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Imagine if there was a place where over forty ostomy product manufacturers, accessory makers, distributors, lifestyle experts, and related support organizations could gather with ostomy patients from around the world? Well, UOAA’s 7th National Conference Exhibit Hall is that place, and everyone is invited. It will be open August 8 and 9, 2019 at the Philadelphia 201 Hotel in the heart of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

People return to UOAA’s biennial national conferences not only because of the lifelong friendships, education, and social events but also because of the exhibit hall. It is a fun one-stop experience to ask questions about your favorite supplies or discover what is the latest and greatest in the world of ostomy care. Attendees have the chance to sign-up for sample products and talk one-on-one with representatives of all the major and specialty ostomy product manufacturers. Visitors often find the passionate owners and inventors of unique ostomy products on hand to introduce you to their products.

 

UOAA is proud to be able to provide this space for our community to gather.  The conference runs Aug. 6-10, but If you can only come to our conference for one day you’ll want to consider registering for the exhibit hall days Thursday and Friday. There is even a free box lunch Friday for all those registered attendees who enter the exhibit hall. You may want to consider staying longer, however, to take advantage of the free stoma clinic, expert educational session and surgery specific meet-ups. And don’t miss social events such as the Roaring 20s Casino Night and Music Thursday and the Saturday night fashion show, desserts, and dancing. Be sure to stop by UOAA’s table where you can sign an important petition for the Ostomy and Continent Diversion Patient Bill of Rights and learn about all the upcoming events such as Ostomy Awareness Day and the Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k.

 

Here is a list of all the businesses and organizations exhibiting this August. Like UOAA, they are dedicated to improving the quality of life of people living with an ostomy. 

 

11 Health and Technologies Inc.
www.11Health.com • 657-266-0570

11 Health helps people living with medical bags by combining peer-to-peer support with unique patented SmartBags that collect patient generated data for preventative care. 11 Health thinks and acts differently from all established medical bag companies because we see the patient as a patient – not an end user.

ASCRS – Colon/Rectal Surgeons
www.fascrs.org • 847-290-9184

You are invited to visit the ASCRS Booth and receive information regarding services ASCRS can provide, including patient referrals and patient education brochures. The scope of colon and rectal surgery includes the small bowel, colon, rectum and anal areas.

Avadim Health, Inc.
www.theraworxprotect.com • 877-677-2723

Avadim Health Inc. is the Bionome Life Science company. Avadim’s flagship product Theraworx® Protect is a topical solution that supports the skin’s outer most layer, the stratum corneum, while remaining Non-Toxic and Safe.

B Braun Medical
www.bbraunusa.com • 800-227-2862

B. Braun Medical Inc. develops, manufactures, and markets innovative medical products and offers ostomy products including Flexima® 3S two-piece appliance with a unique guiding system and a High Output System. The myosto™ resource offers ostomates the ability to request product samples and educational resources on the website. Visit www.bbraunusa.com and www.myosto-mylife.com

Byram Healthcare
www.byramhealthcare.com • 800-227-2862

Byram is the leading service and solutions provider of disposable medical supplies delivered directly to the home while conveniently billing insurance plans. We provide convenience, affordability and choice™ to make a positive difference in the lives of the people we serve.

Calmoseptine, Inc.
www.calmoseptine.com • 714-840-3405

Calmospetine® Ointment protects and helps heal skin irritations from moisture such as urinary and fecal incontinence. It is also effective for irritations from perspiration, wound drainage, fecal and vaginal fistulas and feeding tube site leakage. Calmoseptine® temporarily relieves discomfort and itching. Free samples at our booth!

Cancer Support Community
www.cancersupportphiladelphia.org

Cancer Support Community is a leader in cancer support, and is the largest cancer support organization in the world that provides 100% free services and programs for individuals and families impacted by cancer. The Community serves those with cancer, who have a family member or friend with cancer and who have lost a loved one to cancer.

Celebration Ostomy Support Belt 
www.celebrationostomysupportbelt.com • 413-539-7704

Our ostomy Celebration Belt systems are designed to protect your dignity while allowing you to lead an active life. Learn how to measure for a correct fit, get wear and care information, and order your belt with confidence.

Colo-Majic Enterprises
www.colomajic.com • 866-611-6028

Colo-Majic® Flushable Liners are designed to be inserted into a two piece closed end pouch system to collect colostomy/ileostomy output. Liners will keep your pouch clean allowing for reuse and makes output disposal quick and easy.

Coloplast
www.coloplast.us • 888-726-7872

Coloplast develops products and services that make life easier for people with very personal and private medical conditions. Working closely with the people who use our products, we create solutions that are sensitive to their special needs. Our business includes ostomy care, interventional urology, continence care, wound & skin care.

ConvaTec
www.convatec.com • 800-422-8811

At ConvaTec, we exist to improve the lives of the people we touch and are committed to helping people living with an ostomy live the life they want with more confidence and freedom. Our me+ program gives you the support, insights and products you need. For more information, visit convatec.com.

Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation 
www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org  888-694-8872

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation is dedicated to finding cures for Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improving the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. The Foundation is at the forefront of research in inflammatory bowel diseases in addition to educating, supporting, and empowering patients and caregivers.

