Tag Archive for: ostomy bag

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! 

 

My ulcerative colitis, IBD and ileostomy journeys have been a long road for sure! I spent most of my 30s trying every single pill, steroid, infusion, shot, diet, and remedy you could possibly fathom, all without relief. When the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN suggested that I undergo ileostomy surgery, I knew I was ready. After a decade of suffering, I was reborn on December 7th, 2015, following a permanent and total proctocolectomy with ileostomy.

My advice for others diagnosed with IBD and/or contemplating ostomy surgery, would be for them to ask ALL the questions; especially of your medical team. I was young and naive when first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Upon initial diagnosis, I didn’t think it was that serious. I didn’t believe I was sick, and all I wanted to do was get well and get back to racing triathlon. I took any and every medication doctors gave me, and I never questioned any of it. I never asked for a different way. I never thought that 10 years later, all the medications would stop working or not work at all. If I could do it over, I would find a doctor who was highly experienced with IBD patients.

If I could let people know something about IBD, it would be that I am a living, breathing example of invisible illness. I never looked sick. Even when sick, I continued my competitive triathlon racing. Don’t judge a book by its cover. My sport was my outlet; something I could control while my body continually failed me. Everything happens in your mind. With a positive outlook and a great attitude, everything is possible!

For many years, sick was my new normal. I was not living life; I was just surviving life with UC. Now, as an ostomate, I can say with 100% certainty that I am free. When I made the decision to have surgery, I decided I would advocate to show the world what people living with an ostomy can do. And you know what? There isn’t anything someone living with an ostomy CAN’T do!

Read more: https://meplus.convatec.com/articles/meet-lee-ann-watanabe/

 

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.

 

Among the general public there is still a perception that people living with an “ostomy bag” or pouch are older seniors or at least middle-aged. Those searching on social media however will soon discover that younger people with an ostomy are not only  visible, but sharing and embracing “ostomy life” in a whole new way.

Allison Rosen and friends at the Waterwall Park close to the Royal Sonesta Houston Galleria, the site of the UOAA 2023 National Conference. 

Many young adults with an ostomy have never had the opportunity to meet another person they could truly relate to.

What if there was a place where online ostomy friends could meet in person, socialize, laugh, cry and just be together? Well, that place is UOAA’s National Conference August 10-12, 2023 in Houston, Texas.  

Attendees of all ages will get to experience a large ostomy product exhibit hall and sign-up to sample products and see a WOC nurse at the free stoma clinic. Former Miss Texas and current J-Poucher Magen Cherry will provide the keynote welcome. 

Ostomy experts will also speak and be on hand to answer surgery-specific questions for people with an ileostomy, colostomy, urostomy, j-pouch or continent diversion. Young adults, along with Caregivers, IBD Patients, LGBTQ+, and kids/parents will be offered even more specialized sessions and tracks.

Young Adult Track 

After its successful debut in Philadelphia, the Young Adult Track is back for this year’s conference! Designed for ostomates in an earlier stage of life, the track features topics like, dating and sexuality, body image, managing school/work, navigating parenthood, exercise, and staying active all while juggling ostomy care and other chronic health conditions. 

Sessions range from formal presentations and panel discussions to off-the-cuff conversations and opportunities to connect with fellow young ostomates. The Young Adult Track offers participants the opportunity to learn new things while forming friendships and bonds that extend well beyond the weekend of the conference.

”If you’re looking for peers in your age range who truly “get it,” look no further — we can’t wait to see you in Houston!” says co-organizer Molly Atwater-Pulisic (Molly Olly Ostomy). The young adult group typically meet informally after hours in the hotel lounge and go on city outings together as well.

You’ll want to stay at the Royal Sonesta Houston Galleria to not miss out and be close to all the action. A special UOAA group rate is available. 

The young adult track is awesome, because we make fast friends and are able to relax and talk openly and casually about personal, ostomy-related topics that are sometimes difficult to share with people in our usual daily lives. -Nate Hadlock

Local Houstonian and ostomy advocate Allison Rosen is helping to plan a Texas themed evening of line dancing, drinks and desserts. “I am looking forward to meeting virtual Ostomy friends in person for the first time! Meeting others who understand I know will be life changing!” Rosen says. 

