Five questions and answers about life with an ostomy

To help you better understand what life with an ostomy is REALLY like, we’ve asked the experts, and our ostomate veterans, and put together the best Q&A for newcomers.

Read Q&A

1. Will I be able to live an active life, doing things I enjoy like playing sports, swimming, and traveling?

YES! It may take some time for you to adjust, but when you come to view yourself as a survivor, who is no longer sick and can now enjoy life again, you will embrace your new body and start to see yourself differently.

“I was fortunate to play in the NFL for seven years with my ostomy! And since then, I’ve spoken to thousands of patients who have done amazing things after ostomy surgery — including climbing Mt. Everest, running marathons, scuba diving, skiing, playing tennis, hockey, returning to the police and firefighting force, golfing, bull riding, and so much more. With passion, desire, and a little planning, you can do virtually anything.”

Rolf

Stoma since 1979
NFL Man of the Year, Wheel of Fortune host, leads safaris in Africa

“I was concerned that my athletic life was over. Having been a heavy weightlifter and hockey player prior to surgery, the fear of not being able to be an athlete scared the hell out of me. Eight weeks post surgery I was back in the gym. It was much easier to get back to my “normal” athletic lifestyle than I anticipated.”

Justin

Ileostomy – 6 years
Dad, TV show host, likes playing hockey, lifting weights and Philly cheesesteaks

2. Will other people be able to tell I’m wearing an ostomy appliance by smelling me or seeing it through my clothing?

NO! Ostomy supplies are designed to be discreet and functional. No one need know that you have an ostomy unless you want to tell them.

Most of what I want to wear, I can! I definitely thought people could see and that their eyes would always be drawn to my stoma, but in reality, most people don’t notice and don’t know until I tell them!”

Stephanie

Ileostomy – 9 years
Most improved workout warrior, enjoys aerial yoga and making banana pudding from her grandmother’s recipe

“I was certainly nervous about clothing prior to my surgery. Someone gave me a great piece of advice to wear my favorite pair of jeans to my pre-op appointment. The stoma nurse was able to strategically place my stoma to ensure I’d still be able to wear what I loved. Feeling like I had a little bit of control and decision-making power beforehand was hugely helpful for me.”

McKenna

Colostomy – 5 years
Fiancée, roller skater who loves edible cookie dough and competed as an Irish dancer

3. Will I be able to accept myself and my changed body?

YES! It may take some time for you to adjust, but when you come to view yourself as a survivor, who is no longer sick and can now enjoy life again, you will embrace your new body and start to see yourself differently.

“It took me a while to fully process all I had gone through, but I learned that there is JOY on the other side. There is life and there can be a version of you that is not sick and can live a full, happy, and productive life.”

Stephanie

Ileostomy – 9 years
Most improved workout warrior, enjoys aerial yoga and making banana pudding from her grandmother’s recipe

“Meeting other people with ostomies in person and on social media who are comfortable in their own skin, really helped me to love and accept my new body. And having an understanding support system helped me turn the corner and become more confident and love myself again. Stomas can take getting used to. Shifting your mindset to what your new ostomy has given you, and how much your body has overcome, can help develop an attitude of gratitude.”

McKenna

Colostomy – 5 years
Fiancée, roller skater who loves edible cookie dough and competed as an Irish dancer

4. Will others love and accept me, and will I be able to have an intimate relationship and start a family?

YES! You can have a healthy and happy relationship that includes intimacy and having a family.

“This may be the scariest question that comes up when ostomy surgery is being considered, but the answer is unequivocally, YES! You’ll grow comfortable and confident in your new situation and may find that your partner respects you even more for what you’ve overcome. If you’re contemplating motherhood, you’ll be joining thousands of mothers who have delivered their babies with an ostomy.”

Rolf

Stoma since 1979
NFL Man of the Year, Wheel of Fortune host, leads safaris in Africa

“If there are people in your life who will judge you or think of you differently because you have an ostomy bag, ultimately, those are people who do not deserve your time and energy. An ostomy does not change who you are. In my case, my ostomy gave me the ability to be fully and completely me.”

McKenna

Colostomy – 5 years
Fiancée, roller skater who loves edible cookie dough and competed as an Irish dancer

5. Will I be able to eat and drink things that I enjoy after ostomy surgery?

YES! Most people find that they can eat and enjoy food again, more than they have in a long time, and with very few restrictions.

“Being able eat the things I loved without fear of running to the bathroom immediately after a meal was such a relief. Odds are that you will be able to enjoy food much more after the surgery without these overwhelming fears. There are certain foods I learned to be cautious about eating in large quantities, but food became a pleasure again!

Rolf

Stoma since 1979
NFL Man of the Year, Wheel of Fortune host, leads safaris in Africa

“I was very concerned that I would not be able to eat some of my favorite foods and enjoy meals with my family. I pretty much eat what I want, including fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, and popcorn although I am cautious about not overeating things that might cause a problem.”

Justin

Ileostomy – 6 years
Dad, TV show host, likes playing hockey, lifting weights and Philly cheesesteaks