I have had the pleasure of connecting with some incredible ostomates over the years, even had the chance to interview and chat with them for my magazine, which is always a great privilege. Some have even become great friends too.
Last year I was honoured when Krystal Miller, who is an Aussie ostomate/advocate/IBD warrior and blogger more famously and belovedly known as Bag Lady Mama online, allowed me to interview her for my magazine. She was the cover ostomate for issue 2 and allowed me to get down and deep with my readers, and had a no filter no question off limits type interview.
Ostomyconnection.com reached out after the issue went live and asked us if we wouldn't mind if the interview was republished and edited to suit the readership and the site.
So last month I opened up my inbox to see the latest interview went live on their site. I was so excited to see how many were sharing the article around social media and how many loved the interview.
As a writer, or maybe it is just me, I tend to doubt myself A LOT - I mean constantly - so I always worry that people won't like what I have written or that it wouldn't be read/enjoyed.
I saw within a couple of days there'd been something like 888 shares, this gave me this huge smile and sense of "maybe I am doing something right after all" but to know so many liked it really made me so proud. I think I used the term 'proud as punch' on twitter, but I honestly am.
Of course I know my interview wouldn't have been what it was if it weren't for my wonderful interviewee, Krystal.
If you want to read the interview on OstomyConnection the link is here.
5 years ago I took a chance on myself and started writing about life with an ostomy, and I am just so grateful to the opportunities and people I have met along the way.
P.S I have another interview/article on another Aussie ostomate, Laura Zapulla who blogs at stomalicious, talking about how she has inspired and shown ostomates that you can have bag will travel and that having an ostomy doesn't stop you from living the life you are able to. She recently moved abroad which is a lifelong dream. So I am excited to share that interview soon. Laura has shared articles for me in my magazine about travel with an ostomy too.
If you have just read part 1, You will have learned: how heat can affect those who are vulnerable or sick or with an ostomy; what are the different heat related illnesses to look out for; what are the symptoms of the heat illnesses; and lastly, how/what to do under each situation.
NB: It is important to remember that this is just an informative guide only and I am not a nurse or doctor, and any individual circumstances or advisement is based on each person's own circumstances. If you have questions to follow it up with your team.
So in this Part 2, I will be sharing tips to help you be more prepared for the weekend
But just in case you haven't read part 1 yet, basically here in Australia we are preparing for an extreme heat wave which will occur over the weekend and most of Australia will be experiencing temps of 35'c-45'c+.
I have an ostomy, ileostomy to be exact, I also have other chronic co-morbid health issues/illnesses and take various medications which put me at higher risk of sun related illnesses.
I started writing this post a couple of years ago but never finished it in time for it to be relevant, so I am finishing it ahead of this weekend, I only hope it might help someone to be more informed of their own circumstances and to know what to do.
Also keep in mind anyone you know who might be at a higher risk of suffering with the heat, it could be a neighbour who is elderly and lives alone, or it could be checking in on a friend, just to make sure they are doing okay - as the heat can affect many in different ways.
Part 2: Being prepared and tips to surviving the heatwave
I thought it might just be helpful to share different tips to help you get through the heatwave, if you have your own be sure to comment.
Tip #1: Never leave kids or pets alone in a car
I know this hopefully is common knowledge, but you'd be surprised how many times I have been at the shops and found pets or kids sitting in the car while their parents or owners shopped. Even with the windows down or leaving the car running with the air conditioning going, the car is still going to be hot.
Even on a "cool day" this is a no-no. While the temp outside might only be 25'c the temps inside that car can be 55-70'c! It can rise 40 degrees hotter than the outside temperature, so imagine how hot it would be on a day during a heatwave.... scary to think. The damage it can do is increase a child's body temperature, which could lead to brain damage... not to mention what it does to pets too.
A child left in a parked car under those conditions for even a few minutes can very quickly become distressed, dehydrated and can die from organ failure. If you see anything, you need to act quickly. If you wait, it can be too late.
What to do if you see a child or pet in the car?
The NRMA advises: You must make a judgment call as to whether it is a life and death situation and you would need to break a window yourself and call an ambulance, or whether you should call 000 and ask for police, who will get there as urgently as they can (and will break the window themselves) and they will call an ambulance.
If the child is clearly distressed, do not wait for help. Instead, break a window and remove the child from the vehicle until help arrives. If you break a window, and the child is simply asleep and it turns out not to be an emergency, it is possible that you could be required to pay for the window.
You don't have to be an NRMA member to call for roadside assistance if it is in less urgent circumstances. Because of the grave danger involved, the NRMA drops everything to respond immediately to calls where a child is locked in a car.
Tip #2: Have plenty of water
Water is important for helping you to stay rehydrated, make sure you have plenty to drink. Consider taking a bottle of water to someone who is experiencing homlessness, they might not have adequate access to water, it might not be a lot but it is a nice gesuture to look out for someone who is at high risk of heat related illnesses.
You should drink two to three litres of water a day even if you don't feel thirsty.
Tip #3: Have electrolyte replacement on hand
If you're like me and have an ostomy and need to replenish lost electrolytes, make sure you have enough to get you through the weekend. I try and have a 1L bottle of sports drinks, I get the powder and mix in the water, and have a few of these made up in my fridge ready. You can consult with your Nurse or dietician over what is the best option for you to replace your lost electrolytes. Due to having no large bowel I am at risk of dehydration, which is worse in Summer and extreme heat. Salts and minerals are vital for your body's functionality.
Also important if you don't have an ostomy but have gastro or vomiting bugs during a heatwave too. Hydrolyte is an electrolyte drink which also comes in the form of icypoles too and can be found from most supermarkets or chemists.
