When you get a stoma, the thought of a night out can be initially intimidating. However, once you’ve got your routine sorted, and as long as the underlying condition is under control, then the occasional night out shouldn’t be a problem. It’s when a night out turns into a weekend away that things require a little more planning.
‘with the right preparation it should go off without a hitch’
I recently went on a stag do—the fourth stag do I’ve been on since my IBD diagnosis and surgeries (two an ileostomy, two with an internal pouch). If you’re anything like me, this kind of event might involve lots of drinking, some dancing and then some more drinking, followed by a really long sleep and then more drinking. Managing a stoma with all this going on can seem like a daunting prospect, but with the right preparation it should go off without a hitch.
When you join a big event, the chances are you’ll be with people who don’t know about your stoma; there is bound to be someone you’ve never met. Every ostomate is different when it comes to how much they want to share and who they want to share it with. If you are worried that your stoma might restrict you in some way, it’s always a good idea to consider letting the organiser know about it. But it is also important to reassure them, and yourself, that a well-managed stoma shouldn’t be a barrier to most activities.
Richard blogs at Gutless Dick
For a weekend away, getting there can be the most stressful part, even without a stoma, and especially if public transport or airports come into play. Just make sure you have a spare appliance somewhere easily accessible, as well as accessories to change. Remember to order and bring a RADAR key, which gives you access to disabled toilets. You might be surprised how many places have RADAR-accessed toilets, including big chain pubs like Wetherspoons and even some nightclubs. Considering what general loos can be like; these can be a real comfort.
Drinking and eating
Being out and about with friends can involve drinking lots of liquid, which may give you a watery output. If so, it might be worth switching up what and how much you drink. I find lighter, shorter drinks, such as tonic, work better for me and cause fewer problems with my output. Do not feel you need to keep up with anyone else’s beer consumption.
‘a well-managed stoma shouldn’t be a barrier to most activities’
When a group of friends are out together, especially in the rush of a pub crawl, mealtimes can be forgotten or delayed. If you know you need to eat regularly to maintain your consistency, don’t hesitate to order food for yourself at the bar or take a little detour to a shop for a bite to eat. Don’t be afraid to ask others to join you; someone else is bound to be hungry.
If you plan on drinking, drink responsibly—for the facts, visit www.drinkaware.co.uk
Sharing a room
If you’re away for the weekend, it’s more than likely you’ll be sharing a room in a hotel or hostel, perhaps with people you haven’t met before. If you’re worried about odour, especially if you’re expecting a curry or a pint to make it a little smellier than usual, then put a deodorant in your bag before bed. If you don’t already use these, you can get a free sample for the weekend, and other solutions, including mint Tic Tacs, are available.
A few supplies can prepare you for tricky situations. I like to take a gelling sachet with me—tip one of these into your bag and it will trap the liquid output by turning it into gel. I also carry extra loperamide for slowing stools, but you should check with your doctor before using it if you don’t usually do so.
I carry mine, along with a spare appliance, a RADAR key and a few other bits, in a little Timberland man bag. I’ve never had a problem carrying this around, including on a pub crawl through Cardiff. If you need to put your bag in the cloakroom, make sure you first transfer your spare appliance to a back pocket, just in case. It might be worth putting your name and mobile number in the bag in-case you accidently leave it somewhere, and there are now all kinds of GPS aps that help you keep track of your things.
Stoma kitbag for a wild weekend
• Changing accessories
• Gelling sachet
• RADAR key
• Spare appliance
• Support garment
• Your contact details
Action and adventure
Adventure activities are often one of the highlights of a stag do. Having a stoma need not be an excuse to sit out of things like paintballing and go-karting, as companies including Vanilla Blush and Comfizz make a variety of belts, vests and underwear that support your core during strenuous activity and have been shown to massively reduce the risk of a hernia. These are vital if you’ve recently had surgery.
‘A few supplies can prepare you for tricky situations’
Just make sure you ask the organiser what they’ve planned in advance, so you can bring the right kit. You can get a stoma shield to protect your stoma from potential knocks, which is a very good idea if you’re going to be doing something particularly physical. When I last went paintballing, I found my stoma shield was an essential extra bit of body armour. If you’re planning on getting wet, there are stoma accessories made for swimming. All these accessories are available on prescription, so ask your stoma care nurse to help you pick out the appropriate kit.
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Having a stoma might be an extra challenge, but remember that it’s there to free you and allow you to live your life, and it shouldn’t stop you having fun.
Richard Harris is a 36-year-old father, blogger, poet and ostomate who lives near Bristol
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