Edgepark
ww.edgepark.com • 800-321-0591

Edgepark is a leading provider of home-delivered, disposable medical products. We specialize in ostomy, wound care, urological, incontinence, diabetes and more, offer comprehensive insurance options and provide free nationwide delivery. To learn how we can help meet your supply needs, please call 800-321-0591 or visit www.edgepark.com.

Friends of Ostomates Worldwide
www.fowusa.org • 502-909-6669 • info@fowusa.org

Friends of Ostomates Worldwide-USA is a volunteer-run, non-profit organization that collects donated ostomy supplies from individuals and organizations in the United States and sends them and educational materials at no cost to ostomates in need around the world.

Girls With Guts
www.girlswithguts.org • info@girlswithguts.org

The vision of Girls With Guts is to establish a national support network that assists women with IBD and/or ostomies in their search for community, acceptance, and empowerment. This rapidly growing sisterhood helps to ensure that no woman will ever feel isolated by her disease.

Hollister Incorporated
www.hollister.com • 888-740-8999

At Hollister Incorporated, we are dedicated to delivering the highest standard of quality in medical products and services, and each member of the Hollister team is committed to making a difference in the lives of people who use our products and services.

Hy-Tape Int. 
www.hytape.com • 800-248-0101

Hy-Tape’s latex-free, waterproof, zinc oxide-based adhesive is soothing to delicate skin, and removes without compromising skin integrity. Our tape is perfect for extended ostomy wearing time, adhering securely so the end user can resume normal activities such as walking, exercising, bathing and swimming without worry of detachment.

KEM Enterprises, Inc.
www.kemonline.com • 616-676-0213

KEM Enterprises, Inc. manufactures the Osto-EZ-Vent.® The Osto-EZ-Vent® is the unique venting device designed for any Ostomy pouch, which allows quick, discreet release of air pressure. Invented by an Ostomate, the OEV™ gives the wearer complete control and confidence to lead an active life. Medicare code A4366. Visit us at kemOnline.com.

Marlen Manufacturing
www.marlenmfg.com • 216-292-7060

Since 1952, Marlen has been a leading innovator in ostomy care. Offering an extensive line of one-piece and two-piece systems for Ileostomies, Colostomies and Urostomies, Marlen has always strived to provide the highest quality products while meeting the comfort and security needs of our customers. Visit our website at www.marlenmfg.com

McKesson Patient Care Solutions
www.mpcs.mckesson.com • 855-404-6727

From doctor to doorstep, McKesson Patient Care Solutions provides healthcare that fits into your everyday life. With online support to answer all your questions, a team of customer service Reps to help you choose the right supplies, and fast, convenient shipping right to your door.

No You Cant’cer Foundation
www.noyoucantcerfoundation.org • 609-464-4647

The No You Cant’cer Foundation is a nonprofit organization working to dispel the negative stigmas surrounding ostomy bags and colorectal cancer while inspiring through song. By nationally distributing informational pamphlets and creating her awareness ribbon necklaces, cancer survivor and ostomate Melissa Marshall aims to help everyone say No You Cant’cer.

Nu-Hope Labs
www.nu-hope.com • 800-899-5017

Nu-Hope manufactures ostomy devices, accessories, belts, barriers and adhesives. We specialize in custom molded pouches and custom ostomy/hernia belts. Other highlights are our oval convex pouches, and stoma wafer hole cutters. Check out the Nu-Comfort belt and new for 2019, our moldable extended wear barrier. Don’t forget the Fun Run/Walk!

Oley Foundation
www.oley.org • 518-262-5079

The Oley Foundation is a non-profit organization providing information and support to those sustaining themselves on home infused and/or tube fed nutrition. Outcome data demonstrates that those connected to Oley have better outcome: significantly higher quality of life, less reactive depression, and a lower incidence of catheter-related sepsis.

Ostomy Canada Society
www.ostomycanada.ca • 888-969-9698

Ostomy Canada Society is a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to all people with an ostomy and their families, helping them to live life to the fullest through support, education, collaboration and advocacy. www.ostomycanada.ca

Parthenon Co., Inc.
www.parthenoninc.com • 800-453-8898

Family owned and operated for over 50 years. The Parthenon Company is a manufacturer and discount retailer specializing in ostomy supplies servicing customers throughout the United States.

Philadelphia Ostomy Association
www.philaost.org

The Philadelphia Ostomy Association was established in 1949 as the Colostomy Ileostomy Rehabilitation Association. As time went on and Urostomy surgery was developed, we changed our name to the Philadelphia Ostomy Association to support all types of ostomates.

Pouch Place
www.pouchplace.com • 865-531-1285

Nurse owned and managed ostomy care and supplies. For more than 27 years the Pouch Place has offered a complete selection of ostomy, wound care and incontinence supplies treating each patient’s needs with thoughtful and respectful care from two store front locations and an online store serving patients nationwide.

Pull-thru Network, Inc.
www.pullthrunetwork.org • 309-262-0786

Pull-thru Network, Inc (PTN) is a volunteer-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing information, education, support and advocacy for families, children, teens and adults who are living with the challenges of congenital anorectal, colorectal, and/or urogenital disorders and any of the associated diagnoses.

