Do you attend a local stoma support group? Have you thought about joining one but are anxious over what to expect? Many people find them a great help, and not only can these groups provide a regular support, but lots of people are able to build long lasting friendships through them. If you’re interested in joining a group ask your Stoma Care Nurse about somewhere local to you or take a look at the list on our website.
We recently heard from a woman in her early forties, who wishes to remain anonymous, but wanted to share her experience of attending a stoma support group in Durham.
I attend my local stoma support group in Durham and I’d like to share my experience…
My Stoma Care Nurses told me about the group because they knew I was struggling with the fact that this would be the ‘new’ me.
What I was expecting was a group of people sitting in a circle and saying. “Hi, my name is X and I have a stoma.” …Like an AA meeting in the movies. I thought I’d be asked questions like, “You have a stoma now, how does this make you feel?” …imagining a group counselling session. The thought of this brought me out in a sweat.
I’d been holding my emotions so close that the thought of having to share made me well up.
It also made me realise that I needed to let people in a bit. I was super nervous when I ventured to my first meeting. As I couldn’t drive after my surgery, I had received a lift to the meeting, so I used the ‘my lift is waiting’ excuse and left after ten minutes.
However, I felt a sense of achievement from that small act of just turning up and decided to go back when I was fitter and less emotionally fragile. In the following few months I’d gone back to work full time, started to drive again and generally felt a bit more human. I went back to the group.
I was welcomed by the regulars and sat quietly with a cup of tea - there’s always tea and biscuits.
For the first few sessions I watched and listened to people chatting about life in general and swapping stoma stories. There was never any pressure on me to do the same. Two years on, I now speak and share, which I struggled with at first, but it has been an unbelievably helpful process.
For me, the best thing about the group is having other people in a similar situation to talk to - people who understand. An added bonus is that I learn something new from each meeting I go to!
In my most recent dilemma, I asked for advice about dating. I’ve recently rejoined a dating site, something I wouldn’t have thought twice about doing before my stoma, but now seems like such a big step. I was worried about how and when to broach the subject of having a stoma, what to say, how to describe it etc. Even if the group couldn't be especially helpful, they still listened and shared some tentative advice, which was sweet of them, and talking about it helped me reach some decisions.
A problem shared is a problem halved.
It’s not good to bottle things up, so my advice to anybody who may be struggling mentally or physically, or even if you’re just interested in fellow ostomates like me, is to come along and share.
Remember: if you’re interested in joining a group ask your Stoma Care Nurse about somewhere local to you or take a look at the list on our website.
For details about the stoma support group in Durham you can call 01913 332184. The group meet on the first Monday of each month in the old Trust headquarters at Durham Hospital, at 5.30pm.
There are also two other support groups in the area: Bishopgate and Darlington. Contact the local Stoma Care Nurses on the number above for details.