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People often wonder what to say to others, especially to children or grandchildren, when they first learn about an ostomy. While what kids ask can sometimes be surprising, their sincerity can brighten your day. Hollister Incorporated brought kids and ostomates together to learn about stomas for the first time. Hear what they had to say by watching this video –

About the Ostomates:

LeeAnne Hayden @leeannehayden

LeeAnne Hayden stepped away from a successful corporate sales career to build an online social selling business at age 40, and then was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which resulted in ostomy surgery. This would serve as her wake-up call to find ways to help herself and others overcome the stigma of living with an ostomy. Now, at age 50, LeeAnne has created a podcast called The Beautiful Bag. Read more about her story here.

Stephanie Bension @missbension

In 2004, when Stephanie was in high school, she was diagnosed with a combination of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. At 24 years old, she found herself in the emergency room faced with the reality of receiving an ileostomy. With time and support from her family, she started to share her story with others on social media. She is now a professional speaker who charms diverse audiences. She holds a degree in Radio-Television-Film from The University of Texas at Austin, which has allowed her to have unique experiences in several professional fields. You can learn more about her at www.stephaniebension.com.

Collin Jarvis @collinjarvis

Collin Jarvis was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when he was a junior at the University of California, Berkeley. His body rejected drug treatment to the point where he lost 30 pounds and was sleeping 15 hours a day. Due to this, he underwent emergency ostomy surgery with the removal of his colon. Barely five years after his ostomy surgery, however, the news headlines screamed: “Collin Jarvis Runs Sub-2:30 in One of the Fastest Marathons Ever With an Ostomy.” As evidenced by his marathon-running success, Collin now has the wind at his back and a whole new purpose in life, including being vice president of Stealth Belt, an ostomy support belt manufacturer.

Hollister Incorporated is a proud sponsor of United Ostomy Associations of America and dedicated to delivering the highest standard of quality in ostomy care products. To learn more, visit www.hollister.com/ostomycare or call 1.888.808.7456.

Why You Should Join UOAA as an Official Member

By Alyssa Zeldenrust

(National Conference attendee since 2011, DuPage County Support Group (suburban Chicago), Co-Chair of Events for Young Adults)

UOAA friends, educational tools, and vendor fairs have been lifesavers for me, so I’d like to share a bit about why I’m a member and what UOAA has to offer.

United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. (UOAA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports, empowers, and advocates for the 725,000 to 1 million of us Americans who are living with an ostomy or continent diversion (like a J-Pouch.) There is no need to feel alone, approximately 100,000 new life-saving ostomy surgeries are performed annually in the United States.

Without UOAA and medically diverse friends, I don’t know where I’d be today.

You can join one of the 300+ Affiliated Support Groups in the U.S. for local peer support and information. Whether you’re new or an ostomy veteran, you can get a lot out of UOAA resources.

I make sure every younger person I see at UOAA’s National Conference is welcomed into our group.

In my personal experience with my local support group, it’s a great way you can make friends who truly understand your situation. If you’re an ostomy veteran, you’re incredibly important to the new members of the group because you can guide them through difficult situations. Local ostomy friends are great because you can do social events in addition to support group meetings. I’ve gone to concerts, dinners, and parties with local buddies and it makes me feel so welcomed because nobody judges my body and we all tend to have a little bit of a dark sense of humor after a few years of illness or surgery.

Everyone should also become an official National Member, there is a membership for medical professionals as well. UOAA offers the National Membership for Individuals for an annual fee of $20.00. As an Individual Member you will receive UOAA’s:

  • National Membership pin and a stoma rose pin
  • Monthly e-Newsletter
  • New Ostomy Patient Guide
  • Plus, you’ll be notified when new or updated educational materials are available.
  • Have voting rights for our national elections
  • Can be nominated to be elected to serve on our Board of Directors
  • Will get a membership packet that includes a special promotion code to subscribe to The Phoenix magazine at a discounted rate.

Joining is also about standing up and being counted for advocacy purposes.

When I was too sick to attend the Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k my parents and fellow support group members made sure I was there in spirit with my face on masks.

