Many of you may have heard the words ‘Colostomy’ or ‘Ileostomy’ thrown around. And you probably just didn’t even think of what that could be. Now some of you may have heard the phrase ‘Poop bag’, and you most likely giggled to yourself or made some sort of joke about how that’s disgusting. Don’t worry, most of us have. But I’m here to inform you all about everything you may, or may not, want to know about these wonderful bags that often get placed on those of us who can just count ourselves lucky.
So let’s get started, Crohnies.
Ostomy, Colostomy & Ileostomy
Ostomy is a type of surgery in which a surgeon creates an opening in the abdomen. It is a small hole near the belly button that is used for, you guessed it, pooping.
Colostomy is the opening created by a surgeon to bring the colon (large intestine) to the surface of the belly. There are various kinds of colostomies (Ascending, transverse, descending and sigmoid colostomy). All of which are very similar just with minor changes. These procedures can either be temporary, meaning you may only have the bag for a short period of time, or they can be life-long.
Ileostomy is the opening created by a surgeon to bring the ileum (third portion of the small intestine) to the surface of the belly.
Let’s Talk About Stoma, Baby
A stoma is the end of the large or small intestine that can be seen sticking out of the abdomen wall. It’s that little pink thing you see in the pictures above. You usually will only see the stoma when changing the bag or when you remove the bag. So don’t worry to all you non-baggers, you don’t have to shield your eyes in fear.
Most stomas will: stick out of the body usually an inch above the skin, they vary in size and can be oval or round shape, the color is red (similar to the inside of your mouth) and moist, and last, they do not have feeling.
Stomas can bleed easily if they are rubbed or bumped but it should resolve quickly, so don’t panic unless it doesn’t stop.
So now that we’ve taken care of our intestines and lovely little stomas, we’re going to go over some things about the Colostomy (Poop) Bags. What you all have been waiting for!
So you may be wondering what all goes down in that little secret bag displayed on your belly. Basically, it’s a pretty simple thing. Stool aka poop, will almost immediately after eating in some cases, make its way as far as it’s able through your intestines and then instead of exiting out of your butt, it’ll exit out of the stoma which is the front of your stomach. The stool will then slip into the pouch that is connected to you through a very thick adhesive sticker. These pouches can last up to four days until you need to change it out for a brand new one.
You wont be able to feel or control when your poop exits you. Some people don’t even realize it. The smell is concealed within the bag so don’t worry about others smelling you, it’s more hidden than when you pass gas through your pooper.
When the bag is about 1/3 or 1/2 full, you will sit or stand over a toilet and at the bottom of the pouch, empty the contents into the toilet, and all done! You can now seal that bad boy back up and exit the restroom, carrying on with your daily life.
The pouches are very lightweight and they lay flat against you. With many clothes, you can’t even tell it’s there! They come in all different shapes and sizes. Not only that, but you can buy all sorts of pouch covers. I happened to purchase a few lace ones, which I personally call my “Sexy Covers”. I plan to wear my bag with pride, so don’t be surprised when you see me rocking some crop tops with a cute little black laced pouch connected to the tummy.
Confidence is key, you beautiful people. Don’t be ashamed of your bag!
There are several pouch types:
- One Piece System
- Two Piece System
- Drain-able Pouch
- Closed End Pouch
You can pick which ones to wear whenever you’d like. It’s all up to you!
Tips, Not Necessary, But Greatly Appreciated!
Now that we know all about our pouching systems, I’d like to offer some tips and advice for daily activities.
Sleeping: Make sure you empty your pouch before bed and try to refrain from eating/drinking beforehand. Sometimes people find it easier to use a larger pouch at night.
Bathing: You have the option to shower with or without the pouch on. It’s all about personal choice. Some change their pouch during their showers or they remove the entire pouch and barrier prior to bathing. But remember, if you shower without the pouch, don’t be surprised when some visitors decide to shower with you through the stoma, because like I said, you can’t control when it decides to make it’s exit.
Sex: Empty the pouch beforehand. Don’t worry about an odor, the odor is concealed. If you want, wear some lingerie or a lace cover for your bag to make it a little more sexy. Smaller bags are also options for convenience.
Food/Diet: Make sure you work with a dietician or nutritionist! They know what’s up. But don’t forget everyone’s bodies are different, so what may hurt my stomach, could not hurt yours. When you eat, make sure you FULLY CHEW YOUR FOOD! I cannot express this enough. It will help with digestion.
Traveling: It’s usually not much of an inconvenience. But make sure you are always prepared. Bring extra supplies like pouches and bags. For airlines, pack all your supplies in a carry-on or purse. Make sure you pre-cut your pouches at home since scissors aren’t allowed on places. For road trips, just make sure you are careful where your seat belt is placed. Irritation and discomfort is never fun.
Exercise/Activity: Heavy lifting could cause a hernia. For the first 2-6 weeks after your operation, take it easy and do not lift anything over 10 lbs. Heat and sweat may decrease the barriers adhesive so be consistent with checking it’s in place. You are able to swim and use hot tubs with your pouch! Don’t worry, the fun doesn’t end. Just make sure it is protected and supported. If you want, wear a swimsuit with a high waistline or a full body suit and use a close end pouch.
Now, I am very confident with myself, but it hasn’t always been that way. When I first found out about getting a temporary ostomy bag, which will be happening in two days, on Monday, I was very insecure, embarrassed and discouraged. I thought to myself, wow, who wants to date a girl with a poop bag? And I realized, why in the hell would I ever want to be with someone who wouldn’t want to be with me due to something that is helping me live healthy, happy and essentially, having less pain? Please, if you are getting a bag or worry about what others think of the bag, DON’T! We spend far too much time worrying about what others think of us, and yes the pouch isn’t an ideal situation, but if you can come to the terms of loving yourself and being confident, you will be so much happier. It took me so long to have this confidence and feel this way, but now that I do, even though I haven’t had my pouch placed yet, I know I will be okay. We are all human and even though we may not have those perfect mod-bods, doesn’t mean we aren’t beautiful. Learn to love your bag. Some people even name their bags, which yes, I have already done.
The love we contain for ourselves, make it easier to love others. If you fear judgement, you need to accept that people will always judge you. It’s all about learning not to judge yourself. I wake up every morning and tell myself I am enough, I am beautiful, I am me. And it has made such a difference. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and that’s coming from a nineteen year old single mother who suffers from Crohn’s Disease and is having a poop bag put in place. Remember who you are and just know that you are beautiful to not only yourself, but others as well.
I will be posting a post-op article later this week on how I am doing with my temporary bag and the challenges of those first few days along with pictures. I’m also working on a few new Youtube videos that will be uploaded within the month. And reach out to me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter!