjustment period and a lot of unknowns and myths. For instance, how do I change my ostomy bag? Will I stink? What if I have an accident in public? Can I ever play sports again? Or exercise? Or go swimming?

In short– is it easy? No. Will it be fine? Yes, yes and yes. But for a little expanded information and peace of mind, we can go into a little more detail.

How Do I Change My Ostomy Bag?

You gently peel it off, wipe things off a bit, and put another one on. It really does become as simple as that. But, at first, you’ll hopefully have a specialized ostomy nurse that will teach you how to do it. After your surgery, you likely won’t have to change it yourself the first several times. But, you should practice doing it and will be better off if you make the effort to know how before you leave the hospital. It also helps to know what the standards of care should be for ostomy patients and speak out before you are discharged and sent on your way.

If you did not have access to a certified ostomy nurse in your hospital be sure to seek one out. You can also find a Wound, Ostomy and Continence (WOC) Nurse or an Ostomy Management Specialist (OMS) through product manufacturers and telehealth services.

Will My Ostomy Bag Leak?

At first, Yes. It likely will. You might even get really frustrated in the beginning because you can’t seem to put it on as well as the nurse in the hospital. Even if you put it on “perfectly” and follow all the steps your ostomy pouch can still leak. You’ll get the hang of it, though. Every ostomy and everybody is different. You’ll learn what supplies you need, where to get them, and how to use them to make sure the fit is just right.

While you might be hesitant to leave the house for a while, you’ll soon feel totally confident going anywhere you want, any time you want. And better yet? You won’t be constantly worried about being near a bathroom! There’s always the risk of a leak, though. But it won’t be a big deal. You’ll be able to detect it quickly and take care of it.

Will I Smell?

No. If the appliance is attached correctly, you should never stink. No one will be able to smell you. You can be as close as you want to other people. You can go out and be in a crowded bar and nobody will know you have an ostomy bag. There are also plenty of clothing and garment options to fit well with your pouch and conceal it from anyone ever knowing – if that’s how you choose to approach it.

If you do ever smell, that means you need to check your pouch for any leaks or openings allowing odor to escape. And if you happen to be in public, you can carry tape or any of a variety of things to sneak off into the bathroom and do a quick fix. Will it be uncomfortable or scary the first time it happens? Yes. Will having an ostomy bag eventually become second nature and you won’t even really think or worry about it? Yes.

(Quick note: The answer to a lot of questions about having an ostomy is that “you’ll figure it out” or “you’ll become comfortable” because everything will be new when you first have an ostomy bag. There’s no step-by-step guide. There will be frustrations. Maybe some tears. It’s an adjustment. Nobody just has ostomy surgery, learns to put on a pouch, and then goes about their business. You will have issues. You may have some stained clothes and probably need to change your bedsheets one or two times. But, you will figure it out.)

Can I Do Whatever I Want?

Generally speaking, yes. Of course, this depends on every unique situation, and only you and your doctor can accurately answer this question. But, in general, you’ll be able to do whatever you want. Simply having an ostomy won’t restrict you from doing anything. You might even be able to do a whole lot more than you could before.

You’ll be able to go swimming, play rugby, do mixed martial arts, teach yoga, travel the world, go on dates, and do anything you were physically capable of before having surgery. All without worrying about being in constant pain or eating the wrong thing or needing to run to the bathroom every five minutes. However, make sure to wait 6-8 weeks or until your doctor approves you for any strenuous physical activity before winning the local 5k again. (Perhaps you’ll even want to take part in UOAA’s own Ostomy 5k.)

Getting An Ostomy Is Totally Worth It

All the details about how to change your ostomy pouch where to get supplies, and when you can go back to doing the things you love will get worked out. But the important thing to remember is that having ostomy surgery is going to be totally worth it. Even if your head is spinning now about what life will be like, it will calm down.

And also remember that you’re not alone. One of the best ways to prepare is to call or visit an ostomy support and information group before you have surgery. Many others have been through the same process and are more than eager to offer a listening ear and emotional support. UOAA also offers a new ostomy patient guide and has tons of online resources to get you started on the right path.

You’ll get the hang of everything, then look back and be so grateful that you are a warrior. Countless other ostomates will tell you the same thing. That is, when they’re not busy living an incredible life they wouldn’t have otherwise.