Young Adult Track attendees will have a dedicated meeting room starting with a meet and greet on the morning of Thursday, August 10 ending with FAQs Saturday afternoon before the closing party. A special Friday night gathering just for the Young Adults is also being planned with track sponsor Hollister. 

If this all feels a bit overwhelming don’t worry you’ll be embraced with open arms. Unofficial social chair Alyssa Zeldenrust has made it her mission to greet and connect young ostomates since first attending the conference in 2011. In a testimonial video she shares why she keeps coming back. “All of us are on our second chance at life, so it’s extra special to all be together and it’s a very joyous atmosphere.”

She’ll also be speaking on Ostomy FAVE Things along with other conference veterans Chloe Moody and Nate Hadlock.

“I’ll be sharing tips, “tricks”, and experiences that have helped me through my medical journey. As many ostomates have done for me since my first conference in 2017, this year my goal is to help others feel welcome and have breakthroughs of their own,” Hadlock says.

Those active on social media may see some other familiar faces such as Kristen Furey, The Furey Fighter. “I’m excited to share my journey with Advocacy and what it has done for me in terms of growth and acceptance with an ostomy!” Furey says. “I am most looking forward to attending my first UOAA ostomy conference and being around so many other people who have similar health conditions and an ostomy! Knowing they have walked the same journey that I have and hearing from them firsthand their experiences with an ostomy!”

Speaking on Parenthood it will also be the first conference for Meghan Brown (@EMC_Brown)  “I am most looking forward to meeting longtime ostomy friends and experiencing my very first conference, as well as hearing some of my closest ostomy friends speak!”

“For my talk, I’m excited to share more about my experiences of pregnancy with an ostomy and what life looks like now with a very curious three year old and wild 20 month old. I’ll shed a little light into the funny but important conversations I’ve had with my three year old about my ostomy, and how we maintain an open dialogue around all things ostomy.”

Molly Atwater-Pulisic will be joined with Collin Jarvis in leading many of the other topic discussions. Check out the full conference schedule. Young Adults between the ages of 18-25 get the special price of $135.00 for all three days. 

Caregivers Track

Partners or caregivers of ostomates are also encouraged to attend UOAA’s National Conference this summer. Register and you’ll be welcomed for all the social events and food and drink opportunities and receive access to the informative Exhibit Hall.

Special sessions are also exclusive to caregivers on Friday August 11. 

The Caregivers Track that morning will feature a Caring for a Male Rap Session and a Caring for a Female Rap Session. 

An important session on Caregiver Stress – How to Cope will be available that morning a well. 

Pediatric Track

The youngest of ostomates and their parents/caregivers will also have a special track at the conference.. This day-long  program is held on Saturday and will be led by pediatric WOC Nurses and ostomy parents. 

Some session highlights include: 

Advice from an Ostomy Parent with Julie Hubbard

Dietary Considerations in GI/Ostomy Patient with Erika Kay, RDN, LD 9:15am to 10:30am Ask the Expert: Gastroenterology Care of the Pediatric IBD Patient with Dr. Allison Wyatt 

Ask the Expert: Surgical Management of the Pediatric IBD Patient with Dr. Rueben Rodriquez

Ostomy Complications and Pouching Techniques with WOC Nurse Maryanne Lewis

Ask the WOC Nurses with Barbara Richardson, Erika Guidry and Sharon Wallace

Exercise and Activities for Children with Ostomies with Tenille and Rebekka Smith

Children between the ages of 5-17 are just $25 and the one-day rate for parents is $125.00

Volunteers from around the country are working hard to create a life-changing experience for the young ostomate community. Register by May 31st to get the early bird discount. Please spread the word, invite a friend and discover your people this August in Houston. 

 

It’s been said before, but it is worth repeating: who you tell about your ostomy and when you tell them is completely up to you. This is the first and foremost rule you should keep in mind when it comes to sharing about your ostomy. Most likely others won’t know you have an ostomy unless you bring it up.  If you are reading this before your surgery, you will need to think about what kind of support you are looking for. As you decide to let people in on your new situation, consider who can offer you the support and friendship you need during this time.

Place of Work

There is no right or wrong way when it comes to sharing about your ostomy at work. It might be that no one needs to know about it, it doesn’t affect your work and you are receiving enough support from friends and family and other people outside of work. Or, your situation might be that you need to take frequent breaks to empty your pouch and so explaining a little bit about your surgery will help your employer to understand what’s going on. Again, feel free to be as specific or general as you want. It might even be helpful to write out a small script so you can go into this conversation with added confidence. Decide how much you want to share, and how willing you are to answer questions.

