It’s been over 3 months since I had a New Bum installed and in that short period I’ve learned quite a few things. Here are 10 things I’ve learned from living with a stoma.

1. A Stoma Has Enriched My Life, Not Hindered It

There’s no denying the fact that I was feeling pretty shitty during ‘The Great Flare Up of ‘18’ so when I compare how I feel today to how I felt just a few months ago, there’s a seismic difference. 

In the 24 hours after having a stoma I was concerned about having to make that effort of changing the bag multiple times a day but it quickly became second nature and fit into my usual routine. After all, it’s takes just a couple of minutes to change the bag. The one downside is that I used to use the time sitting on the toilet playing a few levels on Angry Birds POP so I’m now way behind!

2. You Very Quickly Get Used to Dealing With Your Poop

I haven’t had kids so haven’t had the pleasure of dealing with poop on a regular basis so when I had a stoma I would have to deal with coming into close proximity of my own poop and the associated smells. 

Over the months I’ve had a couple of accidents such as not realising my naked stoma hadn’t finished pooping and stepping in the poop that had dropped on the bathroom floor but you get used to it. You quickly reach a point where you aren’t even thinking about the poop and for the most part, the poop doesn’t really smell! 

3. Gas! Lots and Lots of Gas! 

I drink plenty of fizzy drinks, I drink beer, I LOVE sprouts and I probably eat plenty of other things that would generate gas so I’m not surprised by the volumes of gas that I produce but I wish the closed colostomy bags had some sort of outlet valves to release the gas. 

On many occasions the bag can start to balloon, particularly overnight which means either changing the bag or releasing the gas. The adhesive on the bags is pretty good and you can peel it back to release the stinky gas and then reseal it multiple times before needing to change the bag. Overnight can be a bit of a pain if the bag is repeatedly refilling with gas as you wouldn’t want to be changing the bag multiple times but at the same time it’s a bit of a pain having to release that stinky gas! 

4. I can run AND poop at the same time

A friend joked at my first parkrun with a stoma whether I was pooping whilst I was running. I wasn’t at the time but since then I have embraced being able to  be able to keep running regardless of what my stoma may be doing. This is partly due to not really feeling pooping most of the time and my support belt keeps everything together. 

As some who used to be plagued by runner’s trots on almost every run, not having to worry about going to the toilet is heaven for me. I’m yet to run further than 6 miles so not sure what it’ll be like when I’m back running longer distances.  

5. I [Hopefully Will] Get to Avoid Queues at Races

In the past I would be like many others at races and would be stuck in giant queues to use a portal or before a race but now if I need a number 2 I can either just go in the bag or, depending on the type of race, can nip behind a tree or a bush or even stay in the car to change my bag. 

I’m yet to put this into practice at an actual race but observing others at the Cardiff Bay 10K recently I was feeling a bit smug seeing the huge queues for the toilet and thinking that I could probably avoid them in the future. 

6. I’m realising that I don’t need to take my spare bags with me everywhere I go

If I’m just taking a short trip somewhere or if I know that I’m not going to be out for long I’m starting to not bother taking spare bags with me. I’m realising that if I’ve already been to toilet prior to going out then there’s a good chance that I won’t go again. I’ve even been on a 6 mile trail run without any spares (there were spares in the car though at the start/finish of the run). 

I’m sure I may come a cropper in the future but if I know that if I’m only a couple of miles away from home I can easily get back in an emergency.

7. I Miss Sitting on a Toilet 

Apparently the average Brit spends over 3 hours a week sat on the toilet and in a strange way I miss it. It was a place to do some contemplating, some reading and playing the odd game. It was the only place I ever played games on the iPhone so in the 3 months since surgery I haven’t completed a single level of Angry Birds POP! Sure I can just sit on the toilet to have a number 1 but it’s not quite the same. 

8. It’s Good Making Fun of Having A Stoma

Us Brits love to make fun of ourselves and a study has shown that in making ourselves the butt of jokes it actually may be linked to greater psychological wellbeing. I’ve found that turning events surrounding my stoma into jokes has helped me massively. After all, if you find yourself sat in front of a couple in a very quiet cinema watching a serious drama and during a quiet part of the film your stoma decides to announce that it’s there by breaking wind, you’ve got to see the funny side of it! 

9. People Are Genuinely Interested in How Everything Works

Before I contemplated having surgery, I don’t think I really knew what it entailed and the assumptions I had about how things worked were probably inaccurate. So now that I’ve got a stoma I’ve found that non-ostomates are genuinely interested in how everything works and as soon as you tell them your butt has been sewn up, then they’re really interested! I’m still not brave enough to show it off like I’m happy to show off my stoma! 

10. There’s a Big Community That Are There to Support Each Other

I quickly discovered that there’s a big community on social media that’s there to offer support and advice and as soon as you start discussing any issues you may be experiencing there are people to offer advice. There are even groups for ostomates that are into sport so are able to offer advice and experiences on activities such as running.

There is one caveat to this though. In the very early days of having a stoma when I was still learning about how everything works and what was normal and not normal, I quickly found that it was far better to speak to your stoma team than trying to crowd source advice from a group who would with best intentions try to offer advice based on their experiences but quite often would be different to what you were experiencing. Once you are familiar with how your stoma works I’m sure the groups would be good for general questions.

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Diagnosed with IBD in 2002, I have experienced the usual ups and downs of having a chronic disease and tried numerous medications but the time finally came in 2018 to elect to have surgery to improve my life.

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