What is a colostomy? Can I live a normal life if I have to have one?

What is a colostomy? Can I live a normal life if I have to have one?

A Colostomy, or a large bowel diversion through the front of the tummy wall to the skin, is performed when you have issues with your lower bowel. Some issues of the lower bowel can be addressed by temporarily diverting the stool away from it. However, in the case of rectal cancer, where the rectum and anal canal may be diseased, your rectum might be removed, and a permanent colostomy might be required.

A colostomy is one of the several procedures which are used to correct lower digestive tract problems. The surgical process of colostomy brings one end of the large intestine out through the abdominal wall. A stoma (means ‘opening’) is created by diverting one end of the colon through an incision in the abdominal wall. A stoma bag, also known as a stomal appliance or a pouch, is then attached to the skin around the stoma and collects faeces that pass through the colostomy. The faeces collected can then easily be disposed of. The stoma bag can be one piece or two, usually with a gel base that attachés to the skin and a plastic bag that connects to the base plate.

Once the colostomy surgery is performed, you will have a recovery period in the hospital that involves reintroduction of liquids and solids to your diet. You will be given the training to use your colostomy bag properly by a stomal therapist. You will also be instructed on your diet, activity level and other lifestyle changes. While the idea of a stoma may not be appealing, it is often life-saving and the stoma usually easily manageable.

Though there will be changes, most people return to their regular lifestyle and activities.

You can resume your old food habits with probably a few changes, recommended by your doctor.

You can continue to take part in all sorts of activities you were involved in before the surgery unless it is some contact sport that might lead to injuries. You will need to plan and prepare for all kinds of situations, but you can look forward to a healthy and mostly normal lifestyle.

You can get back to wearing your normal clothes unless your stoma’s position hinders it. Once you get used to the stoma and the colostomy bag, it will be easier for you to work around it. There are specific sports gear available to cover up your colostomy bag and stoma if you are swimming or involved in any other sport.

The material that the bags are made of ensure that there is no odour. While changing the bag you might notice the smell depending on what you ate, but once you shut it, the smell disappears. There are many appliance providers, so you can pick and choose if you are not happy with the one you are currently using.

You can also shower generally with your bag on. Some people, however, like to shower with the bag off to give the skin a break from the base plate of the stoma bag. The stoma is not harmed by exposure to water or soap. Do avoid scented soaps since they make it difficult for the adhesive on the stoma appliance base plate to stick onto the skin.

While you can live a healthy life, you will need to understand that things will sometimes be different. Other than filling yourself with the knowledge of the procedure and learning how to deal with the bag on a day to day basis, you may need to make a few required changes.

Many of the questions you have and the detailed answers required are best explained by your stomal therapist or surgeon.

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