Quality Life Association, Inc.
www.qla-ostomy.org • 662-801-5461

The Quality Life Association, Inc. (QLA) is a non-profit nationwide association aimed at meeting the special needs of the continent ostomate and to educate others on the latest advances in ostomy options.

Safe n Simple
www.sns-medical.com • 844-767-6334

Safe n simple is an innovator that develops and markets a full line of high quality, cost-effective ostomy accessory products. The patented Peri-Stoma Cleanser and Adhesive Remover wipes are their most popular product. Now offering Security Hernia/Ostomy Support Belts.

Sanitary Ostomy Systems, Inc.
www.sanitaryostomysystem.com • 805-441-6708

Discover Our Exclusive Pouch-Emptying Systems For Use At Home And Everywhere Else. THE SOS KIT: Compresses pouch contents into a detachable, disposable collection bag. The perfect reusable solution for ostomates & caregivers. THE TRAVELER KIT: Empties your pouch anytime, anywhere – even in your car! Completely disposable, discreet and easy.

Schena Ostomy Technologies, Inc.
www.ostomyezclean.com • 239-263-9957

The revolutionary EZ-Clean Pouch system can be cleaned in less than 3 minutes. Water under pressure is dispersed via a manifold inside the pouch to provide thorough, hygenic cleansing of the pouch and stoma while sitting on the toilet. See details on how to normalize life with an ostomy online at: www.ostomyezclean.com.

Simply Beautiful
www.simplybeautifulstore.com • 304-771-1773

Wraps and Lingerie that empower women and preteens to feel more confident and reveal your true beauty while thriving with an ostomy.

Stealth Belt Inc.
www.stealthbelt.com • 800-237-4491

A Stealth Belt is an ostomy support belt that is specially designed to hold an ostomy appliance securely and discreetly. A Stealth Belt may be worn 24/7 to provide comfort and give you privacy. Stealth Belt’s great design features include, light weight fabric, a zippered pouch compartment, and a range of adjustability for ease of sizing.

Stomagienics, Inc.
www.stomagienics.com • 225-939-1460

Stomagienics Inc., was created based on an extraordinary situation involving a family member who, after having ostomy surgery, solved a plaguing issue that occurs during the ostomy pouch replacement process. We use many of his original design principles to create a revolutionary new product that will change the lives of ostomates worldwide.

Surviving to Thriving
www.elaineorourke.com/ostomyprograms • 978-281-6126

Are you struggling to live a fulfilling life with your ostomy? Elaine O’Rourke, creator of the “Surviving to Thriving: Overcoming Ostomy Challenges Program, has had an ostomy since 2005 and understands the struggles are real! Stop by to claim your gift, 3 Simple Ways to Eliminate Fears About Your Ostomy.

Takeda
www.takeda.com • 877-825-3327

Takeda is a global, values-based, R&D-driven biopharmaceutical leader headquartered in Japan, committed to bringing Better Health and a Brighter Future to patients by translating science into highly-innovative medicines. Takeda focuses its R&D efforts on four therapeutic areas: Oncology, Gastroenterology (GI), Neuroscience and Rare Diseases. We also make targeted R&D investments in Plasma-Derived Therapies and Vaccines.

Trio Ostomy Care USA  

www.trioostomycare.us • 863-421-9400

Trio Ostomy USA, has an over-riding commitment to patient care with improvements to quality of life being at the heart of our business. We ensure that our products reach healthcare providers at an affordable level, offering the benefits of the most advanced silicone technology for all.

United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) Inc.
www.ostomy.org • 800-826-0826
United Ostomy Associations of America provides educational material, resources, support and advocacy for those who have or will have ostomy surgery, their family, caregivers and medical professionals. Stop by our booth to view our resources and show your support of the Ostomy and Continent Diversion Patient Bill of Rights by signing the online petition.

Youth Rally
www.youthrally.org • info@youthrally.org
More than 30 years after inception, the Youth Rally continues to provide an environment for young people to meet others who live with conditions of the bowel and bladder. Lasting friendships are formed, in a short 5 nights, in an atmosphere that promotes self-confidence and independence.

 

Click Here to learn more and register for UOAA’s 7th National Conference Aug. 6-10, 2019 in Philadelphia, PA.

Give to Make an impact in the ostomy community

 

Your support makes a difference in so many lives. People often turn to UOAA in times of concern and uncertainty. UOAA’s staff and volunteers provide assistance every day to people across the country who are seeking knowledge, resources and support as they navigate their way through living with an ostomy. Your donation to our mid-year campaign will ensure UOAA will continue to be a trusted resource for caregivers, family members and medical professionals. Please help us reach our fundraising goal of $110,000 this year.

“Thank you for all your support. Probably without my local support group and UOAA, I seriously doubt I would have been aware of a WOC nurse or a method to receive the medical treatment I thought was necessary. Now…I will be able to live a healthier, productive life.” J. R.

General Fund

Support UOAA as we continue to create and share our educational materials, connect people to affiliated support groups, maintain our informative website and engage with medical professionals who care for the ostomy community.

