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.

By Robin Glover

No need to be alarmed, but if you have an ostomy you already have a hernia! When the surgeon opened your abdominal muscles to pull your intestine through, they technically gave you a hernia. But we’re not talking about that kind of hernia. We’re talking about parastomal (peristomal) hernias. That’s when more intestine than planned pushes through your muscles and causes a bulge at your ostomy site.

You can tell if you might have a parastomal hernia by a noticeable bulge or by placing your hand over your stoma and seeing if it protrudes out when you cough. (This doesn’t count as an official diagnosis. You’ll probably also want to talk to your doctor.)

What Is a Parastomal Hernia?

A parastomal hernia is like any other hernia. They happen when an organ pushes through a weak spot in the muscle. For people with an ostomy, the organ is your intestine and the weak spot is in the same area the surgeon created your stoma.

While every effort is made to close everything and ensure a tight, snug fit, some extra intestine can force its way through and push against your skin. (This is as opposed to a prolapsed stoma when extra intestine is actually coming out of your body.)

Parastomal hernias usually happen within the first one to two years after ostomy surgery, but can occur later. While people without a parastomal hernia will tell you they’re mostly asymptomatic, those with one will likely beg to differ. Parastomal hernias can cause discomfort and pain and make it difficult to keep your appliance on.

Dealing With a Parastomal Hernia

One of the most frustrating things about having a parastomal hernia is dealing with leaks. Every parastomal hernia is unique and they come in all shapes and sizes so finding the right pouching system is important. It can take some experimenting and ordering plenty of free samples from ostomy supply companies to get it figured out.

If possible, you should also consult with a Wound Ostomy Care nurse. In fact, you should probably do this first. It can save you plenty of time and frustration. Check out this link for resources on finding one. Ostomy nurses are out there and ready to help!

Preventing a Parastomal Hernia

The best way to prevent a parastomal hernia is to listen to your doctor. When they say to not lift anything over 10 pounds for 4-6 weeks after surgery, don’t do it! You should also always be careful about what you lift and use proper form no matter how long ago your surgery was. It’s also a good idea to wear an ostomy support belt or undergarment when you’re working out or doing any strenuous activity, and to apply pressure to your stoma when you cough or sneeze.

Strengthening the area around your stoma site can help, too. But, as always, check with your doctor before beginning any sort of exercise routine. (Also, as always again, quitting smoking and/or maintaining a healthy weight can make a big difference.)

How Do You Fix a Parastomal Hernia?

Well, there’s no simple answer. Like every parastomal hernia is different, so are our bodies and the surgeries we’ve had. It will take consulting with your doctor or a WOC nurse to find a plan of action that’s specific to your needs.

But something you can do right now is find support from the ostomy community. We are a tight-knit group (and just not our sutures!) of people always eager to help and offer a listening ear.

 

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

Sponsored by Coloplast

Have you ever experienced skin issues under your barrier? While peristomal skin conditions are all too common, many are easily treated – and better yet, avoided – with the right knowledge, product fit, and support. Finding the right ostomy barrier to fit your individual needs can be a challenge and may involve trying a few different barriers to fit your unique body and stoma. Getting a nice snug fit between your stoma and ostomy barrier is key to protecting your skin, and helps you reduce the risk of experiencing a frustrating cycle of stoma leakage and resulting skin issues.

If you see an ostomy nurse – great! Every person’s situation is unique, so if you’ve worked together on a solution, or if you’re currently experiencing skin issues that may require a specific intervention, I highly recommend working with your ostomy nurse to find the routine that works for you. That said, below are some general tips that are relevant to anyone with an ostomy.

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – meaning it’s preferable to take precautions than to suffer the consequences later. This is also true in ostomy care. So, what can taking precautions for peristomal skin health look like? While it may not be realistic to prevent skin issues 100% of the time (after all, things happen!) finding a well-fitted and comfortable pouching system for your stoma and body profile is a great place to start in reducing your chances of skin issues. I always like to explain proper fit like trying on shoes at the store. When buying a new pair of shoes there are different criteria to follow. For example, is this the right size? Is it too big? Too small? Does my foot move around too much or not enough? Does it chafe when I bend too much or too fast? All these questions can also be asked when selecting the fit of your ostomy barrier.

