“You need a colostomy.” Not something you ever expected to hear. But now that it’s a fact, let me share some information from my personal experience that might ease your transition to becoming, as some of us call ourselves, an Ostomite.
1. Lighten up! Hard words to swallow I know. But I’ve always found everything is a little easier to deal with if you can find the humor in it. You will poop in a bag. Not the end of the world!
2. Get educated. Read everything you can find on the web about colostomies. Ask both your regular doctor and your surgeon any questions you may have. Each doctor may explain things slightly different, giving you a better understanding.
3. A home health nurse will likely visit the first few weeks to teach you to maintain your colostomy. These nurses are usually very well versed in ostomy care. Don’t be shy, ask them anything.
4. There are several different brands and styles of ostomy products. Most companies will send you free samples so you can try them each. Find the brand that is most comfortable for you.
5. When it comes time for you to begin self-care, a free standing mirror that can flip to a magnified side can be helpful. Currently it is easiest for me to do my changes in the bathroom with my mirror and supplies set on the counter next to the sink. In my previous home the vanity was not the right height, I did better with the mirror set on a few books stacked on my bed.
6. I was very squeamish the first time I had to do self-care. My home health nurse made one comment that changed everything for me. She said, “What’s the big deal? You’ve wiped your butt for the last 40 years, now it’s just on your stomach.” That really is kind of true.
7. I was very unsettled by the idea of having no control over my bowel movements. That they would flow whenever they wanted, in public, while I was standing talking to someone, disgusted me. But then I realized I did not need to treat this any different than I ever had. Now when I first begin to feel it happening, I excuse myself to the bathroom, just as I would have before. When I am finished I empty and rinse my bag, wash my hands, and return to what I had been doing – just as any other person would do.
8. In the beginning I played around with my diet a bit. Some food digest easier than others, some pass through the ostomy a little easier than others. I also pay close attention to foods that may make me gassy. I avoid these foods when I know I will be in public since that truly does defy control.
9. Unless I share the information, no one has any idea I have a colostomy. Chances are good someone you deal with on a regular basis has one and you would never know it.
10. You will feel normal again. This may be hard to believe right now, but a time will come that you don’t give your colostomy a second thought. I promise. And hey, you’ll save on toilet paper!