Tag Archive for: Crohn’s disease

By Makeda Armorer-Wade

Who knew that having an ostomy would be such an enlightening journey?

I was terrified. But my ostomy was just the beginning of this new experience for me and my entire family. When I received my first ostomy, it was an emergency surgery. There was no time to prepare, learn or even have a voice. It was life or death, and since I spent the previous three decades fighting for my life, I chose the ileostomy. Up until that point, I knew nothing much about an ostomy, other than I didn’t want one. When I considered that point, I realized it was because of the cavalier attitude of a medical professional, who told me,“what’s the big deal, a lot of people live with ostomies.”

I quickly learned that I had to live that Possibility Lifestyle. I learned that I was in charge of my mindset and could change it at any time with a little motivation. I don’t want to give the impression that it was easy, because it wasn’t. But I would need to learn because I was being discharged. When I got home, I decided to take myself to ostomy school. I did as much research as I could, in order to be able to function and live some quality of a life.

It was very difficult and took about 90 days to get accustomed to my new best friend. By the time I was beginning to accept my ostomy, I was given the date for my takedown. I still had a month to go and I had already lost 100 lbs. I was already counting down. I believe that my biggest challenge with my first ostomy, was the fact that Crohn’s Disease had ravaged my body. So, it wasn’t just the ostomy, but I was so weak and depleted, and unable to absorb any nutrients. At one point, I had a TPN line to feed me.

When the day came for me to go to the hospital, I celebrated and gave away all of my ostomy products to patients that I thought could use them. Simply said, I was done and over it. My recovery didn’t happen as quickly as I wanted, which required me to be patient and work my P.L.A.N.© I needed to Prepare and figure out what my diet would be to help me put some weight on. I was down to 98 pounds. I had to Let go of the shame that I was feeling, realizing that all of this was out of my control. I had to ask for help, because I just didn’t have the strength to do it myself. And I vowed to Never give up, because I desperately needed to live The Possibilities Lifestyle.

I knew that the possibilities for my life were endless, if I could just hold on. I just had to believe.

It took me about 12 weeks to be strong enough to go back to work. I had to believe, that just maybe my doctors and nurses were right. Everyone couldn’t be wrong. The messaging was consistent. “God must have something special for you to do”. Every time I met a new medical provider who reviewed my record, they would say, “Wow you have some story. You must have something important to do, with all that you have been through.” The Residents would ask permission to interview me.

I truly believe that when you receive an assignment from God, you will have the necessary experiences and pressure to become masterful. Just like the pressure needed to produce a diamond. I have learned so much with each surgery and recovery.

Fast forward six years. And here we go again. Crohn’s disease was causing significant problems with my health. After a conversation and encouragement from my gynecologist, I called my surgeon and made an appointment. After numerous tests, we made the decision to move forward with another Ostomy. This time a colostomy. (A colostomy is a surgical opening in the large intestine that is brought through the abdominal wall). This surgery was different, in that I initiated the conversation. I was armed with information and I had some semblance of control. This all matters in your perception of your ostomy.

Climbing the valley after this surgery started like the others, on a walker and a liquid diet. And the determination needed to propel myself forward was there as well. I was looking up knowing I had made the right decision. I began sharing and supporting other ostomates in monthly meetings at the hospital.

The more I encouraged others the better I felt about my own situation.

I began working with a life coach who encouraged me to be kind to myself and set goals that continued to positively impact my recovery and healing. This was the best thing that I could do. I knew from my conversations with ostomates that they needed an adjustment period and continuous support. With everything I shared, she continued to reinforce that my story was no longer mine. She said “do you think you went through all that you did, just to suffer?” My answer was no. I already knew what I had to do. It was all in the Value of the Valley. If you want to know how that turned out, stay tuned.

Your Ostomy is Just the Beginning Part 1

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, ConvaTec. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

By Makeda Armorer-Wade

How many times have you thought “why me?” Well I get it.