The right barrier?

While you might sacrifice comfort for a number of reasons when you’re picking a new pair of shoes, your ostomy barrier should be treated more like your favorite go-to shoe no matter the occasion – going out on the town, running on the trails, or enjoying a quiet night in. If your shoe doesn’t fit and move with your foot just right, you may find that you have blisters on your heels from walking in them for too long. Similarly, if your barrier doesn’t move with your body while you sit, stretch, and go about your day, you may also find blisters or painful sores underneath your adhesive. That’s why the adhesive of your product is also important to consider when finding the right barrier for you – there are a lot of options out there! For instance, there are options for more stability around your stoma, more flexibility, special sizes and shapes to better fit your body’s contours, more resistance to breakdown from stoma output, and a host of other options that your WOC nurse can help you navigate. No matter which option you choose, an ostomy barrier should move comfortably with your body and shouldn’t limit your activities or range of motion.

Does this fit just right?

A great question! Let’s continue referencing trying on shoes. If the shoe is too large, your foot slides around and can create some friction in some places like your heel or your toes. Ouch! If the shoe is too small for your foot, it’s too tight and is quite uncomfortable, which can also create some friction and maybe some sores, much like when the shoe is too big. So, how do we relate this to an ostomy barrier? Let’s discuss! An ostomy barrier needs to be snug to the stoma and measured properly. If the barrier size is cut too big, the risk of stool or urine on the skin from the fit not being appropriate can create irritation or even sores. If the barrier is too tight, the proper seal may not be achieved, and the improper fit could lead to irritation on the skin or even to the stoma if the fit is far too tight. Just like you would use a previous shoe size as a reference or a foot-measuring size guide at the store, utilizing a stoma measuring guide to size up your stoma may be key to getting the right fitting barrier. You want to make sure that the measuring guide fits snug around the stoma, but not too tight, and just close enough to the stoma so the skin doesn’t show through.

For illustration purposes only. Performance and experience may vary. Talk to your healthcare professional about what may be right for you. Please refer to product ‘Instructions for Use’ for intended use and relevant safety information.

What is a solution?

Finding the right solution may take a few tries to find the right fitting barrier for your body type and your stoma size. When finding the right fit, the goal is to reduce any peristomal skin irritation or issues you could experience from improper sizing. Utilizing a size guide or template that you created is helpful with each pouch change to stay consistent. If the fit of your barrier changes, like after surgery when your stoma swelling goes down, creating a new template may help reduce potential peristomal complications.

Making a routine for fit

Don’t forget to do a body assessment when you perform a stoma assessment. What is a body assessment? Let’s reference shoes again. Just like when you try on a pair of shoes from many years ago that used to be your favorite to wear, you may find that when you try them on, they no longer fit, and it’s time to go up a shoe size. Similarly, it’s important to observe your stoma and skin over time to make sure that the barrier you’re using still fits right. All bodies change over time, especially our skin. Fluctuations in weight and differences in skin texture may impact the fit of your barrier. One way to stay on top of your body assessments is to do an online check. Coloplast’s BodyCheck tool is a simple way to check in on your fit and assess your body and stoma profile. If you feel it has been a while since the last time you checked in with your WOC nurse for a barrier fitting, I’d certainly recommend scheduling an appointment, too. Current guidelines recommend an annual checkup with a WOC nurse, and this is a great way to get back on track with your fit.

 

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, experience, 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.

Have questions about a urostomy? Worried that getting one will change your life dramatically? Terrified of the idea of one and wondering what people will think?

By Robin Glover

Don’t worry. These are normal feelings. Nobody likes the idea of getting a urostomy – at first. However, if you talk to people who’ve had one a while, they’ll tell you how much it’s improved their lives, and likely saved it.

So feeling a little apprehensive (or a lot) is completely expected. But getting a urostomy should not hold you back from living the life you’ve always wanted. Will it change your life? Yes, but likely for the better compared to past bladder issues.