Some local support groups host regional conferences that can be great. I had so much fun at the Midwest Regional Conference when I was lucky enough to go, and I left with a bunch of notes and new products to try.

National conferences are usually held every two years (Houston, Texas Aug 11-13, 2022 is next!) and are major events that turn me into a tornado of attempted hospitality. I make it my personal mission to find all the younger crowd and make sure nobody is left out and everyone has a chance to bond outside of the educational sessions. We have fun going all out with the parties and dancing up a storm. One of my favorite things has always been the vendor fair because you always find new things to try, and you can talk to people directly about their product. The educational sessions are so good that sometimes I truly have trouble choosing, so then we split up and take notes for each other.

A few people admitted to me later that they didn’t expect to leave with new, actual friends. That sort of thing just makes my heart happy. Without UOAA and medically diverse friends, I don’t know where I’d be today.

 

A version of this article first appeared on Allysa’s blog Partially Unstuffed

 

 

A year with an ostomy provides challenges and blessings

My name is Jasmine and I was diagnosed in 2016, at the age of 23 going on 24, with stage three colorectal cancer. I am a survivor. I went through multiple surgeries, chemo, radiation, and an ileostomy.

Many people think that having to wear an ileostomy bag would be unpleasant and very difficult. There is some truth in that at first, but I learned on the journey that it was a blessing.

Without an ileostomy, I would have not have been able to have my cancer (tumor-size of a peach) taken out. Without having my cancer out, I might not be here today. There are challenges that I faced such as my bag leaking. There were some nights when I would wake up and the stool would be everywhere. It was very frustrating but I managed to get through. One day I asked myself, “is this life?” Just like anyone else I would feel down. I knew it was ok to go through the emotions but I started praying to God that things would get better. My faith, family, and friends is what got me through.

Once I explained to my treatment team about what was going on, they insisted that I have a nurse come out two-3 days out of the week to help assist with my ostomy. Thanks to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, they gave me resources as far as where to order good quality bags that were covered by my insurance and I ordered from a supply company. They started by giving me free samples to try and then I started to order them frequently because I liked the quality and they also provided a kit that included scissors, ostomy bag holder, and barrier rings. The scissors were for me to cut the baseplate to get it to the exact size of my stoma so that it could fit properly. This was all new to me but in due time it became the norm.

The barrier rings were great because it is what protects the skin because I had issues with my stool getting on my stoma. Whenever the stool would rub on my stoma it would burn so the rings help protect the stoma and leaks.

I do not regret anything I went through though because I came out a stronger person.

The advice I’d share would be to empty your pouch on a regular schedule to avoid overflows. I ate small frequent meals because I notice when I ate a lot, my bag would fill up. Make sure you’re drinking enough fluids throughout the day as well. I had to Introduce foods to my diet one at a time to determine how it would feel. I always made sure that I had bags everywhere I went.

I had the ileostomy for almost a year and I was told that it did not have to be permanent unless I developed problems down the road. In April of 2017 I was able to get it reversed (taken off).

Some other challenges from the cancer were that I had a section of my rectum removed and one of my ovaries removed. I cannot have kids on my own because both of my Fallopian tubes were removed as well so I will have to go through a surrogate, knowing this, I chose to freeze my eggs.

Being that a part of my rectum was removed I have complications from time to time. I am now 29 and although I still have complications I’m so happy to still be here and share my testimony with others as well as help any others who are encountering the same illness.

My recommendation to others with an ostomy and going through this process would be to be confident in your bag. I never looked at myself as disabled, I wore my bag with pride. There were a few times when I made a design on my bag to make it my own.

One thing I went through was being able to see who my real friends were through this process. I lost some friends in the process but gained even better friends. I had trouble dating due to the fact that people were intimidated by my bag and everything I had to go through.

I do not regret anything I went through though because I came out a stronger person. Life is too short to be down, I survived cancer, I was almost at the end of the road. I was in way too deep to just give up. Do not give up, I want those who see my story to reach out to me if they need to vent. It helps to talk to someone who actually went through the same experience.

