Learning to thrive
More than 130,000 Americans have ostomy surgery each year. Some know-how and a supportive community can give you the confidence to thrive, but it helps to learn to accept your ostomy for what it is — a life-saving device.
Common concerns among new ostomates
Learning to cope with an ostomy may require dealing with issues like:
- Negative body image
- Struggling to maintain intimacy
- Avoiding social situations and travel
Adjusting to a new life
In spite of the high numbers of people with ostomies, learning to cope with one can still be a life-changing event. You may face social, emotional, and practical issues as you learn to adjust to a new way of life.
You may have endless questions running through your head as you return to life after your ostomy surgery. What about my job? Can I ride a bike with an ostomy bag? Will everyone know I have an ostomy? What about swimming or going to the beach?
Yes, you can live a normal life!
The answer to all of these questions is that you can do most, if not all, of the same activities you enjoyed before your ostomy surgery. You can be active, wear the same clothing as before, go to the beach, and most importantly, live a normal, full, and happy life with an ostomy bag.
Ostomies not only save lives, they also really help improve your quality of life.
Remember your emotional reactions are normal
It's normal to have mixed emotions after a life-changing ostomy surgery. Adjustment varies, but take time to learn self-care and accept your feelings.
Watch for signs that you may need help
Be on the lookout for symptoms of depression, such as feelings of hopelessness, excessive anxiety, or losing interest in enjoyable things. There’s no shame in asking for help.
Remind yourself that it’s all still new
You won’t change your pouching system perfectly after one day, and it may take time to get used to your stoma. But things will improve.
Build a community of support
Your community doesn’t need to be a big one. Having just a few people who are there for you can make a huge difference in your life.
Connect with a patient navigator
Our Helpline is free. Connect with a patient and family support navigator for support with your ostomy or other issues related to colorectal cancer.
My cancer and ostomy journey began with a rude awakening in January 2023. My father was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at 42, and given that history, I asked my doctor at my yearly physical when I should begin screening.
Every year on the first Saturday of October, people worldwide come together to celebrate World Ostomy Day, also known as Ostomy Awareness Day. This day serves as a reminder of the resilience, strength, and courage millions of individuals display each year living with an ostomy.
In this video, ostomate and certified patient and family support navigator Stephanie Rouse demonstrates how to cut and fit an ostomy wafer, or skin barrier, for a stoma.