When I first got my stoma who I promptly named Ludwig (after Beethoven), I never dreamt that I would be physically fitter than I was before my operation! Post-surgery I had really problematic chronic fatigue and I was always a person out enjoying life, so to be driven to bed by fatigue was really frustrating not to mention depressing. Eventually I was referred to an endocrinologist who specialises in chronic fatigue and she diagnosed me with complex medical fatigue with the underlying issue being my Crohn’s Disease. She suggested that gentle exercise would help me to overcome my fatigue amongst lots of other techniques I could use to help me. So I started swimming and slowly but surely I started to feel better. Scientifically exercise releases endorphins which helps to fight against things like fatigue. However, whilst swimming, I came across a quote which was emblazoned on the wall, ‘Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill’ (Muhammad Ali). I began to desire a challenge with my stoma and so I took up running.
At first it was difficult, I had to focus on keeping myself hydrated and getting the balance of my Imodium right so that Ludwig stoma wasn’t gushing out as I was running. Yet, gradually I built my distance up and 8 weeks after starting running I completed my first 10K which must have been the worse race to pick as the course was entirely hilly!! My poor thighs afterwards… However, it was a great achievement and I felt mentally and physically better, not to mention more confident about what I could achieve athletically with my stoma. Thus, I began training for my half marathon.
I completed the Liverpool Half Marathon on the 29th March 2015 and it was one of the hardest races I have ever done. Firstly because I didn’t apply my bag at an angle which meant my bag chaffed my leg (where was Vaseline when I needed it?), secondly the weather was torrential. My Crohn’s was very active at the time of the race and I also had problems with fistulas around the base of my stoma. At 9 miles, my stoma leaked! Due to the torrid rain, there was also nowhere to change my bag so I had to grit my teeth and hobble to the finish line of the 13.1 miles to complete my race. It wasn’t my best time but it was one of the biggest achievements of my life as my will became the determination needed for me to keep going. Since, I have completed two marathons, another 10K and another half marathon.
I run because it helps me with my disease, it helps with managing my disease and pain but mostly it gives me a desire to overcome the obstacles placed in my path that having Crohn’s Disease presents me. I find that exercise helps to give me a positive frame of mind. Having a stoma was no obstacle to completing the races and at times it was easier to run with a stoma than without – I wasn’t worried about toilets along the way! Now, I am training for triathlons!
However, here are my top tips for running with a stoma:
- Apply your bag at an angle as it helps to prevent chaffing, this works if you wear the maxi size bags or are petite like me and the bags rub on the top of your leg.
- Get a good routine for hydration sorted out, for me running with dioralyte as fluid is better for me than just water but it is whatever, works for you and also depends on how much bowel you have lost etc.
- Wearing a support belt can keep the bag more secure and if you do sweat a lot around the stoma it can help to keep the bag on.