On the 7th of October 2023, we celebrated Ostomy Awareness Day. Ostomy Awareness Day falls on the first Saturday of every October but not too many people know about this. According to the British Journal of Nursing, around 165,000 to 200,000 are living with stoma and almost 21,000 people undergo surgery every year. With such a large number you would think that people would know someone who had an ostomy or at least know about stomas. So why don’t they? Is it ignorance, unawareness - a bit of both
What is Ostomy?
Ostomy is a surgical procedure that creates an opening in the abdomen to allow excretion of bodily waste. Even though cancer is one of the prominent reasons for Ostomy surgery, other factors like bowel disorders, bladder dysfunction, accident induced traumas to the bowel/bladder and even childbirth are still prevalent. This is a life saving and a life changing procedure that millions go through worldwide. Ostomates often recall feeling alone at the beginning of their journey due to this very reason. This is why Ostomy Awareness day is important.
To break the stigma of stomas and ostomy surgery
Founder of Beyond the Stoma, Petrina Barber is a two time cancer survivor. She lives with an incurable radiation disease from cancer and has had gynecological and bowel organ removal resulting in a permanent stoma bag.
“It may only seem like it’s one day. But for many of us it’s 365 days a year that we live with and manage our lives around having an ostomy. It’s important to create the awareness that there’s no one size fits all in terms of health condition, experience or emotions that one person has with having an ostomy. Bringing together the community globally for the benefit of everyone gives hope for continued progress towards greater representation in mainstream society and understanding.”
Ostomy awareness day promotes breaking down stigmas and cultivating openness for those who need it. Education about stoma helps people understand their peers better and teaches them to not define somebody based on their disability.
“If you’ve met one person with an ostomy you’ve only met one person. In the same way every person is an individual it’s the same whether you have an ostomy or not. There’s no expectations on how someone lives their life or feels about their ostomy,” says Petrina.
One such brand that is breaking down barriers and stigmatizing ostomy is Ostique. Ostique is a brand that is refashioning stoma pouch covers by taking away the shame in hiding and replacing it with encouragement for ostomates to show off their bags in style! The brand was founded by Stephanie Monty who took inspiration from her brothers who both have Crohn's Disease to create this revolutionary brand. In conversation with Olivia Rose from Ostique, she explains how the brand breaks stigma and cultivates empowerment.
“We work hard to eradicate stigma and make ostomates everywhere feel confident and empowered, in all of life's moments. Our Ostique Sk.ns (revolutionary ostomy bag covers) were designed to help ostomates feel super confident and proud in moments such as intimacy, hitting the gym or at the beach on holiday. We believe everyone should feel comfortable, confident and sexy in their own skin and our Sk.ns were created to help achieve this. Our community initiatives are all centered around empowering and uplifting the ostomate community - such as our podcast, Chatting Sh*t with Ostique, where we have the privilege of speaking with inspiring people in and around the community on a range of topics and thoughts. These conversations are always humbling, honest and above all helpful for the community and it is a pleasure to have them,”
Tanya Aumeer also known as tanyalivingfree on social media has dedicated her platform to showing how she lives with endometriosis and ileostomy.
“My platform was born from me sharing my journey as after my endometriosis and ostomy surgery, I could not find anyone that had been through a similar journey to me. I was desperate to find people to whom I could relate to and seek comfort in. I continue using my platform to speak about all things endometriosis and ostomy related to show the realities but to also show that you can have a fulfilling life in spite of having a chronic illness. I also advocate for body positivity as I have learnt to embrace my ileostomy and how my body image has changed as a result of this. Having my platform has enabled me to regain my confidence and appreciate my body for carrying me through the hard times and I hope it’s a place where others can feel the same.”
How Unhidden is creating clothing for Stoma users
At Unhidden, we deeply care about creating space for stoma users by creating clothing that includes features specifically innovated for them. Our trousers are designed to support bloating and allow ostomy bags to be easily accessed whenever necessary. These trousers are fitted with elasticated waistbands and zippers on either side that simplify wearing and changing stoma bags comfortably.
Our Double Layer dress is not only super form flattering but very convenient for stoma bag users. This dress is built with a concealed zip that is hidden underneath the top layer. The zip allows for effective and smooth access to the stomach, helping ostomates reach for their stoma bags when needed.
Unhidden strives for inclusivity in all areas by collaborating with brands like Ostique to demonstrate the accessibility of our innovative clothing. Created with intention and attention to the most simplest of details can make the biggest difference to the ones that need it.