5 tips for new ostomates

I still remember my first days out of the hospital. At that time, I was in a period of adaptation to my ileostomy so I was worried and I was asking myself a lot of questions about my new companion. Here are some tips I would have liked to know before my surgery to reassure me... Happy reading! (Of course, these tips are related to what I experienced but each situation is different.)

1. Don’t buy ostomy equipment in advance...

Before my surgery, I wanted to properly prepare myself for my new situation so I bought bags and skin barriers in advance. Worst thing to do! At the hospital, nurses will give you a starter kit with some samples that you will be able to try in due course. Also, homecare nurses might come to your home during your first days home to help you in finding the equipment that suits your ostomy best. Above all, don’t despair. My ostomy’s shape and size changed several times at the beginning so I had to try several types of equipment before finding the right one. It took about a month and a half to find it. Bags I bought initially didn’t serve me at all finally. If you really want to buy things in advance, make sure you have loose and comfortable clothes to wear right after the surgery. I also strongly recommend ANA’s underwear which really makes a difference. It keeps the ostomy bag in place by providing adequate support and helping reduce risks of skin barrier leaks.

2. Emptying your bag...

I must admit that I was in a lot of pain the days following my surgery so it was particularly difficult for me to empty my bag... Sincerely, I didn’t know how to do it initially and how to place myself to reduce my discomfort. In the first two weeks, I was then emptying my bag by kneeling in front of the toilet. Over time, I developed a technique to empty my bag while I was sitting on the toilet just like everyone else. The adaptation was done pretty quickly in my case but you have to give yourself a chance. At the beginning, I was making my life difficult because I was cleaning my bag with baby wipes but I realized over time that toilet paper was enough!

3. Smell and gas...

I'd really like to tell you that it smells like roses and it's raining rainbows when emptying the bag but it’s not the case unfortunately. It stinks a lot at the beginning but don’t worry because there are tips to reduce the smell. In my case, I poured a lubricant gel in my ostomy bag and I also used a spray specifically made for odor problems. These products can be found in ostomy centers or in specialized drugstores. Regarding gas, I must admit that it’s not uncommon to wake up with a ''football'' on your belly in the first days following the surgery or as a result of what we eat. I often woke up because my bag was too full of gas. It's not really comfortable but it’s fine as soon as the bag is emptied! I managed odors and gas by choosing the right foods. The nutritionist can advise you on this. There are also bags with filters that can help to reduce the swelling... it's up to you!

4. Leaks...

I don’t want to discourage you but it’s not uncommon to have to change the equipment several times a day in the first days and especially in the adaptation period... In my case, my ostomy’s shape and size changed a lot at the beginning so I had to try several methods to properly fit it to my skin barrier. Initially, my stomach was swollen because of the surgery and then my belly changed and folds that weren’t there before appeared. In addition to the leaks, not all ostomy products were suitable for me because I had allergic reactions to some brands. That's why you really have to take the time to try several pieces of equipment to find the one that suits your body best. Comfort above all! Also, I strongly advise you to put a quilted pad in your bed to absorb the feces in case of leaks... you can never be too careful! Again, an adapted diet to make your feces less liquid can greatly reduce the risk of leaks!

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5. Self-confidence and a touch of humor: You are beautiful! You are great! You can do it!

My last tip is to keep smiling and to love yourself! The bag doesn’t take anything away from the person you are. The bag adds value to you because this bag is part of your story! You wouldn’t be the person you are today without this companion... In my case, I must confess that I have gained more self-confidence since I had my ostomy because I know what I am worth and I know that I would probably no longer be alive without it. It’s part of me. I also advise you to use humor when talking about your ostomy. People often feel helpless about our situation and using humor helps in diminishing the discomfort. Don’t stop meeting new people! For me, the bag has never been an obstacle to meeting a man. If you unfortunately meet a superficial person, get away from him or her. That person doesn’t even deserve to have the chance to know you. The person made for you will accept you as you are. That’s what is called true love.


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