People become Ostomates for myriad reasons including inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) like Crohn’s, colitis, and ileitis; physical injuries through trauma; bowel obstruction; and as a surgical outcome from colorectal cancer (CRC). All patients with an IBD are at an increased risk for CRC and extra care should be taken to ensure optimal health is maintained. This means eating clean, maintaining a healthy weight and having regular check-ups with your GI specialist.
In 2012, I was diagnosed with stage-4 colon cancer. I was 46 years old at the time and (I thought) in perfect health. That is, until I wasn’t. One fine day in July I woke up in the ICU with my new ostomy after days in and out of the ER complaining of flu-like symptoms and stomach pains. I was in that ICU because a 3cm tumour had caused a blockage in my colon, which ultimately led to a ruptured ileum. I have a vivid memory (and it’s pretty much the only memory from that summer) of my oncologist standing over my bedside with his little chart telling me and my family that “if I was lucky” and I did the six month regime of chemotherapy, I had a 6% chance of being alive at the two-year mark. Yup, life can throw you a bushel of lemons without warning.
In the weeks and months following diagnosis, I immersed myself in learning all I could about my own care. I unwittingly joined Cancer U. and began my studies in Oncology 101 and Nutrition for the Shortened GI, Advanced Degree. To this day, I am astounded at how little support there is for the CRC Ostomate once they leave the hospital. In conversations with my fellow Ostomates, it is my understanding that support is not much different for those with IBDs or trauma-based ostomy. Fluid replacement and diet are incredibly important to the Ostomate’s wellbeing, as is safe exercise and mental health. So I’ve made it my personal mission to learn all I can to help guide the new Ostomate to transition to a normal, healthy, and active life.
For those of us in a higher risk category, education is vital to our survival. So, for the next month, with the help of my friends here at Stealth Belt, I am going to share survival tips in the areas of nutrition for the shortened GI tract (I call mine my “semi colon”), safe exercise strategies for the Ostomate as well as a few lifestyle hacks. And if you are one of the lucky ones and you have a chance at ostomy reversal, I’ll share preparatory and post-operative survival tips for a speedy recovery.
Of course, we would love to hear from you on all of these topics, so post your comments as you see fit.
See you next week.
Trish is a graduate of the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and a Personal Trainer. In 2012, she was diagnosed with stage-4 colon cancer and after six months of chemotherapy, underwent several lifesaving surgeries. Today, Trish draws from her experience and education to empower others to survive and thrive. She writes for Your Health and Fitness Matters Magazine and she is the principle consultant for In The Bag Nutrition, which is dedicated to helping patients with ostomies, or resected GI tracts, to eat healthfully, exercise safely and to embrace life fully. Check out her story at www.trish2dot0.com.