Family and Close Friends

Hopefully, you aren’t trying to go through this life-changing experience alone. Family and/or friends should be the foundation of your support network. Having someone you trust at medical appointments with you can be helpful for your morale, but also to have another set of ears to remember details and information that you may have missed. When you decide to let other people close to you in on the reality of your situation, ask the person who was with you at those appointments to be there to support you. It’s amazing how much more confident we can feel having the energy of a loving and loyal person at our side.

Romantic Partners

If you are in a committed relationship prior to your surgery, then it’s likely they will be informed of your ostomy and the changes to your body. While it can be scary to let people in and tell them about your ostomy, it can be even scarier to be alone in the process. Going through this with a partner by your side can be so beneficial to your recovery process, and can also help to strengthen your relationship.

Dating after your ostomy can seem daunting at first, but as you heal and become more and more comfortable with your new routine, your confidence will grow.  Keep in mind that it’s completely up to you when to tell a new romantic partner about your ostomy. As with your workmates, you may want to take the time to figure out what you want to say before you say it. It’s okay to keep it short and basic and then decide if you want to take some time to answer questions.

Confidence

The more confident and comfortable you are with your ostomy, the more this will show when you speak about it. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself time to heal and get used to the changes and new routine that an ostomy brings. Try to focus on the positive things that having an ostomy surgery has done for you and your body. It may be helpful to speak with others who are in a similar situation.  Talk to someone who has gone before you and find out how they told people about their ostomy.

It’s up to you who you tell, when you tell them and how you do it.

Visit the Coloplast Care site for more information on sharing about your ostomy at work.

 

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

Editor’s note: This blog 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.

Every Individual is Unique so Don’t Put Restrictions on Yourself Based on Others

By Lisa Febre

The morning after my colectomy, the first question I had for my surgeon was “can I still do yoga?” My surgeon had a good-natured and amused response: “Please give yourself two weeks to recover from this surgery, and then you can do all the yoga you want.” He also told me that with my specific colostomy, in two weeks I could get back to my regular diet with no restrictions. (I’ve since learned those with an ileostomy have different considerations.)

Sure enough, two weeks later, once I was sufficiently recovered, I was living out his predictions. I was back on the yoga mat, twisting myself into pretzels, lifting into tricky arm balances, and standing on my head. I was outdoors hiking and running. For the first week after surgery, I was following a soft-solids diet, and by the second week I was eating whatever I wanted. By the end of the month, I was even eating Reuben sandwiches with sauerkraut!

I knew no boundaries because I had none.

It wasn’t until I joined a support group on social media that I noticed people were questioning things I was taking for granted like taking a shower, exercising, wearing pants, and eating vegetables. Are there eating restrictions for ostomates? Was it possible some people were told they could not exercise with their ostomy? The answer is …yes… ish.

Showering with an Ostomy

I was given a temporary colostomy in December 2021 when I was diagnosed with Stage-4c Colon Cancer (at the age of 47). There is no way around it: this is a big shock to the body and the mind. But the only thing I could think about was getting into the shower and washing off the five days’ worth of sweat and grime that had accumulated on my body during my hospital stay. I stripped down, my new Hollister 2-piece system hanging off of me and stepped into the shower. I didn’t think about the bag at all, I just showered like I normally did. When I was done, I dried myself and the bag off with a towel, and… that was it. I did this every single day without a second thought.

I would laugh at myself and say: it’s just poop, it’s not nuclear waste!

Weeks later, I was surprised to learn people commenting online were wrapping up their colostomy bags with layers of plastic wrap and were trying desperately to keep their abdomens out of the water. Wait… are we not supposed to get the bags wet? That didn’t sound right to me. The barrier has to be taken off with adhesive removal wipes or sprays, and even then, it can be difficult to separate it from your skin. The durable plastic receptacle bag is meant to hold all kinds of bodily fluids, it seems obvious that it should be able to handle a little soap and water. The customer service reps at both Hollister and Coloplast concurred: they specifically told me that their products are meant to be used while showering, bathing, and even swimming, with no extra accessories. Again, because no one told me I couldn’t, I was already doing these things. It was heartbreaking to see so many of my fellow ostomates avoiding basic hygiene for fear of doing it with the bag on.

