OstomyLife Community

Talking About Your Health Over The Holidays

Laura Cox
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
12/08/15  4:12 PM PST
Talking About Your Health Over The Holidays

I love the holidays because it means that you get to gather with family and friends you don’t see very often. Over Thanksgiving I traveled from California to Kansas to meet up with my mom’s side of the family. Since my diagnosis in 2010, they’ve seen me at my worst, at my best, and all of my points in between.

I am very open about my Ulcerative Colitis, ostomy, struggles, triumphs and general story because I believe in order to advocate for awareness you need to be able to emotionally reach people. The best way I know how to do that is to be completely transparent about my journey. That being said, at our last Thanksgiving gathering, for the first time in many years I felt uncomfortable about how much I was asked about my illness. Of course, I am touched and very thankful to have a family that cares so deeply about every part of my life, but I had just been at the Cleveland Clinic and needed a break from my health being constantly top-of-mind.

The holiday season is wonderful because you get to spend time with loved ones, but how do you navigate discussing your health? This answer depends on what you would like to take away from your holiday gathering. That may include a distraction; a general update (without diving into the details); or support and/or help from people you love in some very specific areas.

If you don’t want to discuss your health at all:

When asked about your health, the best way to answer is by giving a quick, honest answer to the question, succinctly explaining politely that you don’t want to focus on your health, and change the subject. An example of a polite, honest answer would be “My health is good/not so great, thank you for asking. Celebrating the holidays is a great distraction from my everyday health struggles, and I’m happy to be enjoying this time with my loved ones! How have you been?”

Holding firm boundaries with people who care about you can be difficult, but remember that your needs are important and you have every right to privacy. If health questions persist, try to state your needs and preferences calmly and clearly.

If you want to quickly fill your loved ones in with general details:

When asked about your health, I think the best way to quickly fill your loved ones in is to pick just a few of the most important details to share. Give a brief synopsis, and then ask someone else a question that moves the conversation to a different topic. I find that sometimes when I try to give a quick overview and don’t intentionally direct the conversation to a different topic right away, my loved ones will ask questions and we end up getting stuck on a topic or diving deeper into the details.

If you want support from your loved ones during a difficult time:

When asked about your health by a loved one, reply honestly with how you’ve been doing and what you’ve been struggling with. Answer any questions that come up. If you need support from your loved ones, ask for specific support that will help reduce your stress level, like help with cooking, making doctor appointments, driving from one place to another, etc.


In short, you are in control of how much or how little you speak about your health during the holidays. The holidays are a perfect time to ask for support if you need it, be distracted if you want a break from thinking about your health, and spend quality time with the people you love.

Serving Medicare Ostomates Nationwide
Dear Laura, I wear a two piece ostomy bag. I need help with concealing an ostomy bag. When I move around my shirt hikes up and the tip of the bag peeks out from under my shirt.
Hi Tom, I have a few suggestions that may help!
First, I'm wondering if a stealth belt would be a good option for you. This is a black belt that you can conveniently tuck your pouch...


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