Being an ostomate now is almost unrecognizable compared to what it was like a decade ago.

One cold January morning while I was doing a pouch change, I realized it was my 10-year anniversary, not wedding, but “stomaversary” — the day my stoma was created. There was no balloon drop, no prizes, not even a congratulatory card from a manufacturer. It was just me and my one-thousandth pouch change. 

I’ve observed that when ostomates talk about their stomas, the subject of longevity always comes up. As a matter of fact, many of the speakers at my ostomy support group use their “stomaversary” as an ice breaker. Though smug in my 10-year-old stoma, there’s always someone who attends the meeting that had their ostomy much (much) longer than I. They reminisce about times when rubber pouches (closed by rubber bands) were all the rage. So, what does my decade of having a stoma really mean? 

BIG BUSINESS, that’s one thing that's happening in the ostomy world.

In my opinion, there are three factors that contribute to growth: (1) worldwide increase in bowel/bladder cancer and IBD (2) Internet and social media and (3) Millennials. But to get some solid research, I turned to a Global Ostomy Market Study that appeared last year out of London on PRNewswire. It provided many interesting facts about how ostomy appliances have changed, and how skin complications are contributing to the world economy. The report estimates that in 2016 the global ostomy care market was worth 2.62 billion USD and expected to reach 3.41 billion USD by 2021 — the colostomy two-piece drainable pouch being the best seller. Paste and powder is predicted to have the highest growth potential since there seems to be many ostomates having leakage and skin issues. This growing market is driving competition among the top ostomy manufacturers and the smaller adjunct product manufacturers. It all ultimately benefits the community because of the constant creation of new products, such as the Velcro closures, skin-friendly barriers, pastes, and powders. Many ostomates have even made a living with the invention of all kinds of products and accessories that fill the needs not met by major manufacturers.

However, my biggest quantum leap over the past ten years is not the growth of ostomy appliance industry, instead it's the massive impact of social media on new (and old) ostomates. 

Ten years ago, I sat down with my surgeon to discuss my ostomy surgery. To make me more comfortable and to ease my fear of the upcoming procedure, he gave me a comic book to take home and read. Not just an ordinary comic book, but a medical comic book written by real doctors. Fast-forward to today, I can watch the entire surgical procedure on YouTube any time I want! Social media advocates and bloggers leave no aspect of ostomy life uncovered. I have never seen so many millennial ostomates - male and female - willing to show off their ostomy pouches on the internet.

There’s even a calendar! Stomawise, an online support network in the United Kingdom produced an all-female ostomate calendar a few years ago as a charity fundraiser. It proved to be hugely popular selling 5,000 copies and was even featured in a major London newspaper and media publications. Last year they received around 286 applicants (male and female ostomates) wishing to appear in the 2018 calendar, and those who didn’t make it are going to be in a separate publication. And of course, now we have “a hub for ostomates” which gives me a voice in the community.

Ten years ago, as I made that first pouch change I could never have predicted what has taken place in the ostomy world of today. I can’t wait for my 20-year stomaversary. 

January 6, 2028, in case you were wondering.

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