Finding Stability

Living With a Colostomy Bag: 6 Ways to Adjust

Living with a colostomy bag can seem overwhelming at first, but there are things you can do to make the transition a little easier.

Cancer changes your daily routine and creates new challenges, but with the right mindset and support system, that change doesn’t have to be devastating. If you have a colostomy procedure in your future due to cancer, you probably have a lot of questions about how your lifestyle could change after the procedure. Living with a colostomy bag, also known as an ostomy pouch, is different and scary at first, certainly. But one thing is certain: The more you know about your procedure and post-procedure life, the more empowered you can feel to take this new change in stride.

Keep Communication Open

Your oncology treatment team has your best interests in mind, and they can better meet your needs when you keep them informed. Talk to your counselor or doctor about any concerns or questions you may have, and don’t be afraid to speak candidly with them. They are professionals who have years of experience they can lend to you during the transition.

Practice With Certain Foods

Going out to eat with friends will remain a part of your life after your procedure. However, you may feel nervous to eat certain foods out and about with others, due to how they can react in your body. Until you get the hang of what foods work best with you and your new colostomy bag or pouch, try out the foods at home first. You will find which foods make you feel too gassy, and which foods make you feel great, so that you can head out to dinner feeling confident.

Ease Into Work

Going back to work after any procedure can be a wonderful return to normalcy. However, before you punch back in, consider speaking with your employer about an abbreviated schedule as you learn how to navigate work and your new colostomy bag. Returning for half days for a few weeks before resuming your full-time hours will allow you the time to build confidence and maintain energy. Also, you may feel better if you tell certain people at work about your procedure. While you do not have to tell anyone, it can be reassuring to know that the human resources director, a trusted colleague or your supervisor know what you are working through during the day.

Maintain Exercise

Hitting the gym after any procedure requires a doctor’s blessing, so be sure to talk to your oncologist before taking on movement of any type. However, once you get the OK from your treatment team, returning to the gym or a workout routine can help you feel strong and healthy again. You can still exercise and play sports with your colostomy bag, but you will likely feel nervous at first. It is OK (and safe) to feel cautious! Start with lighter movements like walking, and work up to more vigorous exercise or sports.

Talk to Your Partner About Intimacy

Once your doctor clears you for sexual activity, you may feel nervous about being intimate with your partner. Talk about your feelings with your partner and begin with whatever makes you feel most comfortable. You can also talk to your doctor about specialty clothing that can keep your bag or pouch hidden, which could help you feel more ready to return to intimacy.

Stay Prepared

Many people living with colostomy bags feel more confident when they are prepared while out and about. Tuck a bag of supplies into your purse, briefcase or gym bag so that you are never too far away from the supplies that make you feel more comfortable. As your bag or pouch becomes more familiar, you may not need as many supplies to feel confident.

Living with a colostomy bag requires a learning curve. However, you can handle it and will step into this new experience with your head held high and with a community of people rallying behind you. We are cheering you on!

Don’t be afraid to speak candidly with your doctor about any questions or concerns you may have about living with a colostomy bag.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress