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Ostomy doesn't prevent Leanne eating and wearing what she likes

Leanne hammond shares how she coped with food and clothing as a young ostomate.

Leanne Hammond

From a 20 year olds view, an ileostomy bag is something you think would never happen to you. In fact I was the one that had to live with one I need my full bowel removed at just the age of 19. When I found out about needing a stoma bag many things ran through my head, but mainly my diet and clothing. I thought I'd never be able to eat the food I ate day to day, I thought I'd be on a strict diet of just fruit and vegetables everyday! Truth is, that's not the case at all. The first four weeks post surgery I remained on a low fibre diet to keep my small bowel from over working straight after surgery. When the four weeks past I was very nervous eating my usual foods. I took one step at a time, introducing different foods to make sure I didn't have a blockage, which terrified me! Then eating outside my house in restaurants became a problem because I had anxiety, tight chest pains when I left the house thinking of eating outside because I dreaded the thought of my bag leaking or bursting and the embarrassment that followed. Two weeks after my surgery I made the brave trip out for my first meal. Terrified and my heart racing as I rushed through my meal to get home as fast as I could in case anything happened but nothing ever happened. Six months later and I still haven't had a leak outside my house while out for food. I now live my life without thinking about my bag every minute of the day. I eat almost everything without any worry because I gained trust in my bag and I found foods which suit and don’t suit! I can't eat foods that don't digest fully including, peanuts, sweetcorn, popcorn and mushrooms but everyone is different!

Clothing was another major issue for me when I got the news that I was going to be living with a bag. After surgery I remained in pyjamas and baggy tracksuit bottoms for at least 3 weeks as I thought nothing in my wardrobe would fit me with my bag! I gradually started wearing clothes out of my wardrobe that I had always worn before my surgery, before I knew it I was in tight jeans and slim dresses. I was back to my original wardrobe without realising it. Before I had my surgery I picture a bag to be big, bulky and see-through so I couldn't picture people saying "you can't notice a colostomy bag" because I had visions of it being so big, but after my surgery it opened my eyes to me, my family and friends that it really was discrete and nobody knew! I got the confidence to go swimming 5 weeks post surgery with high waisted bikini bottoms which the bag was still unnoticeable in. Now 6 months on I'm recently back from a week holiday in Tenerife where I wore a normal bikini at a crowded pool and beach showing off my bag with no shame!

The skin around my stoma can get very irritated very quickly as my stoma is slightly retracted into my skin unfortunately. I have to follow a step by step plan of changing my appliance every second day to ensure the skin around my stoma is protected. This involves:

•Removing my bag using an Adhesive remover spray.

•I then wipe the area to clean my stoma using plain water wipes with no added perfume!

•I dab Calamine Lotion around my stoma to the skin as this protects and heals any broken/scalded skin that was exposed.

•After my lotion is dry I use a Stoma Powder called Bravia around my stoma and then dab the powder with a barrier wipe to form an artificial scab to protect the skin, I do this 2 times.

•Finally I apply moldable ring around my stoma and then I apply my bag on top securely holding it in place for 5 minutes to make sure it sticks to my skin correctly.

Overall the process takes roughly 10-15 minutes.

It's funny because as soon as I found out about my bag I rushed to Google to research more information, to my surprise I came across so many different terminologies in relation to bags! All the different types of bags and surgeries that lead to having a bag. I was surprised how quickly I learned all these words. I had only heard the word "colostomy", I had never heard the word "ileostomy" which is the type of bag I have. Not many people hear the word ileostomy it's mostly colostomy that people hear about.

•Colostomy bag is your colon that is brought out on to your stomach.

•Ileostomy bag is the ileum of you small intestine that's brought out onto your belly, there's two types loop and end ileostomies depending on what part your ileum is brought onto your stomach.

I always assumed a bag on the right side of the stomach was permanent and the left side was temporary but that's not the case at all it just depends on which bag you have!

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