Here I am wearing a Stealth Belt, a cool concoction created by an ostomate who wanted some added support for his appliance. The Belt’s design is ingeniously simple. You slide the ostomy bag through a hole and into a zippered compartment. Zip up the compartment and wrap the Belt around your waist, and secure it in place with the Velcro flaps. The compartment area is made of a stretchy material so it can expand outward as the ostomy bag fills up. The key here is that the Belt keeps the ostomy bag from drooping and flopping around when it’s full, so everyday activities can be done without having to cup a sagging bag with your hand.
I came across the Stealth Belt back when I was researching ostomies ahead of my operation. Since the plan was to only have a temporary ostomy for about three months before getting my J-pouch up and running, I figured it wouldn’t make sense to get the Belt. Then a bunch of horrible things happened after my surgery and I still have the ostomy. When it became clear that I would need the ostomy for more than three months, my girlfriend, Jayee, bought me a Stealth Belt so that I could get out and about with more confidence, and not have to resort to cupping the bag as I so often did.
At first I was apprehensive about wearing the Belt. The compartment on the Belt that holds the ostomy bag looked too small. I was worried that my high output would create a lot of pressure, possibly causing the bag to leak or just pop off. My other concern was that the compartment had room horizontally, but not vertically. My ostomy bag has more length than width, so it didn’t fit ideally into the compartment.
One day as I was walking home from the grocery store, without the Stealth Belt on, I noticed a surge of stool had entered by ostomy bag. I could feel the increased weight of the bag under my clothes, so I resorted to cupping again. I walked about three blocks with my sagging bag in my hand.
Jayee had more confidence in the Belt than I did, and she said I should give it a try. We figured out how to make it work for me and my ostomy bag. I turn my ostomy bag 90 degrees my right so that it’s more in line with the shape of the compartment. I have to crumple the bag a bit to get it through the hole and into the compartment, but it fits in there. The downside to the setup is that the zipper on the compartment, which is supposed to make it possible to empty an ostomy bag without taking off the belt, is lost on me. I need to turn my ostomy bag back to its usual position in order to empty it, which means I have to take off the belt completely.
So there’s the drawback – the process of emptying the bag becomes a little more time consuming as I have to take off the belt, reposition the bag, empty it, turn it again, and put the belt on again. The tradeoff is that I can move about without worrying about my bag sagging and flopping around, and because the compartment’s stretchy material can in fact expand quite a bit, I can let my bag fill up more than I usually allow it to and therefore have to empty it less frequently. I think the tradeoff is well worth the minor inconvenience of taking the belt off and putting it back on when I need to empty the ostomy bag. With my Stealth Belt on, I’ve enjoyed my walks and outings a lot more, and I feel more confident when I leave the house.
Oh, one more advantage of the Stealth Belt is that it keeps my ostomy bag above my waistline. That means I can tuck in my shirts and wear a regular belt with my pants, instead of resorting to suspenders, which I can’t stand – they feel awkward and detract from a fashionable ensemble, in my opinion.
I don’t mean to offend anyone who lives with a permanent ostomy, but one of the things I’ve dreaded since my surgery was the possibility that my J-pouch wouldn’t work and that I would need an ileostomy for the rest of my life. I was worried that an ostomy would make running difficult and that I wouldn’t be able to wear clothes with the same freedom that people without ostomies enjoy. I’m still hoping that when I do get my J-pouch going I never have to live with an ostomy ever again. However, if I should ever require a permanent ostomy, I know that the Stealth Belt will be there to give an added sense of normalcy and freedom.
NOTE: Stealth Belts are available with larger compartments for bigger ostomy bags and ones that need more vertical support; I have the one recommended for first-time buyers, and I can’t thank Jayee enough for being that first-time buyer. Also note that the manufacturers of the Stealth Belt did not solicit me to write this post, I decided to write it because I’m very happy to be stealthy, and I hope that other ostomates can benefit from their products.