Tip #4: Stay cool
This is important, especially if you struggle with body regulation, you need to find somewhere cool. Air conditioned is preferable, if your home isn't air conditioned maybe ask a neighbour or friend if you could join them, otherwise hit the shops and enjoy their air condiitioning too. If you don't have air conditioning find somewhere cool in your house and put on a fan. You could go to the library, cinema, art galleries, cafes too.
If you are outdoors try and find a nice shaded tree and be sure to keep hydrated.
You could also use one of those battery operated hand held mist fans Kmart have them for $5-$10, or a spray bottle with water in it to help.
Tip #5: Keep plenty of drinks in the fridge prepared
Fill as many bottles as possible and put in the fridge, some could be cordials or soft drinks, but limit the alcohol. Plenty of cool drinks will help keep you cool
Tip #6: Have ice packs or blocks in the freezer
Firstly, ice blocks or icypoles are a great way to keeping cool and hydrated in Summer. You could also freeze water bottles so they last cooler for longer, if you are going to the beach. Ice packs are good to keep on hand in case of first aid and if you need to aid in cooling someone down. See part 1 for how this works.
Tip #7: Keep blinds drawn
This will help keep your house cooler, even if you have air conditioning going, keeping the blinds drawn will help your system to not have to work overtime too. But if you don't have air conditioning it will still help if you have a fan too.
Tip #8: Wear light summery clothing
Avoid wearing lots of layers and wear something light and breathable, this will not only help in keeping your body cool but will aid in your body trying to regulate it's temperature. Avoid wearing dark or black coloured clothing. Clothing light in colour reflects the light better.
Tip #9: Be sun smart and sun safe Slip, slop, slap. Sunscreen, a hat, sunnies and a shirt are not only safe ways of being out in the sun but also help in preventing melanoma. If you must be out in the sun keep out of the sun as much as possible - during a heatwave you should be minimising your sun exposure. Seek out shade.
Tip #10: Reapply sunscreen often
Even if it is overcast, you can still get burnt and when you're swimming sunscreen washes or rubs off after time, so everytime you come out of the water or as often as indicated on the bottle: reapply. Also if you do happen to get burnt, have some cooling after sun gel in the fridge to help your skin cool down, aloe vera fresh from the garden helps too.
Tip #11: Don't lie in the sun exposed
If you're planning on laying on the beach and reading a book, chances are you could fall asleep and get sun stroke. A heatwave isn't the right time to do this, seek out shelter or shade or plan your trip to the beach on a day where the weather isn't as hot.
Tip #12: in case of a blackout
It is important having items such as a torch, a battery operated fan, extra batteries, bottled water and first aid kit on hand in case of a power outage. Also, wrap medications that need to be refrigerated (such as insulin pens) in foil or place in an heat repellent container with some ice in case of power failure.
Tip #13: Open the house at night or evening if a cool change is forecast
This is self explanatory, but this might help to keep the house cool of a night or the next day if air gets circulating around, remember to draw the blinds early in the morning to keep the heat out and the cool in.
Tip #14: Pets or wildlife
Pets can be particularly vulnerable to the heat. Make sure they have shade and plenty of cool water to last the day. If you live near the bush, consider leaving a bowl or bucket of water out for any Koalas, kangaroos, dogs or cats or other animals that might want water.
Fill a kids clam pool sand pit thing with water and put in the shade and let your dog cool down when he needs to.
Tip #15: Keep your body cool but not freezing
It is important to remember that while you want to cool your body down that you aren't changing your temperature too quickly or suddenly. You could go swimming or lay in a bath if you run the cool water before the hot to cool down. You could set the sprinkler up or a water slide, brings back good memories being a kid and having a tarp and sprinkler on the yard and having a good old time. Just remember to be sun smart too!
Tip #16: Check in on those at risk
Keep a close eye on those most at risk, like the sick, the elderly and the young (a full list of vulnerable at risk perspns is in part 1). Do this at an arranged time at least twice a day. The heat affects everyone differently and adversely, be sure to make sure they have plenty to eat.
Tip #17: Watermelon
Would it be an Aussie summer without watermelon? I love watermelon, it is full of water plus it is a good source of electrolytes too! Make it fun by using cookie cutters to make fun shapes too. If you get sick of water, maybe have some watermelon to help replenish you. Your body will thank you too, it is oozing with benefits too.
Tip #18: Foods
Enjoy delicious salads and cold meats for dinner, while a hot meal is delicious, it will only make you sweat and feel hot cooking away in the kitchen. But with the heatwave foods like strawberries, cucumbers, watermelons, celery, tomatoes and broccoli and lettuce contain water, which can be benefitial towards your water intake.
Tip #19: Wearing a stoma cover
I get rashes on my stomach under where my bag sits against my skin, especially when it is hot. I found last year if I wore an ostomy pouch bag cover it helped to relieve the rash as it wasn't plastic on my skin and it worked as a barrier between my skin and bag. If you find you get rashes too maybe speak to your nurse as she might have some bag covers or be able to point you in the right direction to where online you can find them. I had a friend make me some. Theres heaps of options if you google too.
My cover a friend made for me
Tip #20: Mashmallows
I find when I am dehydrated or in Summer my output is more watery. It is hard sometimes to keep my hydration up when this happens, but I have some marshmallows and immodium to help thicken my output. Sometimes a watery output is a sign of a blockage too, be mindful of this as you may need medical attention.
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I hope that you have found these 2 posts helpful on how to prepare for a heatwave with an ostomy, I know they have been long posts but there was a lot of information I needed to share with you. These posts do not replace the information of that of your nurse or doctors, it is a guide to help inform you of the risks and tips on getting through the heatwave safely.
