Keith is back with a blog all about his experience returning to work, and the steps he put in place to ensure he feels confident and secure with his ostomy at work.

If you are looking for some more information, check out our Before and After booklets here, which cover many helpful topics such as returning to work. We hope you enjoy!


Striving to be the best

The thought of returning to work after illness can be daunting enough, but after major surgery it may seem impossible. There are the physical hurdles to get over as you would expect, but many people may struggle with the psychological side of it. Being a full time bus driver with a stoma can certainly throw up a few challenges but I have a steely determination – and I knew that I wanted to get back to a normal life as soon as possible after my ileostomy.

In 2013, a year after my operation, I had the strong desire to return to a job (bus driving) I had enjoyed years before, and one where I felt fulfilled. I applied to First Cymru and from the outset I was totally open about what I had been through; illness, my operation, my stoma and I was completely up front about the fact I was still discovering the particular challenges that working full time presented. Luckily First took a chance on me and I have had the most amazing nine years.

In order to be fair to my employers, and myself, I have developed routines that I stick to quite rigidly because they work for me. Firstly, if I have to do a bag change, I did it at night; if there any unfortunate leaks, it’s easier to sort it out when the pressures of being at work are not hanging over me. If everything is fine, then I immediately feel more confident while I am in work.

Secondly, I make sure I am well hydrated throughout the day. This is very important if you have an ileostomy- and imperative in hot weather. I found this out the hard way when I collapsed after a shift and was taken into hospital where I was treated and then supported to recognise the signs of dehydration. I make myself drinks the night before my shift and put them in the fridge overnight. I carry them with me in an insulated bag which might make my work bag a bit heavier but that’s not a problem, becoming dehydrated certainly is.

Thirdly, I make sure I am totally familiar with my route; where the public toilets are, the distances and times between them so that I know how long it will take to get to the next one if I need to use it. I always use the toilet at every terminus; a routine wee and I always take the opportunity to empty my colostomy bag ensuring that I’m completely comfortable on my next journey. I have recently started driving an unfamiliar route and initially I had doubts as to whether it would be a suitable one for me, but thanks to me doing some “homework” everything has worked out perfectly.

Sticking to such routines in your working day not only eliminates any potential bag problems, but can ensure your day is a happy and productive one. I am very active on social media and use various platforms to raise awareness about living with an ostomy and to share positive aspects of my job. My employers and colleagues have been a massive support in all that I do, including my fundraising for charity that I commit myself to in my spare time.

Being a good bus driver is of paramount importance to me. I endeavour to be professional, supportive and happy! I try to be the very best I can be and I set out to encourage others along the way. I have taken part in a short film demonstrating how drivers have overcome personal health/ wellbeing challenges in their lives and how they manage as a bus driver. This film is currently being used for driver training purposes. Then, most recently,  I am proud to have appeared in another film aimed at recruiting the next generation of bus drivers.

During my time at First Cymru, I have been nominated by my employers for several awards and I have been lucky enough to have come away as a winner and a runner-up. These were proud moments indeed for me and my family. And now- to top it off- I actually have seen a dream come true, my picture on the side of a bus! (I am possibly the first ostomate to be featured on the side of a bus.)



When all is said and done, to do any job with a stoma can be a challenge, but I believe you owe it to yourself to give it your best shot. This has been a major factor in my achievements and if you’re prepared to do that, who knows where it might take you.



Thank you again to Keith for sharing with us this insightful blog and the helpful steps you have put in place, we’re sure it will be useful for a lot of ostomates!  Make sure to check out Keith’s Instagram page @keiththom2014 to keep up to date with Keith. 


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