12 Tips for Getting Through College With an Ostomy

If you have an ostomy and are either in college, like myself, or getting ready to go off to college, chances are you’ve thought about how you’re going to deal with everyday college life and your ostomy. This won’t be the only article I write in this series, but I thought I’d compile a handy guide of the best tips that have gotten me through school so far!

1. Always carry extra supplies with you. Personally I’ve never had a leak at school, but that doesn’t mean I don’t carry at least three pouch changes (and all materials needed for that) at all times. It’s helpful and will put your mind at ease to know that if something does happen, you have your extra supplies ready to go!

2. Know where the bathrooms are on campus. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve drunk coffee before a 7:30 a.m. class and had a bunch of watery output that I had to deal with quickly. It really helps to know where everything is so you aren’t running around in circles if you have an emergency.

3. Carry a small water bottle and paper towels in your pocket. This is something I do just in case; you never know when the toilet paper hasn’t been refilled! If you’re in a hurry, you might not notice until it’s too late (try having to use leaves to clean your pouch – that’s how I learned my lesson). The water bottle is used when you have really thick output that’s hard to get out. I personally use it all the time!

4. Talk to your teachers. I always, always, talk to my teachers on the first day of class. I let them know about my ostomy bag and that I may have to use the restroom more than other people. There have been times when I’ve had to use the restroom three times during a two-hour block class; it always helps when your professor understands what you’re going through.

5. Bring your own snacks. It’s always quite annoying if you know your system will have a problem with something but you’re incredibly hungry and the only food around is what your system will have issues with. It is a good idea to have whatever is easy to carry and won’t give your system and ostomy trouble with you.

6. Don’t feel like you have to tell people about your ostomy. Personally I love raising awareness but you don’t owe anyone an explanation about what you have. It may also be good to wait and get to know people better before telling them about your condition.

7. Always take good notes in class and make sure you have a buddy who can get you the homework in case you end up in the hospital (blockages happen!). Your professors may be forgiving but it still helps to get the work done in the hospital and not fall behind and have to play catch up. That can be quite overwhelming!

8. If your school has a counseling program, don’t be afraid to take advantage of it! It can help to talk to someone and school counseling is generally free.

9. Join extracurriculars and make as many friends as you can. It really helps to have a solid group of people on campus you can trust.

10. If you’re going out for an athletic team (especially contact sports), invest in a guard! It’s well worth it to protect your stoma. Just because you have an ostomy doesn’t mean you have to stop being active, but it does mean you need to take proper precautions.

11. Stay as far ahead in your classes as possible. There have been many times where I’ve had to go to hospital and the only reason I was able to keep up straight A’s was because I’d made sure to stay ahead of the curve.

12. For group projects, though it may be uncomfortable it helps to let your group members know that you may have to miss class sometimes due to medical issues. You don’t have to go into detail, but again, your group members will be more forgiving if you’re missing class and they know there’s an actual medical issue at hand. If they think you’re just slacking they may be inclined to not give you a great peer review!

I hope these tips help you! These are just some of the things I’ve learned so far in school. College can be a scary time (especially if it’s your first year), but it can also be a lot of fun!

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