A New Guide aims to help you find the right words to talk about your ostomy

By Joga Ivatury, M.D., MHA

The Speaking Stoma Guide is the first health communication guide for people with ostomies. This work was coproduced through collaboration with ostomates worldwide, UOAA, clinical experts, and health communication experts. This guide is freely available here on UOAA’s website, encompassing 11 communication topics areas including managing pouch leaks, communicating with friends and family, and intimacy.

This work has been inspired by our experience working with ostomates. We recognize that talking about your ostomy will not always be easy. We created the Speaking Stoma Guide to help. We hope this guide gives you an idea of things you could say if you are ever in similar situations and ways to manage challenging social situations that may arise. Each section has a big topic and has different situations that you may experience. In the next section, we will provide a snapshot of situations inspired by real people with ostomies.

In this section, we have suggestions for what you might say to help manage the situation based on how much you want to disclose about having an ostomy. These phrases were produced directly from things ostomates told us. For people who did not want to disclose anything about having an ostomy (low disclosure), a person may say, “Can you show me how to get to the bathroom?” For high disclosure, a person may say, “Can you show me how to get to the restroom? My ostomy pouch has leaked and I need to clean up. Would you be able to find me an extra set of clothes? I really appreciate it!” Each section has several suggestions like this.

Talking About Food
With an ostomy, some people have limitations on the food that they can eat. Some ostomates expressed embarrassment when they couldn’t eat the same food everyone else is eating. It’s hard to say “no” whenever someone offers you food. One participant noted that he once told a host on behalf of his wife: “Please don’t take offense. She doesn’t eat these things. It’s not your cooking.” For higher disclosure, a person may say “Thank you so much for inviting me. After my surgery I’m still figuring out the foods that make me feel best, so I ate before I came. Everything looks delicious!” In general, there are many people with and without ostomies that have dietary restrictions.

Public Restrooms
What do you do when you need to use a public restroom to care for your ostomy and there is a long line! For low disclosure, you may consider saying: “Excuse me, I have an emergency and need to get to a restroom right now.” This does not reveal anything to strangers except the urgent need. For higher disclosure, you may reveal the presence of your ostomy and the rapid need for its care. People in line can be helpful too. One of our participants recalls how a stranger helped her get to the front of the line during a pouch leak.

Talking to Friends and Family
Time with friends and family are vital to everyone. How do you address having an ostomy with them? Some of our participants suggested having a “code name” for the ostomy that they can use with their family and friends to talk it in public. Unfortunately, some people have disparaging comments or jokes about ostomies once they know about it. Some ostomates use humor back to deflect the situation. It is also ok to say: “I am not really comfortable joking about my ostomy like that, but I am glad you will be willing to help if I need it. I really appreciate it.”

Noises happen! People with ostomies have no control of when they happen. In the beginning, our participants noted that they felt awkward about the noises their ostomies made. It helped people to remember that no one knows that the noises came from the ostomy. It is ok to say nothing (low disclosure). It is also ok to say: “Excuse me, I have an ostomy pouch and sometimes it makes noises” (medium disclosure).

Sex and Intimacy
Some people are not sure when or how to tell a romantic partner about their ostomy. There is no right or wrong time. Some people may choose to tell someone immediately, while other people might wait to tell the person until they know the person better. Your comfort is what is most important. We have suggestions and real-life testimonies in the guide related to speaking about sex and intimacy while having an ostomy.

Talking to Clinicians
We also go through ways to manage different levels of challenging social situations or what we term as “difficulty.” For example, you are in a clinical visit with a new physician who is not familiar with ostomies. Our participants universally encountered this situation. They noted that they often are the most knowledgeable person about ostomies in a clinical visit. In the guide we provide some easy to remember suggestions about how to manage this situation and others.

What’s Next?
We are scientists and this work does not end here. We are actively working to obtain funding to test this guide to see if it makes a difference for people with ostomies. We have also translated the guide into Spanish and are pilot testing it with people who prefer to speak in Spanish. Our experiences with major grant organizations, however, has been underwhelming to say the least. Some reviewers talk about “osteotomies” (surgically created bone holes) instead of ostomies demonstrating their complete lack of basic understanding. Other reviewers assumed that existing information already contained a wealth of communication-related information for ostomates. Despite these, we are undeterred and will keep pushing forward for funding. We would appreciate any support for this work from anyone including the ostomy community, ostomy pouch manufacturers, and local/state health agencies to keep the momentum going! We would also appreciate your feedback on the Speaking Stoma Guide. Please feel free to email me at jivatury@austin.utexas.edu.