“I appreciate the support of UOAA. We use the website in the clinic as our major resource and the booklets are great for the staff in-services. I have given copies to the medical students when I give the ostomy lecture during their trauma rotation as well…” C. C.

Advocacy Fund 

Your financial contribution will help engage UOAA and its Advocacy Network (over 650 supporters) in legislative advocacy efforts.

“Just want to tell you what a wonderful advocacy tool you have provided to ostomates and affiliated support groups around the country…I can appreciate how the product of your work will encourage individuals and groups to move ahead with advocacy.” P. M.

Ostomy Awareness Fund 

Assist UOAA in dispelling the fear of undergoing this life-saving and life-restoring surgery. Attendees of our biennial conference (join us August 6-10, 2019 in Philadelphia) have the opportunity to learn from top medical professionals, network with fellow ostomates and share their life experiences.

“Keep up the good work! I have had an ileostomy since 2002…I am retired and now perform at festivals and enjoy life! Life begins at whatever age you shake off your fears and decide to fulfill your reason for being!” K. T. H.

With your donation we can empower people living with an ostomy or continent diversion, promote quality of life, and continue our work to erase the myths and stigma surrounding this life-saving surgery. Together we can change lives.

Sincerely,

Susan Burns
UOAA President

Click here to donate today or learn more. United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. (UOAA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and all donations are tax deductible.  UOAA has a GuideStar Gold Seal of Transparency.

Summer is quickly approaching and before you know it we will be in Philadelphia at UOAA’s 7th National Conference. With so many new and exciting things planned it is sure to be the best ever! I know whenever I attend a conference I plan well in advance and create my own personal schedule to ensure I do and see all that is of particular interest to me.  This includes conference sessions, social activities and taking some time for local sightseeing in a place I may never have been before. I also always go out of my way to try a new food or beverage native to a particular city or state and in this case it will be an iconic “Philly cheesesteak”.   

As UOAA’s Advocacy Manager I’m very excited that this conference is being held in Philadelphia, a city so very rich in history and quite frankly home to our country’s first advocates.  Here is my twist on ways you can take advantage of this city and our conference, if you have a soft spot for things “advocacy”-related:

  1. Be sure to sign UOAA’s Ostomy and Continent Diversion Patient Bill of Rights during Exhibit Hall hours at the UOAA booth. These signatures will be collected for potential use in advocacy efforts to improve quality in ostomy health care. You also can see one of the 12 surviving original copies of the US Bill of Rights at the National Constitution Center while in Philadelphia.
  2. Pay tribute to our country’s first advocates and visit the Independence National Historic Park to walk in Independence Hall where our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
  3. Celebrate your independence and and see the most famous cracked bell in American history – the Liberty Bell.  You can see it for free at the landmark Liberty Bell Center.
  4. Calling all superheroes!  On Wednesday, August 7th at 2:45 pm attend the UOAA Advocacy Session United Ostomy Advocates to the Rescue”! Come hear first-hand from some of UOAA’s advocates on how they use their “superpowers”, and also learn more about current advocacy efforts underway at UOAA. Leave our national conference empowered to make a positive difference!
  5. Many times in advocacy we face an uphill battle and feel like an underdog. For decades now Philly has been known for the ultimate underdog tale in the Rocky movie series. Show your resilience and run/climb the infamous Rocky stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  There are 72 stone steps and at the top you can chant “Yo, Philadelphia! I did it!”. Or you can take a picture at the statue of this legendary “Italian Stallion” located near the bottom of the steps.
  6. Philadelphia is known as the “City of Brotherly Love”.  Show your love for the ostomy community and go to Love Park to get a picture at the “LOVE” statue designed by Robert Indiana.

    Love park

  7. Be sure to stop by UOAA’s booth in the Exhibit Hall to pick up some of our self-advocacy tools and educational resources for use when you get back home in your own advocacy efforts.
  8. When it comes to advocacy and activists I can’t think of a more wiser and inspiring person than the fascinating and influential Benjamin Franklin! Not only was he one of the founding fathers of the United States, but he was an author, politician, postmaster, printer, inventor, scientist, diplomat and statesman. Of interest to the ostomy community is that he was the inventor of the flexible urinary catheter and founded the first public hospital!  If you have time, visit the Franklin Science Museum or just drive by the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. As an advocate I am inspired by so many of his famous quotes. I often say the key to advocacy is not only raising awareness and educating others, but also patience and perseverance.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes by Ben Franklin:

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

“He that can have patience can have what he will.”

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

    9) On Saturday, August 10th, at 2:15PM, please pop-in to contribute to UOAA’s first-ever research study by completing a short survey.  This data will help us make improvements to the underserved ostomy population. Upon doing so, you will also be entered into a drawing to win a prize!

   10) Join us during the conference Closing Ceremony at 3:30PM on Saturday, August 10th where we will be recognizing for the first-time the top advocate in the ostomy community! The Mighty Advocate Award, sponsored by UOAA, is a new biennial award intended to honor one individual for his/her significant accomplishments and contributions to support UOAA advocacy efforts and/or has brought greater ostomy awareness in the United States. Your presence will help make this a special moment in our advocacy history!

