In the winter I love wearing sweaters and jeans, dresses and tights with boots, long scarfs. I love my big puffy coat and warm cozy mittens. I am camouflaged. I know that no one knows what I am hiding under my layers of clothes. If I choose to eat something that gives me extra gas or wait longer then I should to empty my pouch its not a huge deal, I unbutton my button and find the bathroom. I feel secure, safe, hidden and 'normal'. I know my stoma is my secret; until summer.
I have always been a person who loves the water. Anything and everything about the water I love. The sound, the feel, the smell. I can sit and watch water for hours and feel my tension wash away with each passing ripple or wave. We boat, fish, swim and spend long weekends at the beach all summer long. The sun washes over me with its warmth and I feel like a warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Then it happens, sooner then later that enjoyable warmth turns into heat and I get hot. That blanket needs to be pulled off and I need to cool down. Sweat starts to build on my brow and under my ileostomy pouch! I feel sticky. I feel itchy. I feel like ripping my pouch off of my belly and letting my suffocating skin breathe! In the summer less is more and having a cloth cover plastic pouch glued to my stomach radiating heat back into my body drives me crazy! So I do what comes natural to me, I jump in! The pool, lake, river, even a sprinkler feels like sweet relief from the blaze under my pouch. I am, for the moment content.
Eventually one does get cold and must exit the water and dry off. How long does it take for a one piece to dry? How about a one piece with a wet cloth covered plastic pouch hiding underneath. As I fumble to get comfortable and dry I start to watch what others are doing. Swimming, playing, eating, looking at me!? Do they see the pouch? Is my bathing suit twisted? I start messing with everything trying to get comfortable again and find I am not enjoying myself as I once did. Summers have turned into a time I am very conscience of my ostomy. It is the only time having my stoma bothers me. As I am typing this out and re-reading this I feel this is reading that I am unhappy with my decision to get my permanent ileostomy and that couldn't be further then the truth! I am happy that I am able to swim again and float down the river with my family. I love the fact that I no longer have panic attacks during long car trips and the absence of bathrooms because I can now wait without fear of a huge mess. I am no longer in pain, physical pain. I now battle my self esteem, my self image. Do people really see what I am hiding under my bathing suit?