Joga Ivatury, M.D., MHA, is an associate professor of surgery Dell Medical School and the inaugural chief of colon and rectal surgery at UT Health Austin. The Speaking Stoma Project was funded through the Communication for Health, Empathy, and Resilience Grant Program and created in partnership with Dell Medical School and the Center for Health Communication at The University of Texas at Austin.

After ostomy surgery, it’s natural to feel sensitive about how your body has changed and be concerned about how it might affect intimacy and your sex life in the future.

Wherever you are in your journey, your sexual well-being is an important part of who you are.

  • Sexual well-being is an important part of everyone’s life, regardless of whether you are in a committed relationship, enjoying or thinking about dating, not sexually active, or unpartnered.1 
  • It covers many areas including body image and self-esteem, sexual function, reproductive health, emotional and physical satisfaction, and can impact both your physical and mental well-being. 1, 2
  • Pleasurable, fulfilling and fun sexual and intimate experiences are not out of bounds because you’ve had ostomy surgery. And no matter what your relationship status, age, gender or sexuality, starting the conversation about sex is just as important as the discussions around diet, exercise, skin issues and generally living with your ostomy.

Here are some topics you can explore in more detail in A Guide to Intimacy after Ostomy Surgery:

  • If you’re not ready, don’t rush. For some, intimacy will be one of the most important aspects of life they want to resume post-surgery, and for others, it might be the last thing on their minds.
  • When you are ready….Communication is the key when it comes to intimacy. Make time to talk to your partner.
  • Enjoying intimacy with an ostomy is anything but boring! Refer to the Guide for tips to increase your, and your partner’s, enjoyment.
  • Sexual orientation: Whatever your gender identity and sexual orientation, there are so many different ways of expressing and enjoying intimate moments including holding hands, hugging, kissing, cuddling and lots more.
  • Common issues that can affect everyone. The most common issues reported to us from people following ostomy surgery are feeling they must resume intimate relationships straightaway, and a fear of disappointing their partner.1 Two very common conditions that can affect sexual intimacy – vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction – can be experienced by men and women at all stages of life, and whether they have an ostomy or not.
  • Pregnancy with an ostomy: Many women with an ostomy worry that pregnancy will be an issue after surgery, but in the vast majority of cases, it shouldn’t be. Most women are able to enjoy a very typical experience.

For more information, download A Guide to Intimacy after Ostomy Surgery

  1. References: 1. A Cross-National Study of Subjective Sexual Well-Being Among Older Women and Men: Findings From the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors Publication Title: Springer. Publication Date: 4/2006 . Author: Laumann, Edward; Paik, Anthony; Glasser, Dale; Kang, Jeong-Han; Wang, Tianfu; Levinson, Bernard; Moreira, Edson; Nicolosi, Alfredo; Gingell, Clive. 2. What is sexual well-being and why does it matter for public health? Kirstin R Mitchell, Ruth Lewis, Lucia F O’Sullivan, J Dennis Fortenberry. Lancet Public Health 2021; 6: e608–13. Published Online. June 21, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(21)00099-2.

Editor’s note: This blog 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 Lynn Wolfson

It is amazing what a boost one can get from dressing to feel and look good, especially those of us with ostomies. I know that when my hair is cut into an easy style that I can maintain, my nails are done and my clothes fit, I feel beautiful. When I feel beautiful, I am happy and share it with the world.

As an ostomy support group leader, I often hear from new ostomates struggling with what to wear after surgery. Many people may have their own style and should explore options to keep wearing the clothing they love. Too many others seem to lose confidence and motivation to dress in the more presentable ways they once did. Overall, I stress to dress so that you feel confident, comfortable, and good about yourself.

So, let us start with the pants. Depending on where the ostomy is located, this will determine whether one would be comfortable with zipper and button pants such as jeans. For me, I find that too restrictive, especially since I have two ostomies. Instead, I prefer either maternity pants, so I have belly room and my legs are not baggy or high elastic-waisted pants. I buy a variety of solid colors of the pants that I find most comfortable.

Unfortunately, men do not have the same choices as women. They should find a brand of pants that are comfortable for them and get them in an array of colors. Stretchable waists can be found on various pants and shorts designs, so don’t feel like you have to resort to athletic wear if you don’t want to.