It seems like the solution might be to shower without the appliance. There tends to be even more fear surrounding this practice of naked showers. Again, this was something that I had already done without asking for permission. One day I was changing my appliance, decided it would be a great time to shower, and just jumped in. The soap on my newly exposed skin felt fantastic, my stoma looked to be enjoying the water running down my belly. Naked showers were soothing and necessary for my peace of mind. I always felt the cleanest when I showered without my appliance. The skin under the barrier stayed healthy and the adhesives worked much better. Always close at hand was a disposable plastic cup filled 1/4 up with water which I used to catch any “visitors” that might erupt from my exposed stoma during my shower. I would laugh at myself and say: it’s just poop, it’s not nuclear waste!

Exercising with an Ostomy

This is something you absolutely must talk to your doctor about. I can’t give you proper advice since everyone has a different risk value for a parastomal hernia (that’s when your intestines try to push their way through the incision around the stoma). Although 50% of people with a stoma will get a parastomal hernia, that doesn’t mean you are going to get one. Your surgeon will assess your risk. I had almost no risk of one of these hernias because I was fit and active before the surgery; there was a low likelihood that my incision site would fail while I had the stoma. I was told I could begin exercising again 2 weeks post-op. Alternately, when I had my reversal surgery 10 months later, my surgeon said there is a slightly higher risk of a hernia at the closure site and wanted me to wait 8 weeks before lifting anything over 10 pounds, and that included doing yoga.

Even within one person, my risks were different for each surgery. This is why you have to have a clear assessment from your doctor and follow their directions. Some people may still develop a hernia despite following their surgeon’s directions. It’s important to question and clarify, but ultimately listen to your doctor– and not just people online, this gives you the best chance for success.

Dressing with an Ostomy

This is a tricky one for ostomates because everyone’s stoma is in a slightly different spot. I was able to wear jeans and form-fitting clothing because the location of my stoma made that possible. Someone else may have their stoma exactly where the rigid waistband of their favorite jeans falls, which can be an issue. Your clothing isn’t necessarily going to hurt the stoma, but you do need to save room for when your stoma has output. For some, tight-fitting clothing can restrict the bag, forcing the output backward toward your skin and under the barrier.

Dressing is definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation, so unfortunately no one can really give someone else game-changing advice. Be ready to experiment, but always wear clothing that makes you feel good. It was important to me to wear jeans, so I bought new jeans with a lower waistband that fell just under my stoma. Many other women invest in maternity pants. But I never left the house feeling frumpy. My colostomy was not in charge of my fashion sense, I was!

Eating with an Ostomy

Everyone has a unique reason for having an ostomy. In my case, I had my colostomy because of cancer; I had no pre-existing intestinal issues or dietary restrictions. If you are like me and could eat whatever you wanted before, chances are high that your doctor will tell you you can go back to that way of eating after your surgery. But some people, who come to a colostomy or ileostomy through ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease (or other gastrointestinal disease), may already have restrictions that they still need to take into consideration. An ostomy does not always magically erase your special diet for your IBD.

The general rule is however you ate before your colostomy is how you can eat now.

It does not rule you; it is not the most important thing about you, and it does not define your life.

I am vegan and I had no trouble eating any vegetables with my colostomy. UOAA’s trusted Eating with an Ostomy Guide provides info including a standard chart of foods to avoid at first with an ileostomy or colostomy – whether that is because they create stinky output, excess gas, diarrhea, constipation, or could cause blockages. Speak with your doctor and surgeon if you are unsure how to handle building your new diet. If you’re introducing new vegetables (or any kind of food) into your post-colostomy diet, just try a little bit and see what happens! If your doctor says it’s ok, don’t be afraid to try eating the old things you love, and maybe be inspired to try some new things as well. A good practice for all is to chew thoroughly and stay hydrated.

Stay Positive with an Ostomy

Some people wonder how they can ever find something positive in something so scary as an ostomy, but it can be done. You don’t need to do it in big grand gestures or sweeping alterations in your character. Just try one little switch when the opportunity comes up. It isn’t about skipping down the street singing the praises of your ostomy, it’s about finding moments when you can see the silver lining. I thought it was sort of fun to have something so unique on my body. Very few people ever get to have this close a relationship with their intestines, so instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to call myself “lucky” for learning so much about how my digestive tract works.