With the help of my family real friends, and God I was able to go through this process gracefully.

Ostomates often struggle with fashion and feel their options are limited. Without a doubt, part of the journey to adjusting to your ostomy is finding ways to dress yourself that is both comfortable and still allows you to express your individuality. This was no different for Deirdre, who felt that her passion for fashion and style were taken away from her after her ostomy procedure.

Fortunately, clothing designers have recognized that women come in all shapes and sizes, so you can now find pants with a variety of waistline heights. This allows you to find a style to fit your body and your needs. For active wear, consider wearing yoga pants or stretch pants to help support the pouch during exercise. You might also try biker-style shorts since they can be worn alone or layered under shorts, exercise pants or other stretch pants.

Part of adjusting to an ostomy also includes finding the right pouching system that fits you as well. With the help of her stoma care nurse, Deirdre found a pouching system that worked for her, and she regained the confidence to go out, go to work, socialize with her friends, and do all the other activities she dreamed of being able to do when she was in the hospital. For Deirdre, fashion and style are important aspects of her life, so having a pouch that works with different outfits allowed her to feel like herself again. Her journey with chronic illness and living with a stoma has become so much more about self-esteem, body image, and loving herself. According to Deirdre, “Once I went out and started getting back to normal life again, no one ever would’ve known that I had a stoma, because the bag was so easy to wear and was hidden under my clothes.”

Deirdre found a discreet pouching system that fit her well and gave her a feeling of security, which helped her regain the confidence to leave the house in skinny jeans, or even sports leggings. Finding a pouching system with the right fit to Deirdre’s body meant having the confidence to socialize again. Although there may be some styles of clothing you want to avoid after surgery, you still have many choices open to you. See which styles you like the best, and which you find most comfortable. Every body is different and finding the right fit can make the difference between confidence and insecurity.

 

*Deirdre is a Coloplast product user who has received compensation from Coloplast to provide this information. Each person’s situation is unique, so your experience may not be the same. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether this product is right for you.

Call your healthcare provider if you have any medical concerns about managing your ostomy. You may also contact your Coloplast® Care Advisor for product usage and availability questions at 1-877-858-2656.

Prior to use, refer to the product ‘Instructions for Use’ for intended use and relevant safety information.

Editor’s note: This article is from one of our digital sponsors, Coloplast. 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.

In celebration of Wound, Ostomy, and Continence (WOC) Nurse Week 2021, help us to shine a bright light on these special nurses. They give us the hope, support, and specialized care needed to thrive in life with an ostomy.

WOC nurse volunteers spend countless hours advocating, leading support groups, educating, fundraising, and supporting UOAA programs and services. UOAA recognizes that not all ostomy patients have access to a WOC nurse and we’ll continue to advocate for access to a specialized ostomy nurse from preoperatively when your stoma site is marked through an ongoing lifetime continuum of care as outlined in our Ostomy and Continent Diversion Patient Bill of Rights.

We asked UOAA’s social media community to share how a WOC nurse has made a difference in your life, health, or support group. We hope more nurses will consider this rewarding specialty. Thank you WOC nurses, you are our guiding lights.

I would like to thank my WOC nurses who have and continue to support me as an ostomate. My nurses inspired me so much I went to nursing school and graduate this month with a BSN and plan on continuing on. To become a WOC nurse myself! Thank you WOC nurses! -Katie Lee

“My WOC was a lady named Gayle. She helped my Mom so much with me. I remember many visits to the ER ward and having her there. She was funny, nice and on it. I used to love seeing her. She stayed by my side from 3-6yr old into my adulthood. She fought hard to find a bag that was the perfect fit for me. She got a new product in and it changed my life significantly, she fought tooth and nail to keep me in that bag, even when Canada decided to stop offering it openly. I still wear that brand to this day. I always heard rumors she was also an Ostomate and I can’t say how long. That made me love her more. I will never forget those who had a hand in my welfare and saw me through their entire career. I miss her and the others immensely. Jody is my new WOC and although I rarely need her, she’s there to help, even if it’s a panic situation that couldn’t wait for an appointment.” –Camille C.

