Cartwheel with an Ostomy. Yep, you can!

Before the flare that resulted in my ostomy, I practiced an Afro-Brazilian martial art called Capoeira. Capoeira is a beautiful art form comprised of martial arts, dance, gymnastics, music, culture, tradition, and so much more. I used to be able to judge how bad of a flare I was in based on which movements I could do without too much discomfort. I knew it was a bad flare when I couldn’t do a cartwheel without feeling the need to rush to the bathroom. Before my surgery, capoeira was my life. I went to work and went to capoeira. 5 days a week usually, if not 6 or 7. During the first week of me working from home due to that last flare, there was an event I wanted to go to so I gathered up all my strength, got dressed, and got in my car to try to make it to the end of the event. I made it 2 blocks before having to turn around in a hurry, praying that I would make it home and to the toilet. I was so bummed that I couldn’t make it to that event, never mind the amount of pain and urgency I was experiencing or my near inability to eat anything. But, that’s ulcerative colitis at it’s finest. It robs you of the ability to do the things you love and if you let it go long enough, it robs you of your life.

Luckily for me, I have an amazing support system who intervened and got me to the hospital where I opted for a colectomy. I asked the doctors numerous times about being able to get back to capoeira and everyone reassured me that you can do everything after surgery that you could do before surgery. That statement is not too hard to believe when you’re so rundown – you figure anything would be a step up from how horrible you’re feeling. That statement is a lot harder to believe immediately after surgery when you’re recovering and everything is sore and healing and achy.

Eight months after surgery, I can proudly say, I did a cartwheel.  It was ugly and my legs were bent, but my feet were off the ground at the same time, so it counts. The cartwheel was my personal goal for when I would go back to capoeira so I decided it must be time to try a beginner class. I dug out my old capoeira pants – there’s a special type of pants you wear as a uniform – and put them on, motivated to go to the next beginner class.

Here’s the sad part. I can’t figure out how to wear my capoeira pants for exercise. They come up below my ostomy, so I would feel like I’d have to wear the bag out in order to avoid the pants cutting off most of the space. Wearing the bag out is fine for every day walking and sitting, but with activities like kicking, handstands, and cartwheels, keeping the bag snug to your body outside the bag seems kind of tricky. Normally I wear a maternity band (similar to an ostomy wrap) when I have the bag outside my pants, but the wraps and bands roll up and I think it might be a little uncomfortable to have my bag start flopping around in the middle of class. I don’t want to spend the whole class worrying about keeping my bag hidden, I would want to spend it trying to get my kicks strong.

After thinking about this for a bit, I realize that maybe I’m not ready to go back to class after-all. I’m thinking maybe this little issue is what I’m focusing on but there’s something bigger holding me back, similar to my “tip of the iceberg” theory from a previous post. I’ve decided I’m not sure if I want to go back to capoeira, but it will always be there for me so if I change my mind, a pants solution will appear. It kind of already has, as it could be as easy as asking the instructor if I can wear different pants to class and dealing with the uniform battle at another time. In the mean time, you better believe I’ll be working on my cartwheel!

Was there anything you did avidly before surgery that you have been struggling to get back into?

This was written before my completion proctectomy and I just realized I never posted it.


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