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The Keys to Thriving With an Ostomy

Raising ostomy awareness at UOAA's Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k in Ohio, one of nine national and virtual events for this active community. | Photo by Valerie Mallory-Green

Ostomy surgery saves lives but it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, whether it is temporary or permanent. Accepting that you’re going to the bathroom in a whole new way can take time. The emotional hurdles are often more challenging than any physical ones.

With the right knowledge and support, people don’t just survive but can thrive in life with an ostomy pouch. Here are a few things our ostomy community says leads to success.

Seek out an ostomy nurse specialist and custom-fit your pouch

Certified wound, ostomy, and continence nurses are the experts in ostomy care. They can help you find the ostomy pouching supplies that will work best for you to prevent leaks and skin irritation.

Your stoma and body contours may change over time, so it’s important to consult with one. If you don’t have a certified nurse near you, there are telehealth options at Contact a medical supply company to get your prescribed supplies and sample new ones.

Hundreds of people living with an ostomy pose on the dance floor at UOAA’s National Conference in Houston in 2023. | Photo by Christopher Hysell

Find peer support and trusted information

Ostomy nurses are wonderful but nothing can compare to talking with someone who has been through this profound change before. You are not alone.

United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) estimates up to 1 million people are living with an ostomy or continent diversion in the United States. UOAA has hundreds of peer support groups and also events to connect with people like you. Ask for advice on returning to work, sex, and how to talk about your ostomy with others. You’ll find that many ostomates even name their stoma and celebrate their “stomaversary.”

Our website,, is considered the most trusted place to find educational resources, self-advocacy tools, supply information, and details on topics like nutrition and parastomal hernias. Use this as a fact-checking resource for anything you may discover on social media.

Don’t limit yourself

You don’t have to want to climb mountains or run marathons, but you should know that plenty of people living with an ostomy do. Read realistic but positive ostomate stories you can relate to.

If doing what you love means going out with friends and not worrying about the nearest bathroom, you may discover an ostomy is a big improvement. Everydone should expect to swim, play sports, or do whatever makes you, well, you!

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