The teenage years are a time of major change, which can be very challenging. Needing to get a stoma on top of all the natural changes your body is going through can make it all even harder.
It is completely normal to feel insecure when you first get a stoma - some of the thoughts and worries that might go through your head are:
The first thing to remember is the operations you have been through (including the stoma) should mean an end to the pain, discomfort and maybe even embarrassment you have been feeling because of your symptoms. Some people feel completely relieved once they get a stoma because of the enormous difference it makes to their lives – imagine no longer worrying about having ‘accidents’ or planning your life around being as close to a toilet as possible.
The second thing is that there is no reason why your stoma should restrict your life. You’ll soon find out that it’s not a question of what your stoma will stop you from doing – it’s more a case of what you will stop yourself from doing if you let it bother you.
People will avoid me if they find out I have a stoma
You might think that other people will somehow be able to tell that you have a stoma just by looking at you. This really isn’t the case – more people have stomas than you realise and you’ve probably walked past people with stomas and not realised that they had one.
Try to plan and rehearse what you’re going to say to different people so that you’re not caught off-guard. You might want to tell most people that you were very ill for a while, which is why you were off school for so long, but you’ve had an operation and are feeling much better. You don’t need to tell them any more than this, unless you want to. You could tell your closest friend(s) and your boyfriend/girlfriend that you now have a stoma – you’ll find it’s extremely unlikely that their feelings will change towards you. Make sure you make it clear that you are confiding in them and that you don’t want them to tell anyone else – this is to make sure that you remain in control of information that is very personal to you.
Having a stoma might actually be a liberating experience for you as you can now join in with activities that your friends are able to do. So go ahead and enjoy your newfound freedom.
I’ll never get a boyfriend/girlfriend
You might feel that telling someone you want to have a relationship with that you have a stoma will put them off. Most people aren’t as easily scared off as you might think though. It’s probably best to tell them early on, so you can relax and get it out of the way. The teenage years are often the time when many people first start having sex – some practical advice from your healthcare professional could help calm your mind of any fears to do with your stoma. It might help to empty your bag or put in a new one before becoming intimate. It’s also helpful to know that the pouch won’t break or burst, and won’t be damaged by pressure.
People will know I’ve got a stoma and could bully me
You might think that other people will somehow be able to tell that you have a stoma just by looking at you. But if you think about it - how many people have you looked at and thought they have a stoma? Probably none, but more people have them than you realise.
You can maintain control over who knows about your stoma very easily. Only tell people that you trust (e.g. closest friends and family) about your stoma. Make sure they understand that this is very personal information to you and that they should not tell other people about it without your permission.
You might find that the stoma brings an end to embarrassing symptoms that may have led to bullying. If you feel you are being bullied, make sure you tell a friend, teacher and parent so the bullying can be stopped as soon as possible.
I’ll only ever be able to wear baggy clothes
Having a stoma doesn’t mean you suddenly have to start hiding yourself away. There’s no reason why you can’t wear tight tops and jeans. Most swimwear can also hide your stoma, although very low-cut bottoms probably won’t be able to.
See more fashion tips here.
I’ll have to give up playing sports
There's absolutely no reason why you can't stay active with a stoma, although we would advise that you seek additional advice for contact sports such as rugby. More advice on continuing physical activity with a stoma can be found here.
I’ve always wanted to go travelling but that’s all over now
Like everyone else who goes travelling, all you have to do to enjoy your holiday is make sure you pack properly. Your stoma shouldn’t restrict you, as long as you have everything you need to change your stoma bag regularly. See advice on what to take with you when travelling or on holiday here.
I’ll look ugly with a stoma
Getting used to seeing yourself with a stoma will take time. After a while, your stoma will feel like a natural part of your body – no different to your fingers or knees. Your own underwear is usually fine and you should be able to keep up with the latest fashion trends – even tight tops and jeans aren’t out of bounds. There are also companies (White Rose, CUI and Vanilla Blush) which design attractive nightwear, underwear and swimwear especially for people with stomas.
No one will understand what I’m going through
Meeting other young people who have stomas will really help you realise that you are not alone in needing a stoma. Visit our SecuriCare advice forum to share your concerns, experiences, or to find views of other people who have stomas. Make sure you speak to your stoma nurse for advice - your nurse has a wealth of experience in helping people with stomas and knows exactly what you’re going through.