 

In conclusion, I’m excited to put a name to the face of the many advocates who have emailed me or have worked with me on advocacy efforts over the past couple of years, and meeting more of the people we strive to make an impact every day in our work at UOAA. See you in Philly!

Your stoma care nurse has the specialized training to help you care for your ostomy and address any issues that arise. These professionals are also known as “WOC” (wound, ostomy, and continence) nurses. Stoma care nurses are there to help you make a smooth transition after surgery, and can give you the training you need to care for your ostomy at home. You should consider them your “go-to” resource for ostomy care education, consultation, and troubleshooting.

In honor of WOC Nurse Week, celebrated every year in mid-April, it is important to recognize the ongoing role that stoma care nurses can play in your ostomy care.

When to Contact Your Stoma Care Nurse

Not every ostomy care challenge warrants contacting your stoma care nurse, but certain issues are causes for concern and should be assessed by a trained professional. Connect with your stoma care nurse if you notice any of the following problems.

If you have a colostomy or ileostomy, call your ostomy care nurse if you notice:

  • Skin irritation
  • Recurrent leaks under your pouching system or skin barrier
  • Excessive bleeding of your stoma
  • Blood in your stool
  • A bulge in the skin around your stoma
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Diarrhea with pain and/or vomiting
  • A stoma that appears to be getting longer

If you have a urostomy, call your ostomy care nurse if you notice:

  • Any sign of urinary tract infection
  • Skin irritation
  • Urine crystals on or around your stoma
  • Recurrent leaks under your pouching system or skin barrier
  • Warty, discolored skin around your stoma
  • Excessive bleeding of your stoma
  • Blood in your urine
  • A bulge in the skin around your stoma
  • A stoma that appears to be getting longer

Finding a Stoma Care Nurse and Showing Your Support

If you do not have a stoma care nurse, you can search to Find a Nurse using your state or zip code on the WOCN Society website. This feature is also accessible by clicking the “Resources” icon in the Peristomal Skin Assessment Guide for Consumers, a free, easy-to-use, digital tool designed to help teens and adults living with an ostomy identify common skin problems, provide next steps for care or management, and prompt when it is appropriate to seek support from a WOC nurse.

How Hollister Secure Start Services Can Help

Hollister Secure Start services offer free customized ostomy support for as long as you need it, regardless of the brand of products you use, including help using the Peristomal Skin Assessment Guide for Consumers. Call us at 1.888.808.7456.

 

Incredible WOC nurses make a daily impact in the lives of people living with an ostomy. Show your support for all they do during WOC Nurse Week (April 14-20, 2019) by sharing a story or photo on social media using the hashtag #WOClove.

 

The Peristomal Skin Assessment Guide for Consumers was funded through an educational grant from Hollister Incorporated.

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. This information should not be used to seek help in a medical emergency. If you experience a medical emergency, seek medical treatment in person immediately.

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Hollister Incorporated. 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.

The Black and White of it? Support is Everything.

By Tricia Hottenstein  stomamama.com

I recently shared an article about a little boy who was bullied so badly that after twenty-six surgeries, he decided to take his own life. It hit me so hard. I read it with tears rolling down my face, my heart hurting for his loved ones and my soul hurting for the things he must have felt. I read it after spending a long weekend in the hospital and after undergoing three of four surgeries in just two months. I read it knowing the hurt of bullying and the feeling of people looking at me with any variant of disgust when seeing or talking about my ostomy bag. I read it after writing and sharing what was basically a diary entry of overwhelming emotions. It is by no means comparable, but it made me think a lot about the strong support system around me. I know that my mindset is shaped so greatly by those handpicked few who always have my back and in the midst of this article, fresh in my own rehashed wounds, my gratitude for life and the way it all works out has increased. I can’t be certain I’d have made it through the last few months had they happened to me a year ago when I was already down and struggling. Support is everything.         

I’ve had an ex who was (and still is) really supportive and caring, and one who made me cry and feel worthless in a hospital room. I’ve also had an ex who couldn’t hide his lack of understanding or his overly dramatic gags when he saw me changing my bag. The embarrassment and disrespect was the exact reason why I decided to mention my stoma the very first time I met my boyfriend. I had since decided that anyone who was less than understanding would be an immediate no. I was afraid of dating with an ostomy, but I was no longer willing to feel like a burden or anything less than sexy. I would be okay being single and building myself back up on my own.

And then practically out of nowhere, I was on a date. I was nervous in spite of it going so well, or maybe because it was. I spent many moments of conversation wondering if they were the right moments to bring up the surgery. I speak so freely of my bag to everyone. I answer questions from coworkers, friends, family, and strangers without thinking twice. This is my bag; it saved my life! It is worth talking about. But how do I casually bring this up without awkwardly ending a date? What if his response wasn’t what I wanted it to be? Although, that’s the point, right? I’m old enough, I’ve been through enough. No more on the fence with anything. It is black and white and I’m not moving forward with any more gray.

