My 4th of July weekend was packed full of fun, all of which involved getting in the water, and I didn’t want to miss out on any of it on account of my ileostomy. I swam for the first time (as an ostomate), on July, 4th, in my aunt’s pool. Then, I continued the fun spending the weekend at the lake with friends and family. I was a little nervous for my first swim, but I am glad to report that I had a blast. Here are my tips for enjoying the water with an ostomy:
1. Get a comfortable and secure swimsuit. You won’t be able to have fun if your suit is uncomfortable, or you are afraid that you will show off more than you want to. I posted previously about my hunt for an ostomy appropriate swimsuit. I settled on a high waisted, vintage style two piece. I looked at some tankinis and one piece suits, but decided that I just loved the style of the one I ended up with. I suggest looking for dark colors, patterns, and ruching because they help to hide the bag. Be sure to try on the swimsuit to insure that the fit is what you want/need. I had to be sure that the waist line on my suit went high enough to cover my bag. Also, if you go with a two piece you don’t want the waist to slip down because it is too loose. I apologize to the men out there- I don’t know much about swim trunks and ostomys, but I know that waist bands are available to wear while swimming. Check out the StealthBelt (for men and women).
2. Add a security layer to your wafer/flange. No one wants to dive in only to find your wafer and bag floating on the top when you surface. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but you really don’t want to spring a leak while swimming. I use Sure Seal Rings (I actually wear these even when I am not swimming, because it gives me the extra peace of mind I need to forget that I have an ileostomy for a while). They come with a lot of extra sticky area, so I trim mine down to a size that suits me better.
3. Figure out your bag size preference. Choosing what type of bag you swim in is really up to you. Think about how long you will be swimming and your output to decide what will work best for you.
The closed mini (7” long, 170mL) bags from Coloplast are great for swimming because they are small and can be thrown away and replaced easily. The down side to the mini size is that it does not hold as much output, and because it is closed you can not “burp” out any gas. Also, it shows it’s fullness faster than a larger bag. That being said, if you use a closed bag you don’t have to dry it off when you get out of the water just throw it away and replace it with a new one.
There are also mini (9-1/4”, 230mL) bags that can be emptied. The size allows you to conceal it better under a swimsuit, and the opening allows you to “burp” out any gas. Again, the mini size will show it’s fullness more than a larger bag, but if you are near a restroom you shouldn’t have any trouble taking care of that.
Finally, you can stick with your everyday bag if you want to. I wear a midi (10″, 480mL) bag regularly and it fits under my swim suit if I fold down the top and tuck it under my waist band. This does not compromise that bag and it works just fine. The down side is that the larger bag covers more area and can be spotted easier when full. Also, I don’t enjoy the feeling of the wet bag on my skin, once I am out of the water.
The main thing that I learned from swimming this week is that no one else will know you have an ostomy, in less you tell them.
***My count down to surgery #2 continues: T-minus 16 days!!***