When it comes to ‘after-market’ accessories and clothing for ostomates, there isn’t much of a mainstream market. If products exist, it’s usually because someone with an ostomy (or someone who loves an ostomate) got fed up with the lack of products available and invented what they needed. On the one hand this is understandable — ostomies aren’t so common that you’re likely to see products in regular clothing or accessory stores — but on the other hand, there are millions of ostomates worldwide, so it’s hardly UNcommon.
Of course there are still product gaps in some areas, so a lot of ostomates are left to fend for themselves and either modify existing products, or co-opt products from other markets and re-design them to suit their own purposes. Which leads me to today’s post: purses!
As an ostomate who will hopefully some day leave the house, you’re left with a few options for bag changes on the go:
- Take nothing with you and hope for the best!
- Limit your emergency supplies to flange extenders, duct tape or some other item that fits into a wallet or small purse.
- Take basic supplies for an ostomy change in a Ziploc or cosmetic pouch that fits into whatever purse, fanny pack or other bag that you already carry.
- Find some kind of purse or supply bag that was not designed for ostomy supplies but contains multiple compartments such that it will work as an ostomy bag/purse.
In my every day life I tend to vacillate between 1. for dog walks and quick runs out of the house and 4. for longer walks or day trips. But before I purchased my new purse, I mostly managed with 3. and tucked one ostomy bag change with no extras, squished into a Ziploc bag.
The aesthetic of using a camouflage-designed ammunition bag doesn’t really appeal to me, but I really like all the compartments and pockets it affords him. It allows him to carry a multitude of supplies in an organized fashion, and the way it folds open allows for easy access to items without everything being a jumbled mess in the bottom of a bag. This is especially important when you’re trying to do a bag change in a bathroom stall with no free surfaces. You can use the straps to hang the bag and it flops open without dumping everything onto the floor.
Although I knew that this option wasn’t quite right for me, it certainly gave me an idea of what features I wanted in a bag or purse, and also encouraged me to think a bit outside the box in terms of what might work for me. If searching for an ‘ostomy purse’ wasn’t going to yield what I was looking for, perhaps bags or purses designed for other uses that also required multiple compartments was the way to go.
I’ll be honest; I looked at craft bags, first aid bags, fishing tackle bags, hair accessory bags — any number of bags. In the end the solution came to me unbidden, in the form of a Facebook ad.
Among my assortment of ailments, I happen to have diabetes. I’m quite lucky that I don’t need to regularly monitor my blood sugar or carry a monitor and test strips with me, but of course Facebook doesn’t know that — however because I’ve mentioned my diabetes online, I started getting advertisements for myabetic.com, a company that makes cases and purses with compartments to carry diabetic supplies.
It took several looks at their products before I really considered them seriously. My initial reluctance was partly because I wasn’t sure whether the compartments would really work for the supplies I needed to carry. I finally sat down and pulled out the supplies I considered ‘crucial’ and made an itemized list and measurements, and felt fairly confident that it might work and bit the bullet and… asked for it for my birthday. Amazingly, it works perfectly.
The purse I chose is the Cherise Diabetes Handbag in Paradise Blue. It has a centre compartment for medical supplies which flips open, and two outer (divided) compartments for things like your wallet, phone and keys.
Here are all the supplies I carry in it (enough for two bag changes, with extras like stoma powder, skin barrier wipes, wafter extenders, and thickening gel caps… and also a hair tie to tie my shirt up and out of the way).
And here they are inside the purse’s supply compartment (I prefer to keep the Kleenex in the outer pocket because I use them for both ostomy and non-ostomy purposes, but they do fit!)
I’m very pleased with the purse. It is not cheap, but is on par quality-wise with other purses in the same price-range, with arguably more features. I do find it fairly bulky, as the strap attaches to the inside compartment rather than the centre of the purse (so when it’s very full, it does stick out quite far), but the strap placement is presumably to accommodate the need for the purse to ‘flip open’ when accessing supplies and hanging it on a bathroom hook. Before my ostomy I had been graduating to lighter and smaller purses to take it easy on my neck, shoulders and back due to arthritis, but honestly I have found this purse surprisingly easy to wear for long periods without causing discomfort, and the added security I have by not having to worry about racing home in case of a bag leak is great. There is even enough room to carry spare underwear and/or thin clothing (in case of bag leaks), and the purse came with a fold up shopping bag included in one of the compartments.
Overall I would definitely recommend this as a solution for ostomates, and I strongly recommend checking out myabetic.com‘s other pouches and bags to see if they might work for you. Hopefully if more people do, they might consider branching out into products specifically designed for ostomates!