An Ostomy is not an elective surgery. Most people who get one are having challenges with a health condition, or an accident that will require them to get one. I got my first Ostomy after a four-decade battle with Crohn’s disease. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I can’t remember which bowel resection I was up to. But I know that something had gone dreadfully wrong. I had the surgery and had just moved from step-down (one step below ICU, where you are kept until you become stable), to a regular room. 24 hours into that room assignment something inside began to rupture. That night I contacted my doctor who scheduled me for an intrusive test five hours later. I was in too much pain to tolerate the test, at which time they realized that I would have to have an emergency ileostomy. I was in the loneliest place in the world. I had just had a seven-and-a-half-hour surgery and I had to go back in. I did not know how my body would be able to handle it.

My family who had come to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, were told once again, that emergency surgery would have to be done in order to save my life. Nobody was prepared for the news of an ileostomy. (An ileostomy is when they divert your intestine from the inside to the outside of your body, usually at the lower end of the small intestine called the ileum.) Neither myself or my family knew what this was, and while they explained it to me I began to ask what other options we had. Of course, the answer was “none if you want to live”. I responded the way that I always do with “ok, let’s just get this done”. I didn’t have time to express fear. Because, I saw the look on my family’s face as they began to draw on my belly in the elevator to determine the site of the surgery. I was scared, angry and worried because I had no control, so I prayed.

My ileostomy taught me a lot about life and stamina. I became even more determined to learn everything I could to make this a smooth transition.

After the surgery I had my consultation with my WOC nurse and began my new journey. She was pretty amazing in how she explained everything and made sure that I understood the mechanics of taking care of my Ostomy. It was a daunting task. It was one of the longest days of my life and a big blur. My family was super supportive as I was so weak. But they didn’t have a clue what to do. They were ready to take direction from me. And while I have managed to keep a stiff upper lip through the first 14 lifesaving surgical procedures, this was different. I was grieving. I knew I had to figure it out, and my only consolation was that eventually it would be reversed (this is called a take-down). Well, I can probably tell you about that in another blog.

My ileostomy taught me a lot about life and stamina. I became even more determined to learn everything I could to make this a smooth transition. After learning to walk 10 steps from death’s door, over the course of 18 different surgeries, I eventually learned to work my P.L.A.N.© and you can too.

P.L.A.N.© stands for Prepare, Let go of Shame, Ask for help, Never Give up!

I tell my clients all the time that “life will teach you some things; that which you want to learn and that which you don’t.” In life we don’t always get to pick our lessons, but I am so happy that I learned a ton of them here. It allowed me to come to the conclusion that my fellow Crohn’s Warriors and Ostomate brothers and sisters needed the same support that I did after surgery. And so I am here. I am not a doctor or a nurse, just someone who cares about you. I wrote books and created a learning platform ThePossibilitiesLifestyle, to support your experience with the books and provide The Possibilities Lifestyle Coaching. My goal is to help and support as many people as I can. Please, I want you to remember this.

 

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, ConvaTec. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Michael Seres started 11 Health as a direct result of his experiences as an ostomate. He had suffered with Crohn’s disease for over 30 years and after a small bowel transplant, he needed an ostomy. He felt alone and powerless. The bags were hard for him to get used to and they did not help to manage his condition – they just collected output. He started blogging and tweeting about his journey and found tens of thousands of patients who felt the same way but were too anxious or disempowered to do anything about it. Michael made a commitment that he would devote his life to making a difference for these patients.

Despite his health struggles, which included fighting and beating cancer multiple times, he found the strength to start a healthcare company that shares his single-minded focus of helping patients, and in particular ostomates. The company is called 11 Health as Michael was the 11th person in the UK to have had the pioneering transplant procedure. Only a few of the 10 that went before him survived the procedure. Michael did not just survive, he thrived and accomplished so much in his short life.

Advocacy was always a part of Michael’s life. He always found time to prioritize it amidst the challenges of running an international business and managing his health. In his talk at Stanford Medicine X in 2017, he talked about a revolutionary idea of using social media for doctor-patient communications. Michael believed that patients were the most underutilized resource in healthcare and he spoke beautifully about it in his famous TEDx Talk in 2018. The need for the patient to be at the center of patient care ran through his core. He felt that patients should not be passive end users. Instead, patients should be engaged in medical decision making and empowered by education and self-care tools. Michael’s reach was spread wide and he advocated for patients to the leadership of Google and even on a panel alongside Bill Clinton.