You got this!

 

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

Cassandra Kottman’s Story

 

Kottman earning her 2nd degree blackbelt after a recent all-day test.

I started Shaolin Kempo Karate back in 2012. I had trained in Shotokan Karate in high school and really wanted to get back into martial arts. I’ve struggled with ulcerative colitis since I was 12 and staying active always seemed to help. My UC was still severe and I was in and out of the hospital quite often, so training was still a struggle. Eventually, my colon ruptured in 2016, and I was rushed to the ER and had to have an emergency colectomy. I was in pretty bad shape, and almost didn’t make it, even after the procedure. I was bedridden for about 9-months and on TPN for almost half of that dealing with the symptoms of pancreatitis.

I slowly got back on my feet. The whole time nurses were telling me that I wasn’t going to be able to live a normal life, and that I couldn’t do martial arts or many other kinds of activities. It was a very depressing time. Fortunately, I thought to ask my surgeon what kind of limitations I was going to have. She was so positive and let me know of another one of her patients who was a professional water skier, and the precautions he took to get back into his sport. That same day I went and ordered an ostomy guard, foam to make a belly pad, and texted my karate instructor to let him know I was coming back in.

My first class was absolutely horrible. All my muscles had atrophied. I did 3 stationary “jumping jacks.” Basically, I lifted my arms over my head three times and that was all I could manage. I almost passed out and ended up laying on the floor watching everyone else for the rest of class. I kept going back and pushed myself a little more every week. It took a good year and a half to get back to “normal.”

Because of the trauma I had gone through and my passion to continue training, I was inducted into the U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame as 2017’s Woman of the Year. Happy to say I am the first ostomate to ever be inducted. It’s a little weird to say, but I actually inspired myself, knowing everything I had gone through, and that I pushed myself to be my best. So, I continued to push my training to where I was able to train 3-4 hours 5 times a week. In 2018, I was invited to perform for the Abbot and test for my black belt at the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, China, which was a tremendous honor.

So, on November 6th, I took the test. Six intense hours of high-intensity drills, sparring and defense maneuvers against fists, knives, and clubs. I could barely move the next day, but it was all worth it because I passed. It really is a good feeling, and I’ve impressed myself with how hard I can push myself.

I still deal with day-to-day issues like hydration, or general fatigue, but overall, everything is manageable. If I have learned anything it’s that you need to listen to your body, and if there is something you really want to do, you can find a way to make it happen. It might not be the way everyone else is doing it, but all that matters is that it works for you.

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

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.

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

 

Photo Cred:  Dave Camara / Camara Photography

 

By Ed Pfueller, UOAA Communications & Outreach Manager

If you’re looking for Patrick McKinney you’ll likely find him outdoors. Depending on the season, McKinney, 54, of New Market, Maryland, can be found speeding down a ski slope, powering up a hill on his bike, tending to horses, or photographing his daughters playing sports.

That wasn’t always the case.  In 1984, as a 17-year-old, while donating at a high school blood drive, he was found to be anemic. The formerly active teen had been experiencing incontinence with blood loss for 18-24 months and was afraid to tell anyone.  After confiding in his mother and seeking a diagnosis, a colonoscopy revealed ulcerative colitis. By his mid-twenties he found himself hospitalized several times after his body stopped responding to conventional steroid-based therapies.  In 1993 he had the first of five surgeries that over the years eventually led to a temporary ostomy and a j-pouch. He was plagued by stricture problems and other issues with the j-pouch. “With the j-pouch I was still going to the bathroom 15-20 times a day when it was bad,” McKinney remembers. When another surgery was required in 2004 because his j-pouch perforated leaving him septic, his doctor at the Cleveland Clinic prepared him for the fact that depending on how it went, McKinney could wake up with a permanent ileostomy.

“It’s like being a kid again, wind blowing in your hair takes you back to your teenage years”

Indeed that was what happened and he experienced the struggles so many new ostomates have while trying to adjust both mentally and physically. McKinney now says, “Getting an ostomy was the best thing that ever happened to me, I got my life back.”

McKinney credits reading Rolf Bernirschke’s book Alive & Kicking for encouraging him to not be held back by his ostomy. “His book got my life back on a normal track. I started being an advocate and lived life again.” McKinney recalls.

