What is it Like Managing a Colostomy After Colon Surgery? - My Experience
After colon surgery, the thought of having to wear a colostomy bag is one of the most distressing (to say the least) thoughts that'll bother you for some time after having gone through colon surgery.
It’s like 'chaos' in your mind. Questions, jumbled thoughts, and a deep concern all rolled in one.
- How will I cope?
- Can I do this on my own?
- Will people notice?
- Will my lifestyle have to change?
- Oh, my goodness, how will I live with this, day in, day out?
However, the most nagging question of all is:
"WILL I STINK?"
Feelings and thoughts like these are not uncommon because all new ostomates feel this way when the realization that they'll have to wear a bag finally sinks in. When you know that’s the way you'll be expending your body waste, you won’t be happy about it.
You may even discover that weeks after surgery you are still grappling with these thoughts.
Believe me, this is certainly going to be a 'new way of life' and it requires inner strength to get used to it. It doesn't matter if your colostomy is temporary or permanent,
But one thing is for sure, to pluck up the courage and adapt to a few changes to your lifestyle with a stoma is easier than many new ostomy patients may believe.
It's just that initial shock. And it will eventually pass.
Most colostomy patients find that after the initial short-term distress, they develop a strong will and calm acceptance. Positive thoughts begin to emerge. And this, coupled with proper ostomy management will make an ostomate realize that quality of life can really remain the same.
It might spur on a sense of confidence and even become better. I can personally attest to that!
Function of a Colostomy Pouch
First, I'll briefly explain what a colostomy is.
It's a surgical procedure that involves the diversion of a part of the colon to the exterior through an opening attached to an incised hole in the walls of the abdomen. The round pinkish 'button' at the opening is referred to as a stoma.
Because the opening is external, a colostomy bag (pouch) must be attached to the stoma for the collection of human waste which comes out involuntarily and most times unexpectedly.
This is to say that colostomy bags are meant to collect the waste that under normal conditions pass through the colon to the rectum, and out via the anal opening, down into the toilet and flushed away.
With the bag, waste that collects there is either emptied at intervals or changed completely. This depends on the type of bag you use.
Coping with using an ostomy bag has never been easier. Wearing a bag is no more a big deal either.
When they calmed me and kept reassuring that first week after surgery, I always burst into tears, thinking they are just words to make me feel better.
But it is true that you will get over it sooner than you will ever expect.
Its really not so hard to live with a colostomy anymore, what with today’s technological advancement in the production of essential and easy to use ostomy supplies that have allowed modern day ostomy appliances to become extremely discreet, secure and most importantly (you'll want to hear this) . . . ODOUR FREE!
And the great thing about it all is that no one, except those who you choose to tell, needs to ever know you are wearing a stoma bag.
People are usually oblivious to your condition anyways.
Today, you will find ostomates that flaunt their pouches while wearing their bikini or crop tops and jeans!
So, how about that?
Today, ostomy supplies can be delivered to your doorstep, wrapped in unmarked boxes or with discreet labels.
Home delivery of medical supplies like these is also great in helping you manage and cope successfully with a colostomy because you don’t need to go out to purchase appliances to the glaring view of others.
There are two different types of colostomy bags also referred to as pouches:
- Stick-on types
- Strap-on types
We all have different choices when it comes to our preferences. The stick on type is the modern one, the preferred type, and it is virtually fuss-free.
It is affixed over the stoma 'button' with a thick waxy faceplate that's sticky on one side. With this type, you have to carefully stick it on to ensure it is totally sealed. There must be no air pockets which may widen and encourage leakages.
It may sound complicated to fit, but it isn't, once you get the hang of it. Many ostomates use stick-on types.
The strap-on colostomy bag, on the other hand, is fitted over the stoma and held with a belt that goes around your abdomen to hold it in place. Some users find this type fairly uncomfortable but that's a matter of opinion.
