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University with a Stoma: Surviving Freshers Week

So, this will be my third (and likely, final) freshers week with an ostomy… A professional by now right? I wish! Prior to my surgery I didn’t think I’d ever manage moving away to university let alone the thought of freshers week or even ‘freshers fortnight’ thrown into the mix.

The truth is that the journey and transition to university is huge for anyone and everyone let alone throwing having an ostomy or a chronic illness into the cocktail – I’d be worried if you weren’t just a little nervous! However, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have the best time or why you shouldn’t join in on any of the chaos.

That being said, freshers was something I definitely was rather nervous about prior to the big move – I totally get it (actually, I used to get quite frustrated at those who told me not to worry… how ironic!). Not only does it consist of moving out, new housemates, new surroundings… it also comes with being thrown into a week or two of party culture often consisting of a lot of alcohol, socialising, rubbish food, sleepless nights, hangovers, new experiences and so on…

So, I thought I’d put together some tips and tricks that I’ve developed over the past couple of years in order to attempt to keep up with the madness that is freshers (emphasis on attempt because if somebody tells you they can keep up with absolutely everything during those couple of weeks, they’re most definitely lying – it is impossible to manage it all!)

Medication

Find your own way of remembering to take your meds. I certainly am awful after a drink or two, or three (woops!). All I can think about once I’m home is tucking into bed and crashing. My top tip is to take your evening meds before going out – we are students and most likely, on a tight budget so as a result, pre-drinks is a very popular occurrence. Often, we don’t tend to leave the house until as late as possible. This often means I can get away with taking my meds at the same time as usual before leaving to go out meaning I don’t mess up my routine and, fall asleep before taking them – bonus!

Be open and honest – Everybody’s in the same boat and everybody has their own things going on. These people will be around and living with you for at least this year so, it’s helpful to give them a little heads up however daunting it may be. You don’t have to go into detail or, bring it up out of the blue but I can guarantee there will be a point that somebody is chatting through some sort of ailment or complaint of theirs which will bring perfect opportunity for you to mention your own (even if it’s just to a select individual or two). You may even help somebody in the process – believe it or not, I found one of my closest friends at uni through having IBD and even gave her the confidence to open up about her Crohn’s disease diagnosis for the first time – crazy right?!

No pressure

Above all, despite wanting to, there is no obligation or pressure to attend anything you don’t feel up to. As boring and stereotypical as it sounds, your health and well being is most important so if that means missing a night and getting some well-deserved rest, then listen to your bod – nobody is superhuman and can combat it all (despite what they may make out!). They’ll be jealous of you when you’re fresh and ready to go again after a chill.

What to wear?

This could make for an entire post in itself (let me know if that’s something you’d like) however, my most important piece of advice here is to feel comfortable. I can guarantee, there will not be a week where you see more variation of outfits and looks than you do during freshers so use it as an excuse to wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable and confident whether that’s a bodycon or, your pj’s – literally, anything goes! My go to’s? High waisted jeans – dress them up with a nice top or bodysuit and heels or, down with a pair of go to trainers.

Know your limits (not just in terms of alcohol tolerance). University is generally a huge learning curve that just happens to kick off with freshers week. Ease your way in – trust me, it can be a huge shock to the system. It is difficult but try to build yourself a little routine, I promise it will help with the craziness even if its as simple as eating at similar mealtimes, going for regular walks or waking up at a similar time each day (I understand, easier said than done).

Don’t hold back

University provides opportunity for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and trying new things. Try not to let your ostomy hold you back; join a sports team, go on trips, participate in activities just know your limits and stay safe as you would with anything else. Go to your UNI’s freshers fayre and get a taste for what it’s all about – sign up for as many things as you fancy then if you go for the first time and it’s not appropriate/not for you then who cares, you’ve given it a go!

Know when one too many kebabs is enough

The first few weeks can be difficult, who wants to cook when there’s an option of a fat take away en route home each evening?! Look after your tum though and try to cater to its needs whatever they may be when possible – the last thing you want to do is upset it and ruin the experience for yourself. Lots of chain takeaways are increasingly catering for various dietary needs so suss them out before hand and head there (with company) at the end of your night out rather than stumbling into the first kebab shop you see. It won’t seem it at the time but I guarantee the next morning, you’ll be thankful you walked that extra couple of minutes.

You can never, ever take enough spare supplies on a night out and, *disclaimer*, a radar key paired with a ‘can’t wait card’ shall become your best friends – we all know that there is nothing worse than a busy club toilet!

‘Freshers flu’ IS A THING!!

You most likely know better than anyone else how quickly and easily run down you can get when everything and everyone seems to be running at 100mph. Take it easy and look after yourself (cold and flu tabs are a packing essential) you know your bod and its own personal limitations better than anybody so pace yourself. (OK, I promise I will stop now I feel like such a mother).

Research and talk to your university’s student services before going

They’ll be able to answer all of your questions, meet your needs and make arrangements for any extra support you may need during this period and, in fact, the duration of your time at university even if its just as a resource for somebody to chat to – it is discreet and can remain as anonymous as you’d like it to if you prefer that nobody knew.

Most importantly, as always, enjoy!

There is no other time quite like it – looking back its both the most random but, by far, the best couple of weeks so try not to let anything hold you back, take every opportunity with open arms and relax, be yourself and you’ll be just fine (and if not, your mum or your best pal from home are only at the end of the phone).

Amber

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Read University with a stoma: Moving Out & Student Living

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