“Joanna Burgess Happy WOC Nurse week. You have been a true Angel of Mercy for me over the years!” –Col Justin Blum

“My son’s WOC nurses at CHLA were awesome!!” – Teri C.

I am a WOCN and worked with MANY ostomy patients in the past. The thanks go both ways — I have never (in a long nursing career) felt as appreciated for my clinical skills and assistance as I do when working with people with an ostomy. They are the reason I have stayed in nursing. -Cris R.

This is Karen with my husband at his 55th birthday party in 2019 -Pam Allen Williamson

We have 3 great WOC nurses in our community that come to our ostomy support meetings Karen Eubank, Michael Byars and Jason Pratt. Michael went above and beyond by creating a weekly outpatient ostomy clinic after I told him I learned some cities had those while attending a UOAA conference. Karen who has been coming to our meetings for over a decade, hosts many of our support group parties at her house, works at the ostomy clinic on a regular basis, pays to store donated supplies and often helps people after hours. Both of them visit my husband when he is hospitalized, came to the house to visit him when he was home on hospice and came to his funeral. We are extra grateful to Karen because before he left the hospital on hospice she applied a special high output bag connected to bed drainage bag to minimize the family’s need to interact with the ostomy. Karen who is a neighbor told me that she would come change the bag twice a week. The hospice nurse was fascinated and stayed late to watch Karen change it out. He was going to stay in the hospital as long as they would let him to avoid family having to deal with his bag because he had always been so independent with it until nearly the end. Karen’s solution allowed him to come home and be surrounded by family caregivers that loved him and have wonderful conversations remembering fun times and having important conversations instead of the visitor limitations hospitals right now. We are so grateful to her for this and hope it will benefit other families of bed-bound patients. BTW we still fondly remember my husband’s first WOCN Nurse Licklighter who was a nurse at Keesler AFB in 1993. She marked him before surgery and taught him how to handle his bag and he kept her handwritten instructions forever and sometimes copied them for others. -Pam A.W.

I can’t thank the nurses at Ohio Health Riverside Hospital they helped me so much and made an otherwise difficult transition quite non traumatic! –Carol B.

Thank you to Erin and Vanessa at New York Presbyterian! –Jameson Cycz

The ConvaTec nurse Lorelei. She has been a stoma saver. She helped me troubleshoot my leaking problem, got me into a new pouching system, that is awesome and when I ran out of samples and am in limbo with my supply company in getting the new pouches and other supplies, she set me up with a holdover supply, so that my stoma won’t be continuously injured by my current pouches.- Susan Gentner

I’m thankful for all of the WOCNs I have been to. Some I’ve known for many years. They are very knowledgeable and helpful with various products.I also want to give a shoutout to our great WOCNs at 11 Health & Technologies for being amazing for our team and patients. 💜 –Megan Alloway

Amazing Aimee Frisch. The best WOCN in know. Love you. -John Pederson

Happy ‪#WOCNurseWeek2021! What you do for ostomy patients and the impact you make is immeasurable!  Plus we are grateful for all that you do to support UOAA and our advocacy program! You are advocates for patients and can influence change. Shine on! @UOAA_Advocate -Jeanine Gleba

I want to tell my story concerning my ileostomy in order for people to understand how it is living with one and how a person can live a normal life and more.

I had my original ostomy surgery 49 years ago in 1972 – you can imagine how surgeries, techniques and medicines have progressed since then. Twenty-five years old at the time, I spent several weeks in the hospital recovering. At age 24, I experienced my most serious bout of ulcerative colitis, and after several months with a tremendous amount of blood loss, it was determined that I would be better off having my colon removed, living with an ileostomy and staying alive, period.

Needless to say, it was a difficult transition from a “normal” body to one with a bag/pouch attached to my abdomen forever. Discharged from the Navy a couple of years before my surgery, I had been enrolled at the Ohio State University, and so decided to finish school and get my teaching degree. After the original colectomy procedure, a few more surgeries were required to correct a protruding ileum, but finally things settled down to where I could get back to a normal life.