What Is A Urostomy?

A urostomy allows urine to leave the body without the need of a bladder. Also known as an ileal conduit, it is a surgically-created pathway that channels urine through the intestine to an opening on the abdomen. This opening, known as a stoma, is covered by an external pouching system that collects the liquid.

Why Do People Need A Urostomy?

People need a urostomy because their bladder has either been removed or doesn’t function properly. This is most often due to bladder cancer, but can also be the result of an injury or disease. In other cases, people are born with a non-functioning bladder and benefit from a urostomy their entire lives.

Is A Urostomy Gross?

No. Not at all. They do not cause an odor, and most people won’t even know if someone has one. Getting a urostomy is often a life-saving procedure that allows people to resume their everyday lives. Most people find it much easier and more sanitary to have a urostomy than deal with an incontinent bladder.

Will A Urostomy Affect My Daily Life?

There will be some adjustments after surgery, but most people who get a urostomy can usually do more things than they could before. You won’t need to worry about the embarrassment of having an accident in public or always needing to know where the nearest bathroom is. But most of all, you’ll be able to live a longer and healthier life.

Is A Urostomy The Same As A Colostomy?

While they share similar mechanisms in how they function, a urostomy helps people with bladder incontinence. A colostomy helps people with stool incontinence. Both use a pouching system to collect what comes out, and both are sanitary and safe without any odor when closed.  Urostomy pouches have a tap or valve to allow the urine to be drained quickly and easily. Overnight options are available for nighttime drainage convenience.

How Many People Have A Urostomy?

You are not alone. An estimated 725,000 to one million people in the United States have an ostomy or continent diversion. Colostomy and ileostomy surgery are the most common ostomy types but many thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds have a urostomy or urinary diversion. For a bit of inspiration read a few of their patient stories on our blog.

How Will A Urostomy Change My Diet?

You can eat whatever you want when you have a urostomy. Of course, this is barring specific restrictions from your doctor or other dietary limitations unrelated to having a urostomy. But, in general, there are no restrictions to what you can eat with a urostomy but information on the importance of hydration and other good health practices are covered in our ostomy nutrition guide.

What Is A Continent Urostomy?

A continent urostomy involves a surgically formed internal reservoir that allows control of when urine is released from the body. It usually involves a catheter that’s inserted into the stoma. Continent urostomies can also be routed through the urethra so urine is released from the body in a more typical fashion. Check out our Continent Urostomy Guide for more information.

Does A Urostomy Decrease Life Expectancy?

The answer is no. Urostomy surgery is a way to help people live longer and more fulfilled lives. So if you’ve been told you need a urostomy, as much as you might not think so right now, you’ll probably be glad you had it.

 

These are probably just a few questions you have about a urostomy. Luckily, there are people all over the world happy to help you. First of all, your Wound, Ostomy, and Continence (WOC) nurse is there to teach and help you. But practical advice and emotional support are always just a click away in online communities and by finding a UOAA Affiliated Support Group near you. Just remember that only your doctor and WOC nurse know the unique circumstances of your condition.

For more information on urostomies, please visit our Urostomy Facts Page.

 

 

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

 

 

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.

 

 

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

 

 

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.

Don’t let an ostomy stop you from having some summer fun

By Annemarie Finn

When I received my bladder cancer diagnosis and the treatment plan, a radical cystectomy with an ileal conduit, I was devastated. Like so many, I went through many stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Sadness and Depression, and finally, Acceptance. It felt like a double whammy. It seemed like the “cure” was worse than the disease. I would be forever changed. It was hard to wrap my brain around. It is one of the reasons I decided to write about my experience. I had no idea what to expect and did not know where to turn. I saw some videos of survivors with ileal conduits but, I did not relate with the speakers. They were 20-30 years older than I was. I really did not want to envision a life as an elderly person before it was time.

I can use a public restroom without having to sit on the gross toilet!

What would my quality of life be? I was terrified that life, as I knew it was over. Would I be able to work? What activities would I be able to do? What would I never do again? I had so many questions and fears.

