Monthly Archives: June 2016

Swimming with an ostomy…

So I got thinking, after seeing a few forum posts about swimming with an ostomy, that maybe I should write about it. I kind of take it for granted now, it doesn’t really occur to me that people might be nervous about it but I guess they are. 

I’ve never really been one for swimming, even without my stoma, I’ve never really liked the whole process, get in swimwear, get wet,  do a length or two whilst wondering if you are in the ‘serious swimmer’ lane cos you crossed the boundary by mistake, dry off in a changing room with questionable hair on the floor (eww), put on clothes, go home, shower, eat a chocolate dipper (cos swimming makes you hungry?) – eurgh just far too much hassle. I’m more of a, I’m on holiday, it’s hot, I need to cool off, keep my head above water whilst I dip kind of girl. I’m a crap swimmer anyway, totally inelegant, I don’t have ‘beach hair’ and I splutter like my life depended on it if the water so much as touches my nose. 

But one day life comes along and says “hey you, you’re a bit fabulous so I need to give you this bag to wear on your tummy, but don’t worry it’s only poo” and cue tears of ‘but I want to still wear a bikini and can i still swim’. 

Well you can do both, we’ve seen the fab pics of people with stomas rocking their swimwear, proudly displaying their bags, so much so, I assume everyone does it, but I guess for every one person showing their ostomy are 20 people too scared or self conscious to show theirs. 

A year after my op (I had two bags one for my ileostomy, one for my mucous fistula, because of that, both bags were a bit unpredictable) I decided a holiday courtesy of someone other than the nhs was needed. First holiday was a bit nerve racking but I made it! Of course the biggest thing was the swimming pool. River Island Are amazing for high waisted bikinis and I bought loads and still do to this day, from them. I’ve never Been ashamed of my stoma but a high waist helped me feel more confident in the pool. I remember joining in a daytime pool game activity and it was bursting balloons in the pool between each other (omg what if my bag bursts…..!) I just went for it, I just shouted not my tummy! No-one questioned it or even cared and I had a great time. 

I do remember going to Turkey a couple of years ago and the main pool was closed because apparently someone had poo’d in it, I had a mini heart attack, what if that was me and my bag…but I realised it was totally illogical and I was just being paranoid! (Btw it wasn’t me, apparently it was some kid!!). Last year, 4 years after my op, I decided it was time to get some sun on my belly and wore (what I call) a normal bikini every day! I even swam like it, yes I was nervous, yes my insides were flip flopping more than if I’d taken my trusty super drys across a tsunami but I did it! I never don’t feel nervous, it’s a huge thing to show to the world but it’s really just a giant plaster. 

We should never be ashamed of the things that save our lives, take a deep breath, plunge or toe dip into that water, I promise it’s gets easier! (With just wish I had fabulous wavy beach hair to go with it!). 

Hiking through nature with a Lidl carrier bag……

Yes that truly happened but before I get to that… 

Last week, Mike and I had a lovely week in Crete, same place we went last year so we knew what to expect. We booked another swim up room as I have decided I can’t possibly do public poolside again as it’s much better for my ostomy 😉 

There is a trip called the Samaria Gorge which we wanted to do last year but for one reason or another never made it. So, to ensure we did it this year we pre-booked before we went. It’s basically a 16km trek down a steep gorge but with the best views nature has to offer. It’s a long old day, but well worth it. You don’t need special walking gear, trainers will suffice and a bag to carry a few essentials. 

We decided one rucksack between us would be enough, we didn’t need much, a couple of towels for the swim in the sea at the end, suncream, plasters (a change of bag kit for me) plus a few other essentials I can’t go without (lipgloss, kindle, etc.!). We decided to order a packed lunch each from reception and expected a sandwich, piece of fruit and bottle of water each, what we actually got was a lot more and two large paper bags! So we decided to keep this in a lidl carrier bag!

Now you may be wondering why we happened to have a Lidl carrier bag in Crete? Well, the all inclusive package doesn’t serve sparkling wine (I know, it’s a shocking state of affairs) but there is a fridge in the room and a Lidl down the road. So a little daily walk ensued to Lidl to purchase some bubbly for me to sip poolside. Of course we had to purchase a carrier bag for my bottles. 

So back to the hike, we’re all prepared with our rucksack, dressed in shorts, vests and trainers and up at 5.30am to catch the coach at 6am. We board the coach and there are the obligatory stops to pick up other keen explorers. At one stop, a man and his wife got on and Mike said to me – ooh we’ve got a professional. So there’s this man with his hiking boots, fancy rucksack and walking poles and there’s us with our Lidl carrier bag! All I kept saying was “we can’t go hiking in the Samaria Gorge with a Lidl carrier bag!” 

After a bit of kerfuffle at the stop prior to the gorge due to some confusion over the money paid we were a bit delayed getting off, meanwhile, Mr Pro keeps shaking his head, obviously so keen is he to get off and be first to finish (so eager he didn’t even wait for his wife when we did eventually get going). We were dropped off at the top of the gorge ready for a very steep descent down a narrow and rocky pathway and in true Brit fashion, a few of us are moaning about the delay rather than admiring the scenery. I, however, as Mike had the rucksack, had the Lidl carrier bag and kept denouncing that ‘I can’t possibly hike with a Lidl carrier bag! (A few fellow hikers did find this rather amusing). “It’s slowing me down”,I proclaimed,”I’ll be quicker if we can get rid of it”. Mike thinks it was about 1km in, I am convinced it was more like 2km, when we stopped to eat a few supplies and tie the bag to the rucksack. As it happens, I didn’t speed up but it was a relief to not be hiking with that Lidl carrier bag anymore – now it was Mike’s responsibility. 

So we trekked through beautiful scenery, it really was breath taking and I would highly recommend it. It’s definitely tough, navigating streams, rocks, boulders and narrow pathways (and very questionable toilets) but well worth it. The whole of this trek done with a Lidl carrier bag tied to our rucksack. 

Finally, after about 5.5 hours we reached the end, full of euphoria, not because we’d finished but because we were finally able to store the Lidl carrier bag INSIDE the rucksack! 

Looking forward to a swim, we stopped for a bite to eat first (and a glass of wine of course) and went down to the beach. But the wind got up so it was a bit too chilly for a swim, so the towels we packed that took up room (hence the Lidl carrier bag) weren’t used, except they did come in handy when rather windswept we got onto the boat that was to take us to our coach and we deployed them as blankets. 

I would definitely recommend the Gorge if you’re ever in Crete and if you do it, maybe stow away a Lidl carrier bag just in case……..