We lost Michael last year. Whilst our hearts are still filled with sadness, we are more determined than ever to deliver his vision of changing healthcare and making it patient centric.  He believed passionately in the ‘everyone included’ philosophy. A movement for change supported by doctors, nurses, policy makers but most importantly, patients. Making that change will be Michael’s legacy.

We are creating a special birthday Gutsy Gathering on March 23 from 3-7pm EST in Michael’s memory. It will not be a day to mourn. It will be a day to celebrate the achievements of an extraordinary man by inviting some equally extraordinary people to talk about their personal or professional involvement in the patient experience. Sessions will focus on themes relating to advocacy, confidence, community, and change.

The Michael Seres birthday Gutsy Gathering will be an annual event and an opportunity for friends to meet in a face-to-face setting. This year it will be virtual, with speakers joining us from around the world from across the ‘everyone included’ spectrum. The live sessions will run from 3-7pm EST and participants can come and go as their schedules allow. The event is free, and registration is required at www.gutsygathering.com. Our esteemed list of speakers continues to grow and can be found on the registration page. Please join us!

 

Editor’s note: This article is from one of our digital sponsors, 11 Health. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Colorectal cancer survivor Allison shares her ostomy story. “No one truly understands what you are going through physically and psychologically more than those who have been there themselves.” Check out her mythbusting videos and more.

Imagine being your 15-year-old self again. What did that feel like? Young, carefree, happy…healthy?
For me, I felt all of those things every day. I played the clarinet, got good grades, was athletic from running track, active in school/church clubs and had amazing family/friends. What more could I want as a teenager?

I didn’t want for anything until one day I no longer felt like my healthy self anymore and all I wanted was to be healthy again. This is when my life changed forever…

It was November of 2012, at the time I had just moved to Los Angeles, California with my mother from Maryland. I was very excited to move and support my mom with her new job opportunity. She is like my best friend and nurturer at the same time. It was always just her and I growing up, no siblings. California’s scenery was colorful and vibrant. All I could picture were the great things my future would bring living there.

That picture flipped upside down within weeks. I could feel my stomach expressing to me that it didn’t like the chicken nuggets or the pepperoni pizza, I was feeding it. Sharp pains that felt like knives were sticking me each time I would eat, pushed me to never want to pick up another piece of food again. No over-the-counter medicine could relieve the amount of pain I would feel. Sick little me sat helplessly with my mother by my side in Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center’s emergency room waiting to be admitted and seen by a doctor. I thought to myself, “What was happening to me? I don’t understand.”

I couldn’t understand. I was just fine a month ago. My mom was just as confused as I was. The doctors weren’t transparent enough with my diagnosis and had trouble figuring out what was the actual problem. After a few tests, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis/Crohn’s disease. This diagnosis soon changed once the gastrointestinal team at UCLA Medical Center (UCLAMC) realized it was strictly my colon that was being affected which changed my diagnosis to ulcerative colitis.

I had no idea what ulcerative colitis was nor had I ever heard of it before. My current gastroenterologist, Dr. Ziring, asked who in my family had the disease but I wasn’t familiar with anyone. My father, mother, and grandparents didn’t have any trace of ulcerative colitis. It was concluded that the change in climate and stress could have taken a toll on my body to make me flare-up. I couldn’t eat certain foods anymore. I was prescribed all types of medication that I had never seen and forced to take pills that were pretty huge to swallow.

Lacee Harper with her mother.

Nearly one month spent in the hospital, my routine had changed. I would wake up take my meds first, eat (liquid-solid foods), watch TV, read a book, walk around to gain my strength and repeat at least three times a day. Once I was released, I remember being so happy to be a normal person again. That feeling went away when my mom took me to buy nutritional drinks to restore my protein, vitamins, and minerals. I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes from the amount of weight I lost and my toned body went away. Dr. Ziring told me that I would live with this forever because there is no cure, which I didn’t want to believe. All I could do was try to understand and educate why my body reacted the way it did to certain foods, activities and mental stability.

Fast forward to 2013 where I moved back to Maryland with my mother, I was enrolled back in my previous high school and actively seeing, pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. Oliva-Hemker at John Hopkin’s hospital. I couldn’t do any of the previous extracurricular activities I participated in and could only workout at a minimal intensity due to my low blood counts. Throughout the school year, I experienced many flare-ups and trial/error with different medications. Some hospitalizations were longer than others and overtime I became stricter with my diet to prevent excessive flare-ups. My high school graduation wasn’t the best time for me because I was experiencing a severe flare-up that interfered with my ability to keep food down. I missed my senior week summer trip to recover in the hospital and get back to feeling better again.

