Waking up to find a bag attached to your abdomen is a profoundly changing moment, even if it was something that was discussed with you before surgery. It can be met with courage, grace, and still a sense of scepticism. My stoma is a testament to my strength, resilience, and endurance, especially after my battle with bowel cancer. When the time comes to share your story with friends, family, and colleagues, remember that you’re not just explaining a medical condition—you’re opening a window into your journey of healing and adaptation.

Embracing your new normal with friends & family

Share your triumph

Begin by framing your stoma as a victory. I didn’t just face bowel cancer – a formidable opponent – I beat it! I was able to come out on the other side. Let them know:

“My stoma isn’t just a medical procedure; it’s a symbol of my triumph.”

Educate with heart

Explain what a colostomy is in simple terms, but also share how this has improved your quality of life, whether you suffered from an IBD or bowel cancer. Use approachable language and perhaps even a touch of humour to lighten the mood if it feels right.

Celebrate the positives

Focus on the positive outcomes. Maybe you’re feeling better than you have in years, or you’re able to do things you couldn’t before. These silver linings are not just good for you—they give hope to others who might be facing similar challenges. Maybe, like me, your stoma has given you a new perspective on life and a newfound purpose.

Normalise the conversation

By talking openly about your stoma, you help break down barriers and stigmas. Encourage questions and discuss how common stomas are, showing that life goes on and can be full of joy and opportunity post-surgery. It’s also important to explain that you’re still getting to know your stoma and understand the adjustments needed for a smooth and successful transition to your new life. For example, my tolerance of spicy foods is nowhere near where it used to be and if I have too much protein I feel very bloated, however, I can devour pecan plaits by the bucket load and I can consume a lot more dairy than I used to.

It’s important to keep an open dialogue with your family and friends. 2 years on my kids are still asking me questions about my stoma and my stoma’s sudden eruption is still bringing them laughter.

Navigating the workplace with confidence

Advocate for yourself

When discussing your stoma at work, do so with confidence. You’ve adapted to a new way of living, and you can advocate for what you need to thrive in your job. It’s very important that you have an open and honest conversation with your workplace.

Highlight your capability

Make it clear that while you may need certain accommodations, your ability to contribute and succeed at work remains unchanged. Your stoma doesn’t define your professional capabilities. A good workplace will do all it can to help with your transition back to work and make reasonable adjustments if needed.

Inspire through action

Be a role model for resilience in the workplace. Your openness and adaptability can inspire colleagues to handle their own challenges with grace.

Remember, every conversation you have is an opportunity to educate, inspire, and normalise life with a stoma. You’re not just sharing a personal detail; you’re shining a light on the reality that life’s hurdles don’t have to slow us down—they can be the catalyst for newfound strength and purpose. Your story is powerful, and by sharing it, you offer hope and solidarity to those who might one day walk a similar path.

Mohammad
@colon_cancer_and_me

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