Are you looking at returning to studying on campus this year?
Do you have a stoma and worried about if this will affect your studies?
Well believe it or not that was some questions I had this time last year. I had just found out I had been accepted into a course I have been wanting to study for a few years and was worried how I could manage full time study as I now had a stoma.
So I thought I would share with you some tips/products I found that helped make my life easier when studying on campus, and a few of you have been emailing me this same question, so thought I best do a post for you all.
Sharing my 10 tips that made studying on campus with a stoma easier!
#1 Meet with the course coordinator or support officer BEFORE the study term kicks off
For those who know me, know that I am a very stoic person (some say stubborn) and I haven't quite grasped the concept that IT IS OKAY to ask for help.
I started studying last year and tried to get through the first few weeks before I realised that I needed help. I was finding that for 4 out of 5 days each week we would be in a classroom that was small and it was cramped, but I was in pain for 6 hours a day because of the desks. There were some desks that sat right at the height of my stoma and really pushed against my stoma all day and it was uncomfortable and painful, and don't get me started on the chairs. The chairs were cutting the circulation off in my legs/feet which since I first was diagnosed with pancreatitis I have had issues with my feet swelling, so this only added to the pain and discomfort felt each day in the classroom.
After a few weeks I worked up the courage to meet with the course coordinator to see if there was any chance that there could be accomodating desk and chair in the room that I can use. I had these arranged, but the people who were in my class became a bit judgemental about it all so I felt uncomfortable to return to class (so I instead changed to an online campus as it became too upsetting).
So I suggest before you start studying on campus, that you meet with someone and ask to check that the desk and chairs in the room are accomodating to you having a stoma and won't cause you any discomfort. It would have been much easier at the beginning of the course for me if this was in place to remove people asking questions later on.
#2 Find the right bag/backpack
One thing that is super important when studying on campus is making sure that you are supported in not only facilities at the campus but also in having the right and essential items to help you get through the day.
I am sure by now your doctors and stomal nurse has discussed the importance of hernia prevention and practising techniques that will help eliminate any chance you get a hernia, after all having a stoma will increase your risk of developing a hernia.
One way you can do this is by finding the right backpack that not only is comfortable to have on your back, but is also at the right height too. You want a bag that doesn't cause your back to hunch forward.
Some tips to remember when choosing a backpack: * Make sure the bag has 2 even straps, this helps to distribute the load evenly. Bags with 1 strap can cause damage to your neck, shoulders and back. * Choose a bag that fits you and is appropriate for your body size (weight and height), the bag should rest comfortably on your back * The bag should have adjustable straps and buckles to allow the bag to be lowered or heightened into the right position * The centre of mass should be at weight height not higher or lower * Opt for a bag that has a waist belt, so that your bag can be closer to your body when moving/walking to prevent injury or strain * Straps should be padded and wide to help distribute the weight, also easier on your shoulders and waist
#3 Don't have a heavy backpack
So we all know what happens when you are studying whether as an adult student or as a student in school, that you have so much to carry each day between books, lunch box/drink bottles. But if you carry to much in your backpack not only will you likely cause yourself back damage but also run the risk of herniating your stoma/abdomen (remember that after all you DO need to be wary).
Last year, I knew I didn't want to run the risk of a hernia or damaging my back while having my backpack full of text books and what not, so I invested in getting a zippered folder that had a binder inside to hold my books in place, and also had enough space for my text book too. I carried this around with me and it wasn't too heavy either and it meant there was less in my backpack. I got mine from PB TEEN in the US and had it shipped to Australia, as I had spent a good 2 weeks searching for one that I liked in stores and online in Australia and kept finding boring plain black leather ones.. don't get me wrong if you like that style then that is great, but I like things to be a bit of fun and eccentric like me. Postage was great and I had my new folder within a week or so.
If you don't fancy carrying a zippered folder (compendium) around, you can always look into a backpack on wheels so you can wheel it around... also helps remove the heavy backpack issue too!
#4 Packing your stoma supplies
There is one thing you should always do, and that is every time you leave the house make sure you pack your stoma kit. The last thing you want to do is be on campus stuck without your supplies in the even that you had a bag leak or accident. I got a nice toiletry bag made for me (but you can purchase these anywhere, even an insulated lunch box works perfect) and inside have enough supplies for a couple of bag changes. I also have some scented garbage bags (read my review/reccomendation here) and also a clean pair of undies in case the others are accidentally soiled.