After graduating from high school, I switched gastroenterologists since I was considered an adult. Dr. Rosen had been my mom’s gastroenterologist for years so the transition was smooth. I was stabilized on Humira and Prednisone throughout my community college career. By then, my mother and I had moved to Atlanta where the weather was nicer. I think the weather, being around family/friends and less stress I experienced helped my flare-ups calm down living in Atlanta. I truly enjoyed my time there and experiencing college at Georgia State University, as well as working part-time.

Lacee recently graduated with a master’s degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University.

Once I completed my first two years of college and received my associate’s degree, I transferred to Syracuse University (SU) to achieve my bachelor’s degree. This was one of the hardest transitions of my life moving from the South to the cold North. My third year of college and first-year being away at a university led to my body experiencing an extreme transition which resulted in three severe flare-ups. My mother left Atlanta and moved back to Maryland to be closer to me because she was terrified of how sick I was getting. Each time I flared up, I flew home to get the treatment from Dr. Rosen. Suddenly, Humira no longer worked for my body anymore and Prednisone wasn’t healthy for me to keep using to reduce inflammation due to its side effects.

During senior year, my 3-week hospitalization interfered with my academics and involvement in extracurricular activities. At this time, I was advised to try Entyvio and I was tired of trying new medications. The only way I could have some quality of life was to remove my colon. My mom was concerned for me, but I couldn’t let her concerns steer my thinking I knew I had to do this for me if I wanted to make it to graduation.

In November of 2017, I set an appointment with Dr. Colvin in Northern Virginia to discuss my surgery. I had the surgery during my college winter break, spent Christmas in the hospital, recovered and returned back to school. At the time, I didn’t know how I was going to apply to graduate school at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at SU but I did that during my recovery period. It took a lot of exercise, mental motivation, empathy and support from family, my best friends, mentors and peers at school. With amazing grace and good spirits, I got accepted into the public relations program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications.

From this specific point on, learning how to function in everyday life with my ostomy took a lot of patience, time, emotional breakdowns, motivation and positive mental strength. I don’t regret any of it at all. I do not have to worry about missing out or not fully enjoying any more important events of my life. Now as of 2020, I have been medication-free for two full years, graduated school with all of my degrees, feel healthier than ever, working full-time in public relations and am actively pursuing my dreams in the entertainment (modeling/tv/film) industry.

It wasn’t until a couple of months ago, I discovered United Ostomy Association of America (UOAA) and chose to reach out to Advocacy Manager Jeanine Gleba about getting more involved. Since reaching out, I have gained the opportunity to advocate for patient’s access to treatment during the Digestive Disease National Coalition Day on the Hill and spoke on the behalf of UOAA. I am elated to have met UOAA’s team and to represent others like myself who have experienced challenging obstacles.

I couldn’t be more grateful for my ostomy and must say that it changed my life for the good. Life is full of obstacles but how you choose to overcome them will make your life. I chose to take full control of my life in order to have a better quality of life. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can truly do whatever you put your mind to. Believing in yourself and staying grounded in positivity, motivation and dedication is key. Follow your dreams, find what makes you happy and don’t let the negatives take control of your life.

By Elaine O’Rourke

During the winter of 2005, I went from being an active, strong, 35-year-old yoga teacher to being completely debilitated, feeling like I was 100 years old and barely able to move or walk.

An extreme flare-up of Crohn’s disease resulted in a temporary ileostomy which was then made permanent after a year. I was down to skin and bones and had lost most of my muscle mass. My hips and whole body hurt when I slept as I was so skinny. There was very little that I could do. My body just needed to rest as it took too much energy for anything else.

When I began to regain my strength after my temporary ileostomy, I had a renewed appreciation for walking and what a good simple exercise it is. Just getting out for fresh air, step by step, seeing people and walking the beach. I had missed simply going to shops. Ahhh, to be able to move again, what a gift.

I had never considered going for my daily walk as a “gift” until I couldn’t do it. For many people, including myself, it’s not until things start going wrong that you realize how much you take your health for granted.

