Braving a bikini after ostomy operations – what was I so worried about?


Over the last few years photographs of young women baring their ostomy bags on beaches across the world have become a regular sight on social media feed, so much so I don’t even notice their bags anymore.

Ever since the first photo appeared on twitter of a “bag on the beach” I’ve been trying to get up the courage to bear my belly to the summer sunshine – but I’ve never quite been brave enough.

But this summer after years of hiding my pasty white belly from the world I finally plucked up the courage to wear a bikini for the first time since my operations.

For years I somehow had the confidence to wear the tiniest little string bikini, you know the ones which are just a little flimsy triangle of material – not even enough to wrap a sandwich in let alone cover your modesty.

In my experience those tiny pieces of cloth are designed to cause as much embarrassment for young women as possible. Firstly they never fit properly and, even if they do, they happily malfunction if you try to do anything other than lie flat on your back sun worshipping all day.

There’s nothing like the horror of being hit by a wave or shooting out of the end of a log flume only to realise you are topless and flashing your boobs to the whole world, all while your top floats around taunting you, looking rather like a black turd bobbing around in the water.

For all those reasons, and due to a lack of confidence, I opted for a much safer alternative for my first outing in a bikini since my operation – the high wasted granny pants and bra top.

Despite my massive pants pretty much covering all but the very top of Winnie, walking out to the pool in Santorini on the first day in my bikini filled me with a sense of dread. I was worried people might stare; perhaps wonder if it was sanitary for me to be in the pool; and what they would think when my belly started to expand.

I hardly notice Winnie in my day-to-day life anymore; I can wear pretty much anything I want and don’t really care if people can see the outline of my bag under my dress or top, but for some bizarre reason the thought of lying by the pool with my bag on display frightened the living daylights out of me.

It was ridiculous to be so worried and insecure, naturally no-one batted an eyelid.

Actually the hotel we were staying in was so small I would have felt comfortable going the whole hog and I wish I’d taken a tiny little string bikini in my bag in case I’d got the guts to go for it by the time we left.

To be honest it was probably for the best that my bag was securely tucked away – the wind was so strong pint glasses went flying, so my ostomy would have been flapping around like a white flag in the wind which wouldn’t have been pleasant for anyone.

Hopefully one day I will feel comfortable enough to strut along a beach with Winnie on display, but I don’t think I’ll be swimming in a tiny string thong any time soon, experience tells me not to risk outfits secured by flimsy knots after a certain age.

I hope if you’re going on holiday in the next few weeks you have the confidence to wear a bikini, if not loads of department stores have some really stunning swimming costumes on sale at the moment, including ones with tummy control and little skirts to hide any telltale signs of your bag.

 

This is the one I wore two years ago in America, which was great at covering my ostomy so soon after my operation…..it also helped after eating my own weight in burgers! IMG_5956

Advertisements

It’s getting hot in here!: Coping with dehydration with an ostomy


Firstly I want to apologise for not blogging for so long. Since we last spoke life has been hectic. I have abandoned my normal minimum two blogs a week rule in order to keep up with an escalating workload; to restart my French learning; to get fit; crack on with my novel, and in favour of white wine in the summer sunshine (you have to grab it while it’s here)!

photo-4

But, as of today I’m back! I’ve missed telling you all about my adventures and sharing my experiences with you all. I’ve also missed hearing your stories and getting tips on how you all cope with Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis. Love me or hate me you can be reassured I’m back for good – you can’t get rid of me so easily. 

Anyway, today I want to talk about dealing with one of the biggest problems I have living life without a colon. No, it’s not the fact that sprouts, baked beans and spinach magically reform and come out whole no matter how much I grind them to a pulp; the sudden expansions of my bag when it fills with gas; the unexpected (and very loud) farts she likes to make in the middle of meetings; or the fact my poo turns purple when I eat beetroot.

It’s dehydration which causes me the most problems. And it’s not just irritating to have increased watery output, but it can also be dangerous. 