#5 Invest in a diary
One thing I have learnt the last couple of years is that my memory IS NOT what is used to be. I have found it only got worse after the 6 month course of being in a medically induced menopause, and even noticed that with having a stoma I have troubles remembering things which could be linked to being anaemic or deficient in vitamins and minerals (as my body is not absorbing these as much anymore)... Although my husband is somewhat disappointed that I still recall enough to win a disagreement and to prove my point.
But I found by having a diary I could write down things I needed to do for each class and as homework, but also is useful to write in reminders for assignments too!
I got this really pretty and thorough diary from Typo and it is so elegant that the pages are lined with gold. Just a lil' bit fancy (really need to pronounce it like fun-cay, you know how some like to call target tarjay). I think this was around $30 or less.
#6Pack your lunch each day
I know how tempting it is to have that little bit extra sleep of the morning, and just how much of an inconvenience it is to pack your lunch when you can just buy it from the cafeteria/canteen on campus..
Well not only can studying be costly, but if you can help reduce costs each day, your wallet will be better off! And besides if you pack your own lunch not only do you know what is in your food, but you can save time standing in line trying to decide what you can eat or what won't disagree with your stoma.
Wanting some great and nutritious lunch box tips and ideas? Then read this article by Mum Central, which has 5 fresh ideas for your lunchbox.
#7 Keeping your lunch and snacks fresh
If you have read the above article and are planning on packing some fresh food, or foods like yoghurt you want to keep refridgerated and cold, you would be needing to ensure that your lunchbox stays cold enough.
We all know that foods that sit in lunch boxes can sometimes not look or be as fresh when it comes to lunch time if the lunch box is not kept cooled enough, which can also lead to causing upset stomachs (which we don't want).
So what if I told you that I came across this amazing product last year that was a refridgerated lunch bag that literally kept my food cold, fresh and appetising for up to 8 hours! Would you believe me? Well you better, because the Fridge-to-go lunch bags (as the name suggests) acts as a fridge on the go. It is pretty innovating how it works, by putting these panels (look like lunch box ice cubes) in the fridge over night, then putting in the lunch bag in the morning, and it keeps your food cold all day! Seriously was the best product I had last year to help me survive on campus study! They also have a FREE ebook on fresh lunch box ideas if you subscribe to their mailing list too!
Trust me when I say there is nothing worse than a yucky, hot, salad at lunch time.
#8 Keeping hydrated through the day
One thing that I know I need each day is a litre of electrolyte sports drink (like Maxx, gatorade, poweraide etc) to help replace the fluid and electrolytes lost throughout the day.
So for me there is nothing more refreshing than a nice, cold beverage on a hot day, so rather then having to freeze my drinks to ensure they stay cold all day (which sometimes when you NEED them they are still frozen) I purchased the wine cooler fridge-to-go bag, which fits my 1LTR electrolyte drink in perfectly! So not only is it good for keeping wine cool but also drink bottles too!
I remember waiting at the bus stop at 3.30PM after classes had finished for the day, and pulled out my drink bottle and it was still cold and felt refridgerated. It was so REFRESHING!
#9 Don't drive each day either take public transport or car pool
One thing that helped me to be more organised each day was taking the bus to uni/TAFE. Not only did it save on the stress of trying to find a car park than walking a mile to get onto the campus, but it also helped me to save money on petrol costs.
#10 Purchase a power bank for your phone
If like me you use your iPhone (or other phone) all the time, then you would know how frustrating it is when the battery runs low and you are waiting for an important phone call/email/text.
I went into my local electronics store and purchased a power bank charger for my phone, which has been an absolute lifesaver on a number of occasions! Simply charge it up the night before, then put it in your bag when you leave the next morning. When your phone starts running low on the battery grab the USB cable and plug one end into your phone and the other the charger, and watch in awe as this contraption with NO power source is charging your phone up!
I purchased mine (a pink one) from JB-HIFI for around $40 and I take it everywhere I go when I am out and about, and when my phone starts looking tired and sick I just plug it in and give it a fresh bout of life!
I really hope that these 10 tips that helped me to study on campus with a stoma help you too!
P.S if you have a question or issue you want help/advice on, please send through an email from my website or a message via my facebook page. If my blog has helped you in any way please let me know!
Thank you for stopping by Feeling Ostomistic. It has taken a lot of courage to share my story and I ask that you show me and my site/blog respect and courtesy. Views expressed in this blog are my own and I am not a nurse or a doctor. If you need medical advice please seek your medical practitioner.