Celebrating Success — Another Milestone Achieved!

by Staci Wills

Well, I did it! I have been irrigating my colostomy for several months, and for the most part my bowels are pretty regular. Like I said a few days ago, I have never had the courage to wear only a stoma cap outside the walls of my house, but yesterday I did it, and I plan to do it again today! Wearing the stoma cap meant that I could wear a regular bathing suit without the “granny panties” I often wear to hide the bulge of the bag.

A bunch of my friends were taking their kids to the YMCA to swim, and I just decided that if I was ever going to wear the stoma cap, I would have to start sometime. A stoma cap is exactly what it sounds like — it’s a small round adhesive cover with a little filter to let the gas out. This is not a bag of any sort, and couldn’t hold more output than what a day-old baby might produce. To my surprise, I wasn’t as worried as I thought I would be. I ate rather responsibly, and I avoided the greasy or sugary foods that I know cause my colon (or what I have left of my colon) to hurt and sometimes “release” when I’m not expecting it.

As I left the house, I took a picture of myself and texted it to my husband. The message with the picture said, “I am one step closer to a bikini.” When we came home, I was so excited that it actually worked that I was bouncing around the kitchen singing – I wore a regular bathing suit! I wore a regular bathing suit!

If this continues to work, and I find myself brave enough to wear a bikini out in public, then this too will be one more way I can share my story and spread awareness. The first person who asks “What is the band aid thing on your stomach?” is in for quite an education!

This is such a HUGE milestone in this journey. I know my body still has a long road to a full recovery, but this was a significant step in my emotional recovery. A simple stoma cap has given me so many more options. If I choose to wear a stoma cap more often, I can pick any bathing suit I want, and I won’t have to worry about hiding the granny panties under the bathing suit. A stoma cap will give my skin time to heal, as sometimes I have little sores, redness, burning, and itching skin under the bag. This is very common for ostomy patients, but thankfully I don’t experience this that often. However, last Thursday the irritation was so bad that I ended up staying home all day with only gauze covering my stoma, as I tried to give my skin a little break from the adhesives that I have to use.

Please don’t think that I mind wearing the bag or that I’m an ostomy “hater.” I’m so grateful for my ostomy. I can’t hate it, because having a colostomy saved my life, but sometimes I get tired of wearing girdle-like granny panties to keep the bag concealed. I get tired of wearing bathing suits that are made for women 20 years older than me. I get tired of the constant skin sensitivity. If wearing a stoma cap makes me feel a little more like my old self, then every minute I spend irrigating is well worth it. I’m worth it.