As I recovered I was able to slowly get back into my yoga practice and doing everything that I wanted to do. In fact, last year I started surfing which is now my greatest passion. It was previously the one thing I thought I could never do with an ostomy.

My point being, having an ostomy does not mean you can’t exercise or do sports. Just do them mindfully and within your limits. Taking good care of yourself is now of utmost importance. Real self-care not only addresses how we take care of our physical bodies but also how we deal with our emotions and how we think. After all, everything is connected.

Life with an ostomy has a lot of pent-up emotions, thoughts, and challenges. The physical body also holds on to memories and traumas within its cells. This is why you may experience or even hear of people who recall things when getting a massage, or you might start crying when you get bodywork done or when you are moving mindfully in a yoga class. The “feeling experience” is providing a release for these memories.

In my program “Surviving to Thriving: Overcoming Ostomy Challenges so you can Live a FulFilling Life” I focus a lot on the mental and emotional issues that occur but also on the importance of keeping active and making healthy lifestyle choices. As you journey into the New Year and decade what are the more tangible things you can do for your physical well-being? We all know that New Year’s resolutions go out the window by the second week in January, or that they never happen at all.

Instead, consider doing things that will contribute to your health and happiness and set a plan in place. If you find it hard to keep yourself motivated or don’t know where to start then reach out and contact me.

Strategy tips for self-care

1) Move your body
Buying a gym membership is useless– unless you use it! Our ancestors did not live sedentary lives, yet, these days in general, we are very attached to sitting around. Many people work at desks, sit in cars commuting and then sit on the couch to chill out! But our bodies are designed to MOVE.

Tip: Get up and walk around more, even set a chime to go off on your phone to remind yourself. As mentioned, walking is a great way to keep things moving and it’s free. Even a quick five-minute walk is beneficial. Meet a friend for a walk instead of coffee, or both! Move your arms over your head more. Add in some simple stretches. Basically, MOVE as much as you can as that is what our bodies are designed to do.

2) Food choice
If we think we are going to be “depriving” ourselves of something, then we will do anything we can to sabotage our best intentions. For example, If we say we are “giving up chocolate” then chances are we become obsessed with thinking about chocolate and our resolution only lasts a day! Your body is like a temple and keeping it healthy requires the right choices. This will affect your ostomy output, energy levels, muscles, organs, bones and joints.

Tip: Focus on adding in certain foods that you know will be healthier for you. Hint – these foods are mostly in the fresh produce sections of the supermarket. Before you eat and drink ask or even visualize how your body will respond, how your organs will feel, how well your GI tract will digest. Eat slowly, chew and enjoy your food. Notice how it affects your system, energy levels, and your ostomy output.

3) Make it fun
If you dread doing something, then it won’t get done. So find something that is enjoyable. Not everyone likes exercise or sports but there are many different ways that you can treat your body with more kindness.

Tip: Dancing is a great way to move. Maybe go out to hear live music where you can move on a dance floor, or take a dance class. Put music on at home that energizes you. Walk up and down the stairs a few more times. Use a fitbit watch as a way to incentivize yourself.

4) Schedule time for yourself
There are a lot of distractions that pop up during the day and before you know it, you haven’t done anything you intended to do and the checklist is still staring at you.

Tip: Schedule in your planner when you are going to do your (walk, fun movement, cardio class, yoga, meditation, etc.) Be consistent and try and have it at the same time and on the same days each week.

5) Know that you deserve it
There is nothing like a promise of a “treat” or “something special” or to plan out “bribery” if you do something! Self-discipline comes more naturally to some but it takes practice.

Tip: As you decide the new ways you are going to do things in 2020, also give yourself a promise of a self-care present when you complete your goals. As you try more nutritious food, exercising, moving your body (because that is what it is supposed to do) then treat yourself to a massage, tickets to a show, a work-out outfit (that you now must have because you actually enjoy exercise) a good book, and so on!