McKinney wrote to Rolf and was honored to receive a Great Comebacks Eastern Region Award in 2008, which included the chance to meet the inspiring former NFL Man of the Year.  Since then he has embraced taking part in sports he had never even tried before having ostomy surgery.

McKinney’s first major post-surgery athletic challenge was competing in a half-marathon in Sonoma, California in 2009. The success of it inspired him to try other competitive sports. A family ski trip to Colorado piqued his interest in alpine ski racing. After entering an amateur event in 2014, he was surprised to learn his time qualified for nationals in his age group. After that he was hooked on “running gates.” McKinney has been alpine racing ever since and is a member of NASTAR’s Team Zardoz and the United Ski And Snowboard Association (USSA) Mid-Atlantic Masters Ski Racing Association and trains at Montage Mountain in Scranton, PA.

During the rest of the year, McKinney can most often be found on his bicycle touring the rolling hills of rural Maryland. As a member of the Frederick (Maryland) Pedalers Bicycle Club he rides over 3000 miles per year including events like the Tour de Frederick and the Civil War Century.

“It’s like being a kid again, wind blowing in your hair takes you back to your teenage years,” he says. For those hesitant to try riding again McKinney advises “Being prepared helps to put your mind at ease.” “Have a plan and know where the bathrooms are at local parks, I empty right before to go out. The back pocket on a cycling jersey is perfect for bringing extra supplies and wipes. My ileostomy tends to not have much output when I’m being active.”

In 2019 McKinney heard that UOAA’s National Conference was coming to Philadelphia, PA and welcomed the opportunity to see Rolf again and check out the unique event. Talking to other ostomates at the conference inspired him to do more with UOAA. “It helped me realize this is a chance to see what I can do, and that it is the right time to get more involved with the Frederick Area Ostomy Support Group.” McKinney has been an active member and is now the group’s President, supporting their activities even as in-person meetings were suspended this past year. In just the past few years he has offered his perspective as an ostomate to nursing students at a local community college and as an ostomy patient visitor. In support of Ostomy Awareness Day, he helped to procure proclamations from local government and organized a walk for the Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k, a major fundraiser for the programs and services of UOAA.

“Getting an ostomy was the best thing that ever happened to me, I got my life back.”

“The biggest thing is to provide some hope.  Almost everyone is devastated and so unsure about how to live through this experience,” McKinney says. On a national level, McKinney is now a member of the United Ostomy Associations of America Education Committee.

“I try to lead through living my best life. Sharing what I can do, but also keeping in mind to listen to your body. Get out there and walk, or ride on a bike.  For most, an ostomy will not impact that, I try to be encouraging and positive.”

His advice for other ostomates looking to get active? “Your only limitation is your mind.  If your doc says you are healthy enough do it, hydrate, hydrate, and always be prepared.”

By Elaine O’Rourke, Ostomy/IBD Health Mentor

Peristomal hernias are something that every ostomate should be aware of. Although a hernia can occur for a wide variety of reasons, there are some common factors to take into consideration, such as weight, age, level of fitness and other health issues.

Nurse Anita Prinz, CWOCN, is my guest in this must-watch video and we discuss hernias in detail. She shares a very informative slide show as well as showing different types of hernia belts and ostomy products that are useful if you have a hernia.

You will see and learn what hernias look like, how they form and preventive tips.

There are a great variety of hernia support belts on the market which can make a big difference. But you should be fitted/sized for your hernia belt as every body and stoma is different.

It is so important in the weeks following surgery not to lift or do anything strenuous. Even coughing can cause a hernia. Always proceed with caution especially when you are starting to exercise. If you are trying to get in shape and have not been active before surgery then you are advised to wear a hernia belt.

You might benefit from one-on-one instruction from someone such as myself who is trained and knows how to exercise safely and strengthen and engage the core with an ostomy. Hernias do not go away so you should consult your medical professionals to get more advice. Surgery can be done but be aware that hernias can reoccur.  Ask questions and be well informed.

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

Nurse Anita is available for a private consultation. www.AnitaNurse.com

About Elaine

Elaine O’Rourke is an Ostomy/IBD Health Mentor and 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. 

YouTube: Elaine O’Rourke Yoga, Ostomy, IBD

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

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

Web: ElaineOrourke.com