I'm in treatment for rectal cancer and am worried I'll end up with a bag. Having been a competitive swimmer since age eleven and still in the top five in my age group in the area, I wonder if that kind of activity would still be possible?
It's a good question you ask and Morning glory has given you the short answer.
However, you might be envisaging having to wear a 'bag' which might slow you down a bit. This will depend on whether you have a colostomy or an ileostomy; with the former, you may well be able to irrigate, which would allow you to be output free during the day and you could just wear a stoma plug or similar. This holds flat to your skin and would not cause any 'drag'. If you eand up with an ileostomy, or cannot irrigate, then there are other things that you could do to flatten the surface of the 'bag' so that it did not interfere with your swimming too much. I am sure that lots of others will chip-in with advice on this one. if not, try having a look at 'COLLECTIONS' where there is a selection of posts on clothing, swimming and ostomies.
Anything is possible if we are determined enough. The bag is often not the problem, it's the thoughts that accompany it. Think positive and go for it! If in doubt, have a word with some of the 'disabled' swimmers, who have overcome far bigger problems than a mere bag.
I have an ileostomy. Once you get used to living with an ileostomy, you can do just about everything anyone else can do. By that I mean, as long as you know your skin barrier is secure, you can do it all. With an ileostomy, you have to be able to empty it before you spend a lot of time doing other things, but that is as easy as going to the toilet to empty it. It is unlikely to interfere with any competitive event unless the event lasts longer than 3 hours. As long as you have time to empty your pouch, you are good to go.
I play competitive bridge, in which there are tournaments that last several hours. I make sure that my pouch is empty before it starts, and in the break, I empty it again. I drink plenty of fluids in between and my pouch is not the limiting factor in my game.
Don't worry about how your ostomy will limit you: take it as another challenge! You have lived your life facing one challenge after another. This is just one more that I am sure you will be able to master. And just think about how much pride you will feel when you figure out how to do it. I remain available to you in case you have any questions.