The tops for women are fun to shop.  I usually get a loose shirt or blouse that goes over the pants. I get multiple tops for each pair of pants so I can mix and match.

Men may still have to tuck their shirts in for business. However casually, they can wear a shirt outside their pants or shorts.

It helps to be beautiful on the outside, especially when I am not physically feeling great.

Since I live in Florida, I only wear pants when it is chilly or when I travel to colder climates.  Personally, I prefer wearing dresses that do not have a waist.  I find them very comfortable and cooler in our hot climate. However, these dresses are not appropriate for business. I do have more tailored dresses without a waistline to wear for business occasions. I generally prefer wearing dresses just below the knee as one of my ostomy bags hangs low.

Shoes should be comfortable. Wear sneakers whenever possible if that’s what you want to do. In Florida, I wear sandals with rubber soles. Up north, boots are a necessity.

Lastly, I get my hair colored and shaped once every six weeks to keep it looking fresh and easy for me to maintain. I also get my nails done every three weeks.

It helps to be beautiful on the outside, especially when I am not physically feeling great. It helps me to get myself going and not have that get back into bed feeling. It is all a matter of attitude!  When I dress for success, I feel good about myself and am successful in getting things done.

By Sarah Biggart (Convatec me+™)

Frequently I speak to callers about the challenges of caring for an ostomate with memory loss. Often time, people who were previously self-sufficient, independent ostomates become pre-occupied with their pouch; sometimes even pulling on it, which could cause numerous issues1,2.

This could be in the future for some of us, and a reality some caregivers are facing now as they care for and support loved ones.

If you are assisting a loved one, and you see them tugging, pulling, scratching or playing with their appliance, the first thing you should consider is that there may be a reason for this behavior. Their peristomal skin may be itching or burning, or they might be experiencing pain or discomfort around the stoma3. For someone who may have trouble communicating, this could be their way of letting you know something is wrong.

If this is a new behavior, contact your local ostomy nurse or healthcare provider. It’s important to rule out any medical issues they may be experiencing.

If the issue is determined to be purely behavioral, we have some suggested tips and tricks that may help as you care for and support your loved one.

Pouch Change Tips1,2,3:

  • Create a safe, relaxed environment. Take your cues from your loved one considering where they are the most comfortable. Maybe instead of standing in the bathroom, try laying down on the bed with soothing music or a favorite show playing in the background.
  • If evenings can be tough, a morning pouch change before eating breakfast may make more sense for you.
  • Keep ostomy supplies organized and clearly labeled for people who may be able to handle pouch changes independently or for rotating caregivers.
  • Use a calendar or the My Ostomy Journey App to track pouch changes. Do not wait until there is a leak to change the pouch. A leaking pouch may contribute to skin breakdown issues.
  • It may be necessary to store pastes, powders and sprays securely, as patients may attempt to tamper with or ingest these items.
  • Try ostomy accessories designed to simplify pouch changes.

Daily Living Tips1,2,3:

  • Many people with memory loss find comfort in routine. Find a rhythm to ostomy related tasks, such as emptying the pouch, and use the same verbiage each time to bring familiarity. Coordinate with the entire care team to ensure everyone is aligned with using similar language and prompts.
  • Staying occupied may help with keeping hands away from the pouching system. Things like puzzles, sorting items and folding something, may be just the thing to help.
  • Try an Ostomy wrap. Employing the “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” principal, a wrap helps to keep the pouch concealed and supported. A good ostomy wrap is made from a soft and stretchy wicking fabric and helps to keep sweat and moisture away from the skin and the wearer cool and comfortable.

Feeling isolated while providing care for loved ones is a common challenge, we encourage utilizing groups for ostomy support.

And remember that caregivers need care too. You may find comfort in your local Ostomy Support group Find one near you on the UOAA support group finder: https://www.ostomy.org/support-group-finder/.


Ruth and her family were confused and stressed when they had to take on the care of their 99-year- old mother’s ostomy.

“My mother has had a colostomy for nearly 60 years. She is now 99 years old with dementia, but had been independently keeping up with her stoma and pouch until just a few years ago. When family members started taking on the task of assisting her, we had to scramble to get up-to-speed since we never paid attention to the details of changing her “appliance” or emptying and re-closing the pouch.”

