On December 23, 2006, at age thirty-four, Carrie Morse was diagnosed with rectal cancer. In January 2007 she began two months of chemo along with thirty radiation treatments, followed by a surgery in which she was given a permanent colostomy. A colostomy, or an ostomy, is a surgical opening from an organ to the outside of the body created to allow for waste to empty into a pouch. Carrie shared her story of living with a colostomy in the book titled Planet Cancer: The Frequently Bizarre Yet Always Informative Experiences and Thoughts of Your Fellow Natives. We appreciate Carrie sharing her story and wanted to share some of her great tips:
- Do your research: Before Carrie’s colostomy, she did plenty of research online to find out what it was like to have an ostomy and all the different items that were needed. The United Ostomy Association of America has message boards and forums full of useful and helpful information.
- Speak with an Ostomy Nurse: Ostomy nurses know the tricks of the trade when it comes to handling ostomies. They are certified in caring for ostomies and handling skin care issues. Who better than an ostomy nurse to answer your questions?
- Find the equipment that is right for you: Carrie experimented with different types of bags and wafers until she found the combination that was right for her. Don’t be afraid to try and find what you need in order to become comfortable with your ostomy.
- Let others know what is going on: Some ostomies can make noises or even smell. Let your friends, co-workers, and boss know that you have an ostomy. You may be surprised to find out how considerate and accommodating your friends and co-workers will be.
- Plan ahead: You never know when or where your bag will fill up or your ostomy will begin to leak. When going out, make sure that you know if there is a bathroom and where it will be. Also, make sure to carry spare bags and wafers in the event that you need to change your bag.
- Don’t hold yourself back: Some people think that having a colostomy can prevent you from doing ‘normal’ activities. You will be surprised to find out that lots of people with ostomies still do many activities that they did before the ostomy. Just five weeks after Carrie’s colostomy surgery, she was able to participate in activities such as swimming. Living with an ostomy doesn’t have to be a challenge. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about what you can and cannot do. Don’t let an ostomy hold you back from life.
To read Carrie’s full story, check out the book on Amazon or visit LIVESTRONG online to learn more about ostomies. LIVESTRONG is here to help. If you or someone you know has an ostomy due to cancer and is in need of emotional support, contact us by calling 1-855-220-7777 or go online to fill out our Request For Help form so we can connect you to the resources you need.