First Outing with My Stoma: What I Learned
So, I had been home from the hospital for a couple of weeks and had been gradually increasing the amount of walking I was doing, firstly around the house: up and down the stairs, hanging out the washing in the garden, and gentle strolls around the block.
Leaving my comfort zone
Then one of my best friends said she would like to take me out for lunch. I suddenly realized I would be leaving my comfort zone. I had never been out with my stoma; not out, out.
What would I wear, what should I take with me, what if I had a leak? What if? It was at this point I realized that to go out—and I wanted to go out so much—I had to put these fears aside. Easier said than done, I can tell you. But I was not prepared to sit at home forever just because I was nervous. Otherwise what would have been the point of going through such epic surgery?
Gathering “just in case” items
So I said yes and the date was arranged. Now to get prepared. It was a bit like having a new baby all the "stuff" that I had to put together, the "just in case" items.
I had bought a new large handbag, this was to serve two purposes.
- I could hold it in front of me to hide my bag if I were to become conscious of it
- It could hold all the supplies I felt I required at that time. I was so afraid of having a "leak", on that first trip out I think I packed everything but the kitchen sink! But "better to be safe than sorry" was my motto
So the day finally arrived for my lunch date. I wore a pair of comfortable leggings, with a nice loose patterned top and a pair "blingy" flat shoes. Remembering to empty my bag before leaving home and armed with my nice new, if not overly large, filled to the brim handbag, off I nervously went.
A surprising success
Well I have to tell you that lunch went really well. My friend is such a chatterbox that for a short while I actually, for the first time forgot I had my bag! Now and again I would have a discreet feel to make sure the bag wasn't too full. It's strange not being in control of your bladder, but something I was going to have to get used too. I didn't drink anything fizzy or alcoholic and stuck to water and fresh fruit juice. As you need to remember to drink plenty of water and the fresh fruit juice would hopefully help with my lazy bowel. I had a light lunch of chicken soup and a white roll, as I was still on a restricted diet and to be honest two weeks after surgery my appetite was still not great.
One and a half hours later we were ready to leave. I duly went and emptied my bag before leaving and felt rather smug that I had actually been out and had a really good time and that it passed without any incident.I returned home feeling happy but somewhat tired. It had been quite a momentous day.
Reevaluating what I would need
I looked at my bulging handbag and realized I didn't need to take everything I had packed. So it was then and there that I sorted out and packed a medium sized toiletry/make up bag that was going to be realistic.
Inside I placed the following items, 8 months on and this is still what I take with me:
- 2 waste bags (One to dispose of used items, the other, to place if necessary, any soiled underwear)
- 2 barrier wipes
- A clean pair of underwear
- 2 spare bags
- 2 adhesive wipes
- 3 flange extenders (These are called by many different names depending on supplier. But basically they are a sort of half moon shape sticky plaster. They are great if you see the bag starting to come away just a little. As sticking one of these on can give you a few hours extra time before the need to change)
Over time your confidence will grow
And that my friends all fits in a medium sized make up bag and nobody would have a clue what was in it. I also have in my handbag a very lightweight black shawl, that folds down to almost the size of a handkerchief. If I were to have a leak I could place this around me to hide any embarrassment.Lastly a tip that I was given was, have a glass or bottle of water with you. In the event you did have a leak, you could spill the water over yourself and pretend it was that, that had wet your clothes.
So like everything else in life, the first time doing anything is the most nerve-wracking, but gradually over time your confidence will grow. So my advice would be, get out there as soon as you feel able and start enjoying life!
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