Finding a purpose: using my stoma journey to help other ostomates

12 June 2024
Finding a purpose: using my stoma journey to help other ostomates

André Estrela turned his Crohn’s disease diagnosis into a positive force, becoming an ostomy influencer and creating the support platform ‘Ostomia em Foco’

Hi, my name is André Estrela, I’m a 33-year-old ostomate living with a permanent ileostomy. My ostomy journey began in 2011 after a long struggle with Crohn’s disease. Despite my initial hesitation, I’ve come to embrace my stoma and even named it Charlie! Now, with a degree in Advertising and Marketing and an MBA in business management, I’m using my skills, alongside my lived experience, to help others through my social platform, Ostomia em Foco (Ostomy in Focus).

Finding my purpose: from fear to ostomy advocate

When I first learned I needed an ostomy, I was terrified. The fear of the unknown and lack of relatable information about life with a stoma filled my mind, I even said that I would ‘never wear a bag on my stomach’. However, after three severe hospitalisations with haemorrhage and having a cardiac arrest in the last one, I had no choice. After my surgery, thanks to incredible support from my wife and family, I realised how lucky I was. Many people go through this process alone. That’s when I decided to become the resource and support I wish I’d had during these early stages. And so, Ostomia em Foco was born!

Ostomy life: tips, tricks and adventures

On Ostomia em Foco, I strive to normalise life with an ostomy. I share practical tips on everything from fashion and fitness to work and travel – all from my perspective as an ostomate. As a Rio resident, one of my most popular topics is hitting the beach in the scorching summer heat (that often hits temperatures of 60°C).

André spending the day at a waterpark, while wearing his stoma bag -

Overcoming ostomy challenges in heat

Living in a hot climate like Rio comes with its challenges, many of them dermatological. Here are some issues I’ve faced and the solutions I’ve come up with:

Skin irritation: Sweat can cause allergies and rashes. To combat this, I use a variety of products, including the Convatec SUR-FIT Natura® Two-Piece Stomahesive® Skin Barrier and the ESENTA wipes and sprays

Frequent bag changes: The heat, as well as frequent visits to the pool/ocean, can reduce your bag’s lifespan. I always carry extra supplies

Dehydration danger: I make sure to drink even when I’m not thirsty. Electrolyte drinks are a lifesaver!
The power of sharing

My goal with Ostomia em Foco is to provide light-hearted and informative content that makes adjusting to an ostomy a little less daunting. I want to be that positive voice and source of support for anyone facing this life change. If you or someone you know is navigating life with a stoma, please reach out – I’m here to help!

André Estrela is an stoma patient who runs the Ostomia em Foco Instagram page. After getting his ileostomy, he uses his social media to help and guide his fellow ostomates
Instagram: @ostomia_em_foco