Meet Toodles. Toodles is the ostomy of Kimberly Holiday-Coleman, stage II colorectal cancer survivor. Kimberly’s introduction to Toodles came after a procedure that saved her life, and she’s been cancer-free now for five years! 

“Toodles is fabulous! Toodles is the fabulous reason that I’m still here,” Kimberly says.

Toodles and Kimberly didn’t get off to a great start, however. Kimberly says that she, like many others, wasn’t fully prepared to look down and see an ostomy. When her first ostomy nurse changed it for the first time, it gushed. Kimberly was horrified. But her nurse gave her a tip: Name your ostomy bag. That way, if anything unexpected happens, you have someone to blame. Did your ostomy bag make a fart noise? No problem. Toodles did it

Kimberly and Toodles have come a long way. Kimberly’s now a burlesque dancer who includes Toodles in some of her performances. After shows, she hears from audience members who’ve had ostomies who felt connection and joy in her performance. Kimberly’s positive attitude is proof that anything is possible — even burlesque dancing — with an ostomy.

Kimberly and Toodles are frequent partners in nights out with friends. As the holiday season approaches, she offers advice about how to enjoy a night out with friends at parties when you have a Toodles of your own.

Do you have any words of encouragement for someone who may be going out with an ostomy for the first time?

To get an ostomy, most people have been suffering – maybe with IBD, or Crohn's or colitis, or like myself, colorectal cancer. For these people, going out hasn’t been a thing for a while. So the fact that you can go out again because of this lifesaving device should put you in the head space of, “I’m winning.” So even if you’re just spending an hour out with your friends, it’s awesome. 

How do you prepare for the unexpected when you go out?

I travel with two different bags. I have a travel bag in my car that has four or five changes in it, and it can last me for days, theoretically. I also have a cute little handbag that I can keep in my purse or just in my hand. It’s shiny and cute, and it has about two or three changes. In it, I have a little mirror, two or three bags, extra wipes, different pads, and a little air freshener. So if I’m out and something happens, I can just excuse myself. And no one even knows what’s in there! The bag is just the size of my hand.

Another thing I do to feel comfortable is to tell my friends and family about the ostomy because it reduces my anxiety if something happens. But that’s up to each individual, whether they want to reveal that.

Any tips on holiday eating and drinking?

Everyone’s ostomy is different, but generally, bubbly things can cause gas for us. So while I love to drink champagne, I can’t always do it. But if I do know I’ll want to have some later, I’ll take a Gas-X or something ahead of time that’s been approved by my doctor. I can drink mulled cider and different kinds of wine.

Do test runs before you go out, and try different foods ahead of time. Some foods can cause blockages, like popcorn, nuts, salads, and raw vegetables. Also, when we’re at parties over the holidays, we’re usually chatting all the time. And for us, that’s not great to do while eating because we need to be able to chew a lot to break down our food. So let people know, “Hey, you talk to me while I eat.” That way, you don’t have to talk and take in air, which creates gas, which can create adverse effects.

Be mindful of different foods. I usually go for cooked foods, small foods – foods I can still have fun with and be part of the party.

Photo credit: @underneath_we_are

Should you have any special considerations when choosing an outfit?

Yes! Wear things that make you feel fabulous! Just because we have an ostomy doesn't mean that we are relegated to sadness. We have this lifesaving device that affords us extra time, and we should be celebrating that! I am all for wearing things that make you feel fabulous. 

Sometimes my “fabulous” means that I wear something flowy and beautiful. Other times I go for something form-fitting, and that means I wear tank-tops underneath or high-waisted underwear to help flatten my silhouette. 

When heading out for the evening, what should people with an ostomy bring along?

Sometimes I’ll pack an extra pair of underwear in my bag. Sometimes, I’ll bring a change of pants or an extra outfit and keep it in my car – or I’ll “Marie Kondo it” into my bag. Because sometimes things happen, and just knowing that you have that extra set of clothes, even if you don’t need it, you feel more comfortable because you have it. 

Learn more about traveling with an ostomy and eating with an ostomy.

Follow Kimberly Holiday-Coleman on Instagram for more tips: @kimberlyhcoleman.