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Significant others have a role

Loving couple holding hands at the beachOstomy surgery is a life-changing event for the person who has the surgery but when you care about someone facing a struggle, you feel it too. That’s what relationships are all about: sharing the joys, sharing the challenges.

I applaud you for being here. Your role in all this is very important, but not actually as complicated as you might expect. First and foremost, remember whom you fell in love with. Remember the things you love about him or her, and all things that make you a couple. Keep on communicating. Be flexible. Have a sense of humor. Be there. You may need to be a shoulder to cry on at first, but later you should be willing to offer up a swift kick in the pants. The new ostomate needs your support and encouragement, but he or she doesn’t need you to take over entirely. The adjustment is most successful when the person learns to be independent in managing the new ostomy, and that can’t happen if you help too much.

Just as the person who had the surgery is adjusting to their new body image with a stoma, you have some adjustments too. The best thing to do is to talk openly about your concerns and to listen to those of your partner. Gradually the existence of the stoma will become a non-issue. Really! It’s true!