By Racheal Nkunde

My name is Racheal Nkunde am in my 20s and I would like to share my story about my journey living with a stoma. I was diagnosed with typhoid fever after being rushed to the hospital with severe stomach pains, we were told to do a scan and that was when the radiographer told my mum I had peritonitis I didn't understand what it was so in simple terms she told us my small intestine had perforated and I needed an emergency operation to save my life I was in so much pain and nothing would have prepared me for what was to come after the operation I woke up with a long incision on my belly and I noticed I had a bag on my right side of my stomach so I asked my mum what it was and she told me the surgeons had diverted my small intestine outside so that they could give them time to heal so basically I stopped going to the toilet the normal, my fecal matter would be collected through the same bag called a colostomy bag, she told me I would only have it for 3months so in my head that wasn't a very long time I told myself my surgeons will reverse it soon but no I was wrong I had the bag for 10 months
And these where the hardest 10 months of my life, my mom had to learn to change my bags on a daily basis. She bought the bags from a certain chemist and a box of 10 was k350 then in 2019 I used 2or 3 bags in a day depending on how good we put the bag so the cost was too much and then the irritation I got from the bags licking was unbearable, I had to change my diet because certain foods like cabbage, beans were difficult to digest so I was only allowed to eat foods that can easily digest to avoid my stoma from being blocked. I  changed my dress code because  I couldn’t wear clothes that would show I had a stoma ,I would often be in dresses, skirts or sweatpants and baggy shirts...I only told people I was close to I had a stoma because I feared the stigma that surrounds having a stoma so a lot of people didn't even know I had it When mum was at work I would go on YouTube to watch videos on how to take care of a stoma and when I got discharged after being in hospital for 7weeks I was able to take care of my stoma on my own...I tried to live a normal life like another person, I slowly started going out to malls and visit my friends, I started doing nails again I refused to let my disability at the time stop me from doing the things I loved So I decided to visit my best friend Agness who lives in 10 miles and while on the bus I decided to google people living with stomas in Zambia and that was how I got to know about Stomacare support Zambia. I contacted them the next day and within hours they got back to me, I told them my story and how even though I had working parents buying colostomy bags was a huge challenge for us, they helped me and made my life with a stoma easier they helped me with 25 colostomy bags and accessories I needed to take care of my stoma, I stopped having irritation around my skin because of their products, I used them for 3 months and those where the only 3 months I had stress free...in July 2020 i had my stoma reversed so that means I could go back to my "normal" life of not having a stoma.

The author is an Ostomy survivor and  a member of Stomacare support Zambia.