Please be sure to seek medical attention if you require it and don't delay, heat related illnesses are deadly serious.
I am feeling a mix of emotions right now, I am feeling so relieved that the magazine is finally ready to be published and shared with the world... but that part terrifies me!
I feel guilty for the delay, health issues happened, but I still worked hard when I could manage to get the issue out.
I also feel mega proud right now!
I hope you enjoy this issue, there is some great content in there and work for issue 3 is underway (summer/xmas/holidays issue) so if you have any content you want to contribute get in touch asap, or keep an eye on the facebook page too.
If you're a business and wanting to advertise - we offer affordable advertising options and also offer affordable graphic design too. I am also open to collaborations, just get in touch.
I am really hoping you love this issue, there are 2 giveaways too.
In this issue I launch my NEW Stoma Diary, this is an ebook that you can download for FREE and print or edit via your computer or tablet. It is aimed at helping NEW ostomates navigate the first 6-8 weeks post op and as they approach surgery. I have had my own stoma nurse look over it and she excitedly shared it with her colleagues too.
So sit back with a cuppa and have a flip through.
I have tried to get more male relatable content out there but struggling to get the guys to contribute, anyone that knows me knows I am stubborn and persistent and I endeavour to have more male content in here, I am trying my best so please don't be disheartened.
Finally, If anyone is wanting to join the team on a voluntary position I would love some social media help and develop a content strategy etc, I recently posted about this on the magazine facebook page too.
Anyway, have a wonderful night and I will anxiously await your feedback.
This week marks 4 years since I had surgery to remove my large bowel and to live life with a permanent ileostomy due to bowel cancer. I was 22, and until only a couple of months prior I had no idea what an ileostomy was; I naively thought that anyone living with a stoma had a colostomy and didn’t realise that wasn’t the case.
So you can imagine how much I had to learn and understandably was very overwhelmed with information.
One thing I struggled knowing was what exactly it were that I needed to not only see me through my surgery but subsequent time recovering at home and in hospital.
So I thought I would share with you my 10 must-haves on surviving the early days of ostomy life!
I wished I knew these when my life with a stoma began 4 years ago...
Do not underestimate the importance of a good seal around your ostomy appliance. This is usually achieved by heating up the base plate or wafer. Sometimes I find sticking under my breast or armpit can suffice, but I know in winter I struggle with body heat. Learn from my mistake and avoid having to send your other half out at almost midnight searching for somewhere that sold a hairdryer (no joke, this is what happened), thankfully there was a chemist open and voila my bag was finally sticking. I now take my hairdryer everywhere with me, even if it is only going away for the weekend!
p.s It is also very helpful at drying your stoma bag after a shower if you aren’t needing to do a change and require it to be dry... we also use ours in winter to quickly warm up our bed before jumping in.
#2.Invest in some supportive garments:
Not only can wearing supportive underwear help to support your stomach after surgery and help with preventing a hernia, it can also make you feel more secure and safe when you are adjusting to wearing a bag and having it sit against your skin. I found wearing high waisted briefs helped me to feel secure with my bag tucked under my undies. I even found some sites online that made underwear specifically for Ostomates like Vanilla Blush or White Rose Collection (to name a couple).
With the help from my Stoma Nurse I was able to order some hernia belts from some of the companies/manufacturers. She helped to measure me and choose the right one to suit my body and stoma.
When you’re an ostomate and have had part of your bowel (intestine) removed, you are at risk of becoming dehydrated and lacking in certain vitamins/minerals. Not only will you need to drink more glasses of water, but you will also need to be replenishing the electrolytes lost through your output. I met with a dietician and nutritionist who told me to have some sports energy drinks and hydrolyte on hand and to have one a day. I look for the specials and will buy a few bottles at a time, but I also buy the powder to add to water and reuse the bottles that way. It is always important to consult with your stoma nurse or dietician or nutritionist to determine what will be best for you, as your body will need to replenish the important stuff that you’re losing.
In summer if you sweat more or if you are unwell with a fever or a case of gastro, you may need to increase your electrolyte replacement drinks to avoid dehydration. Again talk with your healthcare professionals on what works best for your situation.
I also find the enery drinks can also help to thicken output as well
#4.Metamucil, Marshmallows, Jelly Beans and Peanut Butter:
These are a staple to have on hand, especially if you tend to have watery output as these tend to help your output thicken. Chat with your dietician or stoma nurse to see what would work best for you. I keep a pack of jellybeans in my stoma kit, just in case I do need some urgently.
hot tip: I take a few marshmallows half an hour before a bag change, I find it helps to manage my output a little better while I am doing a bag change.
#5.Gastro stop or loperamide:
My ileostomy output has always been all over the place, but I was advised (by my stoma nurse) early into my life as an ostomate to have some supply on me. Sometimes my output can be so watery or too much output and need it to slow down or I might be unwell, I take a couple of tablets to see if things begin to settle and thicken. It is important to seek advice on if this is right for yourself by your stoma nurse or to determine how much you should be taking as you don’t want to risk being blocked up either. I have a supply of tablets in my handbag and in my stoma kit (for when I am out and about) and I also have some in the bathroom.
#6.Linen and mattress protection:
My stoma tends to leak often and sometimes I will wake up with my bag having leaked. I found it important to have a waterproof mattress protector to protect my mattress. As an added measure of peace of mind for myself I also sleep on a “Kylie”, it is this padded with a rubber waterproof underlay and any leaks I do have don’t go through to my bed. It is really difficult to change my sheets and mattress protector on my own as my mattress is so heavy, so if it is soiled I just put it in the wash and put a new one on the bed ready for next time I go to bed. I found these at a home care aid store locally, or your nurse might be able to help source one for you.
