How to Live Full Life After Ostomy Surgery
My medical team from UCSD did an outstanding job teaching me “about” an ostomy and “how to care for my ostomy,” but when I returned home after surgery, I wondered how to actually live with an ostomy? What do I wear to be comfortable and conceal my ostomy? What do I take with me the first time I leave the house? What about odor control, exercise, or empting my pouch in a public restroom? How do I become more confident that I can get back to doing the things I love?
Prior to surgery, I watched a video on YouTube of someone empting their ostomy pouch. It gave me a tiny glimpse of my future life and I was comforted by knowing more of what to expect (knowledge is power). After surgery, I was scared and feeling very unsure, but then I saw an article about TeamUSA.org on my Facebook news feed. It was about an ostomate who runs Tri-athalons. If an ostomate can run for hours doing Tri-athalons, then I figured I can surely figure out how to leave the house! And so began my stumbling, bumbling journey to figure out how to get my life back.
I quickly learned that no one at the dinner table is eager to hear the exciting lifestyle discoveries of an ostomate. The day I tried a baby bib under my pouch to stop the sweating against my skin was life altering, but my family did not share my enthusiasm. So, I began to share these discoveries (via video) on the internet. My hope was that fellow ostomates would find the videos helpful for living an active life style with an ostomy. Ostomates from all over the United States, and even as far away as Canada, United Kingdom, Vietnam and the Philippines, have watched the videos posted on my “Awesome Ostomy” Facebook page. Could I have hit a nerve? Maybe I’m not the only one trying to figure out how to shop, dress, travel, fly, swim, exercise and live life with an ostomy? Out of these videos and a ready audience on-line, AwesomeOstomy.com was born. I have tried to create a practical, positive guide for living with an ostomy. If you have an ostomy “life” tip you’d like to share, please email it to Dawnette@awesomeostomy.com
Traveling After Ostomy Surgery
Written by: Ostomy Land
Once you have fully healed from your operation you can look forward to doing everything with your family that you used to do before, including travelling with a stoma – and that means holidays! And boy oh boy, have you earned one! Be it home or abroad there is no reason why your stoma should prevent you from going away and having the time of your life.
While you are at home convalescing from your operation and trying your best to adjust to the Stoma routine you’ll not feel much like travelling, and may even be thinking you’ll never be able to face it again.
As you get better these feelings will disappear and you’ll look forward to your holidays as much as everyone else. All you need to make sure of is that you are well prepared for everything by planning well ahead.
If you are travelling within the UK you will be relatively at ease and familiar with the surroundings and services available to Colostomists. It may be worth considering a short UK break before you set your sights on further away, more exotic climates (or short same-nation break if you don’t live in the UK). This way your confidence has been built up and you know you can travel anywhere!
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Frequently Asked Questions
by The Stolen Colon
Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) about Ostomies
Mention the word “ostomy” to most people and you’ll likely get either a blank stare or a confused look back. Because of this, ostomies are often very misunderstood, even by people who are very in tune to the inflammatory bowel disease/gastrointestinal world (I know I was one of them). So I have attempted to put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions when it comes to all things ostomy.
This is based on my experience with an ileostomy, since I don’t have a colostomy or urostomy and am not as familiar with how they work, even though a lot of the information is relevant to all three types
What is an ostomy? An ostomy is a non-natural opening in your body by which a person releases waste. (Read: What is an ostomy?)
What’s the difference between an ileostomy, colostomy and urostomy? The type of ostomy is dependent on what part of the digestive tract is used to make the stoma. An ileostomy uses the small intestine, a colostomy uses the large intestine and a urostomy uses the ureter and part of the small intestine. (Read: Ileostomy, colostomy, urostomy: What’s the difference?)
What is surgery to get an ostomy like? There is no major prep for surgery other than not eating for 24-hours beforehand. The surgery itself is called a colectomy (can be partial or full) and usually takes around 4-5 hours. The procedure can be done laparoscopically or the surgeon may make an incision. They will remove the colon (or part of it), create a stoma, and close off the rectum/anus. They may leave a piece for future reconnection or they may remove the entire thing.
What is the recovery period? Having your colon/part of your colon or bladder removed is a major surgery, so be prepared to give your body plenty of time to heal. You will spend at least 3 days in the hospital, possibly up to a week or even more. They will want to make sure that your ostomy is fully functioning. Most doctors say 6-8 weeks for recovery. This will depend a lot on the surgery, whether it was laparoscopic or open. Even then, it really takes about 6 months to feel totally normal again (but I believe this is true of most major surgeries.) And that doesn’t mean you will be feeling bad, but maybe just not feeling 100%.