 

Elaine O’Rourke is the creator of the online holistic program “Surviving To Thriving: Overcoming Ostomy Challenges So You Can Live a FulFilling Life”. She is a certified Yoga Therapist & Teacher since 2003, Sound Healer, EFT & Reiki Practitioner, Recording Artist and International Retreat Leader. Her lighthearted and fun personality shines through her teachings/programs as she loves to inspire others. She is a contributing writer to the national Phoenix Magazine, presenter at the UOAA National Conference and speaker at Girls with Guts retreat.
A free guide is available: ‘3 simple ways to eliminate fears about your ostomy” by visiting Elaine’s website
www.ElaineOrourke.com
Elaine@ElaineOrourke.com

Living 10 steps from death’s door can take an emotional toll. My name is Makeda Armorer-Wade and I am an inspirational life coach and best-selling author. In July 2010, I received my first ostomy and January 2016, I received my second. While both surgeries were difficult physically as well as emotionally; my first was more difficult than the second, because I was not included in the decision in any way. It was an emergency surgery following a resection surgery a week earlier. The decision was made during a follow-up test and they were actually drawing on my belly in the elevator on my way up to the room. It landed me in the ICU and 10 steps from death’s door.

The second ostomy surgery was a decision that I made based on the recommendation from my GYN and surgeon. I was so debilitated that this was my only option. So although it was very difficult, it was less traumatic than the first, because I was involved in the decision and I thought I knew what I could expect.

I went to the United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) and read everything that I could. I went to what I call, “Ostomy School.” I did my best to connect with patients who were having a similar experience. Because I have lived with a Crohn’s disease diagnosis from the age of 16; I’ve understood the necessity to research and learn all that I can to manage my condition. Crohn’s disease was not a common diagnosis at the time I was diagnosed, and giving up wasn’t an option for me. Connecting with others and gaining knowledge was freeing. The more I learned, the more comfortable I became with living and embracing life with my new friend (ostomy) Rosebutt Buttercup. Yes, I named her. I was able to support new ostomates by participating in the monthly Mt. Sinai post-surgical support group.

Having my second ostomy has given me the freedom to go back to work, take care of my family, swim, cycle, attend social gatherings, participate in community service and travel. Sometimes listening to the despair of my fellow ostomates and experiencing my own despair at times, for lack of knowledge is what spurred me into action. I wanted to be an example, that there is still life to be lived after an ostomy. Our mindset is important. Where our mind goes, the body follows. Life is what we make of it.

As an author, coach and public speaker. I use my platform to share my story, as evidence that life can be all the things that you are open to making it. I am advocating for sponsorship to release a course that will be available for a small fee, to anyone who has an ostomy, considering getting one or a caretaker of someone who has one.

The biggest positive about living with an ostomy is understanding that without it, I would not be here. The first one was reversed, but as I moved toward having my second one I knew enough and it was the only way. I made the decision to move forward and I am not looking back. I had to embrace that I was enough and the new possibilities for my life were endless.

I realized that as long as I follow my P.L.A.N.(c), I have fewer challenges. I Prepare by anticipating each scenario; I Let go of Shame for all of the things that I can’t always do; I Ask for help when needed; and I Never give up no matter what. Repetition breeds mastery.

So, I share with others that having an ostomy is just an alternative way of going to the bathroom. We all have to go the bathroom. But now, I have the benefit of having more control over when I go. An ostomy is life-saving. An ostomy is an opportunity to really live your best life on purpose.

And while you may not feel that way in the beginning. It does get better. My advice as an experienced ostomate, is to get as much information about your surgery prior to getting it, if time allows. Speak to people who are successfully living with and managing their life with their ostomy. Read, watch videos and ask as many questions as you may have. And then work your P.L.A.N.(c). Be inspired, Be encouraged, Be hopeful. I believe in you. The possibilities are endless.

I was told if I didn’t have the surgery when I did, my Crohn’s disease would have killed me. Surgery made a drastic change in my life for the better. Now I will be around for my wife and kids.

I had a promising career in the United States Army, but that all quickly changed. In 2014 I was deployed to Afghanistan. During my deployment, I noticed something wasn’t right and started having a lot of stomach pains and other symptoms. At the time I didn’t think much about it. I was focused on the mission during my deployment. I always put my soldier’s needs before mine. So nine months went by and I came home in 2015. Still having these symptoms I was asked to do another deployment to Iraq. I took the deployment for another nine months. Towards the end of my deployment, I was in a lot of pain. Once I returned back home I finally saw a medical doctor. After several tests, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Later I started treatments, but nothing was working. As a result, I was medically discharged from the military in August 2016; whereupon, I continued my treatments back home in Dayton, Ohio. In December 2016, I was still in so much pain that I went to the emergency room for testing. When the doctor came back, he told me I needed to have emergency surgery. That December I had my first surgery and I went home with a permanent ostomy. It was a difficult transition back to civilian life and even more challenging now adapting to life with an ostomy.