My bed with a kylie
#7.Stoma supply storage:
Where or how you choose to do your stoma appliance change is up to you and differs on personal preference. For myself, I like to sit on the toilet when doing a change. I found a craft trolley with drawers and have it set up in front of the toilet so I can easily grab things. A friend I know likes to stand near her vanity basin and in her cupboard is her supplies for easy reach and use. It is important to have everything somewhat organised, as when you are mid change it is frustrating to search for something you need, so I have plenty of stock in easy reach and ready to go.
#8.Wet wipes or Chux cloths:
I know it is personal preference how you might choose to clean your stoma when doing an appliance change. Wet wipes (like baby wipes) are handy for when you are out and about you might be forced to change your stoma in public, and without access to water these are a lifesaver! At home you might prefer to fill up a bowl or basin with warm water and use chux cloths to clean your skin ready for a fresh change. I tried different methods at home to see what I was most comfortable with until I found what worked best for me. I also make sure I have a pack of baby wipes in my stoma kit too.
#9.Scented garbage bags:
When I was new to life with an ostomy I would be overwhelmed each time I had to do a stoma appliance change. A few months after being home from hospital, my husband thought he would help by bringing home scented garbage bags from the store for me to try and see if it helped with the overwhelm of the smell. I have since used these and they really help a lot. I have a roll in my stoma kit I take when leaving the house and another for using at home.
#10.Room spray or freshener:
I am saving the best kept secret for last, but you can thank me later! I was always so embarrassed when using public toilets and the stench of my output, that I started carrying around a can of toilet odourising spray with me in my handbag…. it only drew more attention to myself. I searched for compact sprays or spritzers that I can carry in my handbag or stoma kit and spray before I empty my bag or do a change. I found mine from scentsy or Poopouri but friends have found theirs from chemists or stores that sell scented wares. I take mine everywhere and is a lot more discreet.
I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information (I could be here for days sharing my wealth of knowledge), but these are the 10 best tips I have for managing the early days of being an ostomate.
You will be sore for a while so listen to your body if it needs to heal and rest, as you have been through a massive ordeal, even mentally/emotionally/spiritually. I wished there were sites like a biggerlife.com when I became an ostomate, it really would have helped me to adjust to life as an ostomate knowing there is lived advice to help me on my way.
I was asked recently by a couple of readers if I could share some inspiration ideas for storing your stoma supplies that is practical, affordable and also easily reachable.
Then when I presented at a local stoma education day here in Coffs Harbour, I was asked the same question again, so I thought maybe it was best if I did a blog post with some inspiration to how I store my stoma supplies and how a fellow reader stores theirs.
Idea #1: Invest in a small cupboard
When I had my first (original) stoma I was doing my bag changes in the bathroom while sitting on the toilet. In front of the toilet is a massive gap between the toilet and the shower, so I wanted to find a cabinet to put there (like a vanity without the sink) so that when I am sitting on the toilet I can easily reach into the cupboard and grab my supplies and it had a bench space on top so I could rest my supplies and easily grab them. This cupboard I found on a local buy swap sell site for $15!
Idea #2: Invest in a craft storage trolley on wheels
With my new stoma (the one I got back in February) it is rather problematic and bag changes are often lengthy. So more for comfort than anything I now sit on the lounge and do my bag changes (I found my legs were going numb on the toilet after sitting for so long). So now I have a craft storage trolley on wheels set up beside my lounge that has a draw for each supply and it is really easy access... I got this as a gift from my dad (the last Xmas before he passed) but you can pick them up from officeworks for around $60.
Image 1: how I organise my supplies | Image 2: a photo from officeworks website
Idea #3: Invest in a craft storage drawers not on wheels
These you can find at officeworks (or I am sure the reject shop too) and these are a great size to sit inside a cupboard or freestanding. They have 4 generous draws and come either in black and clear or white and coloured. They are also only $29.98 and a much cheaper alternative to the storage trolley on wheels that I have.
Image 1 and Image 2 from the officeworks website showing the two styles available
Idea #4: storage drawers to fit in under your vanity
A reader Belinda sent me in her nifty storage idea, she purchased a set of 4 storage drawers from officeworks for $19.98, and it is so convenient for her after she has a shower to just reach into the vanity cupboard and grab her supplies. She said the plastic dividers are movable so it can make the drawer have bigger compartments if needed.
I know it is a personal choice of where and how Ostomate's prefer to do a bag change, and I know some of these inspiration ideas might not be ideal for everyone but they work for me. If you too have a nifty stoma storage idea you would like to share feel free to send me an email or message me via facebook.
I first became a member of the ostomate world back in May 2013, when I had all of my large bowel and most of my rectum removed in a procedure to save my life from the perils of bowel cancer.
It wasn't until July 2015, that I experienced my first really bad bag leak during the middle of the night resulting in soiling not only the doona and sheets, but the mattress protector too.
Worst of all, I wasn't even at home. I was staying in a hotel for a few days in Melbourne.
I had to call the front desk at 3am in tears asking for fresh linens, when they replied they don't have any until room service come in later that morning and that it will be best to change rooms. I was absolutley humilated and mortfied but the guy reassured me that it was okay and it wasn't the worst he has seen. (Got me thinking about how dirty some people can be!)
So when I continued that short holiday (was actually down there for a big bloggers meeting, which was exciting) and then when I got home I made the decision to sleep with towels on my bed and wrapped around my belly, that if my bag did leak it would be somewhat protected and not cause a mess.
