Out and About

The question I get asked the most is ‘What do you take with you, when you go out?’

This has evolved over the 13 weeks since my surgery.

At first, I adopted the ‘kitchen sink’ model. I had a bumbag that contained, a couple of bags, a couple of pouches, adhesive remover spray, a small bottle of water, a packet of dry wipes, a packet of wet wipes, a roll of tape and a bottle of cleaning gel.

Then, when the leaks were at their worst I graduated to the ‘kitchen sink plus’ model. Same bumbag but now with a collapsible bowl, 5/6 black bags, 5/6 pouches, some floor cleaning wipes which were also good for clothes, adhesive rings, extra adhesive tape, filler paste. In fact, any product I could lay my hands on.

But now, 13 weeks in, leaks resolved and with renewed confidence I have pared everything down to what you see in the picture. My fulfilment company gave me this small roll up bag. From right to left it contains, a disabled toilet key, then 2 disposal bags, 2 pouches, 2 pieces of tape, 2 adhesive release wipes, 2 adhesive remover wipes, 4 dry wipes and four wet wipes. It all rolls up and fits in my other manbag that goes with me. Nice and discreet with room for a notebook or tablet, phone, camera. This is my ‘safe’ kit, when I know where I’m going, where the toilets are etc.

I still use my bumbag, my ‘adventure’ kit, it contains the blue roll up bag plus a packet of dry wipes, my collapsible bowl and a packet of wet wipes. This is for a longer journey or when toilets might be problematic, say on a Virgin train or a town/city that I don’t know.

Ultimately what you take boils down to confidence and acceptance.

Learning to accept that you have a stoma, that it will be part of you for the long term or short term, is the key to resuming a ‘normal’ life with just a few adjustments. It took me years to accept that my mental health would require me to rethink what normal was and my recovery stalled until I could accept that there would be a new normal.

The truth is that having gone through that process around my mental wellbeing has definitely helped me deal with accepting both the physical and mental aspects of having a stoma. But ‘acceptance’ is made of many little elements. As an example, the Monday before I met my consultant we had a team leaders meeting at work. As part of the meeting we had a break out group of 5 in a smaller room, half of whom I had not met before. We sit down, the room is quiet and my stoma starts farting. I say ’excuse me’ give a brief explanation, we move on. Five minutes later it is farting away again, I laugh, offer an apology. None is required we all laugh, acceptance.

These little moments add up to a place where you realise that while I didn’t ask for it, with a little adjustment my life can continue as normal. Within the ostomy community I am lucky enough not to have had an underlying illness eg Chron’s, cancer plus many others that do make life with a stoma that much harder.

It seems hard to believe that I am 13 weeks post op, a quarter of a year, it has gone remarkably quickly, maybe the new job helped. In one of my first posts I wrote how cutting my bags was surprisingly therapeutic. Well now 13 weeks later and knowing it is for the rest of my life the therapeutic element is long gone. So I am cutting my last box of 10 bags, from now on they will be precut.

I reckon I’ve earned that little luxury.

Highlight of the week – beginning to run again.

Lowlight of the week – none really.

Food highlight of the week – savoury pancakes with Feta, spinach and mushrooms.

Thanks for reading.

Take care.


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A 50 something film and digital photographer based in Kendal, Cumbria. Blogging about mental health, mental wellbeing, living with a colostomy and music memories.

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