Having a stoma isn’t just for Christmas, obviously it is for the entire year and in the summer us ostomates have to deal with a variety of trials and tribulations just to have fun in the sun. Whether it’s ensuring we are hydrated well enough day to day or ensuring we have the right support equipment, stoma products and travel essentials – having a stoma in the summer time can be quite complicated. In this blog, I am going to share some of my experiences and mistakes so you don’t have to and you can be fully equipped to enjoy the remaining summer months…
I’ve had my stoma now for two years and subsequently two summers. The first of which was post lockdown, so travelling wasn’t really on the cards, other than to local parks and fields. This year though, I’ve managed to travel a lot with work and with my partner and I found that even though it can take some additional preparation, summer time shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the sunshine.
Plan your journey ahead
First thing’s first, let’s talk logistics…
Whether you’re travelling near or far, the best thing is to plan your journeys. I’ve been fortunate to travel a lot recently and each time I make sure I plan my trip. This can be as basic as ensuring you’re arriving at your departure gate well in advance and ensuring you have the correct medical insurance and travel documents. But for ostomates reading this blog, it’ll be about what are you going to take in terms of stoma supplies. When I travel, I always take loads of additional stoma bags. Either in my holdall, my laptop case if I have to travel to an office, or carry on so even if I have any bag leaks or accidents I’m pretty much covered. My worst nightmare would be to arrive on holiday somewhere and have all of my stoma supplies in my holdall luggage, only for the luggage to go missing and I have to survive off the same stoma bag for several weeks at a time. It’s best to plan ahead and have your supplies freely available to you should you need them. Talk to your travel operator (planes, trains and automobiles) to see what options you have.
One of our ambassadors, Laura MacKenzie, suggested that I speak to my airline before travelling as you can take on your stoma supplies in an additional carry on. You will need to provide medical documents and talk with their special assistance teams. I have done this before and it was rather smooth sailing to be honest (or should that be flying?)!
Try not to worry
The other main thing with travelling is to not actually worry too much about travelling with a stoma itself. I’ve read several comments where people get concerned about their bag inflating when they fly or something along these lines and if I’m completely honest, that’s absolute rubbish. If my bag could inflate in such a way I wouldn’t walk anywhere, I would simply float and that would be fantastic wouldn’t it! Although you’d probably see me hovering around having not quite worked out how to lower myself back to the ground but there we are! Anyway, the point here is not to worry about any inflation of your bag if you’re getting on an aeroplane.
A question I get asked is “Can you swim with a stoma?’ Of course you can! If you go swimming with your bag, your bag isn’t going to suddenly fill with water or come off. The bags are designed to stay on you as normal as if you’re sitting here reading this article, so you shouldn’t experience anything different.
Another thing I find is incredibly useful is ensuring I have lots of hydration sachets and drinks to hand during the summer. I was travelling to Madrid on a work trip at the height of the “cabin crew crisis” and I was delayed in the airport for quite a while. In the airport, the vending machines weren’t working and I was a long way from the main terminal so all I could get was water. I’d forgotten to pack my hydration sachets so although I was drinking fluid I wasn’t as hydrated as I could have been and I didn’t feel great at all when I got home! So lesson learnt, pack some hydration sachets!
Accessories to support your stoma bag
If you do plan on going to the beach, I’d highly recommend using some of the Respond flange extenders or support extenders if you’re going to be getting in and out of the water. Now I’m quite an active swimmer. I really enjoy swimming, especially in the sea when you’ve just been bathing in the sunshine for a while, you’re baking hot and you want to cool off by having a nice relaxing dip in the sea. I’ll tend to run into the sea and bundle myself over into the water. I look as graceful as a duck coming in for a crash landing. Having extenders keeps my bag secure to my body and it doesn’t matter how often I get in the water, I know I won’t have any problems.
Now you may be someone that wants to dive in the pool constantly and have a more peaceful experience. Even so, I would highly recommend the extenders as they keep my bag stuck to me all the time and I’m not then having to change inbetween trips to the pool.
Finally, go and embrace summer. Being body conscious is natural but I recommend you focus on you and what makes you happy! If that is running around the beach with your bag out then happy days, if not, don’t worry just enjoy the time that you have on holiday.
Summer is also time for you to switch off, whether that be with a good book, a beer, or glass of sangria at the seaside, an ice cream or going for a long walk with friends or family, you deserve time to yourself to relax. (Just me writing that sentence makes me want to go back on holiday and sit by a pool and read a book and care so much less about work and spreadsheets and presentations but hey ho!). This also means switching off and relaxing and not worrying about your bag. If you’ve planned everything correctly, you’ve got travel insurance, you’ve told the people you need to tell, you’ve packed enough essentials and spares, then you shouldn’t really need to worry because going on holiday with a stoma. Going on holiday with a stoma is the same as going on holiday without a stoma, all you’re doing is packing a few extra bags (no pun intended).
So whatever you do this summer, get out there and enjoy yourself because it’ll soon be raining again – no sorry, you’ll soon be back to reality and normal life, so enjoy the experience in whatever you get up to.