Ruth connected with me+™ to learn more about how to use ostomy products and accessories, and received follow up product samples and ongoing support.

“Erica was compassionate, truly listened to the problems we were encountering with my mother’s situation, and suggested products that addressed each of those challenges. The bottom line is Erica made me feel supported in my mother’s care, and that she cared that our family wanted my mother’s quality of life upheld when other healthcare providers wrote her off due to her age and mental condition. Erica contributed to us honoring my mother’s wonderfully rich and productive life at a time when that’s not evident to a stranger’s eye. We are so grateful for the support we’ve received through Convatec’s me+ Clinical Support Nurse Team.”


If you have questions about product sampling or nurse support available through the me+™ program, please contact us at 1-800-422-2211 or cic@convatec.com.  We look forward to helping you soon.

Editor’s note: This blog 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.


  1. DementiaUK, Caring for a person with a Stoma and Dementia. https://www.dementiauk.org/information-and-support/health-advice/caring-for-a-person-with-a-stoma-and-dementia/. Accessed November 13th, 2023.
  2. United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc, Dementia Stoma Care. https://www.ostomy.org/dementia-stoma-care/. Accessed November 13th, 2023.
  3. McGrogan M. How holistic assessment and appropriate product selection will enhance quality of life for ostomates with cognitive impairment. WCET® Journal 2021;41(1):33-35

Sleep is vital for health and healing. Hormones released at night are responsible for cell growth and repair. We also need quality sleep for healthy cognitive functioning and so we can complete everyday tasks. A lack of sleep can lead to confusion, delayed healing, immunosuppression, elevated blood pressure, decreased pain tolerance, and many other negative effects.

If you have an ostomy, your quality of life may be impacted by the condition of the skin around your stoma (i.e., your peristomal skin), and issues like pouch ballooning and leakage. One area often not given much attention is how having an ostomy affects your sleep. Based on anecdotal evidence (i.e., clinician experiences and patient stories), we know that living with an ostomy can negatively impact sleep. But to what extent?

Ostomy Sleep Survey

To answer this question, Hollister Incorporated conducted an Ostomy Sleep Survey1. The results revealed some interesting insights on how having a stoma impacts sleep and on how ostomates address their sleep issues.

To conduct this research, we collaborated with product distributors and patient organizations to provide nearly 6,000 people with a detailed 15-question online survey. Participants varied in type of ostomy and length of time living with an ostomy.

The survey included both those with healthy and unhealthy/compromised peristomal skin. Nearly 60% of participants were in the unhealthy category, although most of them (40%) reported only reddened skin and no other symptoms. (n=5,690)

The impact of sleeping with an ostomy

Many people experience interrupted sleep for various reasons, including insomnia, sleep apnea, stress, and environmental factors. However, those with an ostomy have an added layer of potential sleep disruption.

The survey results provided strong evidence of an ostomy’s impact on sleep:

  • Nearly 50% of respondents said their pouching system disrupted their sleep in the past 30 days (n=5,648)
  • 75% experienced pouch-related sleep disruptions at least once a week (n=2,476)
  • 64% of participants — nearly 2 in 3 — cited pouch ballooning as a sleep disrupter (n=2,676)
  • 50% said that sleep disruption was due to pouch leakage or worry that the pouch would fail (n=2,676)
  • Nearly 20% said their sleep was disrupted by itchy skin with no visible sign of irritation (n=2,676)

To read more about the data collected and how to address sleep disruptions, keep reading here.

  1. Hollister Data on File, ref-02989, 2022.

This article was contributed by Hollister Incorporated. 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. For more helpful resources, visit http://www.hollister.com/ostomylearningcenter.

Please make sure to consult with your healthcare professional for further guidance and instruction. The information provided herein is not medical advice and is not intended to substitute for the advice of your personal physician or other healthcare provider. Hollister is a trademark of Hollister Incorporated.

By Tony Plonner

Editor’s Note: UOAA is proud to recognize Veterans and supports all those now living with an ostomy or continent diversion. 

As a 20-year-old, way back in 1972, entering Army basic training was a daunting experience, the “fear of the unknown” had my mind reeling of what could happen. My approach was to take the challenge one day at a time, one hour at a time, or if necessary, one minute at a time.

