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Regaining confidence after stoma surgery - Andy Fletcher

Andy shares what helped him regain his confidence following stoma surgery.

Andy Fletcher

I remember thinking that my life would not be the same from that point on … how would I cope, what would I do, how would people find me?

So, several years later, I’m sat here wondering what all the fuss was about! – yes, my life has changed, and for the better. Further to that, I think under the circumstances, I have coped very well. As to how people find me, well, I have taken the attitude that if my stoma offends anyone, then they were not friends to start with.I can still remember my very first night at home after returning from hospital following the major surgery to create “mini-me” …. I sat in the bath, looked down and sobbed like a baby! 

I still won’t swim with anyone unless it is a private pool (memories of Cypriot holidays come to mind…), but in the main, life goes on as before.

So, how did I gain back my confidence and lose my shyness? – it’s important for you the reader to understand that this is my story and is therefore unique to me, but there is no reason why you cannot gain some insight and tailor make your own goals – good luck!

What I believed helped me the most is having my family and friends around me - having a loving community really helped during those “down days”.

I can still vividly remember Mandi & John coming to visit me the day before the operation, and also whilst in hospital and recovering at home. The fact that they made an 80 mile round trip to do so each time meant so much to me. I don’t think I ever thanked them, but knowing my friends were thinking of me helped me recover in ways they cannot imagine.

A lot of confidence comes from my general state of mind. I am not embarrassed by my Stoma bag (hey, it’s kept me alive after all!), but I wont actively show it off. The scar down my chest bothers me more, but I have no idea why.

For a while after surgery I experimented with looser clothing – anything in fact that did not show any “bulge”, but after a while, I gave up, and just wore “normal” clothes. I find it difficult to dress with anything remotely tight – not because I feel embarrassed, but more because it is bloody uncomfortable.

My Stoma is right on my belt line, so can be naturally uncomfortable at times. There are protectors you can purchase (on prescription in the UK), but I found they made my stoma bulge out more with it than without!

I made the very conscious decision early on not to let the Stoma get the better of me, and it seems to have paid off. I’ve had a couple of “accidents” at work which have necessitated rushing home at the speed of light for a shower and change, and it’s at times like this you can do one of two things …. You can die of embarrassment, or you can laugh it off… I’m lucky whereby if I don’t laugh it off, my work colleagues certainly will on my behalf!

Sometimes at work the “banter” starts off … and on a good day one of my colleagues may say that they are going to shove this up my …… - to which I always reply “you will need to take the stitches out first” – always gets a laugh and lightens the mood.

You think of all your poor unfortunate friends who will sometimes suffer from diahorrea, and then remember how you were once – I bet you smile and think who the more fortunate one of you is!

Don’t let having a Stoma ruin your life … there is no reason for it to. Confidence is easy to lose, but is wonderful when you have it.

I overcame my shyness by creating a YouTube video whilst changing my bag …

Nothing fazes me or embarrasses me. Maybe I am lucky? – I don’t think its anything to do with luck – I think it is acceptance. Once you accept your stoma is here to stay you will always have the upper hand on confidence.

Last thought on this …. An Ostomate can go anywhere and not need the toilet in an emergency … how many of your friends have “messed” themselves whilst searching …. And I bet you are smiling reading that!

On my next blog, I’ll talk about food – my favourite subject! – What foods to avoid, or ones to enjoy. What about alcohol? Or soft drinks?

In the meantime, have a cracking Christmas and a wonderful new year. I’ll be back in January.

Visit Andy over at his blog site www.mystoma.co.uk

If you would like to share your story with us, please email mail@eakin.co.uk