Maybe most important of all, my ostomy led me to a UOAA support group where I met some wonderful people. I have made new friends who I would never have met without my ostomy. That is something to be very thankful for.

Spend some time every day when you force yourself to not think about your ostomy. Even if it’s just 20 seconds, it is important to learn to push this thing into the background of your life. It does not rule you; it is not the most important thing about you, and it does not define your life. Stay Positive! One day, one hour, sometimes one minute at a time, but you can do this.

Learn to Take Care of Your Ostomy

Our emotional recovery depends on regaining independence. I was only 47 when I received my ostomy. I am too young to rely on others to take care of me. I laughed when the home health aide arrived and started treating me like I was 80. I was not going to lie down and become helpless. I was going to be an active participant in my own health and recovery.

Learning how to care for yourself makes you feel like a Superhero!

If you suddenly find yourself having to depend on someone else to maintain your appliance, you will feel even more out of control and worried that something might go wrong. Believe me: something will go wrong — leaks happen to the best of us, and at the most unexpected times. If you have to wait until your nurse can come to your house, or until your partner gets home from work, you will feel more helpless with each passing day. Paranoid that something terrible will happen if you get a leak while you’re alone, you may not leave the house to run errands, you may say no to social gatherings, and you may not want to go back to work.

Learning how to care for yourself makes you feel like a Superhero! I had a cool little zipper bag that fit in my purse containing a precut barrier, 2 extra bags, 2-3 adhesive remover wipes, 2-3 skin prep wipes, a disposal bag, and a travel-size PooPourri Spray. Knowing I had all the supplies I needed to do a quick bag change in a strange bathroom gave me immense peace of mind. I could change the whole system in less than 5 minutes, all by myself!

And if you need a little smile while you fumble around with your first bag change alone, just repeat my favorite mantra out loud: I got this whole thing in the bag!

 

Lisa Febre is the author of “Round the Twist: Facing the Abdominable,” a memoir about her diagnosis and treatment of Stage-4c Colon Cancer, which hits bookshelves in September 2023. She had a descending colostomy for 10-months.

 

By Cheryl Ory, UOAA President

President Biden has proclaimed March 2023 National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society says that colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths in both men and women. On another note, the death rate has been dropping for several decades. One reason is that treatments have improved. Another reason is that colorectal polyps are now being found more after screening and removed before they can turn into a cancer.

UOAA Advocate, ostomate and colorectal cancer survivor Allison Rosen speaks on the National Mall as part of the United in Blue Rally sponsored by Fight Colorectal Cancer. Video: United in Blue Rally on the Mall (1)

In 2008 I was diagnosed with Stage 3b colorectal cancer. I was told the cancer had been developing for at least 10 years or more, most likely when I was in my early 30’s. There was a polyp, if it had been removed at an earlier date the cancer would not have developed. After radiation, chemo, surgery, and more chemo I am now a colorectal cancer survivor with a permanent colostomy, an ostomy that has saved mine and others lives from not only cancer, but other debilitating diseases.

I’m happy that UOAA is standing alongside partner organizations like Fight Colorectal Cancer to push lawmakers into giving attention to the alarming rise in young people with colorectal cancer.

With younger people being as risk and diagnosed , The U.S Preventative Services Task Force lowered the recommended screening age to 45 in 2021.  One in five colorectal cancer patients is between the ages of 20-54. Talk to your doctor about options for colorectal cancer screening. As the Colon Cancer Coalition states with earlier screening and detection, “Colorectal Cancer can be  Preventable, Treatable, Beatable.”

If you are a person still at risk, like those with IBD, let me urge you to get screened. Screening can result in any colorectal cancers being found earlier when they are easier to treat.

Here at United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) we have a long legacy of supporting the survivors of cancer and many other conditions so that they can have best quality of life possible. If your cancer requires a life-saving ostomy surgery remember-you are not alone. 725,000- 1 million people in the U.S. of all ages and backgrounds live with an ostomy.

Every individual person’s disease treatment is unique but ostomy surgery for colorectal cancer may mean a temporary ileostomy (from the small intestine) or colostomy (large intestine). This may be required to give a portion of the bowel a chance to rest and heal. When healing has occurred, the colostomy can often be reversed and normal bowel function restored.  It’s important to know that not everyone with an ostomy will be a candidate for a reversal operation. A permanent colostomy may be required when a disease affects the end part of the colon or rectum.

