Tag Archive for: ostomy pouch

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.

 

By Ed Pfueller, UOAA Communications and Outreach Manager

The ostomy community is a big group with diverse medical backgrounds, ages, and attitudes about living with an ostomy. One thing almost everyone can agree on is that ostomy and continent diversion surgery saves lives. We all hope for a day when no one who has an ostomy feels alone in life. Ostomy Awareness Day is Saturday, October 1, 2022 ­and however you are most comfortable participating – you can have an impact. Your voice matters and now is the time to use it or support others who do. 

If You’re Supportive but Busy

I had very little to go on, more to learn than I realized, and felt somewhat lost and well, scared. Discovering United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) when searching online for ostomy organizations and associations was a relief and godsend. -Myrna Pair

A couple of clicks is all it takes to put a smile on the face of a resilient ostomate or dedicated ostomy nurse. Check out the heartwarming stories of those on the Run for Resilience fundraising pages. Many of them still need a donation. The Ostomy 5k is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the programs and services offered by UOAA, a national 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. We have not met the Virtual Ostomy 5k fundraising goal of $25,000. Donating to UOAA, whenever you have the means, helps to sustain our small but powerful national ostomy organization’s work to improve the quality of life for people living with an ostomy, all year long.

If You’re Active on Social Media

Great, stop scrolling and go share your #OstomiesAreLifesavers story today! Even if you have never talked about it publicly before, consider letting your social networks know the things you have been able to do and witness in life after surgery. Help dispel stigmas and fear surrounding ostomy surgery, you never know which of your connections may have an ostomy or be faced with surgery someday. Post a photo, video or story and tag or DM @UOAA and use the hashtag #OstomiesAreLifesavers and #OstomyDay2022

Another quick and easy way to share your ostomy story is to complete the This or That Ostomy Edition, tag uoaa and post it to your stories.

If You’d Rather Work Behind the Scenes

You don’t have to post ostomy bikini pics to be an effective advocate. Anyone can call or send our action alerts to their elected officials. The U.S. Congress has designated official days for mountain biking and cowboys but not for Ostomy Awareness. This is because of a lack of congressional co-sponsors. Congressman Donald Payne (NJ) is introducing a Congressional House Resolution designating October 1, 2022 as National Ostomy Awareness Day and needs co-sponsors and/or support for this resolution. Contact your Congressperson and ask them to become a cosponsor, by contacting Shahryar M. Baig on his staff at shahryar.baig@mail.house.gov. You can take action here on all of our advocacy campaigns.

These @delta #flightattendants and #pilot were 100% on board to support #OstomyDay2022  – Peenelopie was very excited that the pilot got to hold her! (courtesy Stomagienics)

If You Just Want to Have Some Fun While Raising Awareness

Consider printing out our Ostomy Pouch Character name it, and take pics of it wherever you go Flat Stanley style; send us your pics or post on social media. To make it even easier use our Giphy stickers found here (or search @UOAA_Ostomy)

You can still register for an in-person Run for Resilience Event near you on Saturday (Birmingham is Oct. 8) and join what is often a party atmosphere of music, sponsor tables, food and games – in addition to walking/running. 

Also be sure to wear a stoma sticker from Hollister, the Exclusive Diamond Sponsor of UOAA’s Run for Resilience. Check out all the ways you can celebrate with Hollister.

If You Want to Get More Educated or Educate Others

If you want to get some WOC Nurse level information you’re in luck on October 1st. The WOCN Society is offering an education day event open to everyone free of charge.

For a more Ostomy 101 level of learning use our advocacy tools and infographics as a handout or post online. Feel free to use any of our materials on emotional support, ostomy myths, j-pouches or more.

The day after Ostomy Awareness Day you can also learn more about ostomies and mental health during a Facebook live event hosted by Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in partnership with UOAA. 

 If You Want to Keep the Awareness Going All Month/Year Long

Here at UOAA we work on National Advocacy all year long. Sign-up for our advocacy action alerts and Monthly E-Newsletter. There is power in numbers, become a national individual member and be counted as an official member of UOAA’s ostomy community. You’ll also get a membership and stoma pin and among other benefits.

New this year, Convatec is planning “Ostober” to focus on ostomy awareness all month long. They are the Platinum Sponsor of our Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k and we’re thrilled to see them keeping the spirit alive all month long.

 

 

Visit our Ostomy Awareness Day landing page for more information this special day. Whatever you choose to do please let us know! If you have pictures, proclamations or stories to share send them to us at info@ostomy.org and don’t forget #OstomiesAreLifesavers

 

By Robin Glover

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

Ostomies Are Life-Savers

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

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

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

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

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

In Person Events Are Back This Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver, WA

Nashville, TN

Boise, ID

Birmingham, AL (October 8th)

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

 “I Intend to Be Victorious”

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

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

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

Share Your Story Too

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

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

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

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

Help Support UOAA

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

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

 

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

By Jeanine Gleba, UOAA Advocacy Manager

Too many people living with an ostomy have the worry that due to a need for frequent pouch changes or a high output stoma they will run out of their monthly Medicaid allowable ostomy supplies.  For the past year, UOAA has been supporting efforts, led by Coloplast, to expand Medicaid coverage of extended wear products in states with remaining access problems across the country. 

UOAA’s advocacy work has included:

  • Raising awareness on this important issue
  • Recruiting Affiliated Support Group leaders that are also WOC nurses and other local clinicians to provide clinical support and insight
  • Sending letters to state divisions of Medicaid services urging them to review the ostomy supply policy regarding coverage of ostomy supplies for HCPCS codes and quantities, specifically for extended wear products. 

