Living well with an Ostomy
What is an Ostomy?
What leads to an Ostomy?
An Ostomy is a surgical opening in the abdomen that allows the discharge of bodily waste. With an Ostomy, a portion of the intestines (either small intestine in ileostomy, or large intestine in colostomy) is brought out of the body and sewn to the surface of the abdomen. An individual with an Ostomy will then eliminate waste through the opening (an Ostomy bag/appliance is worn at all times to collect the waste) instead of the "traditional" way, through the anus.
An Ostomy procedure is performed on individuals with severe digestive diseases, such as Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's disease, colon cancer, Ehler's Danlos syndrome, and cystic fibrosis, among others. Ostomy surgery is generally a last resort, as it is a major surgery, and results in significant life changes and long-term, time consuming care.
How will an Ostomy change my life?
It is most definitely possible to live a normal (and enjoyable!) life with an ostomy! While it requires modifications, care, and takes some time to get used to, generally the people who get ostomies experience significant life-improvement. Once healed from surgery, ostomates are able to engage in virtually any activity they would wish to--running, dancing, swimming, working a normal job, leading an active lifestyle, etc. And while it's important to give your intestines time to heal and adjust, eventually it is realistic to expect to be able to resume your normal diet.
Resources, Tips, and Tricks
There are tons of amazing resources for ostomates, as well as helpful support systems.
ConvaTec Me+ www.convatec.com/meplus: An incredible support system with on-call certified stoma nurses available to answer all of your questions!
11Health Patient Coach Program
A program that matches you to another experienced ostomate who acts as a mentor, guide, friend, and confidant for all things ostomy.
The Ostomy Diaries YouTube
Amber is a dear friend of mine who has a fantastic channel sharing ostomy tips, tricks, and help...as well as her amazing faith in Jesus.
Let's Talk IBD YouTube
Maggie is another dear friend of mine (and fellow ileostomate) who also happens to be a nurse, and certified stoma nurse-to- be! She is also head of patient coach coordination for the 11Health patient coach program, and one of my patient coaches.
A word for those
considering Ostomy surgery
I have a highlight on my personal Instagram page where I share lots of my tips, tricks, suggestions, and ostomy experiences! My top five tips are as follows:
CHEW YOUR FOOD! Chew very well. When it comes to eating, I stick to the "Three C's": chop, cook, and chew.
Try different products. Every ostomate has different tastes and preferences when it comes to pouching systems, brands, products, etc., but I have found that the ConvaTec Moldable Wafer with acrylic tape skin barrier is the most foolproof and easiest wafer to apply, as it requires no cutting, no barrier rings, and is the most comfortable. I also prefer two-piece systems to one-piece, as I feel that I can get a better stick and closer fit, versus a one piece where you kind of "go in blind."
Support Yourself. It's important to make sure the bag is secure and not pulling on your abdomen, as this can cause significant soreness and potentially a hernia. I recommend getting an ostomy support belt (such as Stealth Belt), or using compression wear (but make sure it's not too tight. I use light support shape wear, like this one).
Facing surgery is scary...and thinking about life (and living life) after surgery can be scary, too. Having an ostomy can seem barbaric, freaky, and like a full-time job. However, after going through the process myself, and even having complications during and post-surgery that resulted in having TWO surgeries in 8 days, I can still say that it was worth it. My ostomy has improved my life more than I could have ever dreamed, and allowed me to do and experience things I never thought I'd be able to. It's not always easy to live with, deal, or take care of an ostomy, but remember that we don't have to bear the struggle alone: there are others out there who have been through what you are now walking through, and can provide a listening ear and shoulder to cry on in the worst of moments (which is why I love the Patient Coach program so much, as it has been invaluable to me). Furthermore, our Heavenly Father is there-always-providing comfort and strength to face every day. It's hard, and I can't promise that it gets easier...but remember, Jesus had a hole in his side, too, friend. Our sufferings in this life are immense and seemingly never-ending, but somehow God always works them for good by bringing us closer to Jesus, and ever revealing to us just what Jesus went through for you and me.
If you need support, prayer, or encouragement, feel free to email me. I'm always here.
Anna (and "Stella" the stoma, pictured below)