We have new Living with a Colostomy guide and ileostomy guide to help you learn as much as possible before or after you have this life changing surgery.

It’s especially important to connect with one of hundreds of  UOAA Affiliated Ostomy Support Groups in the U.S. before, or shortly after, your surgery. Peer support and preparation can put you on the path to success in what may be a challenging time both emotionally and physically.  Ask if the hospital has a certified ostomy nurse and insist on having your stoma placement marked before surgery. These and other self-advocacy tools are paramount and outlined in our Ostomy Patient Bill of Rights.

You may feel too overwhelmed as you are discharged at the hospital to fully understand ostomy pouching systems and accessories and lifestyle considerations. If you have a  medical question contact your doctor or nurse, but if you have a quality of life question-UOAA resources here at ostomy.org and peers at UOAA Affiliated Support Groups likely have the answers.

It’s important to learn the facts about living with an ostomy. After the healing period outlined by your surgeon you can swim, bathe, be intimatetravel, and embrace a new normal life. After some trial and error, you may also eat most of the foods you have been able to eat in the past. Education is key to battling misinformation.

Unfortunately misinformation and stigmas surrounding both ostomy surgery and colorectal cancer affect the number of people getting screened or getting the medical treatment they need.  Let’s work together to educate, advocate and support survivors.

 

Cheryl Ory is a colorectal cancer survivor who received a permanent colostomy in 2008. Cheryl is a Registered Nurse who has had a passion for volunteering with the ostomy community ever since and first joined UOAA’s Board of Directors in 2015. She now holds the position of President.

 

 

 

By Robin Glover

Come one, come all to Houston, TX, for the 8th United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) National Conference!

From August 10-12, 2023, UOAA and the fourth largest city in the United States is opening its arms to welcome ostomates from all over the country for three full days of fun, learning, advocacy, and unity.

Houston is known as the Space City for its NASA connection but also more recently just H-Town for its culture and the “Big Heart” for its welcoming spirit of those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Houston is an ultra-diverse city with something to offer everyone, from world-class dining to high-end shopping to down-to-earth BBQ joints, and believe it or not, ice skating!

The best part? You can find all of that within a very short distance from The Royal Sonesta Galleria Hotel where the conference is being held.

Leave your worries behind and imagine a learning vacation where you can be surrounded by new ostomy friends who have been in your shoes. The only thing you’ll need to do is have an open mind and have some fun.

The Luxurious Royal Sonesta Hotel

There are lots of places to go in the Uptown area but The Royal Sonesta Galleria itself offers enough that you never even need to leave its luxurious ambiance. It has four restaurants, a coffee shop, a fitness center, an accessible swimming pool, a hot tub, and, if you do want to head somewhere, a free shuttle service to points of interest within 3 miles (ADA transportation available upon request.) You can bring your pet too!

 

Royal Sonesta Houston Galleria
2222 West Loop South
Houston, TX 77027
Hotel Reservations: https://book.passkey.com/event/50354976/owner/5142/home
Room Block 2023 UOAA National Conference
Special UOAA Rate $143 plus taxes

What could be better than finishing a fun-filled day at the conference by hanging out with new friends and old acquaintances without having to go anywhere? Just gather around in the lobby area, sit together at a restaurant (enjoying a meal, a special drink, or just a glass of water), or hang out at the pool and talk the night away sharing stories and experiences with ostomates from all over the country.

You’ll want to stay through Saturday night and get some dancing boots to wrap up the event with music, desserts, and country line dancing lessons.

Click Here to get the UOAA Room Block Rate. As conference guests staying at the hotel, we’ll be the VIPs.

Explore Houston’s Famous Galleria Mall

A half-mile away, the 400-store Houston Galleria welcomes 30 million visitors a year and is home to Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Louboutin, and Tom Ford (and basically every other designer) boutiques, as well as an Apple Store, LEGO Store, Tesla showroom, a 2,000 square ft. children’s play area, and the TFTI | Interactive Selfie Museum (they charge admission).

There’s also an escape room, an awesome candy shop, jewelry stores, shoe stores, and a lot more. Plus, incredible local dining options from sushi, Indian food, French food, and steak to national favorites like Shake Shack and The Cheesecake Factory, along with tea shops, frozen yogurt, coffee shops, and juice shops.

