A shining highlight in the midst of the flu

My abdominal muscles are the sorest they have been since surgery. No, it isn’t because I started doing crunches, ascended the overhanging roof at the climbing gym or tried some difficult new yoga pose. It is due to having one of the most horrendous respiratory viruses I have had in years. I was hoping my flu shot would have prevented this, but alas, I caught something anyway. Each night for almost a week, I have been up all night coughing violently, and it has made my core very sore– especially around my stoma. Ever paranoid about getting a parastomal hernia, I cringe every time I feel that tickle in my throat. There seems to be no way to stop the cough though, and I know this just has to run its course. In the meantime I have been taking loads of vitamin C, doing sinus rinses, drinking various teas to ease my throat, taking cough medicine and cough drops and trying to get a good night’s sleep which has been almost impossible. Mother nature did provide some relief today in the form of a huge snowstorm. A snow day was called at my work, so I was able to have some extra time to rest at home.

Due to the worries of coughing pressure and my stoma, I have even been wearing my hernia prevention belt 24/7 for the past week. That, along with bracing my stoma area with my hand when I cough, gives my abs a bit of support while I cough. I eagerly removed my appliance on my change day this morning so I could check to see if I had done any damage with all the hacking. I was relieved to find that everything looked fine around my stoma, though the area around it is still sore to the touch. I am hoping it is just strained muscles and will clear up once I get better. It would be unfortunate to be so careful climbing and backpacking, only to get a hernia from something as simple as coughing.

Though it hasn’t been the best week due to illness, there was one absolutely amazing highlight. On Tuesday afternoon, I left work early because I felt so awful. I was about ready to plop down in my bed when I decided to check my Facebook. There I saw a message from my friend congratulating me on winning the WEGO Health Health Activist Best Kept Secret Award for Ostomy Outdoors. I had been feeling so crummy I had forgotten that it was the day to announce the award recipients. I was absolutely shocked to find out I was selected, and the excitement is still sinking in a few days later! Thank you to my husband, Doug, for posting the update when I was feeling a bit too sick and exhausted to write on my blog.


Thank you to everyone at WEGO Health and those who were involved in the nomination and judging process. I am so grateful and humbled to have been selected for the award among so many other dedicated and deserving health activists. Thanks also to everyone who reads and contributes to Ostomy Outdoors. Your thoughts, comments and stories not only help keep me motivated, but provide inspiration and encouragement to others who follow the blog.  Together we can all make a difference and help spread awareness for ostomies.

Watching my award video while resting up.



10 thoughts on “A shining highlight in the midst of the flu

  1. Can you really get a hernia from the coughing? I ask this because I’ve got a cold and every time I sneeze I’m in pain, however the pain isn’t around my stoma. Though I and my wife are a little puzzled why with the wound vac and after a round of antibiotics the area of my abdomen around my stoma seems a little swollen while the rest of the swelling has subsided. I hope to get more answers from my surgeon this week.

    1. Hi Paul,

      Yes, coughing and sneezing can cause parastomal hernias. I don’t know what percentage are caused by these things… or how hard you would actually have to cough or sneeze to get one. When my stoma nurse was helping me size a hernia belt, she mentioned that one simple thing you can do is to firmly place your hand over your stoma (and incision if you are protecting that from herniating as well) whenever you cough or sneeze. I did this during my initial period of healing, and it became such a habit that I still do it now whenever I feel a sneeze coming on. It is a little harder to do every time one coughs, but that is why whenever I have a nasty cold, I wear my hernia prevention belt.

      I have sneezed hundreds of times since surgery (including many times in the weeks right after the operation) and have had a few colds and never had issues. This bug has caused a particularly violent cough though. Honestly, I have done everything I could possibly do to prevent a hernia in this case, so I guess if it were to happen, it was just bad luck. Things are feeling better though, so I still think I just strained something. I will check again when I change my appliance on Monday.

