This month I was lucky enough to win a spa day competition! You know when you get tagged in a million competitions by certain friends, well I can tell you its totally worth it! Its something as an ostomate that can feel quite daunting going to a spa. You may have worries about what swimwear to use, what treatments you would feel comfortable having, and how much you need to disclose.
Firstly, having an ostomy shouldn’t stop you having any treatments at all, and the job of the therapist is to inform themselves of your needs and tailor your desired treatment to work around you. Being inclusive and non discriminative is what it is all about. There is no excuse for being turned away and I have not heard of anyone in the community that has been. Despite this, I understand that unless you have one, or know someone with one, that you might not have a scooby doo what one is!
When arriving at a spa typical practice is being asked to complete a sheet with personal details and health questions. It is imperative that you answer these questions honestly and in detail as the therapist may not have knowledge of your condition, and when informed may know of a risk that you were not aware of. For me, I always make sure I tell them I have an ostomy when booking a treatment. I don’t want the awkward moment of the therapist seeing my bag and not knowing what it is. The most common question I am asked if is it hurts and if they need to avoid the area. I reassure them explaining a stoma does not have nerve endings and does not transmit pain or other sensations. However, it has many blood vessels and may bleed slightly if irritated or rubbed which should not be a concern during a spa treatment.
When you are massaged your lymphatic system is stimulated driving out the toxins in your body. The fluid lost through this process makes anyone (not just ostomates) dehydrated. Our bodies are 60% water so it’s essential you make sure you are hydrated before your massage and then rehydrate afterwards. For this reason I had a sports drink with added electrolytes and another to hand for when the massage is over.
I won’t eat for at least a few hours before as I want an empty bag for the treatment but that’s just personal preference and not at all essential. My ‘just in case’ bag changing kit is ready with the hole cut but I have never needed to change my appliance following a massage. Typical practice would include wearing your underwear but if you don’t feel comfortable with your bag out a waistband or a one piece swimsuit can be worn. Being comfortable and secure during a treatment is most important, and they can work around this. Don’t feel you need to be just in your pants unless your happy to be!!
The only obstacle I came across during this experience was not having adequate changing facilities. Following treatments we made use of the pool and hot tub which did not affect the functionality of my ostomy appliance I'm happy to report! It sounds silly saying this, but I assumed there would be individual changing cubicles as any leisure facility I had been to previous had, but this time not such luck… When getting out of the pool it dawned on me there were your standard toilet cubicles and nothing else! You can imagine the panic as I thought where an earth am I going to do a bag change?
Now worse case scenario you make it work, and its a massive pain in the butt but with a chronic illness we just get on with things and are used to adapting to awkward situations. I clocked a corner of the changing room with a shower curtain, which was as much space as your standard toilet cubicle but with no chair, table or shelf, so still not the best. It was either this or a toilet so I plumped for this. I laid down my towel and put on it my new bag and everything else I needed. At one point someone went to pull the curtain aside to use the space to which I called very quickly ‘someone in here!”. Mortifying…. Anyway, I got myself sorted and went on to a beautiful afternoon tea to finish off the day. Lesson learned, ring before and check they have individually changing cubicles, and if not be prepared for a Plan B. It wasn’t the end of the world but it was an inconvenience that I could have done without.
Despite this I had a lovely relaxing day and enjoyed quality time with my best friend which as you get older is harder to have. As ostomy should not stop you from going to a spa and having treatments. You deserve to have a relaxing pamper as much as the next person, if not more! Until next time, Rach x
Disclaimer: As always, this post is from our blogger, Rachel's, experience of living with an ostomy & Hirschsprung's Disease & from what she has researched. Nothing in our blog posts should be taken as medical advice. It's always best to consult a medical professional if you have queries or concerns.
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