Oh yeah, ice skating! The Galleria offers year-round, indoor ice skating (fee) for all ages and levels.

You could easily spend a couple of evenings after the conference sipping on some coffee, tea, juice, or your favorite hydration drink while roaming around The Galleria taking in the scenery, doing an escape room, gawking at the price of a designer belt, or possibly even some shopping.

Houston water wall and park near the Galleria Mall.

The Beautiful Gerald D. Hines Waterwall

If you’re not in the mood for the mall (or already went), you can take a quick evening stroll to Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park. This iconic Houston architectural landmark is beautifully lit at night and provides peace and serenity in the form of a 50-foot-tall sheet of cascading water. It’s really quite mesmerizing and is surrounded by a 3-acre park featuring green space and nearly 200 live oak trees.

Other Things to Do During the Weekend

Experience Global Cuisine
Houston is one of the nation’s most diverse cities and offers an authentic cultural experience from places all over the world and fusions like Viet-Cajun. Depending on your dietary restrictions, you can try traditional food and drinks (including non-alcoholic) from Ethiopia, India, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, West Africa, Vietnam, China, Japan, Afghanistan, Portugal, Nepal, Brazil, Central America, and, of course Texas all within 5 miles of the hotel.

See the World Series Champions
The Houston Astros will be playing the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park on August 10, 11, 12 and 13. The stadium is 15 minutes from The Royal Sonesta Hotel. Even if you’re not an Astros fan, it’s still a great ballpark and a great experience.

Watch a Tony-Award Winning Musical
The Motown-inspired Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations will be making a stop on its off-Broadway tour in Houston during the weekend of the conference. There will be nightly shows at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Ain’t Too Proud won a 2019 Tony Award for Best Choreography. The theater is also 15 minutes from the hotel. (Uber is your friend.)

Be at the Center of It All at The Royal Sonesta Hotel

Houston is a wonderful and welcoming city with so much to offer. The list of things to do could go on forever. Consider bringing the entire family and add some extra days to your hotel stay to truly experience it. FYI, for those flying in the hotel is about an equal distance from either of Houston’s major airports.

Stay Saturday night for the Texas Theme night at the hotel complete with County Line Dancing lessons and more.

But, since the 2023 UOAA National Conference is going to include incredible speakers, Q&A’s, meet and greets, social gatherings, the chance to explore all the latest ostomy products, and the opportunity to connect with more fellow ostomates, j-pouchers, and people with all types of continent diversions than you’ve probably even seen in one place, these are just a few ideas very close to The Royal Sonesta Galleria Hotel.

Because, chances are, you’ll probably end up spending almost all of your time there enjoying a huge gathering of people who have been through the same experiences you have and understand like nobody else can.

The 8th UOAA National Conference in Houston is a life-changing opportunity to make lifelong friends and you won’t want to miss a second of it.

 

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

Since extra security precautions are still being taken at airports and other transit hubs worldwide, a little pre-planning and understanding of both security rules and your right to privacy can help you avoid problems in transit and enjoy your travels.

• TSA officers should NOT ask you to show your pouch—you may be asked to rub over your pouch outside your clothing so they can test your hand to rule out explosive residue.

• In particular, remember that all airport screenings must be conducted with courtesy, dignity and respect. You may request screening in a private area at all U.S. airports and most international destinations. If you encountered treatment outside of TSA protocol you can file a complaint, (please copy UOAA’s volunteer TSA Liaison gfsalamy@comcast.net)

A few additional tips to keep you on the go:

Carry a statement from your healthcare professional stating your need for ostomy supplies AS WELL AS a Travel Communications Card (which can be found here.)

UOAA's TSA Notification Card

TSA rules state that you can be screened without having to empty or expose your ostomy; however, you may need to conduct a self pat-down of the ostomy as a test.

NOTE: You may always have a travel companion with you during a private screening.

If you are traveling to a foreign country, bring this information written in the appropriate language. Google Translate may be helpful with translations. If you find you need additional supplies while traveling, a local pharmacy is a great starting point. The local pharmacist should be able to provide you with the necessary supplies and/or refer you to a local clinic/hospital for support.

Pre-cut all cut-to-fit barriers at homeAlthough current United States Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) rules allow curved point scissors with blades less than 4″ in length in your carry-on luggage, keeping your ostomy scissors in your checked luggage may avoid delay and extra screening

Consider purchasing travel insurance that guarantees getting you to a hospital, if necessary.