We adopted many phrases to get us through the many challenges of this new environment: “Can Do!”, “When the going gets tough the tough get going” and when all else failed, “Yes Drill Sergeant!’ and we’d jump into the challenge at hand. This experience taught us we could surmount obstacles we’d never dreamed of.  Unknowingly, our training prepared us for many of life’s challenges both in and out of the military. For me, progressions to Military Police School and Officer Candidate School strengthened my confidence and allowed me to take on challenges in both the military and civilian worlds.

One basic premise I learned was to never quit.  I learned the quitter never knows how close they were to success. Whatever the challenge, you keep moving and keep fighting.

A little over thirty years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Surgery and radiation followed.  I kept a positive outlook and survived the experience.  Unfortunately, a couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer.  I was told there was a chance the radiation many years before may have led to this cancer.  As it was muscle invasive, and with a history of radiation, all the doctors involved agreed the bladder would have to go.  I had faith in my team and after a round of chemotherapy, I had urostomy surgery at the University of Miami Medical Center on March 14, 2022.

My best advice for those about to undergo or have recently had urostomy surgery for bladder cancer is to keep the “Can Do” attitude and continue with your life’s goals. You’ll be amazed how far you’ll go.

Having been told the result of the surgery would result in an ostomy, I researched as much as possible to learn about the side effects and the changes to my lifestyle I’d encounter. A pleasant result of this research was finding the tremendous support network available.  I learned about the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) and through my old army buddy, Justin Blum, United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA).

Tony Plonner, pictured riding the Florida Keys Scenic Highway has continued an active lifestyle after urostomy surgery for bladder cancer.

Reading case stories, with a bit of skepticism I’ll admit, I learned of the many people who have not only survived but thrived through this experience.  Along with my experience of tackling the unknown in the Army, and the great support of family and friends, these stories only bolstered my faith that we’d lick this cancer and continue with life.

My doctors regaled me with stories of ostomy patients maintaining their lifestyles, skydiving, running, golfing and barely missing a beat after surgery.  Combined with the experiences of ostomates I’d read about, was confident I’d go through the surgery and, despite new limitations expected on my lifestyle, I’d take the hill and keep on moving.

Looking back over the last year and a half I am astonished at how smooth, if that is the right word, the transition has been.  Beginning with the support of the team at the surgery center, who trained me in the care of my ostomy, I followed orders like a good soldier, paid attention to their instruction and thankfully have made the transition to ostomate.

My biggest concerns, changes to my lifestyle, were pretty much unfounded.  I am an avid golfer, road bicyclist, and generally an active person.  I was concerned about how my ostomy bag would affect these pursuits.  The answer is hardly. I wondered how I’d be able to go on bike rides of 15 or 20 miles in tight bike shorts and was pleasantly surprised to find it pretty comfortable. Also, it is easy to tell when I need to pull over and go to the bathroom.  Spandex bike shorts don’t provide much wiggle room!

Golfing also has been unaffected by my ostomy. I was worried about the twisting during the golf swing and any stress it would put on my appliance.  It hasn’t been an issue.  Now, if I could only lower my handicap…

My best advice for those about to undergo or have recently had urostomy surgery for bladder cancer is to keep the “Can Do” attitude and continue with your life’s goals. You’ll be amazed how far you’ll go.

We are so excited to be walking, running, or rolling in over six live events across the USA! Join us at a live event near you or participate in your own community virtually!

We’re couldn’t just celebrate one Ostomy Awareness Day, we’d rather celebrate #Ostober!

Join us on Facebook and Instagram as we celebrate a whole month of Ostomy Care!

Join over 350,000 me+ community members worldwide to help you find the right support to feel stronger, more confident and ready for what’s ahead. Our me+ program offers The ostomy products and support you need, tips and advice for living with an ostomy, and a community you can learn from. Have questions about living with an ostomy? Our me+ product specialist and ostomy nurses are waiting to help you, call 1-800-422-8811.


(Editor’s note: Convatec is the Exclusive Diamond Sponsor of this year’s Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k. Their support helps make these UOAA ostomy awareness events possible)

Chris Seyler joined the Phoenix (Arizona) Ostomy Support Groups during COVID times and met up with the group at a park ostomy meeting. Recovering from long term illness and recent surgery, he was ready to find his way back to normal life.

Chris was born in the Phoenix area. While growing up his parents taught him to be active in a team sport, exercise and stay away from bad habits in life.  Chris played basketball and ran track, being nominated for all state in both sports. Receiving a basketball scholarship, and motivated by teachers and coaches, Chris majored in Kinesiology and Science from The Master’s University and became a teacher.