“Tell me something about yourself that would surprise me.” To be honest, I don’t even remember if he eventually answered the question. All I know is he stared at me. This moment of oh shit in my mind as he was staring at me, half laughing, shocked to be put on the spot. So I just went for it. “I don’t have a colon!” More stares, more shock. I explained the scenario in a nutshell. The disease, the surgery, and the bag I’ve had for several years.

“Well… I guess…that’s kind of shitty, huh?” The words hung in the air before we both laughed. And in all honesty, my reaction to that response could have been a variable one depending on many factors. But really, how better to respond? Because I don’t want someone who will constantly feel sorry for me, or who will treat me any differently. Rather, I want someone who will make me laugh, who will be understanding and upbeat, and who will continue on with the conversation afterward as if it is no big deal. Sure, there were questions to be asked, but not a single one of them seemed to really matter. And there it was, in black and white and bar lights: this glimmer of hope.

As it would turn out, it couldn’t have come at a better time. A few short months later, I was back in hospital gowns and waiting rooms. And not once did he flinch. Not when I delivered awful news, not while he sat next to me in pre-op, not when my bag leaked in the middle of the night or I got frustrated and had tears running down my face. The reality is, most of the time I didn’t even have time to process things before he was reassuring me I’d be okay and distracting me with nonstop laughter.

When I’m in the trenches, when I’m alone, when I think too much, it is easy to go to a place of overwhelming emotions. I have spent more than half of my life with this disease, and surgery went so well that I thought the rest of my life would be smooth sailing. I was finally meeting people who had never known me as sick. It sounds so irrelevant, but it is a huge deal. I remember several years ago when a family member introduced me as “the sick one.” It was intended to be harmless. Intended simply as a way for their friend to put a face to the person they had obviously spoken of. The person undergoing IV therapy, taking twenty-some pills a day, piling up medical debt, and seeing the best physicians while still unable to leave the house most days. It cut through me and it scarred deep. But post-op, there was this moment in life where that was no longer me. Now I was strong. I was an adventurer. I was healthy.

The frustration when that all came crashing down was audible. Suddenly I was right back down to the some of the lowest points in my life. I was again “the sick one.” Somehow even when things had been slowly going downhill, I was blinded enough by the highs to be shocked when I was back to square one. I was angry. I felt sorry for myself and felt alone despite the people around me. I started to prepare myself again for the life full of battles, ready to sink back to that person who laid in the fetal position on the sofa, unable to eat or move or laugh from deep within my belly. I just kept thinking, over and over, that this is my life. I had a whole other vision for it after my ostomy surgery, but this person, right here, in a hospital room getting bad news? This is my life.

Until the person next to me, the person who responded to the news of my ostomy when we first met with a poop joke, responded with another poop joke. The kind that made me laugh so hard that all the ugly tears shook off my face. And as he wiped the remnants of them away, he reassured me. With a few simple words, he reminded me of my actual life. Reality. Yes, I am the sick one. But I’m also the healthy one. In black and white, that is my life. Some days I will be an adventurer. I’ll feel healthy, I’ll laugh, and I’ll enjoy the smooth sailing. And some days I will be sick. I’ll be a warrior. I’ll look for hope and rely on others. And their support will be everything.

 

UOAA Resources:

Emotional Concerns

Sexuality

Living with an Ostomy

 

UOAA’s National Conference the perfect place to bond

By Karin (Newbieostomy)

Ostomies don’t discriminate, it doesn’t matter your gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, age, attitude toward life, social status, diet, or activity level. Whoever you are and wherever you come from, if you have an ostomy, you have something in common with 725,000 to 1,000,000 other Americans and a huge number of other people across the world. If you have an ostomy, you’ve probably experienced the anxiety, fear, and stages of grief that come with such a life-changing surgery. You may have experienced feelings of isolation, loneliness and despair, concern that your life was never going to be the same and that no one could possibly understand what you’ve gone through.

Karin and friends at the last UOAA National Conference in Irvine, California in 2017. A fashion show and dancing will again close out this year’s conference in Philadelphia Aug. 6-10.

It’s true that your life might never be the same, but it can absolutely be better. And it’s true that while only you have experienced your experiences, there are a ton of other people who can empathize and identify with what you’ve gone through by relating it to the similar experiences they’ve endured (and vice versa). United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) National Conference offers opportunities to meet these people face to face and when that happens, magic happens.

I like figuring things out for myself. I just always figured this as my fight and nobody else is going to do it for me, so why go to a conference. However, I realized that I actually did have some unanswered questions and more than anything I was curious to see what I could learn at the conference. I’m glad I went, because all of my questions were answered, I made some new friends who share an immediate, strong connection and I found new courage and perspective that I didn’t realize was missing from my life.” – Nathan, first timer

Nathan has had his ostomy for seven years and still had questions. Good thing he came and got them answered! His “this is my fight” attitude is not unique to him (sorry, Nathan!). It may be your fight, but you don’t have to fight alone, and I think that’s a huge thing that people realize once they attend the conference. A perfect segue into one of my favorite parts of the conference: the unbreakable, timeless, instant bonds and friendships.