      I do know that in the first few months after surgery I had pains in various areas of my abdominal wall when I sneezed, coughed, cried and laughed. I am guessing it was just because the area was tender from the surgery and from some of the incision healing issues I had. Eventually these pains went away as I healed up. I had one odd, painful swollen area on my belly soon after I got my wound vac off. It was between my belly button and lowest rib on the left side… not an area that a hernia would form. It went away after a week and my surgeon thought that I must have just tweaked a muscle causing the area to swell. My ab muscles got weak and messed up for a while after surgery due to inactivity and horrible posture (it hurt too much to stand up straight) so this made sense. I will be curious to learn what your surgeon thinks about your swollen area.


  2. Hi, just found your site. I thank you as I do to others who are prepared to share their ostomy lives.
    I did not have UC myself but a surprised cancer diagnosis at 39 with no real symptoms – anyway although a grade 3 lump between colon and rectum(that word some people don’t like to mention :0) !!) it was a stage 1 cancer – the one you want if you are going to get it. So here i am 20 months after 5 weeks of radiotherapy and a Pan proctocolectomy.
    Basically I’m just too unfit and 2 stone heavier than i ever was. You have encouraged me to start an ostomate fitness blog – literally just now, so have little to show yet.
    Good healing in the meantime!

    Northern Ireland

  3. Hi Darren,

    Thank you so much for writing and sharing a bit of your story. I am now 15 months post-op, so we are at fairly similar places as far as age and timing in our ostomy journeys. I am so glad that you like the site and am very excited that you will be starting an ostomate fitness blog!!! You will find that getting out there and becoming active again makes you feel so much better. And I have also found that being open with my story and experiences through blogging has helped me mentally process some of the things I have gone through and heal emotionally. I can’t wait to see your blog. Please send me the link when you get started, and I will add it to the links section at the top of my page.

    Thanks for the healing wishes. I am finally feeling better. The cough has eased up, and I was able to sleep 14 hours straight last night. Felt so good!

    And here is to getting people to be as comfortable with the word rectum as they would be knee, liver or heart. Time to end the stigmas!


  4. Hola Heidi,
    Congratulations for the well deserved prize and all the best with the recovery from your cold. It is very interesting to see from your posts and comments to them that we all go more or less through the same ups and downs and have to deal with issues related to aspects of life that we took for granted before our shared experiences with an ileostomy. This is my second week at work after the post surgery period and though things are going relatively smoothly I feel phisically and mentally so exhausted when I get back home that I wonder whether I will be able to get up next morning. Well, come next morning and up and out I go again. I guess that once we have been given a second chance to live it would be a pity not to do our best out of it, even when feeling down with a bad cold. Best

    1. Hi Luis, Almost 2 years post op and the foggy tiredness is only now beginning to distance itself. When a stoma nurse told me it would be 2 years before I would begin to feel myself again, she was right. I suppose you have to kind of go with it and if you need a lie down, so be it. The other side of the coin is a need to push a little in order to get improvement and this is what I am finding now.
      Take care

      1. Darren,

        You are right that it takes a little extra to see improvement after surgery. It took me months to make the slightest progress running. Much different than in my pre-surgery days when I used to reach my fitness goals much more quickly. I think it is because our bodies have to start from such a low point after surgery. I am starting to see improvement in my fitness activities more quickly now… another sign that my body seems to be normalizing.


    2. Hi Luis,

      Thank you! I am feeling better. Starting to go back the gym but still dealing with some fatigue. I am sure I will be as good as new in a couple more weeks.

      Glad to hear that things are going smoothly at work. I got really exhausted in the first couple of months after returning to work after surgery too. I would use all my energy at my job and then come home, make dinner and eat, and then head right to bed. After a while, I gained mental and physical endurance again and my energy level became more normal. Every day that you get up and go to work will make things seem more routine with your ostomy and will help you gain confidence. After a while, you won’t have to devote so much mental energy towards it. Hang in there!


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