Afterall, my mattress and bed cost me $6k and it is white leather, so I am rather protective of my bed... initially I was too scared to sleep in it with the leaky stoma... and it isn't just at home I am scared of a leak, I am hesitant to stay at other people's houses for that reason.
I know that you're thinking "just get a mattress protector", well I have one but I worry it won't give me a lot of protection if it is a heavy leak (which most are).
And it got me thinking about what disposable and cheap products could I use to help give me peace of mind when sleeping.. and I came up with one great one (and will also share what one reader's suggestions were too).
So if you have a unpredictable and leaking stoma like me, here are some affordable ways to protect your sheets.
Cheap, thick and disposable table cloths
I was lucky that I had a garage filled with all these party supplies I wasn't using after purchasing and attempting to sell through a failed business venture.. so I have been putting the table cloths to great use and they are rather thick and durable and best of all cheap and disposable. I know the reject shop or other cheap shops sell them too
Some suggestions from a reader were:
Plastic shower curtains
Garbage bags torn open
Update:What I use now and how I protect my linens
Since writing this post a year ago almost (it is now May 2017), I have been trying out new methods and ideas to help protect my linens and mattress from my leaking stoma in a way that was easy to manage and was being savvy too.
So I found a product called a "Kylie" which is a quilted mattress topper that has a rubber/waterproof underlay so nothing will seep through to the mattress and sheets underneath. I found these at a local homecare aid store for around $40 for a double, I purchased a couple through the help of a local service and have one on my bed and one spare.
So now when I do have a leak, I simply take the soiled Kylie off the bed and into the wash and put the new one on the bed. I find it is easier for me to manage when I am at home on my own while hubby is at work.
Here is a look at how I place it on my bed. I make my bed/sheets as normal, I put the kylie down then a disposable bluey as an added measure. I know the Kylie is meant to go under the sheets and tucked under the mattress, but given how heavy my mattress is it is not something I can manage/change on my own.... so this is what works for me and for a year now I haven't looked back. I also take a kylie with me when I go and stay at family or friends places too.
Today is World Ostomy Day, a day celebrated worldwide through a social campaign "Many stories, One voice" and using the hashtag #MyOstomyStory.
I first joined the ostomate club back in May 8th 2013 after a 6+ hour operation to remove my large bowel, most of my rectum and to have my permanent ileostomy formed. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I have had to make, I was only 21 when I was told my bowel was showing early signs of turning cancerous and that I only had mere months to have it removed before it had fully turned and spread, which by the point of the surgery I had just turned 22 (read my story here).
While it was hard to go into my surgery excited (or OSTOMISTIC as I put it) as I didn't know what life as a young person (especially a female) would mean after I had an ostomy, but little did I know it was one of the best decisions I could have made.
I am aware that there are many reasons people get a stoma and while these aren't always planned surgeries and can be done in an emergency situation, or that there are some that are permanent and some that are temporary, I think it is important that we celebrate ourselves and our ostomies, as I know without mine I wouldn't be here today. And for that I am eternally grateful.
Stoma tips and life-hacks: #1. Keep Hydrated
This might be something you hear a lot, but it is so important when you have an ostomy (and even when you don't) that you keep your body hydrated at all times, especially in summer. But when you have an ostomy you are at greater risks of dehydration and dehydration can also cause fatigue. I have also been told by my stomal therapy nurses to drink an electrolyte sports drink at least once a day to help replace the salts and minerals that my body is losing. I drink a 1 litre drink of this a day plus a couple of litres of water. But I know when my body is feeling dehydrated (and especially when my output is more watery I get tired, really shakey and have no energy. Read: my tips on avoiding a watery output
#2. Your boobs become a valuable asset
An important thing to remember when doing an ostomy bag change is that in order to get the most out of the bag and to prevent leaks you need to a) have a good seal and b) you need your bag to be sticky... so whenever I do a bag change the first thing I do is put the bag I intend to use tucked under one breast, while the seal/mouldable ring (I use coloplast mouldable rings) is placed under my other boob. I sit there for at least 5 minutes before starting the back change process so that it has time to heat the glue. Reason I use my breasts is that my stomal therapy nurse in our first consult told me "placing under your boobs is one of the warmest parts of your body and makes things more stickier". If you don't have boobs you can utilise, read the next tip.
#3. Invest in a hair dryer
In all honesty, the very first time I bought a hair dryer in all my life was the first day I was home after being in hospital from my bowel surgery, I remember sitting on the toilet naked and crying as I was about to do my 10th bag change for the day, I was sore, my skin was sore and I was like "f#$% this, I can't do this anymore". My husband kept asking "what can I do to help" and as it was middle of winter and cold I couldn't produce enough body heat to keep my bags sticking... so my husband had the best lightbulb moment ever and ran over to the supermarket and purchased the most decent looking hair dryer they had (from memory was about $20) and he plugged it in and sat there heating the bags up... they became so much more sticky! I now take my hair dryer everywhere with me!
#4. You'll find many uses for your hair dryer
Apart from your hair dryer being used to make your bags more stickier, I also use mine to help dry my bag after a shower especially when I don't need to do a bag change. I am one of those people that can get a few days out of each bag so I just sit there for about 5 minutes after my shower drying my stoma bag and stomach. Also, it is great to use in winter to quickly warm up your body after a shower, I don't know about you but where I'm from it gets so cold in winter!
#5. Avoid foods that cause blockages
One thing you really don't want when you have a stoma is a blockage, trust me when it is not only painful but is rather scary. There is a list of foods that you should avoid because they don't break down or they often would in people who have all their bowel. I remember when I first had my stoma I had a craving for Hawaiian pizza (Ham and pineapple) and imagine my horror when out come pieces of pineapple whole! Same goes for peas, corn, nuts, coconut and some foods like celery and tomato also don't break down. Your stomal therapy nurse can provide you a list of foods to avoid.
