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Being a teenager can be challenging enough, so needing a stoma on top of all the other changes your body is going through can make it even harder. But don’t worry − although it can be a steep learning curve, eventually having a stoma will become part of your normal daily routine.
It's completely normal to feel anxious when you first get a stoma - some of the thoughts and worries that might go through your head are:
3 Key things to remember
- You are not alone: there are approximately 102,000 people in the United Kingdom with a stoma, and around 21,000 new ones are formed every year. So, whilst you may feel 'different' and self conscious, there are a lot of others just like you! Our bloggers share loads of different aspects of their lives with a stoma - you can read their experiences in the SecuriCare blog.
- The operations you have been through (including your stoma surgery) should mean an end to the pain, discomfort and maybe even embarrassment you might have felt because of your symptoms. Hopefully, now you'll no longer need to worry about having 'accidents’ or planning your life around being as close to a toilet as possible.
- There's no reason why your stoma should restrict you or stop you from doing what you've always done. Your Stoma Care Nurses are on hand to give advice when it comes to health, diet and lifestyle so, whether you're thinking about going on holiday or getting back into sport, talk to them and they'll give you guidance on managing your stoma so you can still do the things you enjoy.
Remembering this is easier said than done though, right? Which is why we want to answer a few worries you might have...
Will people avoid or bully 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 so you’ve probably walked past people with stomas in the street without knowing.
You can easily maintain control over who knows about your stoma. Only tell people that you trust (e.g. closest friends and family). Make sure they understand that this is very personal information to you so they shouldn't tell other people about it without your permission. If you do want to tell some people, try to plan and rehearse what you’re going to say so that you’re not caught off-guard. You could 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 now feeling much better. You don’t need to tell them any more than that, unless you want to. It’s extremely unlikely that the people you tell will change their feelings towards you, although they may be curious and ask questions.
You might actually find that your stoma brings an end to embarrassing symptoms that have previously led to bullying.
Nobody should have to put up with bullying, whether or not they have a stoma! If you ever feel you're being bullied, make sure you tell a teacher/your parents
Now I’ll never get a boyfriend/girlfriend
Telling somebody you fancy that you have a stoma can be scary - you may want to save this for when you're sure that a proper relationship is on the cards. On the other hand, the sooner that you get this out in the open, the sooner you can relax and get to know each other whilst being completely yourself. Either way, it is best to be honest and most people actually aren’t as easily scared off as you might think. If you are are over 16 and concerned about intimacy with a partner, you may find some of the information on this page helpful.
I’ll never be able to wear trendy clothes
Having a stoma doesn’t mean you suddenly have to start hiding yourself away and wearing only baggy clothes. There’s no reason why you can’t wear tight tops and jeans once your surgery scars have healed. Most swimwear can also hide your stoma and you can get different styles that may make you feel more comfortable. Patterned or ruched swimsuits may disguise your pouch more. There are lots of teen ostomates who have fashion blogs and Instagram profiles which may provide you with some inspiration - one of these is our sponsored blogger KTMY.
For some ideas, take a look at our Ostomy Fashion page.
No one will understand what I’m going through
Meeting other young people who have stomas can really help you see that you are not alone in needing a stoma. Visit our SecuriCare blog to read about the experiences of other young people like Hattie, Jen and Carrie who have all experienced growing up with stomas. Check out the support groups in our Resources section and consider joining some online groups, many of which have closed social profiles so you can chat securely to others who understand what you're going through. Make sure you speak to your Stoma Care Nurse for advice, too - they'll have loads of experience in helping people with stomas.