Trying to live life to the fullest, I appreciate every day that I’m alive.

Admittedly, life was a little rough for a couple of years after my surgery, especially when it came to dating. I was embarrassed to mention my ileostomy and even today, am reluctant to tell people. it’s probably a personality trait, but I feel I need to get to know people before I tell them about me. However, the day I met my wife-to-be, I told her about my ileostomy and we have been together ever since; go figure.

In the past 49 years, I have graduated from college, gotten married, had a son, worked for the government, taught high school, coached football and tennis, and traveled extensively. I played tennis for many years, as well as golf. I’ve camped in the Rockies, the Grand Canyon and the Grand Tetons, traveled throughout the United States, hiked the Camino di Santiago in Spain and spent many vacations in Italy. I’ve hiked parts of the Appalachian trail and still love hiking to this day. An avid speed walker for the last 10 years, I qualified for the Senior Olympics two years ago and this year.

Working as a personal trainer for 15 years has been a satisfying retirement job. I still play golf and walk four to five miles almost every day. I wrote an exercise manual a few years ago, The Hotel Motel Workout, and have filmed and posted exercise videos on the internet.

Trying to live life to the fullest, I appreciate every day that I’m alive. One further surgery was necessary for a revision to my ileostomy a few years ago, but I feel blessed that the doctors talked me into having the original ostomy surgery 49 years ago. Life is good.

When Paige started seventh grade, she was excited to meet new friends and begin new classes, like most 12-year olds! Her life quickly changed when she began to experience medical complications. At the beginning of seventh grade, Paige started having to make frequent visits to the bathroom, as much as 12 times a day. Paige and her family sought out answers and treatment at a nearby hospital where the doctors found a parasite in her colon called cryptosporidium, which causes diarrheal disease.

Due to her Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis at the age of 10, the parasite was life-changing for Paige, as it destroyed her colon. “They told me that with how bad my colon was, I should have died.”

Paige went through a variety of treatments to save her colon. This started with receiving Remicade as an IV treatment…Paige’s body did not respond well. The next step in treatment was to try a j-pouch, again her body did not respond well to this treatment, but a j-pouch was tried one more time with the same outcome. After her two failed j-pouch operations, Paige continued to be sick and only had 8 feet of intestines left. Her mother, Cristy, discussed with her doctors to do something different since the j-pouch was not working, and that’s when Paige had surgery to receive a permanent ileostomy. After months of hospital stays, her life was saved with her ostomy. Paige’s journey doesn’t stop there. After being discharged from the hospital, Paige had trouble finding a pouching system that helped provide a secure fit to her body.

“We left the hospital with an ostomy pouching system that had a 12-hour wear time, at best,” says Cristy. “I went mama mode and searched for a better product. Luckily, we found a great gal on the other end of the Coloplast® Care phone line who answered all our questions and gave us just that!,” she said.
Once Paige found a pouching system that worked for her and started to gain her confidence back, she saw the need to create more resources for teenagers living with an ostomy, because there wasn’t much out there!

“I play volleyball, I go to camps that are just like me (Youth Rally), I attend high school dances, I go on dates…I do it all! Coloplast helped me find the best fit for my body. They may be able to help you too. I have used Coloplast for 4 years now and I still feel confident in my pouch.”
According to Paige, living with her ostomy is not always easy. Along with the physical challenges, there are mental challenges from her experiences as well. Paige encourages anyone experiencing mental challenges to speak up and find someone to talk with.

To help other teenagers living with an ostomy, Paige and Cristy contacted Coloplast, and they partnered together to create a care guide specifically for teenagers!

Throughout this booklet, Paige hopes to share the tips and tricks that worked for her as well and provide answers to common questions.

Download a free copy of this teen resource here: https://www.coloplast.us/landing-pages/teen-booklet/

*Paige is a Coloplast product user who has received compensation from Coloplast to provide this information. Each person’s situation is unique, so your experience may not be the same. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether this product is right for you.

Editor’s note: This article is from one of our digital sponsors, Coloplast. 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.

By Ellyn Mantell

Welcome to my fantasy.