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The role of Superfoods in Ostomy Health. Live Healthy
Superfoods are mostly plant-based foods renowned for their nutritional density. Although there is no set criteria or factors that must be met to qualify as a superfood, health benefits of certain foods stand out. This is important for people with digestive issues, who have had gut surgery or have an ostomy.
The foods listed below have been selected for their nutritional value among other dietary properties.
This hardy grain has been around for thousands of years. A close look at barley reveals that it is among high value foods important for those with ostomies. Barley contains folic acid and vitamin Vitamin B6. It also has minerals vital for overall health such as calcium, manganese, magnesium and potassium. In addition, fiber found in barley is helpful in preventing constipation, a condition that could present special challenges including obstruction.
These are edible seeds packed with nutrients that support an ostomate’s good health. Among the top benefits of chia is its fiber content. As mentioned, fiber is important in the prevention of constipation. It also contains plant-based omega 3……
Exercises with an Ostomy
There exists a positive correlation between weight bearing exercises and bone density. Particularly with age, bones weaken and muscle tissue fades away. Some weight training may help check this negative progression. However, avoid any lifting for at least 12 weeks after your ostomy surgery. You may do strength training with caution. Use a mirror to follow proper technique. Start work on the large muscles: legs and upper torso. Because of the ostomy, you will need to start very soft, doing just a few repetitions and immediately stopping if fatigued. As a general rule, something that cannot be lifted comfortably 20 times is too heavy. Build up slowly and rest plenty between sets. Drink during your workout and eat well afterwards. If you are consistent, you will see the benefits. Lifting is a strenuous activity that creates considerable abdominal pressure. You should always wear an ostomy support belt to diminish risks of injuries and parastomal hernias
Exercising with an Ostomy Products that keep you SAFE
I was very active before my diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis and my ostomy surgery. After surgery I was so worried about pushing myself too hard that I didn’t let myself do the things that I loved. After doing a little bit of research about products that would help keep me healthy while exercising with an ostomy, and getting a pep talk from my Colorectal Surgeon, I started backpacking, running, hiking, rock climbing, biking, weight training, swimming and boogie boarding!
There are different products that can help protect your stoma, prevent peristomal hernias and secure your pouch while swimming or doing activities that may cause the pouch to flap. Here, we discuss the product options used in different situations.
If the stoma is at risk of being rubbed up against or exposed to blunt force it’s a good idea to use a stoma guard. Some ideal sports to use a stoma guard for are: football, soccer, baseball, basketball, etc. I use it for boogie boarding, backpacking, ice skating and rock climbing.
If the abdominal muscles are being utilized, it’s a good idea to use a hernia belt or some sort of support-wear. Many people love theNuHope Hernia Support Belts.
My personal favorite stoma protection.
- Comfortable, with no belts or ties
- Simple to use
- Stays secure in water
- Reusable and comes with plenty of extra velcro
- 91% of Amazon customers love it.
8 Myths about Ostomies
MYTH: An ostomy is a death sentence.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. For many facing ostomy surgery, they are extremely ill, and the alternative to having surgery is facing fatal complications. Many patients will say that getting an ostomy gave them their life back
MYTH: Only cancer patients have ostomies.
Most people hear about patients with cancer having ostomies. However, patients with common diseases, like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, familial polyposis, neurogenic bladder disease, and birth defects, may require ostomy surgery at some point in their life.
MYTH: Ostomies are permanent for everyone.
For some patients, an ostomy is permanent. However, for many, an ostomy is performed to allow part of the intestines to heal from scarring, inflammation, infection, abscesses, and fistulas before the procedure is reversed to create an internal pouch. YouTube sensation Rebecca Zamolo lived with a temporary ostomy for a year to allow her body to heal after a long battle with ulcerative colitis.
No Courage Without Fear
BY TED VOSK | MAY 25, 2016, 11:52 A.M. (ET)
I’ve spent most of my life learning how to get back up after being knocked down. I was homeless for the better part of four years as a teenager, literally living on the streets. During this period, I developed ulcerative colitis, a disease of the colon, which causes severe abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Despite these circumstances, I fought my way off the streets and into Eastern Michigan University where I became a Goldwater Scholar, graduating with honors in theoretical physics and mathematics. The ulcerative colitis had grown life threatening, though, and days after graduation my colon was removed leaving me with a temporary colostomy. The months I lived with the ostomy were traumatic, filled with painful skin breakdown, repeated leaks and humiliation. By the time it was finally removed that fall, I swore that I would never accept having an ostomy again. Nonetheless, although physically and mentally exhausted, I was excited to be starting the graduate program in physics at Cornell University.