#6. Avoid foods that cause winds
Foods, when you have a stoma can a bit of a nuisence whether it is foods that cause blockages (mentioned in #5) or these can cause wind. Wind, when spoken about when you have a stoma is referring to your stoma farting.. and sometimes it can be rather noisy (when you don't want to be noticed for the girl with the farting tummy), or cause your bag to fill up quickly with air (sometimes so much your bag literally pops off or explodes). Although, sometimes stoma farts can't be avoided and just happen. But my husband is so sweet, when we are in a meeting and my stomach farts and I start turning red he just makes noises or coughs to draw the attention away... what a sweet heart!
#7. Avoid drinks that cause winds
Foods aren't the only reason for wind or fart production coming from your stoma bag, what you drink also plays a big part. Foods that are fizzy and gassy or alcohol can also cause wind. I also find after I have had aneasthetic from a gastroscopy, ERCP or from other surgeries that my bag fills up with more gas too.
When out and about: #8. Take your stoma supplies kit everywhere you go when you leave the house
This should become part of your routine, I have two stoma kits one I keep in my bathroom and the other is a smaller and discreet version I keep in my handbag. Trust me when I say that when you don't have your kit on you, you'll probably experience a bag leak. I know my worst bag leaks in public have been when I didn't have a kit on me and it was horribly noticable through my clothes. Was a horrible and traumatising experience and one that brings me to my next piece of advice...
#9. Always pack a spare change of clothes
I find if I am going to a conference where I will be gone from 8am to 6pm or when I was doing studying on campus at Uni (and can even apply for work situations), have a big day of shopping planned or spending a good part of 16 hours travelling to Sydney to see specialists and driving home, I always take a change of clothes. I at least pack one change of pants, a shirt and a pair of undies. Thankfully, I am a bit of a crazed nut when it comes to my clothes and I have 4 pairs of the same pair of jeggings and they are the most comfortable versatile pairs of pants I have ever owned, so thankfully it just looks like I change my shirt.
#10. Jeggings or any elasticised pants will become a staple in your wardrobe
I wear jeggings... there I ADMIT IT... and I am not ashamed! Thankfully my jeggings actually look like jeans and are almost as thick so you can't really tell, but I found it so uncomfortable to wear pants with zippers and buttons, as I found they always sat RIGHT.ON.MY.STOMA and when my bag would start filling up either the bag would explode and I would be left in an embarrased heap, or it was rather uncomfortable. I love my jeggings that they are elasticised waist and can wear them up higher over my stoma and much more comfortable.
#11. Baby wipes aren't only used for babies
I know what you choose to clean your stoma comes down to personal preference, I know some prefer to buy some chux sheets and cut up to use as a rag for cleaning your stoma, or others use wet toilet paper.. but personally I prefer baby wipes for a number of reasons. Firstly, they come in handy travel packs that can fit in your handbag; secondly, they are always wet and if you are out and about and don't always have access to water it is handy; thirdly, I am sensitive to how things feel on my skin and find baby wipes are much smoother where I find cloth rags are rough and scratchy. I use huggies shea butter baby wipes and have for years. I also sometimes (when at home) sit the wipes in a small container of warm water to remove a lot of the chemicals and to water it down. But most of the time I don't bother.
Stoma kit advice: #12. Add scented garbage bags into your stoma kit
For the first couple of bag changes I was relying on using plasic shoppings bags to dispose of my stoma bag, and my husband wanted to try something when shopping one day and found these scented garbage bags that are small in size, and not only do these help to mask the smell of the contents of the bag when doing a bag change, but if you happen to be somewhere that there isn't an immediate place to dispose of in the bin and need to carry it in your handbag, it is discreet and you won't smell it. Just double bag it to ensure one layer doesn't pierce and the contents goes through your handbag.
#13. Invest in some sort of room spray
Have you ever emptied your bag when you're in a public rest room, and you feel so embarrassed by the smell coming from your cubicle that you hide and hope no one realises it was you when you emerge from the change room? Well if you have, you're not alone. So many times I was left feeling embarrassed that things were a bit too smelly and spraying toilet spray (if you're carrying a whole can around in your handbag) can not only be bulky but just as noisy... so I have the perfect pocket sized solution for you that was given to me as a Christmas gift last year, it is a thing called Room spray by scentsy and I have it in my handbag and in my stoma kit and promise there is no more embarrassing moments in public toilets! You can read my review of it here!
#14. Always have at least 3 of each item on hand in your portable kit
I have developed a bit of a rule when it comes to my stoma kit that I have with me in my handbag, is that I have at least 3 quantity of each item in my supply kit (excluding my scissors, stoma powder). So I have three stoma bags (in case I have more than 1 leak or accidentaly pierce a hole when cutting out the hole), I have a handful of adhesive wipes and barrier wipes, a handful of the brava elastic tape (banana wafers I call them), 3 mouldable rings and at least 6 of the scented garbage bags (in case I need to double bag, or a bag gets a hole in it). Here is a guide and checklist I wrote for when packing for a holiday with a stoma!
Storing your supplies at home: #15. Have a cupboard within a reach of your toilet
I learnt very early on, how much of a hassle it is when you need to do a bag change and you're stuck sitting on the toilet home alone and can't reach your supplies. I was lucky that I have a large bathroom which could perfectly accomodate a cabinet that fits in between the toilet and the shower, which I have filled with stoma supplies. It also acts as a bench/table for me to lay out my supplies I need to use too. And to the untrained eye, guests just think it is a towel cupboard! But I do know not everyone can have a bathroom that is as accomodating, so you could look into getting a portable trolley with shelf space underneath and a flat table like top and you can wheel it into the bathroom when you need to use it, and when it's not in use you can store in the linen cupboard or wardrobe etc.
