Will My Friends Still Like Me After Ostomy Surgery?

OstomyLife Co-Moderator
10/03/18  4:22 PM PST

Will My Friends Still Like Me After Ostomy Surgery?

Having ostomy surgery is scary for many reasons. It creates this new lifestyle that you must adapt to. For some, this is a welcomed change after experiencing illnesses such as chronic inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) that may make an ostomy a welcomed outcome. For others, the surgery may be unanticipated and sudden.

Whether the indication for ostomy surgery is a prolonged illness or a sudden need, you may wonder what your friends will think about it. While all people are different, and all social circles are unique. It is likely that those who are your true friends will just be glad that you are alive and healthy!

I could simply tell you: “your friends won’t care”, and chances are that most, if not all of them, won’t!  But to tell you that no one’s friends will ever care that they have an ostomy would be naive of me. The truth of the matter lies in a cliché that is too applicable not to bring up here:

Those who mind dont matter, and those who matter dont mind. 

The thing is that friendships after ostomy surgery are dependent on many things:

  • Do your friends support you?
  • Are they understanding?
  • Do you feel safe talking to them about such personal issues?
  • Do you feel emotionally safe hanging out with them at such a vulnerable time in your life?
  • What if you have a leak?
  • Will you be able to excuse yourself, will they be understanding and respectful of that?
  • If you need to rest during an activity, will they understand?

I feel that understanding, compassionate friends are a must for a new ostomate as you may need a little extra support at first. It can also be scary going out and doing things while you learn how to prevent leaks and dress in a way that is acceptable to you. Doing things with understanding friends is helpful during this time.

While I cannot promise you that all people in your friend circle will fit with your emotional needs after surgery, I can tell you this: it will get easier with time. As you start to feel comfortable, manage your stoma well, and dress to your liking, you will be able to do things with friends who maybe you didn’t feel comfortable around at first.

In my personal experience…

In the immediate postoperative period I mostly hung out with just a few friends I trust very much. We did things like color and go to small gatherings together. Eventually I was back to beach days, long hikes, and a trip out of the country with several people I didn’t know!

I was so sick for so long, mostly confined to my house and isolated, that when my surgery finally happened my friends were just happy I was able to hang out with them again!

I didn’t really tell anyone about what was going on when I was sick and I stayed home. Sometimes I saw my boyfriend (when I felt presentable) and snuggled with my dog. I also underwent this operation at age 20, after my junior year of college, while I was figuring out who I would be as an adult. This made it easier for me to handle the social transition as I was already questioning many friendships as I approached (what I thought would be) my last year of college.

After surgery, I started feeling better and I had one particular friend who just showed up for me when I needed it most. She wasn’t who I would have expected to be there for me at this time, but she was and still is my rock. A friendship that sprouted from my need for support and companionship after surgery and turned out to be one of the most important relationships in my life. I also had an amazingly devoted boyfriend (now fiancé) and mom to helped me through this time and that impacted my ability to settle into my new reality.

To revisit the cliché from above, having ostomy surgery at this time helped me realize who mattered.

This has been a long answer to a short question and if I had to leave you with a take away, it would be this:

If you are wondering if your friends will still like you after surgery, maybe the ones who have led you to question this are the ones you could take a break from. Take advantage of the “short list” that this experience creates for you and remember it is okay to put yourself first.

More articles about your relationships after ostomy surgery:

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Hey Laura, I’m a new ostomate and just got the clearance from my doctor to resume a regular diet. Any tips for things I should watch out for?
Hi Susan, Excellent question!
I would say there are three important things you can do to reduce your risk of problems when returning to a more normal diet...

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