Yesterday as I crammed on a boiling tube along with hundreds of other irate commuters to get home from a conference in London, I felt the awful effects of severe dehydration kicking in. The heart was ridiculous and I could feel myself flagging as I stared into a sweaty armpit immediately in front of my face. Stupidly I hadn’t thought to carry a bottle of water and I could feel my energy zapping away with every airless second that passed.photo-2

Luckily I made the short ride to the train station before my ostomy output went through the roof. On my journey home (over three hours in the end) I must have emptied about three litres of liquid out of my bag, which would rush out so quick I would be racing backwards and forwards to the loo, bobbing up and down beside the engaged cubicle, and hoping to god the other person inside didn’t have IBD as well.

I felt dreadful afterwards. I had all the signs of dehydration. But as per usual it had crept up upon me and I hadn’t realised before it was too late. As I sit in the sunshine writing this blog I’ve still got a headache from it.

Ok, so when it’s this hot (30 degrees, if your not in the UK, is hot for here, believe me) everyone, whether you have IBD, an ostomy, a bald patch, a clicky hip, anyone is greater danger of dehydration. But if you have an ostomy you have to be far more vigilant – as we are already prone to it anyway.

Dehydration can occur after ileostomy surgery as the purpose of the large intestine is to absorb water from the indigestible waste and then expel the waste material from the body through bowel movements.

During ileostomy surgery, a part or all of the large intestines is removed, which prevents the body from absorbing water from the waste before it is excreted from the body. Dehydration can occur when the person does not drink enough fluids to replace the fluids lost as the waste moves through the stoma and into the attached bag.” (Stoma Wise) 

Apparently when you have a stoma you should drink one litre above the average recommended consumption of liquid for a person without a bag. And that isn’t when it’s swelteringly hot!

I put my hands up to not looking after myself and being far too busy rushing around chasing stories, working and enjoying myself to remember to drink enough water. I am terrible with it. And having re-started my running and fitness regime, running in the soaring temperatures, I have put myself into the dangerous category without even realising it.

Not only that but according to Stoma Wise: 

Dehydration can also upset your electrolyte balance (especially potassium and sodium) When the colon (large intestine) is removed, there is a  greater risk for electrolyte imbalance, Diarrhoea, excessive perspiration and vomiting can also increase this risk.” (stoma Wise) 

So, after a few close dehydration calls and some unpleasant side effects, I have decided to start playing it safe, and hopefully stop dehydration creeping up on me. photo-5

Here are some tips I thought I would share with you. If you have any please let me know.

NOTICE THE SIGNS

Dehydration can include: Increased thirst, dry mouth, dry skin, decreased urine output, fatigue, shortness of breath, stomach cramps.

Sodium Loss can include: Loss of appetite, drowsiness and leg cramping may 

Potassium Loss can include: Fatigue, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, decreased sensation in arms and legs, and a gassy bloated feeling

STAY HYDRATED – even a lolly will help (for me anyway)

I’ve found that buying a filtered sports bottle has really helped. I currently have the Brita filter bottle which I carry around. I put it in the fridge overnight so that the water is cold all day at work. Eating very soft fruit like nectarines has also helped give me fluid, however be wary some fruit can cause problems for ostomies as the skin doesn’t digest. Popsicles are also a good call. 

AVOID EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL

Sun + alcohol = carnage (enough said).

ADD SALT

The only thing I have salt on as a rule is chips meaning I am very salt deficient. I have started adding a small amount to my meals (when it still tastes ok) to try and combat my ‘salt leaching’ situation.photo-3

TRY NOT TO GET CARRIED AWAY

For all sorts of reasons this is common sense for everyone, but it is easy to get caught up with the ‘beer garden’, drinks after work, and lapping up the sun mentality. I am guilty of it as I write this. But try to be sensible. Dehydration is a creeping feeling – you won’t know it has happened until you start feeling ill.

Do you have any tips? Please share them….