While in college Chris met his wife Colleen, also a teacher. Their son, Nathan, shares his parents’ passion for teaching and athletics and was selected to be in a Disney running movie, MacFarland, USA. Father-Son teamed up to coach school teams in Track and Basketball, winning state Championships.

Following his passion, and inspired by his son, Chris started competing in more events. From 2003 to 2017 he competed in 5ks, 10ks, half and full marathons, triathlons, Ironman, and obstacle racing. It was after AZ IRONMAN 2013 that Chris was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and started losing weight in 2017.  The next couple of years were tough; in and out of the hospitals for nutrition and dehydration and battling a bacterium in his colon.  Various medications and infusions did not help with easing the illness and emergency surgery was performed in 2019.

Weak from illness and surgery Chris retired from his full-time teaching job and put his running shoes aside.

As time went on and recovery was underway, Chris set a goal to run a 5k. Not able to keep up with his wife, she encouraged him to walk, jog, and run. Hydration was always important as part of Chris’ races, but not having a colon taught him he had to be even more diligent about it.  During Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k 2021, Colleen ran the race. Chris walked and rested with his dog…but he finished…and his passion was returning! While training he worked on improving balance and strength and was able to jog/run at the Arizona Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k in 2022. Chris will be participating this year on the Arizona Virtual Race Team as part of the 2023 Run for Resilience Virtual Ostomy 5k on October 7th.

Passionate about life after ostomy surgery; Chris is teaching part-time, is the Phoenix Ostomy Group Secretary and the Meeting Leader at HH Cowden Center ostomy meetings.

To learn more or sign-up for the Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k visit ostomy.org/5k. You can donate to UOAA fundraisers by Chris and other resilient participants here

By Jeanine Gleba and Ed Pfueller, UOAA

Do you prefer to work behind the scenes for change? Are you crafty and creative? Do you like to share on social media? No matter how you want to do it, UOAA encourages everyone in the ostomy community to do one little thing to raise awareness and smash stigmas this upcoming National Ostomy Awareness Day on Saturday, October 7, 2023.

One option is to just do something to celebrate having your life back after this lifesaving and life restoring surgery!  You are living proof that ostomies are lifesavers and that’s something to shout from the rooftops. With close to one million people living with an ostomy or continent diversion in America, we could really make some noise!

If you find yourself asking, “Well what can I do?”, check out the clever ideas below that people have shared with us and things that people have already started doing for #OstomyDay2023:

Arty Awareness

  • Bake it or order it. One nurse gets custom cookies made to share at her local ostomy awareness day event. Yum!

Social Media Awareness

  • Share Your Ostomies Are Life-Savers story. People have started sharing their personal stories about how having an ostomy has saved or changed their life with friends on social media. You can use our Instagram and TikTok video green screen as a background (found here) or simply print out this sign and take a selfie! Be sure to tag UOAA and use hashtag #OstomiesAreLifesavers #IAmLivingProof and #OstomyDay2023.
  • Social Stickers. Grab some attention for awareness with our “giphy stickers” or use the latest profile photo frame. Better still get some real stickers made and you can put them on water bottles, laptops, cell phones and more to raise awareness all year long! 

On the Scene or Behind the Scenes For Awareness

  • Mascots for Awareness. WOC nurse Linda Coulter has taken to getting every mascot she encounters to help spread ostomy awareness at sports venues and beyond. Online she shares all the fun #Mascots4ostomyAwareness photos. Also out and about is our friends @DoubleBagginit that spread ostomy awareness wherever they go with their clever #ostomybombs.

  • Walk or even sleep in for Ostomy Awareness.  Those not near a Run for Resilience event or who more are more inclined to sleep in can still donate to the cause while others often do an informal walk or even ride their horse as part of the Virtual Ostomy 5k.

  • Light up Your State Capitol. An advocate in Pennsylvania has worked with her elected official and the capitol building in Harrisburg, PA will be lit blue and green (UOAA official colors) recognizing Ostomy Awareness Day on October 7th between 6:30PM – Midnight EST! As this advocate wrote “Amazing what can happen when we open the dialogue!” The Capitol Building in Baton Rouge, Louisiana will also be lit to celebrate the day so inquire with your state!
  • Virtual Race Car. Someone else participates in the iRacing community. He painted his virtual racing car to raise ostomy awareness. Check out photos and story here.
  • Public Displays. In past years, nurses and others have done ostomy awareness displays at local hospitals or libraries or have hosted picnics with their support groups.