#16. Never wait until you're on the last handful or box of supplies before you re-order
Postage can always be unpredictable here in Australia, so I find it is always best to have a buffer when you need to re-order your next order of supplies. I find once you are almost at the last box to order your supplies that way you can allow for any delays in postage arriving, or if you have any unexpected bag leaks.
Mental preparedness and a stoma: #17. When doing a bag change play some music
I know sometimes I get rather flustered or overwhelmed when doing a bag change and especially found this was the case when I first had my surgery. I now have it as a part of my bag change routine that I have some music playing in the background which helps me to feel calm. Others might find that by playing a movie or tv show on their ipad/TV can be a pleasant distraction too.
#18. For me, my life truly began when I had my stoma surgery
I know that it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking pre-surgery that your life is over and that you won't be able to live a normal life once you have a stoma. I know I was guilty of thinking this way, but my life honestly was given back to me when I had my stoma surgery. Before my stoma, I would be house bound because I had irritable bowel and always needed a toilet near by but also that going to the toilet and eating was a very, very painful experience. I can now enjoy going places, going out to dinner eating foods I once couldn't eat and I have more freedom now. I have control back over my life and my bowel was no longer defining me or what I did in my life. Although there is the chance of bag leaks when out and about and there is more involved when you go 'number 2' these are manageble and long term think of the how much life you were missing out on!
#19. If he truly loves you, having a stoma won't matter
I know sex and a stoma are two taboo subjects, but just because you have a stoma doesn't mean you won't ever be intimate with your partner or husband ever again, and if he loves you he can look past the stoma and not make you feel insecure about having one. Just because you have a stoma doesn't mean you're no longer considered sexy or attractive, you just now have a new adaptation to your body. If you feel insecure or conscious about your stoma during intimacy, there is lacy bag covers you can wear or put a towel over your stomach. But no one if they truly love you will make you feel ashamed for having something that saved your life.
#20. You can still swim when you have a stoma
When I first had my surgery, I was a bit saddened during summer when everyone was going to the beach and enjoying the water or swimming in the pools, I was worried because I had a stoma that this wasn't for me anymore. I was worried the bag would fall off during swimming and would be humiliating, but when I eventually realised I can go swimming I was so much more happier. While I admire those who can rock a stoma and a bikini, I don't quite have the confidence yet to do so (or have a bikini body) but I feel more safer and secure wearing a one piece that has a lining in the stomach area and I feel this gives me more confidence when swimming and isn't a noticable giveaway that I have a stoma. I also love doing water aerobics and find it is much enjoyable for me having a stoma than exercising and sweating and my bag becoming unstuck.
[end of advice]
While, I have so many more tips to share than just 20, I thought that 20 would be enough for now and to help you get some tips at your fingertips. But if you have some other stoma hacks or tips you wish to share, feel free to comment these below!
One thing that annoys me the most about having a stoma, is needing to carry around my stoma kit everywhere I go (when leaving the house, you know... to prepare for bag leaks as there is nothing more unpleasant than walking around with poo leaking everywhere... trust me) and to be honest I don't really have the room in my handbag to carry it around what with all the bricks that I must be hiding in there, because that thing weighs a ton!
So last week I went away to the Gold Coast to the ProBlogger conference and had one of those lightbulb moments where I don't know why I never thought of this before... and it was converting a toiletry bag (that is rather small) that I got for free when travelling on the Indian Pacific train into a stoma supply kit that was equipped enough to handle at least 3 bag changes....
The best thing about this is that it is compact and more discreet, and is the perfect size for my handbag. It also means that it is perfect for on the go whether at school, work or shopping and if you do have to do a bag change just remember to replenish the supplies used and it is ready for the next day out.
See! Told you it all fits (if you doubted me)
I feel less embarrased now as there isn't this big, black and bulky toiletry bag sticking out of my handbag! See the comparison below!
A comparison shot of the sizes of my stoma supply kits! Big difference now!
Honestly wishing I had thought of this years ago! And if you had and I am behind the 8-ball please don't judge me... I realise life simplifying tips and resources eventually (and then I share them with you all).
p.s If you find my tips and blog helpful, please take a moment to vote for my blog in the Heritage savvy bloggers competition. With your help I (and if I win) I am starting a new support website (and app) to help other young people who live daily with a chronic illness. By taking a moment to vote not only will you be helping me to help others but I am confident that this website will change the lives of many (and if you're in Australia you could win $100). Please remember to confirm your vote via clicking the email they send (check your junk/spam too).
NB: This post contains the word 'shit'. If you'll be offended by the use of the word, please stop reading now.
Sometimes when things go horribly wrong, all you can do to keep yourself from breaking down and crying is to just laugh... this was a scenario I found myself in this week... and after all 'shit happens'.. in my case quite literally!
You see, I was invited to Melbourne this week for an exclusive bloggers workshop and was amongst the company of some of my blogging idols and heroes (even being in the same room let along being invited to the same event was pretty huge for me personally).
But what is one thing that can go wrong when you have a stoma... and something that you only ever think you're being overly paranoid about when in public?
If you guessed having a huge bag leak then you guessed correctly!
I was halfway through a 4 hour meeting/workshop when I quickly ducked off to the toilets only to realise that my bag had started leaking and was causing a bit of a mess. Of course the toilets were all the way down stairs and my stoma kit was all the way up in a seperate room (where everyone's bags and luggage was kept).. so I was sitting in the disabled toilets panicking thinking "shit, what the heck am I going to do?".