As the voice and leading organization advocating for people living with an ostomy, we know first-hand how important access to ostomy supplies are for our patient population. We share the patient perspective with testimonials from advocates as well as explaining patients’ unique needs, such as those who are unable to achieve normal wear time with a standard barrier. Improved access to extended wear barriers will assist those who do not have an optimal fit or have a high-output stoma and go through more standard wear barriers and pouch changes. For these individuals extended wear products would be the prescribed solution. 

As a result of the collaboration between Coloplast, UOAA, State Home Medical Equipment (HME)/Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Associations, local clinicians and other advocates, we have expanded patient access to extended wear products in seven states as noted in the above map. This is excellent news for Medicaid beneficiaries living with an ostomy in these states! (Note: States that are grey/light blue on the map were not seen to have any state Medicaid extended wear access challenges.)

More advocacy efforts are underway in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin to remove the current barrier to access in those states. These states have Medicaid coverage that is much less than the current Medicare standards.

Join us Tuesday, April 26, 2022 at 6 pm ET for this virtual event. Joy Hooper RN, BSN, CWOCN, will address how to prevent leaks and give you a peek at products that may help you find the fit you need. Also speaking is Josh Nelson, the first active-duty U.S. Airforce Pilot living with an ileostomy. He will talk about his story, his regular fitness routine, and how he deals with possible leaks. UOAA Board Members Brenda Elsagher and Steve Vandevender will talk about the types of products that work best for their unique needs. Ostomy Academy – Education for Every Ostomate is Presented by UOAA and Powered by 11 Health. Sign-up for more information.

By Ed Pfueller, UOAA Communications Manager

Beverly Dabliz is ready to celebrate a monumental 60th anniversary but even her closest friends do not all know what it is for. Recently she decided it was finally time to share the news. “Just last week I told a close friend I’ve known for 66 years – I’m the godmother of her twins, but even they did not know I have an ostomy. It was just not something people talked about,” Dabliz says. She adds “People are surprised to learn the news, but it does not matter to them one bit.”

Dabliz had ileostomy surgery in 1962 at Ferguson Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Ferguson was one of the first clinics in the world to perform such surgeries. By the time she turned twenty she was suffering from ulcerative colitis and by twenty-four ran out of treatment options. “After sixty years I have never regretted it, it has allowed me to live a great life,” Dabliz says.

Almost no one with the exception of her doctor understood the procedure and how to care for it. She knew she was on her own on how to carry on and reach her full potential.
Even if you have a great support network Dabliz recommends, “You have to own it and take care of it.” Ostomy supplies of that time bear little resemblance to the lightweight, contoured appliances of today. “I wore a heavy two-piece rubber appliance held on with an ostomy glue,” she recalls. It was not until the 70s that pouching systems began to evolve into something similar to the one and two-piece systems commonly used today.

“It was just not something people talked about,”

Over the years Dabliz has helped other ostomates in need through the Detroit Metro Ostomy Support Group. While doing hospital visits she would always appear in fitted clothes and enjoyed how grateful the patients were to hear from someone else living with an ostomy. She is happy about the recent return of in-person support group meetings. At meetings, Dabliz is sometimes surprised by some of the concerns new ostomates have regarding things like food, “I just tell them to be sure you chew your food very well, in the beginning, I tried it all without being scared but I’m still often the last one eating. I chew my food so well I’ve worn down teeth.”

Beverly Dabliz, right, works during a mission trip to Costa Rica with her Michigan church group.

Dabliz worked in the accounting department of a computer company in Detroit and Plymouth, Michigan for 45 years before retiring. Her boss was aware of her ostomy and supportive. “I never missed a day of work because of the ostomy,” she says.

Six years ago Dabliz had a fight with kidney cancer and three years ago a shoulder replacement surgery. But she has otherwise been fortunate to live a healthy life since the ostomy surgery six decades ago. She still makes it a point to get out of the house almost every day. “I have always been very active and really have not had any ostomy issues,” Dabliz says. In her eighties now, she still enjoys golfing and was in a bowling league for many years.

Beverly Dabliz working as a volunteer at the Eagle River Methodist Camp in Juneau, Alaska.

Dabliz can also still be found tending to her yard and is reluctant to give up shoveling the Michigan snow – though neighbors have started beating her to it. With the exception of some subtle changes, her ostomy regiment remains routine. She consistently uses the same products.

Dabliz is an active member of her church and has gone on many mission trips over the years in countries such as Jamaica and Costa Rica. “I’ve had to use outhouses in Alaska and done mission work after Hurricane Katrina,” Dabliz says. Even in these tight living quarters, nobody knew she had an ostomy.

An ostomy has never gotten in the way of her passion for traveling and cruising the world with her older sister. The pair have even circumnavigated Australia and New Zealand. Her advice; “I take extra supplies and always bring some on carry-on and have never had any trouble flying. Just do it. Go swimming, do whatever you want to do,” she says.

In celebration of her 60th Stomaversary and 85th Birthday, Dabliz is hoping to take a Holland America cruise around Iceland with her sister. Her minister and family have known of her ostomy but she hopes to tell more friends about what this landmark occasion means to her. Dabliz is confident they will take the news in stride as they help her celebrate a life that could have been cut way too short if not for that long ago ostomy surgery.

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.

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