I really struggled in the beginning. I felt alone trying to figure things out. I went from being in the best shape of my life from being in the military to gaining weight and being depressed. I even shut my family out. I didn’t think support would benefit me because in my mind they were civilians and not prior military service members. One day I woke up and realized this doesn’t have to be this way and turned it around. I did reach out to a few support groups on Facebook looking for advice and how people deal with having an ostomy pouch. I realized it wasn’t about the military anymore, but all of the support people out there are willing to give. My wife is my biggest supporter!

I’ve read so many articles about Crohn’s and ostomy pouches, but I haven’t really felt like anyone was affected in the military as much. Now I want to share my story. I reached out to UOAA because I hope to advocate for all military and their families that struggle through this. I want to be the one who is there for a fellow service member that when they find out they have this disease that they are not alone and even though you loved and enjoyed the military, there’s still a bright future outside of the military.

Even after two years I still struggle with the thought of having a “bag” and some pain, but I am able to stay active now and recently went back to doing what I love – getting fit, and being outdoors and hunting and fishing. I feel having an ostomy was a slight setback, but it was not the end. There are far worse things in life. So if me having to do this to save my life and be able to enjoy it, then I find that as my motivation to keep going. Most importantly, I’m no longer out with the constant bathroom trips and horrible pain that left me not being able to love life and spend time with my wife and kids.

Expect More – Take Control of Your Health Care 

Part 6 in Series

 

By Joanna Burgess-Stocks and Keagan Lynggard-Hysell

 

There are many different emotions you may experience as a new ostomate, and it is important to understand that physical and emotional healing after surgery may follow different timelines. We understand that everyone copes with emotions differently. Some people struggle for a long time. Whether you would like to seek individual support from a social worker, therapist, or other medical professional or prefer support from a peer mentor or by attending a local support group; understanding the emotional impact of ostomy surgery and receiving the appropriate support is an important part of taking control of your health care.

 

Witnessing the Emotional Impact- a WOC Nurse’s Perspective

“Hello, my name is Joanna.  I am here today because I am your ostomy nurse”.  

I have repeated that sentence hundreds of times over the last 12 years. I am in the unique situation in that I am meeting you at a pivotal moment in your life, heading in a direction you might never have imagined–facing ostomy surgery. During that initial encounter I am sometimes met with a blank stare, a stunned look of fear and dread, or with complete relief.  Whatever the reaction, I am the person that is there to help you navigate the world of living with an ostomy. I take great care during that initial visit to meet you where you are emotionally, knowing that this is a sensitive topic for you, someone who most likely is not used to talking about the way you go to the bathroom. Soon, however, I will share with you that I too am an ostomate (person living with an ostomy) and have been one for 53 years since the age of three!  As I leave you that first day, I finally see a glimmer in your eyes–hope! A sign that maybe this journey is possible and that you are not alone.

As an ostomy nurse, I have had the opportunity to meet patients in a variety of settings and have worked with hundreds of patients facing ostomy surgery whether it be from cancer, bowel or bladder diseases or from emergent situations.  No matter the reason, the anticipation of ostomy surgery is a step into the unknown and can compound the anger, sadness, and fear about the medical condition that caused you to need an ostomy. As you face these multitudes of feelings and adjust to life with an ostomy, know that you can take control of what may feel like an uncontrollable situation.

 

Facing the Emotional Impact- a Patient’s Perspective

“Good morning Keagan, today a special nurse is going to come and teach you how to care for your ostomy and help with your first bag change.”

A special nurse?–I thought to myself. Why do I need a special nurse to show me how to take care of my pouch? I had so many questions, a multitude of emotions, and I was feeling overwhelmed. So many things were out of my control, my recent diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, my hospitalization, my surgery, and now the responsibility of caring for my ostomy. I felt helpless and was eager for some independence in managing my body.