See I knew if I was in the toilet too long it might look suscpicious, or it might be even more suspicious if I ran upstairs grabbed my stoma kit, ran back downstairs and spent the next however long doing a bag change... so I realised where it was leaking and the bottom part of the bag that you close up was no longer sticking closed, so I emptied it, gave it a bit of a clean with some handtowels and ran upstairs.
I then did a bit of a McGyver trick and got the elastic tape (or I refer to them as banana wafers) and taped the bag closed.
I returned to my meeting and resumed my seat until the intermission (when everyone was mingling over wine, cheese and appetisers) I raced downstairs with my stoma kit and DID THE QUICKEST BAG CHANGE IN MY HISTORY OF HAVING A STOMA. No joke. It was the quickest change I have ever done, and thankfully no one noticed I had gone to the toilet for a second time in only a short period of time.
But it made me realise that I could have been better prepared and in hindsight I realise how, and I hope to share 5 ways to be better organised for when shit strikes...
5 ways to be better organised for a meeting/work when your stoma bag leaks
#1. Inside your handbag, briefcase or laptop bag have a seperate clutch or toiletry bag, that is dicreet and doesn't look like a toiletry bag and inside have enough for 1 bag change. So when you need to duck off to the toilet just grab your clutch and own how discreet you're being. Even if you don't have to take care of a bag leak, at least then you are prepared for when the moment strikes and you need to transform into a stoma bag changing Ninja!
#2. Always get to your meeting earlier than expected to so that you can allow time to go to the toilet and empty your bag, as nothing is more embarrassing than trying to excuse yourself from the meeting and as your bag is full and you apply pressure standing up your bag more or less bursts and it can be rather embarrassing (this has happened to me before when I was studying on campus).
#3. Always have a change of clothes or underwear with you. This one can be a bit hard if you only have a small handbag, thankfully I have a larger tote style handbag that is big enough to fit a change of clothes in. But if you have a locker at work or school/uni always have a spare change of clothes on hand, so that you are ready for when you have a bag leak and you don't have to go home in poo stained clothes, or sit in soiled clothes for the rest of your shift.
TIP: If the toilet in your bathroom at work has a cabinet under the sink, leave your spare change of clothes wrapped up in a plastic bag or within an enviro bag so that you don't have to walk all the way out to your desk to retrieve your clothes, it can help you be more discreet. The same can go for places where your meeting or workshop is at, leave your stoma kit/change of clothes in the cupboard as a precaution. Just remember to collect it before you leave!
#4. Always carry some scented garbage bags in your handbag and stoma kit, so that if you have to dispose of your bag and there isn't any bins around and you have no choice but to carry your soiled stoma bag in your handbag until you can find a bin to dispose of it in.. at least it will help mask the smell a bit. Just soon as you find a bin, dump that shit (LITERALLY).
#5. If you have had to leave your meeting and people notice you have been gone for a length of time and start commenting (and rather then saying what really happened, unless you want to) just pull out the period card... no one especially men will ask more questions and your female co-workers will just look at you with an empathetic tone that says "I totes get how you feel".
I really, really hope that no one finds themselves in any situation where you have a bag leak in public, let alone at work or in a meeting. But I hope that this guide helps you to be better prepared for the worst case scenario. And by having these measures in place, it will help you to be more calm and collected when the 'shit hits the fan' and also helps put your mind/anxiety at ease.
p.s have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to do a bag change or had a bag leak and it was the worst possible timing? If you are brave, feel free to share your story in the comments below. You can always post 'anon.' by simply writing this instead of your name.
I try and be as ostomistic as I can about the whole 'having an ileostomy' thing, and never try and say that I hate it (because truth be told it is SOOOOOOO much better then sitting on the toilet in agony for most of the day). But there is one thing I absoloutley HATE and feel embarrased over, is the stench that is left behind when I empty my bag.
So I must admit I have tried the whole taking a can of toilet spray with me in my handbag when I go to the shops, and boy has there been some awkward stares when you are at the checkout line rifling through your handbag to find your wallet when out falls a can of toilet spray or as my husband likes to refer to it as "the stink be gone can", and you have to try and justify THAT YOU ARE NOT STEALING TOILET SPRAY... let's just say shit gets really awkward.
So what if I told you that I have found the perfect addition to your stoma kit, that not only will it not cause awkward or embarrasing stares, but will at least help you retain some of that dignity (that is otherwise flushed away).
For Christmas, my husbands mum and sister had made up this cute little basket filled with all these delicious smelling products, and one of them was a Bora Bora Blossom Room Spray. So when my mother-in-law mentioned well gave examples of times where it has come in handy and after seconds of spraying the mist the house smells so much nicer and the smell has completely faded away...
So of course my darling husband pipes up and says "Oh that would be awesome so you no longer stink up the house" (gees thanks Russ I love you too) it actually gave me a great idea for its use.
So off I went to add this spray to my stoma kit, and it is amazing! I spray it just before I empty my bag when in a public toilet (or at someone else's house) and then again once I have finished to be safe. And I love it!
It is compact and not bulky, it is discreet in the sense that it looks kind of like a body mist or perfume, AND IT IS SILENT!! No more of this "shooooooosh" sounds from the toilet cublicles as I spray the smell away, and no more waiting until everyone leaves the toilet before I emerge to avoid those judgemental stares!
Thank you for stopping by Feeling Ostomistic. It has taken a lot of courage to share my story and I ask that you show me and my site/blog respect and courtesy. Views expressed in this blog are my own and I am not a nurse or a doctor. If you need medical advice please seek your medical practitioner.