Returning To Work After Ileostomy Surgery

by Nathan Wheeler

Nathan Smile

Let’s talk about going back to work after stoma surgery. I know it can be scary, it certainly was for me.

Rewind to 2006 – I had just left school and landed an office job that dealt with computers as well as food! Two of my favourite things! 

I started from the bottom and over the course of ten years, I managed to work my way up to the top of my post and I loved it! However, during those ten years, a lot had happened to me and the road was very bumpy.

After a year of working there, I had proved myself to be more than the typical ‘school leaver’. I wanted to learn, I wanted to succeed in life. But at the beginning of 2008, I started to feel ill.

I kept forcing myself to work because I didn’t want to be known as one of those people that took lots of sick days. I worked right up until the day before I was taken to hospital. I was so scared I was going to lose my job. Not because the company didn’t support me, but just because I really enjoyed being there and being sick just wasn’t part of the plan.

The company were brilliant, they really supported me through the illness and kept checking in to see how I was.

It was so nice because I was able to heal, while knowing they hadn’t replaced me or forgotten about me. It really was one less stress to worry about. I couldn’t have asked for a better company to be a part of.

I forced myself to go back to work after three months of being off sick. That’s three months after being told I was just two hours from death, so in hindsight going back that soon was probably a big mistake, but I just wanted to get back to my normal life. I didn’t want to be sick. 

I would highly recommend that even if you are physically well, you make sure you are mentally well.

I certainly wasn’t mentally ready for the life changes that I went through and I think rushing back to work and thinking everything would go back to normal, didn’t help with my mental state. I found myself having a very short fuse, I felt very anxious and I was SO worried that people could see my bag through my shirts. Obviously, they couldn’t – but in my mind, everyone was staring at me because they could see my bag. 

I arranged to do half days for a while when I returned. This lasted two weeks, because I was so persistent with getting back to normal! The other helpful arrangement was the use of a private toilet. 

They were lovely enough to provide me with my own toilet that was locked and was only for my use. This way I could leave my stoma supplies in there if I ever had the need to change my bag at work. Thankfully, in all the years, I only needed to do this once due to a faulty bag!

I want you to know that you should take your time in going back to work.

Make sure you are mentally, as well as physically prepared to enter the workplace after having your stoma surgery. You certainly can go back to work and continue just like you did before (job role dependent) but you will need to make allowances for yourself. 

Once I had settled down into my new life with my ileostomy and I was confident with myself again, that’s when I progressed within the workplace.

So, having a stoma doesn’t mean you can’t achieve and work hard to reach your potential! 

A few things I want to finish this blog post off with is the tips I learnt from going out to work: 

  • Always carry an odour neutraliser with you for use in the toilets
  • Eat little and often to prevent gas
  • Limit gum chewing to stop the build-up of gas in the intestines
  • Wear a stoma support band to give you a smooth figure. 

I hope this blog post helps anyone going back out to work!

Nathan.


Nathan Wheeler

About the author

Hello - I'm Nathan Wheeler! I'm a YouTuber and I've had an ileostomy since 2007 when I was just 17, so I have a pretty good idea about how to deal with the struggles of a stoma!  I want to share my experiences with you and bring a light-hearted approach to all the questions that no one wants to ask! You can follow me an Instagram and YouTube.

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