I would say the most powerful aspect of the conference, that I was not expecting going into it, was how close everyone there seemed to be. It was my first UOAA conference, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but as soon as I got there (you) came up to introduce yourself, and within a few minutes we had a group that was speaking openly about anything and everything that came to mind.”

As a fairly introverted person who can often be quite clumsy when first starting a new conversation/friendship, I found the welcoming environment of everyone I met to be the highlight for me. The instant level of understanding between everyone was pretty special.” – Collin, first timer

At the UOAA conference, it’s like a weight is lifted, allowing people to candidly talk about the emotions, struggles, and achievements they’ve experienced. These people who were strangers a moment ago have an uncanny ability to say things that make you think “Yes! That! That’s exactly how I feel!” — An instant bond is created.

[At UOAA’s Conference] I had no idea what to expect and went in knowing no one. When I got there I was quickly met by a girl who seemed around my age and had more energy and joy then I thought was even possible when first meeting someone. Her name is Alyssa and she instantly welcomed me to the “group”. My initial thought was I have no idea who these people are and she knows all of them and I am going to be the outsider. But I was totally wrong! I was welcomed and accepted by everyone instantly and next thing I know I am sitting in the pool with them, attending meals together, and exploring the conference together.

I learned that attending this conference was crucial to understanding myself, I learned that I can be myself still even though I have an ostomy and that my ostomy doesn’t hold me back or define me. We all talked openly about our struggles, which made me realize I am to the only going through the hard times, but most importantly we talked about the good things that have happened and come from our ostomy. We also talked about things having nothing to do with having an ostomy, and personally, I think when you can do both you have met a really good friend, they want to know who you are as a person not just who you are because you have an ostomy. Meeting this group of people was one of the most valuable things that happened at the conference.

Overall this conference was a life changing experience and I would really encourage anyone who has not attended one before to go to one. I think it is super important for younger ostomates because it gives you a chance to meet other people your age and just ask questions.” –Mallory, first timer

It was no surprise to me that Nathan, Collin and Mallory all had such positive things to say about their social experiences at the conference, because I had the same experiences at my first conference and again in 2017 (where I got to meet each of them)! We come to the conference for knowledge, but we keep coming back for the camaraderie.

UOAA’s National Conference is held every two years so while you may have missed the last one in Irvine, California, registration is now open for the 7th National Conference in Philadelphia from August 6-10, 2019.

 

Expect More – Take Control of Your Health Care 

Part 6 in Series

 

By Joanna Burgess-Stocks and Keagan Lynggard-Hysell

 

There are many different emotions you may experience as a new ostomate, and it is important to understand that physical and emotional healing after surgery may follow different timelines. We understand that everyone copes with emotions differently. Some people struggle for a long time. Whether you would like to seek individual support from a social worker, therapist, or other medical professional or prefer support from a peer mentor or by attending a local support group; understanding the emotional impact of ostomy surgery and receiving the appropriate support is an important part of taking control of your health care.

 

Witnessing the Emotional Impact- a WOC Nurse’s Perspective

“Hello, my name is Joanna.  I am here today because I am your ostomy nurse”.  

I have repeated that sentence hundreds of times over the last 12 years. I am in the unique situation in that I am meeting you at a pivotal moment in your life, heading in a direction you might never have imagined–facing ostomy surgery. During that initial encounter I am sometimes met with a blank stare, a stunned look of fear and dread, or with complete relief.  Whatever the reaction, I am the person that is there to help you navigate the world of living with an ostomy. I take great care during that initial visit to meet you where you are emotionally, knowing that this is a sensitive topic for you, someone who most likely is not used to talking about the way you go to the bathroom. Soon, however, I will share with you that I too am an ostomate (person living with an ostomy) and have been one for 53 years since the age of three!  As I leave you that first day, I finally see a glimmer in your eyes–hope! A sign that maybe this journey is possible and that you are not alone.

As an ostomy nurse, I have had the opportunity to meet patients in a variety of settings and have worked with hundreds of patients facing ostomy surgery whether it be from cancer, bowel or bladder diseases or from emergent situations.  No matter the reason, the anticipation of ostomy surgery is a step into the unknown and can compound the anger, sadness, and fear about the medical condition that caused you to need an ostomy. As you face these multitudes of feelings and adjust to life with an ostomy, know that you can take control of what may feel like an uncontrollable situation.

 

Facing the Emotional Impact- a Patient’s Perspective

“Good morning Keagan, today a special nurse is going to come and teach you how to care for your ostomy and help with your first bag change.”

A special nurse?–I thought to myself. Why do I need a special nurse to show me how to take care of my pouch? I had so many questions, a multitude of emotions, and I was feeling overwhelmed. So many things were out of my control, my recent diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, my hospitalization, my surgery, and now the responsibility of caring for my ostomy. I felt helpless and was eager for some independence in managing my body.

My WOC nurse entered the room and introduced herself with a smile. As she sat beside my bed listening to my fears and frustrations she explained how we were going to change my pouch. In an attempt to gain some independence, I told her that I wanted to take the pouch off myself and as I lifted the edge of the barrier just enough to see the edge of my stoma and the few black stitches poking through my skin– I lost it. I didn’t want to do it anymore, any of it. I didn’t want my insides on the outside, I was scared of my own body. My WOC nurse stepped right in with encouragement and support and a perspective I will never forget. She said she understood that what I was going through felt unmanageable but that caring for my stoma was something that would allow me to be self-sufficient, and that changing my pouch would give me independence in caring for my health. Since my very first pouch change, I have been encouraged to shift my perspective and to be proactive in the areas of my care where I can take control.

