From the Stage…to Ostomy Surgery…To the Big Screen

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Short Film Inspired by Ostomate Set to Premiere at a Los Angeles Film Festival

Written by Raimo Strangis

My ostomy journey began back in 2004. I was in my early 20’s and the frontman of a rock band, called Cranney. We started gaining a little buzz in the Toronto rock scene, playing all the historic venues like El Mocambo, Lee’s Palace, and the Horseshoe Tavern. Things were going great. Then, I started feeling really sick, but I ignored it. Finally, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I had never heard of it. At first it was manageable; some stomach cramping and urgent bathroom runs. Medication was working and Imodium was my best friend. Suddenly, my condition got much worse. The urgency, blood, and cramping would come on like an avalanche. I exhausted all the medication options, and nothing was working, except for steroids, which is not a longterm solution. I lost a lot of weight and would plan my routes knowing where the best public bathrooms were. Every time I entered a building, I immediately needed to know where the washrooms were. There were days when I wouldn’t leave my room, let alone my house. I canceled shows, stopped going out with my friends, and skipped family outings. This behaviour turned into depression and anxiety, eventually ending the band and my musical career. I felt like I lost my purpose, which led to some dark nights and even darker thoughts.

My doctors recommended ostomy surgery. I had never heard of that either. After doing some research and being young and naive, I said there’s no way I’m doing that. So, I suffered for ten long years. Finally, in 2014, in my 30’s, married and with two kids, I decided to have ostomy surgery. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. No more pain, suffering, or worrying about bathrooms. I was free to live my life again and I didn’t care what people thought.

It’s easy to look back now and say, I should have just had the surgery sooner, I could have kept playing music. But when you’re in the moment, faced with a life-altering surgery, the fear, shock, and hopelessness is blinding. With no examples or stories of people going through the same struggles, I felt alone. This is where I knew an important story needed to be told.

The film captures a pivotal moment in time. Rai, a musician who just had ostomy surgery, is isolating at home struggling to come to terms with his new reality.

In 2020, I wrote a book titled, With Little Means. In the book, I tell a story of an aspiring musician who gave up on his dreams after ostomy surgery. The book fell into the hands of actor/producer Micheal Pillarella. He was moved by the story and felt it had potential to make an inspiring film. Together, we began working on an early version of a script.

Then, we knew we needed a great director to bring our story to life. Dan Abramovici is an award-winning writer/director, with his films being featured in acclaimed film festivals around the world. Dan’s vision was not your typical PSA, but an honest, real, film festival worthy short film. Once Dan and fellow screenwriter Liam Gareau, took over the script writing duties, a compelling story began to unfold.

Next, we needed a film production company to put it all together, that was Stagg Forrest Films. With a combined passion for storytelling and a wealth of experience, Myrthin Stagg and Kate Forrest were committed to creating an engaging and thought-provoking film that would resonate with audiences worldwide.

Then, we needed a cast of talented actors. Once Michael committed to the lead role of Rai, and actress Karen Knox came onboard to play the eccentric bandmate Isla, we knew we had the right actors to deliver a compelling performance.

Finally, we felt it was important to have the support of an organization that shared our vision and belief in the cause. Being a member of an ostomy support group, Barrie branch, I knew who I needed to contact, Ostomy Canada Society. John Hartman, recently retired and former Executive Director of OCS, from our first conversation, felt a strong connection to the story and was excited to get involved. Thus, a short film was born, Stuck.

STUCK – Teaser from Dan Abramovici on Vimeo.

The film captures a pivotal moment in time. Rai, a musician who just had ostomy surgery, is isolating at home struggling to come to terms with his new reality. Haunted by his deepest fears, he’s given up on his music career. Enter Isla, his eccentric ex-bandmate. She’s there because she desperately needs him to play a show that night, but also because she cares. The conversation escalates, and Rai says things he wishes he hadn’t, pushing Isla away. He’s afraid to get back on stage. After a moment of reflection, Rai grabs his guitar and begins to play for the first time in a long time. Will he play the show that night? We don’t know. But at least he’s picked up the guitar and is playing music again.

The short film will have it’s world premiere in Hollywood, California at the historic Chinese Theater on Sunday June 23, 2024, at 2:45pm, as part of the Dances With Films festival. The film will be submitted to international film festivals around the world.

I hope by telling a story like this we can bring comfort to those who may be suffering as I did. I thought having ostomy surgery would ruin my life, but instead it gave me my life back. Please join us on this special day as we celebrate a film that features a character living with an ostomy.

 

Editor’s Note: For tickets to the upcoming premiere of Stuck in Los Angeles visit https://danceswithfilms.com/STUCK/

6 replies
  1. Paddy Quinn
    Paddy Quinn says:

    I was diagnosed at 13 with Ulcerative Colitis -went to death’s door actually but survived. Was treated til I was 17 and then Sept 1968 temporary Ileostomy leading to permanent surgery in March 1970 following a review. I had made it clear ;before the review that there was no way I was being “put back together” Carry on as I am!
    And so 56 years later I know how good my life has been and is. Too many people leaving it too late and having a miserable life. Far from ruining your life stoma surgery gives you back your life – no toilet map to your life!! Congratulations on this idea for a film – if it helps even one patient it is well worth it!

    Reply
    • Raimo Strangis
      Raimo Strangis says:

      Thank you Paddy. It’s my hope that this film can help spread a positive awareness and ease the stigma surrounding ostomy surgery. Most people suffer in silence, I know I did. Hopefully this is a way people can feel that they are not alone and help them find the support they need.

      Reply
  2. Eileen Rose
    Eileen Rose says:

    I was diagnosed with UC 1974 and ileostomy 1976 – I met my husband in 1979 and are married 45 years this December! We have 2 great kids and I am a unit secretary on a colon- rectal surgery floor in a major hospital in Dallas- I volunteer with 2 of our Ostomy RNs in a virtual Ostomy Support Group- I hope maybe someday your film will be shown at a festival in our Dallas area!

    Reply
  3. Anne
    Anne says:

    I had ulcerative colitis since I was 17 I
    I had my surgery 7 years ago. II am 70 years now and I have never felt this well in a very long time. Ostomy surgery saved my life and taught me to appreciate my life. Of course it isn’t always smooth but am managing very well

    Reply

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