Other Supplies You Will Need Include
- Bonding adhesives
- Adhesive removers
- Odor removers
- Skin barriers
Changing a Colostomy Bag
You will almost gag the first week or so that you start to change your ostomy bag by yourself because of the strong stench that 'hits' you. But no worries . . . you will get used to that soon enough
Having said that, management is fairly straightforward, and after a few tries, you'll master how to apply your colostomy bag within 7 to 10 minutes. And soon you'll become an expert, changing within 5 minutes and emptying in a couple of minutes.
But there are certain actions you'll have to take to ensure proper care, hygiene, installation, and fit
- Ensure the stoma and its surrounds are shaved occasionally to avoid hair pulling when you change your ostomy bags.
- Avoid nicking the stoma whilst shaving to avoid bleeding. Remember the stoma has no pain sensors; you won't know until you notice bleeding.
- If the bleeding becomes severe, get medical assistance ASAP
- Don’t be alarmed if you notice minimal bleeding sometimes. Most times, it’s nothing to worry about and it will stop almost as soon as it happens.
- Try to stand erect when installing your pouch. You don't want to create folds on your skin which hampers perfect adherence of the sticky faceplate.
- Apply your colostomy bag to clean, dry, oil-free skin. You need maximum adherence.
- The stick-on types come with a template in the pack. This template has different sized holes. Find the hole that closely fits your stoma and use this to cut out your stoma size on the waxy faceplate. Ensure it’s not cut tight or it will cause bruising if it pinches the edges of the stoma.
- If need be, apply a bit of stoma paste around the edge of the cut-out hole. This acts as a seal for protection against any faecal leakage.
- Ensure the opening for draining the bag hangs straight down; this makes it easier to clean out between changes.
- Always make sure you securely clamp (or fold over & Velcro-fix) the bottom of drain-able colostomy bags. You don't want horrible mishaps, like leaks!
- If you feel an itchy sensation in the area of the face plate, don't feel tempted to remove your bag and scratch. The best way to ease this is to apply pressure and gently rub over the spot that itches. Don't scratch around the stoma ring or it will bleed.
- Your bag will get filled with air (you still pass gas!) and tend to balloon out every now and then, especially if you take fizzy drinks. You'll need to expel this air. It is simple if you use drainable bags. Just sit on the toilet, facing its back, the same way you'd sit when emptying it. Un-clamp the bag, tilt the end up, then gently push out the gas by using the palm of your hand in a slow sliding motion . . . up to down . . . while the gas bleeds out. Expel all built-up gas.
- Carry a couple (at least) of extra colostomy bags with you AT ALL TIMES, whenever you go out. You can never be too careful. Today's ostomy supplies are so compact, you can have them in a purse or even your pocket. In the event of an emergency, you will be glad you did.
One point to note, if you are going out for a meal or expecting guests for dinner (for instance), change or empty your bag before the meal. From experience, waste is expelled almost immediately after eating, so it’s good to have ample space for it.
After Colon Surgery – What's Next?
Living a happy life and continuing with your lifestyle, career, and/or studies is easy, and you will find that coping with a colostomy is relatively simple.
It’s so simple that you’ll be changing colostomy bags in less than 5 minutes once you know how to.
It’s also good to know that having a colostomy is a very common thing with millions of people all over the world wearing a bag.
There are many people walking around with bags, pouches, and other supplies required for your stoma. They are at work, go to school, in the clubs partying, and doing any other day to day activity.
Gone are the days when colostomy patients hid behind closed doors, become reclusive, shy, gradually developing anti-social habits.
Wearing colostomy bags because of colon surgery need not hamper your usual habits as long as you eat and drink sensibly.
There are no hard and fast rules about diet but if you keep to a simple diet and ensure proper stoma care by keeping it clean around the hole, you will be fine, and chances are that many times you’ll forget you are wearing a colostomy appliance.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
How can you keep your pouch from collapsing against your stoma, especially after changing to a new pouch?
Quite an irritating issue, I know. I’ve had situations like this and it makes my stoma ache slightly.
These are one of the reasons why I prefer the colostomy bags you can empty.
What I do is open the pouch to let a bit of air in. That helps ‘unstick’ it. I also drink a glass of milk. It helps too. Especially if you are lactose intolerant.
© 2010 Alobeda