Having a stoma requires a change of life and a change of mindset. Accepting that you now have to manage a normal bodily function a little differently is half the battle. For many people that can be an extremely difficult leap as they may have received their stoma in an emergency situation due to severe diverticulitis or a bowel perforation, or as part of a surgical procedure to remove a cancerous section of their bowel. In that case being given the news that you have cancer alone is difficult but add in a stoma a few weeks later and it’s a tough road for the strongest of people. In the case of emergency surgery, to wake up with a stoma, not even having any idea that was going to happen, can be a devastating situation for the new ostomate and their family.
I feel blessed that I knew 2 years before my stoma was created that I would probably need one. That gave my husband and I so much time to research exactly what having a stoma meant, plus the situation with my bowel prolapses and the failure of 2 surgeries to try and mend it all, led me to a place where I was more than happy to head into my colostomy surgery.
Friends and family support is incredibly important but finding others who are of a similar age and adapting to a new life with a stoma is paramount to moving forward. That’s where online support groups in particular are the key. Stomas are created for babies, young people, middle aged and the elderly and each generation has a different set of needs and challenges in adapting to this new way of life. The extra icing on the cake that can come from online support, is when true friendships are made through these groups. I now have an Ostomate friend who, believe it or not, had the same Surgeon as me and had her surgery 2 weeks prior to me at the same hospital and we met through a national online blog support group. We would have passed each other in the hospital corridors and had no idea only a few months later we would become such great friends. We no longer blog, we email, we text and we talk on the phone. We are there for each other and can talk about the most intimate details of our lives living as Ostomates.
One of things that new Ostomates are encouraged to do is give their stoma a name. That might sound a little odd to most people and I would have been of that thinking years ago but it makes a lot of sense. My stoma is called Rudolph (it looks like a little red reindeer nose, it was created close to Christmas, plus my husband and I have a warped sense of humour!!) My friends stoma is called Rosie for obvious reasons…obvious to us anyway 🙂
So why give it a name? For me it makes it easier when I am in public in shopping centres etc and need to let my husband know I have a problem, I can simply say “I need to attend to Rudolph”. We can then swing into action and find the nearest disabled toilet.
It also personalises things…it is a very personal thing after all and for my friend and I we have often had a good laugh over the antics of Rudolph and Rosie….we have contemplated many times creating a Rudolph and Rosie blog but for now those stories are probably best kept somewhat private!
Not so long ago a dear friend of mine found she too needed to have a stoma. She has called hers Ruby and we too have laughed and cried together as she has adjusted to this new way of life.
So the adventures of Rudolph and Rosie will continue and I’m sure some of their antics will make it to pages of this blog over time!