The first thing to remember is that your stoma shouldn’t hold you back. Take one step at a time. Your surgery is part of the journey to recovery and the next steps you take will get you back on track with your life by regaining strength and getting you back to the activities that you enjoy doing.
Everybody is different, so finding the right stoma bag appliance and establishing a routine will be important. Your stoma care nurse will be on hand to help navigate, instruct and help you with finding the right solution for your type of stoma. You are not alone and there is always help available for selecting the type of bag and supporting products you need, how to change it, how to care for your skin and how to order more products.
Throughout your journey, the great thing is that you have options. If you find as time goes by that the products you are using no longer meet your needs or if you just fancy a change and want to try something new—you can!
Skin care and cleansing routines are fundamental for healthy skin. However, due to changes in your body, you may experience issues from time to time. Output from your stoma bag on the skin is the most common cause of skin irritations. Thankfully, there are lots of solutions to protect and help maintain healthy skin before it gets too bad—whether you experience dry, flaky skin or sore, red skin. A useful online tool you may want to try is the Ostomy Check—it can help you check for common issues associated with your stoma and the surrounding skin, with personalised support and solutions. Be mindful to check your stoma regularly, and keep your stoma care nurse informed of any changes.
Daily life and activities
‘Do I need a special diet?’ ‘I’m going on holiday, what should I take?’ ‘Can I still exercise?’
These are just a few examples of frequently asked questions that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask. There are many sources online to help you answer these questions or booklets available from your stoma care nurse. In the meantime, here are a few topics you may find useful:
Diet. Just like everyone else, you should eat a balanced diet, and yes, this can include your favourite foods! You may find in the initial four to six weeks after surgery that you want to eat little and often. This helps regulate a more predicable bowel movement and stoma output.
Travelling . As with any abdominal surgery, it’s advisable not to travel within six weeks of your operation. Always consult with your stoma care nurse and travel insurance before travelling. However, apart from that there is no reason why having a stoma should restrict your ability to travel. You’ll need to remember to add a few more things to your packing list to ensure you have enough supplies whilst you’re away from home and remember to pack things in your hand luggage too. It’s all in the prep!
Exercise. Yes, you can. It’s good for you and just because you have a stoma, you are no exception. It’s important to build up slowly and be kind to yourself and start with gentle exercise initially. There are support garments and accessories to help with playing more active sports. Listen to your body and take your time. You may even find you can do more than you did before your surgery. Talk to your stoma care nurse about the right support products that may help your activity and exercise.
Whether you are a new ostomate or a veteran, being part of a community of likeminded individuals can offer a valuable source of information, advice, tips and story sharing.
Search out a local support group or become a member of one of the stoma associations. You’ll find comfort in knowing you are not alone. The day-to-day questions you have will often be shared by your fellow ostomates, or you could be the one to share information that can help others.
With the demands we all have on our time, getting out to a meeting may not always be an option. However, online resources are increasing and being able to consume the information you need, when you want it, are becoming a valuable benefit. Social media channels and groups, blogs and vlogs are a great way to troubleshoot, research, learn and—indeed—enjoy!
Our thanks to Coloplast Care for this article. You can register to be part of the Coloplast Care community and support programme to receive more inspiration for daily life by visiting coloplastcare.co.uk/deardoctor.