Give it some thought.  You might come up with your own unique idea!  If you do, we’d love to hear them, so send us an email at advocacy@ostomy.org.

Keep checking our webpage for all of the fun events that will be happening like UOAA’s Virtual Happy Hour on October 7th and other ways that you can raise awareness! 


Hi, my name is Maria Sandoval. I wanted to come on here and share my story with you. You may ask, why am I putting the Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k run/walk/roll together in my community? Because it has given me my life back.

In November of 2022 I had surgery to get an ostomy because my ulcerative colitis was getting worse. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2012. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and ulcers (sores) in your digestive tract. Ulcerative Colitis affects the innermost lining of your large intestine, also called the colon, and rectum. In most people, symptoms usually develop over time, rather than suddenly.

In my case my symptoms did develop over time and things got worse in 2020. The medication I was put on was no longer working. My body was shutting down and therefore my doctor recommended colorectal surgery.

It’s important to me to shine light on ostomies and to give hope to my ostomy community in Arkansas and show them that they are not alone.

Me during a Remicade infusion for ulcerative colitis before making the choice to have ostomy surgery.

I had no idea what this surgery was nor did I know anyone that had undergone this type of surgery. The fear of the unknown put me off from having this done. I was fortunate to have a great surgeon with a great team who gave me all the information I could ask for. They were patient with me, and so understanding of all my feelings. They answered my questions and addressed my concerns. Having that information and having faith, helped me make the decision to have this surgery. I had hope for the first time since being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

Currently, it’s 2023 and I am 33 and I have my life back. For the first time in a decade I can honestly say I feel safe in my body. I have energy, I feel empowered and I’m here to share my story. Making the decision to have my colon removed and have an ostomy was the best thing I could have done for myself.

I am here to stop the stigma around having an Ostomy. I am here to highlight the positives of having one and how it has impacted my life.

I learned about UOAA through social media. I went to ostomy.org to look up what UOAA is all about and saw that they had a 5k run for Ostomy Awareness Day every October. I have always loved to run in races and thought how cool it would be if I could bring this run to my area. I contacted UOAA to see if they would like to have Northwest Arkansas be part of their Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k and they were more than happy to do so.

I was so proud to have finished the race. I wasn’t racing for time, rather, I was racing for me. My ostomy gave me back my confidence in running.

Me 19 days after my Ostomy Surgery.

The Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k is the major fundraiser for all the great things UOAA does. UOAA has great resources to help with recovery and one of those resources I happened to stumble upon is their support group finder. UOAA does a great job of locating support groups and WOC nurses in your area. Forever grateful for that! I also use their site for educational information, self-advocacy checklists, and finding events they have going on, like the Run for the Resilience Ostomy 5k and their National Conference.

By hosting and taking part in the Run for Resilience I hope to spread awareness on ostomies and continent diversion surgery. It’s important to me to shine light on ostomies and to give hope to my ostomy community in Arkansas and show them that they are not alone. That they have a community to go to.

My mother is helping me host our first event. I am so grateful to have my family help me through this journey. My husband and mother were my caregivers before and after surgery. Making the decision to have surgery was a difficult one, but they both helped me through it.

I hope everyone no matter of where they are out takes part in a Run for Resilience event near them or the Worldwide Virtual Ostomy 5k. I love sharing photos like the one here of a half-marathon I ran five months post-op! Everyone should go at their own pace and talk to their doctor, but for me I think it was one month after my ostomy surgery when I started to train for the half marathon. I took it pretty slow. I began by walking a mile and slowly worked my way up to a jog. By month four I was feeling great and feeling like my old self. I was so proud to have finished the race. I wasn’t racing for time, rather, I was racing for me. My ostomy gave me back my confidence in running.

I would run races here and there before my ostomy surgery. My ulcerative colitis would make it difficult at times to run, but when it was in remission I was happy to get back to running. I have always enjoyed running because it was the one thing I could control in my life. My ostomy gave that back to me. Ostomies are truly life savers!

To sign-up or donate to a Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k event near you visit ostomy.org/5k. Support or learn more about Maria’s event, the Rogers, Arkansas Ostomy 5k and follow her 5k on Instagram.