When it comes to supplies, OVERPACK! Better safe than sorry. Pack at least three days’ worth of ostomy supplies in your carry-on luggage, just in case your checked luggage is misplaced or there are delays and/or non-availability at your destination.

Drink, drink, drink. Nothing slows down a vacation more than dehydration.

If traveling by car, take advantage of rest areas. Stop and empty your pouch regularly; you never know how far it will be until the next one!

Pack ostomy-friendly snacks.

Keep a set of clean clothes handy whether in your carry-on luggage or in the trunk of your car.

Carry a few plastic bags and wet wipes for quick clean-up.

The idea of taking long trips with an ostomy can seem daunting. But with a little extra preparation, you can enjoy the trip of a lifetime.

 

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 Robin Glover

The holiday season is here! Yay! It’s a wonderful time to build lasting memories and celebrate shared traditions. The holidays always bring people together.

But is that always a good thing? In spirit, yes. But in practice…maybe not. There are crowds at the mall, long lines at the store, endless Amazon deliveries, presents to wrap, meals and small talk to make, and on top of it all, they want us to look nice and show up to parties, too.

All this bringing people together can be a bit much.

But what if you could find peace and serenity almost anytime you want? What if you could enjoy a few moments of quiet solitude among the festive chaos?

Well, if you’re lucky enough to have a colostomy or ileostomy, you have that power. And it’s just one of the ways having an ostomy during the holidays is pretty awesome.

  1. Instant Peace and Serenity

So Uncle Bob had a little bit too much eggnog. And now he’s passed out on the couch ripping off farts that would put a skunk to shame. Nobody wants to be near him.

But deep down, everyone’s a little jealous. He’s over there in his own little cloud getting some much-needed peace and quiet.

The problem is that Uncle Bob can’t control when he lets out a little gas. But, we ostomates with an ileostomy or colostomy can! We can have our own little cloud of solitude at the ready for when we need a little time alone.

Simply “burp” your pouch and suddenly the room empties and you’re surrounded by nothing but instant peace and serenity. Ahh…the joys of being an ostomate.

  1. Get in the Holiday Spirit

Those beige pouches can be a little drab. But there’s nothing a little holiday decorating can’t fix. No matter your type of ostomy or what holidays you celebrate, a few battery-powered lights and some glittery garland can turn you into a walking celebration of the medical miracle you are. Of course, premade holiday-themed pouch covers such as those pictured from C&S Pouch Covers, or several Etsy shops, could do the trick as well.

C&S Pouch Covers Gingerbread Holiday pouch cover

People will be totally jealous. They’ll wish they had an ostomy pouch to decorate. But they’ll just have to stick to ugly sweaters they got off Amazon like everyone else…boring.

  1. Last-Minute Stockings

Oh no! The dog ate Bailey’s stocking! Where are you going to put those awesome stocking stuffers you got them? You search around the house and can’t find a sock or a bag worth using.

You hear a commotion. Are the kids up already? You gotta hurry. Then, you remember that order of ostomy supplies that just came in. A pouch will be perfect! So you run to your supply stash and grab one.

Throw some candy in it, add the yo-yo and animal erasers, and you’re saved! Thank goodness for ostomies!

  1. Let It Go! Let It Go!

It’s last-minute gift buying time. You’ve been waiting in line for twenty minutes and then those dozen latkes or half-gallon of cider suddenly kick in and you need to go to the bathroom. Now, most people would either have to hold it not knowing when they’ll finally get to go, or get out of line and rush to the restroom.

But not you. Luckily, you can just go while you’re in line! Of course, this only works 50% of the time depending on whether you have a urostomy or colostomy/ileostomy. Unless you’re lucky enough to have both!

  1. Let It Signify Your Resilience

Your ostomy is a symbol of all you’ve been through and the faith, fortitude, and resilience it took to get through the toughest times.

So when you do actually get a quiet moment to reflect during the holidays, remember how far you’ve come and that you’re an inspiration to those around you.

Even if you didn’t welcome it or are having a difficult time right now, look at your ostomy as the reason you get to experience everything, good or bad, that the holiday season has to offer. Because an ostomy truly is a gift and, as an ostomate, your life is the greatest gift of all to those who love you. You are a miracle.

 

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