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6 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Ostomy Surgery

Laura Cox
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
01/19/18  8:15 AM PST
ostomy surgery

You’re making the right decision

I remembering being told I could have elective ostomy surgery within the next few months or that if I chose to keep my colon, it would probably be emergency surgery within the year. I was so sick and in a lot of pain, but there were so many unknowns about surgery. I decided it was best to remove my colon in a non-emergent way. I had a lot of worries about my decision and had a lot of “what ifs” in my mind. Six years after surgery, I believe I did make the best decision. Although life will never be the same as before surgery, the quality of my life has dramatically improved!

You will feel better, but it’s not a cure

I rationally knew that surgery was not a cure for ulcerative colitis, but I think part of me was expecting to have no symptoms of my autoimmune disease after my total colectomy. The truth is, I still get some extra intestinal-manifestations of my illness, like arthritic pain, canker sores, and fevers. Compared to my UC symptoms prior to surgery, these feel quite mild, but it is easy to tell my illness is still sometimes active.

It is different, but it is not devastating

Living with an ostomy is different than anything you’ve experienced, but you quickly learn that different isn’t bad. Sure, you miss some things about having a colon, like the ease of staying hydrated, but having an ostomy is completely doable and the longer you have it, the more living with an ostomy turns into your “new normal.”

It’s okay to be scared and sad, but you didn’t “lose”

I know sometimes people feel like they have to be brave, but the process of getting an ostomy can be scary, and there can be some sadness surrounding the change in lifestyle, but acknowledge those feelings, and then try to accept them while also learning all the beautiful things about having an ostomy too. I know it can feel as though you “lost” to your illness when it was time to get a total colectomy, but it was never a competition. My life certainly doesn’t feel like a “loss” six years post-op, and that feels like a victory.

You will be able to do all of the things you enjoy

Living with an ostomy has not taken anything that I hold dear to my heart away from me. During recovery you’ll have to take it slow, but as soon as you begin to come out of recover, you’ll be able to be active. Seven months post-op, I was able to hike, run, climb, swim, camp, and was even inspired to try new things like advocate, speak, and travel.

After the surgery, you will find a way to make meaning out of these experiences

Through the process of illness, pain, and surgery, you will find within you a growth that allows you to find meaningful ways to utilize the gifts that illness and surgery has given you. It is easier to practice gratitude when feeling well, it allows you to be empathic to people who are hurting, it teaches self-compassion, and has shown you how resilient the human spirit can be. I believe Rumi said it best “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”

Find more articles about ostomy support:

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.
Tom
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 ostomy in to. It requires you to turn your ostomy pouch 45 degrees...


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3 Comments

  1. Ker
    Posted February 8, 2018 at 2:38 pm PDT

    Hello Laura,
    Once again I would like to thank you for offering so much information, insight and of course your personal experiences that make your articles so incredibly helpful in regards to dealing with the several variables, emotions and facts that come with living with an ostomy. The positive perspectives are so much appreciated. I know you have helped me ! Thank you Laura (and Shields) for offering so much.
    With Gratitude,
    Kerry D.

  2. Posted February 8, 2018 at 8:54 pm PDT

    My total colectomy/ileostomy happened in 1973, when I was only 32 years old. I have nothing but positive things to say about the major surgery that saved my life. When they removed my colon/rectum, they removed my disease (ulcerative colitis), a very, very debillitating condition. I made a spectacular recovery (water skiing 8 months later!) I’m now 77 years old; I was able to raise my daughters and live a normal life! My doctor said: “if we’d waited 24 more hours, you’d have gone out in a box”! I thank God and my skilled physicians for giving me back my health!

  3. margaret woolley
    Posted March 4, 2018 at 2:37 pm PDT

    I will be 92 in June. I had a urostomy when I was 86. I had 4 surgeries for bladder cancer when I was 85 but the cancer kept coming back. I guess I wasn’t ready to die so when the dr suggested I have bladder removal surgery, I jumped at the chance. I am cancer free. Yippee! I may reach 100. Who knows! It`s not for everyone. My daughter takes care of it or a nursed. Make sure to have support. You’ll need it.

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