Mutual aid

As a Nurse Specialized in Wound, Ostomy and Continence (NSWOC), my ultimate goal is to make my patients’ life as easy as possible with their ostomy. To be able to accept their ostomy as a part of their body and daily life, they need the capacity to adapt to it, but also a lot of love and support. In this article, I’m presenting my advice for the preoperative period.

First, don’t stay alone with your fears and questions. If you need surgery and you have never met a NSWOC before, ask to meet one. Do what is necessary to get an appointment. As hospitals’ new organizational structures make the specialists more accessible, it might be easier now for you to meet a NSWOC to get well informed. Your NSWOC will be able to determine with you where your ostomy is going to be located. The location of your ostomy will have an impact in all spheres of your life: hobbies, work, clothing, etc. Determining the optimal location for your ostomy will increase your chances to have the best adhesion possible for your equipment (5 to 7 days on healthy skin). It‘s also a favorable element to becoming independent more easily with your ostomy. Doing all of this will help you in the acceptance process, or, at least, tend to make it easier.

Try to speak with a person who has undergone the same type of surgery as you. This person will be able to give you concrete answers to your questions as well as some tips that he or she has discovered with time and experience. Talking with this person could even reduce your fears facing the unknown. I suggest you ask for a person through the Ostomy Association in your area, your NSWOC or the ANA & Me blog.

If you lose weight and/or your appetite in the weeks before your surgery, I strongly recommend you take protein supplements, like Boost or Resource, every single day to optimize your healing after surgery. It’s the same for rest and sleep. Also avoid alcohol and tobacco in the days preceding your surgery. In brief, a healthy lifestyle is essential!

Next, it’s important to learn to trust the professionals who are taking care of you and to accept that certain aspects of your life are out of your control. Nevertheless, you should take advantage of the aspects of your life that you have control over; for example, you could properly prepare yourself for convalescence. Preparing your recovery doesn’t have to be complicated; it can be as simple as making food in advance. The goal is to maximise your energy when you’re back home because your body needs to rest in order to heal. You could also temporarily benefit from a home meal service in your area to give yourself a little break. Ask for some help from your friends or family for errands, medical visits, or just to visit you to change your mind or to keep you company. Be surrounded by people as much as possible!


People who live a more solitary life, people who would prefer to live this adventure alone and people who wish to achieve personal growth with the help of people from outside the family can turn towards support centers. In fact, a support center in your area might offer free services that include the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of the person. Services might cover the following aspects: empathic listening, psycho-corporal intervention, psychotherapy, growth workshops, energy visualization, etc. Search on the Web for the services offered in your area or, if you are lucky enough to have a NSWOC or social worker, ask this person. He or she should be able to inform you about this type of resource. Several different activities are offered; just identify where to get information!

For people living with cancer:

Know that your NSWOC is always there to answer your questions.
Be well prepared and good luck for your surgery!


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