“I wish I knew ostomy surgery would change my life so drastically!”
This is what most patients who have undergone an ostomy procedure feel as they continue to experience the after-effects of the surgery including gas, leakage, and constipation, to name a few.
The stigma associated with having a stoma bag may only make things worse for you.
However, does it mean it would have been better for you to say ‘no’ to an ostomy? Do you think life could have been better had you not undergone the surgery?
Well… The chances are high that the answer would be ‘No’. Simply because it is this surgery that has protected you against more serious symptoms and complications.
And it is again an ostomy that would improve the quality of your life and lifespan by preventing further progress of the disease you were suffering from.
And your life now is not as changed as you believe. Though I agree an ostomy does change the life of a person to some extent, it does not mean you stop enjoying your life. You can still live a normal life and fulfill all your dreams.
If you are eager to find out how to empower yourself with higher confidence and health following ostomy surgery, just read on…
Accept the “new normal"
The journey to empowering yourself after an ostomy surgery should begin with accepting the changes as your ‘new normal’. Unless you accept the ostomy bag as a part of your body, it will be difficult for you to get along with your life as usual.
Come to think of it… Don't people live a good life after liver or heart transplant? Isn’t it considered a new lease on life for them? Don’t you think donating eyes is a beautiful way to help someone view the world?
Just like the eyes, heart or liver transplanted in a person’s body can change his life for good, the ostomy bag is also meant to serve a similar purpose. So, there is really no need to consider it a burden or be ashamed of it.
It is your stoma bag attached to your abdomen that is going to help you live a longer life. So, the first thing you need to do is change your attitude towards the ostomy bag and accept it as your new normal. This change in attitude will enhance your confidence by reducing shame, and inconvenience attached to its presence and use.
Knowledge of how an ostomy can change the way your digestive tract functions would be a great way to empower yourself to stay healthy. Being aware of exactly how this surgery can affect the process of breakdown and absorption of food will allow you to make appropriate changes in your diet.
Knowledge of how to take proper care of a stoma bag and avoid leakage will also help you feel assured and enhance your confidence. Empowering yourself with this information would help you avoid stress of facing embarrassment due to leakage.
This is why; gaining knowledge should be your next step toward a better life after an ostomy. Never hesitate to ask questions to your doctor. Ask him about the surgery, and dietary changes needed so that you can take care of your health with confidence.
Take regular care of the ostomy bag
What makes most patients anxious is the fear of whether they are taking proper care of the ostomy bag or not. As discussed earlier, make sure you know everything about how to take care of the ostomy bag.
You must also be aware that the stoma may shrink in size within a few weeks following the surgery. You may need to measure the stoma regularly to ensure you are using the most appropriate pouching system size. This will reduce discomfort and increase your confidence knowing you have taken care to avoid leakages.
Similarly, there are several intricacies of taking care of your ostomy bag in the right way. Empowering yourself with this knowledge would be a great way to avoid feeling anxious and lead a normal, stress-free life.
Eat healthy foods
The definition of healthy foods does change to some extent after an ostomy. Because the foods that were healthy for your overall health earlier may not be so after the surgery.
For example; dietary fibers that are known to offer several health benefits such as preventing weight gain and controlling cholesterol levels may not be suitable for you to consume immediately after an ostomy.
Dietary fibers form a bulk of stools as they pass through the intestine without undergoing breakdown or absorption. Eating these foods after an ostomy can create more workload on your healing intestine by increasing the stool bulk. Hence, it is advisable to wait for a few weeks after ostomy surgery before you can introduce dietary fibers in your diet.
Eating foods that are easy to digest and do not produce excessive strain on your intestine would help you avoid bloating, gas, and other symptoms associated with an ostomy.
Here are some more dietary recommendations that will empower you with healthy digestive functions:
- Avoid foods that cause gas and odor such as cucumbers, onions, fish, eggs, cabbage, broccoli, and beans
- Chew gum and consume carbonated drinks with moderation
- Eat balanced meals to ensure an optimum supply of nutrients to your body
- Drink plenty of water to avoid constipation. However, avoid drinking large amounts of liquids with meals
- Eat smaller meals more frequently
- Introduce new foods gradually, one at a time
- Chew foods thoroughly
Following a healthy diet as recommended for ostomy patients would ease digestive disturbances and help you stay healthy. It will also keep up your confidence and prevent loss of self-esteem as proper dietary habits will reduce the chances of gas and noisy emissions.
Don't neglect personal relations
Your family and close friends could be a great pillar of support during the phase you are trying to adjust and live with the ostomy bag. Do not hesitate to discuss your concerns and anxieties with your loved ones. Confide in them when you are anxious or have fears of being ridiculed for symptoms such as gas and bloating.
Talking is the best way to let go of all negative emotions. It would act as catharsis and help you overcome the flood of emotions you are experiencing.
A mere hug from your loved one will assure you that you can fight this phase and take better care of your health in the future. This will empower you to have a positive attitude towards your ostomy bag as well as your life in general.
Coping with social issues
Most patients with an ostomy have problems coping with emotional and social issues related to having an ostomy bag. If you feel your ostomy bag can act as a hindrance in the way people perceive you, you can always choose to not tell anyone about it.
Yes, it is possible to keep your ostomy bag hidden even while continuing with your life as usual. Nobody would ever come to know you have undergone an ostomy and have an ostomy bag unless you yourself tell.
You can also seek support from patients who have undergone this surgery. You can join a local or online community for education and support. Listening to the experiences of others will help you feel at ease. It will assure you that you are not alone in the journey.
It will also assure you of the benefits of the surgery and reinforce that you took the right decision to undergo your ostomy procedure.
You can learn some useful practical tips and strategies from fellow patients, which you can use towards trying to enhance your own health and take good care of yourself and your ostomy bag.
Practice stress-busting methods
At times, you may feel demotivated due to the way others respond to your ostomy bag. You may feel ashamed and embarrassed about having an ostomy bag. It can reduce your self-esteem and may even force you to isolate yourself from others. You may even start to avoid socializing and prefer to stay aloof in your own cocoon.
However, there is really no need to avoid social interactions just because you have had an ostomy. It is like any other surgery such as the removal of appendix or tumor. So, the feeling of being ashamed shouldn’t arise.
If the reaction of others is making you anxious, you can practice stress-busting methods like meditation and yoga. It will not just relieve your stress but also improve your overall health and fitness.
An ostomy does change your life. While it may bring with itself a bit of inconvenience, it would also protect you against complications like bowel obstruction or incontinence, and cancer. Hence, if you have undergone an ostomy surgery, do not forget that this life changing experience has been for good.
Just be assured you can live a healthy life and fulfill your dreams even after an ostomy surgery. Develop a positive attitude towards your ostomy and learn as much as possible from reliable sources such as your physician, communities and other patients. This will empower you with higher confidence and keep you at ease thus allowing you to focus on more important issues in life such as your career, personal relations, and health.