Some way along my journey the type of stoma bag I was given changed from a contained bag to one with a drain. You have to fold a tab at the bottom of the bag several times and then it remains closed and is secured with velcro in three places.
You can drain the bag directly into the toilet without ungluing the bag from your body. You get used to this, although it does take a bit of learning. You are standing in front of the toilet bowl to empty the bag.
I find it better to put a couple of strips of toilet paper in the toilet bowl before opening the flap of the bag. You are much less likely to be splashed with water if you do this, or splashed with the contents of the bag! I learned this the hard way.
Before undoing the flap you should tear several strips of toilet paper off so they are ready to wipe the flap clean. If you don’t you will turn around to the toilet holder to tear some paper off and contents of the bag will fly or drip all over the place! I promise you they can as I have done this.
When you unglue the bag, never ever wander about the bathroom or anywhere else for that matter with the stoma uncovered. You don’t feel when the bowel wants to empty – at least I don’t – and the contents can spray around the bathroom as if they are jet propelled! And again I speak from personal experience.
I hope you never need a stoma, but for those who have or might these tips would be useful. I wish someone had written them down for me.
A difficulty I found during the treatment for this type of cancer is the fact you need to soak your beam end following the daily radiation treatments. I can get in a bath but have difficulty getting out and I was on my own in a hotel during the weekly treatments. I found a piece of equipment like a bidet in a pharmacy in Cork city. It fits on a regular toilet. You can put warm water and saline into this and soak your beam end. It was a great success so much so CUH radiotherapy unit are recommending it to their older customers like myself. It only costs about €22.00 and is well worth the ease it gives.
It came into use again when I was ill and in hospital a couple of months ago.
Stoma bags are quite weighty but good old Ryanair allow me a 10 kg bag on board for free when I am travelling abroad. You have to get in touch with them and explain your reasons for the request. They send you an exemption form which you can show before you board.
I was worried about the disposal of the stoma bags when in Spain but they are to be treated exactly the same as nappies, so can go into the general household waste.
Swimming is not a problem as the stoma bags come with a separate little tag which you can stick to the bag so that it is completely sealed and airtight for the time you are in the water.
I have come a long way in the two years. I didn’t know at the start how I would cope. But I have. I have even changed the bag in the constraints of the toilet on a flight. If anyone reading this thinks I can help or give advice from my experiences, please do call me on 00353 (0) 87 287 4474. Or email me at email@example.com I was so frightened and scared of how I would manage at the beginning. Life goes on, but just a bit differently.