My WOC nurse entered the room and introduced herself with a smile. As she sat beside my bed listening to my fears and frustrations she explained how we were going to change my pouch. In an attempt to gain some independence, I told her that I wanted to take the pouch off myself and as I lifted the edge of the barrier just enough to see the edge of my stoma and the few black stitches poking through my skin– I lost it. I didn’t want to do it anymore, any of it. I didn’t want my insides on the outside, I was scared of my own body. My WOC nurse stepped right in with encouragement and support and a perspective I will never forget. She said she understood that what I was going through felt unmanageable but that caring for my stoma was something that would allow me to be self-sufficient, and that changing my pouch would give me independence in caring for my health. Since my very first pouch change, I have been encouraged to shift my perspective and to be proactive in the areas of my care where I can take control.

 

Seeking Individual Support

It is important for you to seek the resources needed to understand and work through the emotional impact related to ostomy surgery. It can be very helpful to have someone affirm your emotional concerns as you adapt to life with an ostomy. Most will find their path to acceptance as they physically begin to feel better and become comfortable with the care of their ostomy. If you are struggling with depression, how to tell others about your ostomy, or any part of the adaptation process (including the lack of will to learn self-care), seeking support through counseling can help you address these struggles. A licensed professional has the skills to help you create the life “tools” you need for navigating the unknown, including fears of introducing your ostomy into a new or existing relationship, addressing body image challenges, or understanding the grieving process. You can speak with your physician for a referral if needed.

 

Finding Support in Others

The fear of the unknown can often be soothed by learning from those who have gone through a similar experience. UOAA has approximately 300 Affiliated Support Groups throughout the United States, providing the opportunity for you to connect with others within your community who have also undergone ostomy surgery. To find a local support group near you, visit UOAA Support Group Finder. If you would like to connect with others but prefer to do so through an online format or from the comfort of your own home you can join a Virtual Support Group. Another way to gain support is through an ostomy mentor. Ostomate Lois Fink describes in her book Courage Takes Guts; Lessons Learned From A Lost Colon, meeting her mentor for the first time at a restaurant. The mentor was wearing a very slim dress and Lois felt perplexed, trying to figure out where she was hiding her ostomy pouch!  Lois learned that she could be the same fashionista that she always was while wearing an ostomy pouch and it helped her face her ostomy surgery with more strength and confidence.

To learn how to connect with an ostomy mentor, many UOAA Affiliated Support Groups have certified visitor programs or you can contact UOAA for a list of current ASG visitor programs at 1-800-826-0826.  

 

Our Hope for New and Struggling Ostomates

It is the hope of all of us at UOAA that one day you will be able to look at your stoma and see it as something that was life-altering and maybe even life-changing, but it was also life-giving. Be patient with yourself as you journey through both the physical and emotional healing process and be sure to utilize the available resources to support you every step of the way.

 

Crucial Role of Emotional Support – Infographic

Emotional Support Infographic

 

Additional Information & Support

UOAA has developed several tools to help you navigate through various informational topics at your own pace. To help better understand what ideally should happen before and after ostomy surgery we have developed the Ostomy and Continent Diversion Patient Bill of Rights. To learn some of the common “ostomy lingo” you can refer to our blog Know Your Ostomy and Know Your Ostomy Pouching System and Supplies. Complete the accompanying checklists and keep them handy for your ongoing ostomy care.

As a new ostomy patient, you may have concerns or face many unknowns. UOAA provides resources to answer these frequent concerns and questions to best equip you in living with an ostomy. Here are a few of the ostomy educational resources available at ostomy.org:

 

Tag Archive for: Crohn’s disease

Live event featuring experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center

It’s time to get up close and personal with treatment for Crohn’s disease! Join us on Thursday, March 31st, at 6 p.m. EST for a live webinar about the best ways to manage this challenging form of inflammatory bowel disease. With the help of our panel of Crohn’s experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, we’ll cover a range of treatment approaches for mild, moderate, and severe Crohn’s during this one-hour event. Got questions? Post them live during the event and our experts will weigh in on everything from medications to surgery and more.

Date/Time: Thursday, March 31st | 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. ET | 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. PT
Location: Held Remotely on Zoom
Register Below