 

Seeking Individual Support

It is important for you to seek the resources needed to understand and work through the emotional impact related to ostomy surgery. It can be very helpful to have someone affirm your emotional concerns as you adapt to life with an ostomy. Most will find their path to acceptance as they physically begin to feel better and become comfortable with the care of their ostomy. If you are struggling with depression, how to tell others about your ostomy, or any part of the adaptation process (including the lack of will to learn self-care), seeking support through counseling can help you address these struggles. A licensed professional has the skills to help you create the life “tools” you need for navigating the unknown, including fears of introducing your ostomy into a new or existing relationship, addressing body image challenges, or understanding the grieving process. You can speak with your physician for a referral if needed.

 

Finding Support in Others

The fear of the unknown can often be soothed by learning from those who have gone through a similar experience. UOAA has approximately 300 Affiliated Support Groups throughout the United States, providing the opportunity for you to connect with others within your community who have also undergone ostomy surgery. To find a local support group near you, visit UOAA Support Group Finder. If you would like to connect with others but prefer to do so through an online format or from the comfort of your own home you can join a Virtual Support Group. Another way to gain support is through an ostomy mentor. Ostomate Lois Fink describes in her book Courage Takes Guts; Lessons Learned From A Lost Colon, meeting her mentor for the first time at a restaurant. The mentor was wearing a very slim dress and Lois felt perplexed, trying to figure out where she was hiding her ostomy pouch!  Lois learned that she could be the same fashionista that she always was while wearing an ostomy pouch and it helped her face her ostomy surgery with more strength and confidence.

To learn how to connect with an ostomy mentor, many UOAA Affiliated Support Groups have certified visitor programs or you can contact UOAA for a list of current ASG visitor programs at 1-800-826-0826.  

 

Our Hope for New and Struggling Ostomates

It is the hope of all of us at UOAA that one day you will be able to look at your stoma and see it as something that was life-altering and maybe even life-changing, but it was also life-giving. Be patient with yourself as you journey through both the physical and emotional healing process and be sure to utilize the available resources to support you every step of the way.

 

Additional Information & Support

UOAA has developed several tools to help you navigate through various informational topics at your own pace. To help better understand what ideally should happen before and after ostomy surgery we have developed the Ostomy and Continent Diversion Patient Bill of Rights. To learn some of the common “ostomy lingo” you can refer to our blog Know Your Ostomy and Know Your Ostomy Pouching System and Supplies. Complete the accompanying checklists and keep them handy for your ongoing ostomy care.

As a new ostomy patient, you may have concerns or face many unknowns. UOAA provides resources to answer these frequent concerns and questions to best equip you in living with an ostomy. Here are a few of the ostomy educational resources available at ostomy.org:

 

If you are facing a potential surgery leading to an ostomy, you naturally will have many questions and concerns. It is important to voice your questions and concerns to your healthcare professional. Gather as much information as you possibly can while you are in the hospital. Having a friend or family member with you can be helpful as they can also assist in remembering information and understand how you will need to care for your body and pouching system after you leave the hospital.

However, despite education offered both before and after surgery, statistics show that as many as 46% of patients still feel underprepared when they’re discharged from the hospital. If you have already had your surgery and are back home, feeling a lack of confidence, ill-equipped, or underprepared, you are not alone.

Many ostomates are unsure of how to care for themselves and their pouching system following their surgery. That is why WOC nurses recommend that ostomy patients be connected to additional resources after they’ve left the hospital.

Coloplast Care is a comprehensive support program that gives people with an ostomy personal support throughout their life.

Having the support of Care, you’re not travelling the journey of living life with an ostomy by yourself. – Keagan

There are so many questions that you don’t know to ask until you start life as an ostomate. Coloplast Care helped me stay focused on what was important. – Mike

Coloplast Care covers everything from the Basics, such as: ‘What is an Ostomy?’ and ‘Before Surgery’, to ‘Routines’ and ‘Lifestyle’. Not only are there helpful articles and real-life stories from others on the website and through emails, individuals are partnered with a dedicated advisor for personalized support.

One of the best parts of Care is that you can actually speak with a person. They were listening to what I was trying to do and what my concerns were, and coming up with different solutions they felt would work for me. – Mike

Having the ability to access the Coloplast Care website is a great resource. The reality is that your healthcare provider isn’t available 24/7 around the clock. – Keagan

Gathering the right tools, resources, and community around you following your ostomy surgery will determine your ability to succeed and live a full life as an ostomate. Whether figuring out what to wear to the beach, how to prevent leakage, or learning how to use your appliance, there are resources available to you 24/7. You are not alone in this new chapter of your life.

Visit Coloplast Care to enroll and get your support program started.

 

Mike and Keagan have been compensated by Coloplast to provide this information.

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