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#gettingstrong

I blogged recently about joining the gym and also swimming with an ileostomy bag and wanted to do a catch up post about the first week in my quest of #gettingstrong – the hash tag is what Im using for both instagram and twitter.

I just want to explain a little more about my reasons behind this lifestyle change.  I laugh and joke about shedding the fat and getting skinny, but I have to admit my main reason is fear.

Im scared, man!  After my surgery and during the first few weeks of my recovery I was shocked and so frightened by just how weak my body was.  I *know* it’s normal to be wiped out ofter surgery and that was explained to me but the reality of it was extremely difficult.  The total lack of control was the hardest, the inability to even walk to the toilet, the need for help in the shower and the extreme tiredness freaked me out.  Im an independent woman and Ive always done everything for myself.  I moved out of home at a young age, and then once married I spent 9 months of the year raising the kids alone as Timm’s job took him away from home so much.

post surgery ibd ulcerative colitis colectomy ileostomy

Post op

So to suddenly have to entirely rely on other people was HARD.  Timm stepped in and did so much, along with help from family and friends (for which Im so grateful) I didn’t need to raise a finger.  The first weekend after I came out of hospital Timm had to work away for the weekend and so my mum and best friend Caroline came and looked after me, they cooked, cleaned, helped me shower, changed bedding and just cared for me.

The weeks of laying in bed were really difficult, as much as I knew it was necessary to allow my body to heal, meant that my muscles became even weaker.  After the hardship of the ulcerative colitis, then the huge amounts of medication pushed into me and then the surgery itself, I have never felt so completely drained, weak and helpless.  The steroids I had been taking for months had made me gain weight and made me feel like crap.

I know that whatever decision I take in the next year, whether I keep my ileostomy bag or have the take down pouch surgery, I will have to have at least one more surgery.  The thought of this terrifies me, not so much the surgery itself (though that’s pretty scary too) but the recovery… The idea of being reduced back to a weak, out of control being is kind of heart breaking.

And so I have two options.  I can spend the next year worrying, panicking and being upset at the thought or I can take control of the situation and do everything I can to ensure that going into that operating theatre I am as strong, healthy and fit as possible.  I know that this won’t stop me needing to recover and that Ill still feel like shit after the op whatever I do, but if I can go in feeling strong, I have a better chance of an easier recovery.

This week I joined the gym, I have been swimming, been to the gym twice, once with a personal trainer, done an aqua fit class, a deep water fitness class and a Pilates session!  My ileostomy bag held up for all of the activities and I have been careful and made sure Im not straining myself too much.  All of this just 8 weeks after surgery!!

getting fit after surgery

In my gym gear – can you see my bag?

This surgery saved my life, it has improved my quality of life vastly and meant I could come off the vast amount of medication I was taking before.  In stopping the meds I already feel a million times better.  I realised that I have been taking my body for granted for so long.  Now Im missing my colon I need to use this time to start looking after myself.

And so that is what Im doing.  I refuse to choose fear.  I choose #gettingstrong

Love Sam xx

Swimming with a stoma

I’ve been swimming tonight for the first time since the surgery. I was really nervous about going in the water wearing a bag but after 8 weeks and with our trip to Australia coming up fast I thought it was literally time to take the plunge.  It was definitely a psychological barrier, but it has been one that has played on my mind since my op as I knew I would want to be in the water in Australia so I wanted to face my fear as soon as possible.

I read up a lot on swimming with a stoma and found that it was recommended as a great gentle form of exercise, the information assured me that my ileostomy bag will hold out in the water and wouldn’t end up floating past me.  The adhesive on the flange (yep, its still ok to laugh at the word – I still do!) is designed to stay on in water, in fact the water strengthens the adhesive.  It is all well and good reading about it though, I still didn’t believe it!

Just-Keep-Swimming

So I used my usual dansac bag but added extra sticky patches around the edge to give me added confidence.  These were actually more of a hindrance that a help as I found the water went underneath it on the side closest to my belly button and it lifted.  But my ileostomy bag itself held perfectly well, no leaks, no lifting on the edges and no problems at all! So pleased!! I decided not to eat for a few hours before swimming in the hope that output would be to a minimum and that was helpful even if just to my head.

My other worry was that the bag would be really visible through my costume,  Im not too worried when we are on holiday and I am planning to wear a bikini on the beach, but I felt I wanted it covered at my local pool.  You can buy specialist stoma swimwear from a few places (just google!) which have pouches sewn into them to keep your bag tight against for body and protected, but to be honest Im still to find one that looks nice!  Some have a nice design but are in vile fabrics, others are in inoffensive fabrics but look poorly made.  Ill be damned to pay £40 for a bikini that doesn’t make me feel fab!  I wore my own swimsuit tonight which is black with a heavy floral pattern and my bag was barely visible.  I suppose if you really stared you’d see the bottom of the bag but that would be weird…

Changing afterwards worried me a bit, but I made sure I had all my stoma stuff with me.  I was hoping to not have to change the bag but as the extra stickies I applied had lifted, they had gone sticky and when I took them off, they lifted the flange on the bag. So I did a full change and despite my concerns, it was all fine!

During the swim I took it easy, we went as a family and so I swam lengths slowly with my daughter.  I felt the muscles in my stomach and chest really stretching, not painful but a good stretch.  I made sure I didn’t over do it and would have stopped if I felt any pain.

I feel really good tonight, it feels great to be exercising and even better to feel more in control of my body.  I would highly recommend it to anyone with a stoma.  I know it is so scary but now I have done it once, I am looking forward to more swimming, aqua fit classes and mostly a holiday on the beach in and out of the sea with no worries and no stress!

Love Sam xx