So, what can I do now that I have a urostomy?

Honestly, I can do everything I could do before. When you first get out of surgery, you are hardly able to walk around your room. When you go home, the end of the driveway is a monumental trek. By persevering and trying to walk more everyday, I was able to go from measuring distance in feet to measuring in miles. Today, I try to walk 5-10 miles a day! I have hiked intermediate trails in the hills of Eastern Massachusetts. I have discovered miles of trails in my hometown that I didn’t even know existed. I am probably healthier than I was before I got sick.

Can you take a bath?

People often ask if you are able to bathe with a bag. It is very nerve wracking initially to expose your stoma. They are fairly active. I call my stoma, Squirt, when he (yes, it’s a he) acts up. He does spray urine. Picture a male toddler squirting. That’s what it’s like. We have no control over it. That’s why we wear a pouch.

As you can see, a urostomy after a radical cystectomy is a life changer, but in a good way.

You can wear your urostomy bag in the shower. You do not need to cover it or keep it dry. It is a good idea to dry the skin around it with a hair dryer on low when you are done. You can even take your bag off and shower without it. I am over two years out from my surgery and that is how I prefer to do things on my change day. I change my bag every 3 days. I prepare all of my materials (bag, ring, barrier, paper towels, remover spray) then remove my bag. I then take a shower. I wash the skin around the stoma with just water or soap for sensitive skin. Just make sure you do not leave behind any lotion or any residue that would affect the barrier sticking to your skin. I keep paper towels ready to catch any drips when I am done and dry the skin with a hair dryer on the cool setting. I then just put on my prepared bag. I have some skin issues and find this helps with the itching and discomfort. It feels so good not to have the bag on for a while.

What about swimming?

I am a water rat. I can be in the water for hours, literally hours. It doesn’t matter if it is in the ocean, a lake, or a pool. I have done them all. Personally, it has not affected the amount of time I am able to wear a pouch. I am still able to go 3 days. I am able to swim, kayak, and paddleboard with my urostomy. I even just float. It has not interfered with my love of water at all. Even better, I can wear a regular bathing suit. I have worn tankinis for years, and not because of my urostomy. I no longer have a toned teenage body. I don’t even have a toned 30 something body. I like 2 piece tankinis as they hide a multitude of sins. After I got my urostomy, I decided to buy regular 2 piece bathing suits. Ironically, I am much more comfortable with my new imperfect body than I ever was before. My family laughs at me because, where I was self-conscious before, I now show off my body. Maybe it was having so many strangers looking at my most intimate body parts in the hospital or maybe I am proud of my battle scars. You cannot see my bag with my bathing suit on. It’s honestly no big deal.

There are so many other things I have been able to do since my urostomy. I ride my bike. I participated virtually in the Norton Cancer Institute Bike to Beat Cancer, a 35 mile bike ride. I did it in steps but I gave myself a pass since it was only months after my surgery. I garden, do yard work, spread mulch, work, travel, you name it. As you can see, it has not limited me in any way. Because of my urostomy and thanks to my night bag, I can sleep through the night without having to get up to use the bathroom. That means I can drink up until I go to bed! I can sit through long car rides and movies with said night bag. I can use a public restroom without having to sit on the gross toilet! I can write my name in the snow!!! That is not conjecture, I actually did it. My sex life is good. I am planning a European vacation. Both of those will be the topics of future blogs.

What about what I can’t do

The list of what I can do is long. What about what I can’t do. I can’t pee like I used to. I am careful about lifting. I had a hysterectomy with my radical cystectomy so no more children for me. Since I was in my late 50s when I had my surgery, it’s not really an issue but, I am trying to be honest here. That is something to consider if you are younger. Definitely talk to your doctor if you want children. I can’t play the piano, but I couldn’t before. That’s about it.

As you can see, a urostomy after a radical cystectomy is a life changer, but in a good way. You can still do what you did before and even try new things. Even better, it is a life saver. Go out and live your best life. That’s what I am doing.

 

 

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