Irene Constable discusses life with a stoma and Oswestry support group B.O.Ts
I am told I have a disability, it’s called a stoma and – whilst it can be a nuisance – I do not consider myself to be disabled. Without it, and the operation to form it, I would not be here to write this article. My stoma was formed 10 years ago when I was 63 following an operation to remove bowel cancer. About 150,000 other people in the UK have one, but you would not know it to look at us.
So what is a stoma?
A stoma is an opening on the abdomen that can be connected to either your digestive or urinary system to collect waste (faeces or urine) and divert it out of your body. This is collected in a pouch which is then discarded. There are various reasons for a stoma including Crohn’s disease, cancer, diverticulitis, trauma and many more.
When discharged from hospital some people with a stoma may feel isolated and confused, I know I did. This is where a support group can be helpful.
Shropshire B.O.Ts (Bums on Tums) is the only support group in Shropshire and surrounding areas catering for people with all types of stoma and was started in 2011 by Carole O’Ryan who wanted to meet others with a stoma. In 2012 I moved to Oswestry and, as I had been a member of a group in St Albans, looked for one in this area. I found this group in the Support Groups Listing in Colostomy UK’s magazine and called Carole to find out more.
I eventually got involved with running the group. At the time they were called The Oswestry Stoma Support Group which sounded clinical (and boring), so we held a competition among the members and the new name was born. Its light hearted approach soon made us better known and the membership swelled to the 50+ we now have.
We are proud to have the confidence and patronage of the Stoma Care Nurses at Shrewsbury, Telford and Wrexham hospitals. Our posters and flyers are displayed in GP surgeries, local chemists and many other public places.
This is a self-help group but, although we do make time to talk about the non-medical problems facing people with stomas, we also have interesting speakers, not connected to stomas, plus the manufacturers and distributors of our medical supplies come and show their products and promote any new ones.
It is a friendly and sociable group and many lasting friendships have grown from membership. We go out to afternoon tea and a Christmas lunch and we have been to Whittington Castle, The Ironworks and had a tour of a factory in Deeside manufacturing our supplies. Whilst family and friends can be sympathetic to the challenges we face, there is nothing better than talking to someone who is facing them themselves and knows what you are going through. My own husband is the most supportive person, but cannot give the same support that I get from the group
Every October we hold an Open Day where anyone with a stoma can come along to meet with 12 or 13 supply companies, Colostomy UK, The Ileostomy Association and The Urostomy Association. Entry is free and there are talks on associated subjects during the day. This year it will be held on 3 October in The Memorial Hall, Oswestry and all are welcome.
Having a stoma is nothing to be frightened of. For many ostomates it means a greatly improved quality of life and an independence not known previously.
Remember, no-one will know you have one. Unless of course you tell them!
B.O.Ts meetings are held the second Thursday of each month at 2pm in The Memorial Hall, Oswestry. For more information call Irene on 01691 238357 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured: Irene Constable and Carole O’Ryan