In January I had to have my large bowel removed because of severe Crohn’s disease. I was anxious since this was going to be a permanent ileostomy, but I wouldn’t change it because it has improved my quality of life.
There are many things I wish I’d known before having ostomy surgery in order to prepare myself. Here are the top ten things that I have learned since being an ostomate for the past 10 months.
1. High-waist underwear has become my best friend.
Seriously, who knew granny panties could be so cool?! There’s no point in denying it. Of course everyone is different, but I am definitely one for comfort over fashion. With a good pair of high-waist underwear on, the pouch felt secure and nobody ever knew that my ostomy existed.
2. There’s a lot more to life than body image.
Scars, stretch marks and surgery wounds. These things are what make me special. I admit that having a stoma is pretty scary at first, but I was amazed at how many other people in the UK (and the world) are living with an ostomy — I didn’t even know! For so many years I was caught up on having the perfect body, but guess what, my body is already perfect.
3. I’m the ultimate multitasker!
Hands down I name myself the winner for best multitasking. I mean really, I am probably pooing whilst writing this. And I can guarantee you that I’ll probably be pooing whilst carrying out most of my normal daily activities and you wouldn’t even know it. Having a sense of humor helps me stay positive.
4. Some food does not digest the same way as before.
Sweetcorn has become my worst enemy and I’ve also been turning down salads. There’s a whole list of things to avoid with a new stoma, and chewing well is highly advised. Trying small amounts of vegetables here and there doesn’t bother me, but I know my limitations and what’s definitely a no-no for now.
5. I definitely took farting for granted.
Everybody around me can still fart. Sounds silly I know. I get a little bit jealous, and I think that’s normal. Although the stoma does make farting noises, there’s nothing like the original way. However, now I don’t have to blush when the person sitting next to me lets one out and blames me — it’s definitely not me. There are many positives to this ostomy life.
6. “I would’ve never known,” is the most frequent saying I’ve heard.
If I had a £1 for the amount of times I’ve heard this in the last 10 months I would be rich. It’s amazing what good clothes can do. And if you empty frequently enough to avoid the bulge from under your clothes, people will never know you have an ostomy unless you tell them.
7. I realized who was there for me.
It was pretty rough for few months recovering from major surgery, and then getting to know how the stoma works. Accepting an ostomy wasn’t just something I had to do. It’s amazing how having an ostomy made me realize who was there to support me. I’m still the same person as before, I just poop in a slightly different way. If someone loves you then it won’t matter.
8. It’s okay to feel anxious.
At first, I found myself constantly checking the bag for leaks and if there was any poo smell was coming from me. This isn’t true though, although you still might think that. The anxiety has actually gotten better and I don’t feel worried all the time. When you start feeling unsure of yourself, just remember you’ll have more confidence over time.
9. I have no limitations.
Crohn’s disease held me back from so much, but now I have no limits – travel, swimming, sports, work, everyday tasks – everything is so much easier for me with an ostomy. For one, I don’t have to run off to the toilet all the time. And secondly, I don’t have to plan my day around toilets. That's very freeing.
10. A leak caught me off guard.
If there is one major tip I can give, it’s to carry extra ostomy supplies with you at all times. You might have a good feeling about a secure bag change, but trust me, it will leak when you least expect it. Usually when you are wearing your best attire. Just remember to take spares and you’ll be okay!
With all this in mind, just know that you’ve got this. Deal with things as they come. Remember that you are stronger than you think. You’ve fought an illness and had lifesaving surgery. Now’s the time to take all the opportunities your new life has to offer!