We all have our fantasies, so come along with me as I describe one of mine…new ostomates (those with ileostomy, colostomy or urostomy, all having had stoma surgery) would begin their adjustment to their new life with all of their questions answered, they would have knowledge and be welcomed into an Ostomy Support Group, they would have a connection with a Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse (WOCN) and they would recognize what a gift, what a lifesaver an ostomy is.

My concern is that this is not the usual for ostomates, either new or even those who have them for many years. In New Jersey, particularly where I live, there are many resources available, and yet, even in our sophisticated arena, many ostomates leave the hospital uninformed and underserved. Prior to Covid-19, I visited patients in the hospital or in rehab facilities to answer their questions. I brought journals and pens so they could write their emotions, concerns, and observations, and refer back to their notes as they made progress. I am so anxious to return to that important undertaking as soon as it is safe to do so.

When I had my surgery in March of 2014, my surgeon told me I would be in the hospital for 5-7 days. However, I felt so well, so quickly, that I was able to leave 4 days later. That was pushing the envelope, but I was so used to recovering from abdominal surgeries, having had 22 before that, my ability to go into recovery mode was well-entrenched. The majority of patients need so much more time, and now, even 4 days is more than they are offered.

Back to my fantasy, and my pipe dream of a great transition for new ostomates:

How can questions be answered, and knowledge gained as needed? 

The majority of ostomies, even those performed in an emergent situation, require marking the abdomen for placement of the stoma (opening.) That is typically done by the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse (WOCN) and that is the person who comes to the patient’s room post-op to begin to prepare the ostomate for life at home. In an ideal world, the WOC nurse has written information to share, which once home, will make more sense, and provides contact information for any questions. Additionally, the ostomate is put in touch with the United Ostomy Associations of America to become part of a bigger group of kindred people.

How do we find Ostomy Support Groups in our area?

I am involved in three Support Groups, becoming president of one already formed when I had my ileostomy, and then worked with WOC nurses at two other hospitals in the area to form new ones. Until Covid hit, these were growing so nicely. But we are meeting virtually now, and staying as close as possible, knowing that the day will come when we are back together. It is wonderful to see “my people” who share my concerns, experiences and fears and accomplishments. We help each other in countless ways. People reach out to me through the WOC nurses in the area, United Ostomy Associations of America, The Phoenix Magazine, the American Cancer Society, three hospitals, and through word of mouth. Because I am so open and revealing about my ileostomy and Lily, my stoma, I believe my name pops into the minds of people when they know someone in need.

Ostomies are Lifesavers! “Read all about it!”

An ostomy provides the gift of health for many, many medical situations, including cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, motility issues and devastating organ injury. We live in good times for our supplies and the ability to try new and innovative appliances and accessories. The Phoenix Magazine is a great resource for all, and assists in wading through the confusion many feel. Motivational stories and practical guidance round out the offerings.

A final word about those we call our Angels…the Wound and Ostomy Nurses.

Establish a relationship with one, and if there is an Ostomy Clinic or Ostomy Center in your area, use it! These nurses are your connection to properly-fitting appliances, the correct supplies and accessories, questions and personal support, as well as the ability to refer to a Support Group. More and more are entering the private sector and providing services such as home visits, particularly to those who cannot travel to a clinic or office, and your surgeon may even have one in the office to help navigate the transition to life as an ostomate. We call our WOC nurses our Angels, and that is exactly what they are, ladies and gentlemen with big wings to support us!

 

Ellyn Mantell is a UOAA advocate and Affiliated Support Group leader from New Jersey. You can follow her personal blog at morethanmyostomy

Discovering Strength in the Struggle from J-Pouch to a Permanent Ostomy

If you asked me 20 years ago when I was in college if I thought I could be a strong ostomate, I would have just stared at you in shock. Strength and I were not the best of friends. In fact, it was one of the things I often questioned about myself. I had no idea what was something worth crying about.

That all changed three years ago when I was put to the test when I went from sudden rectal bleeding as a result of ulcerative colitis, to having to remove my colon in a matter of four months. During the next three years, I had four more operations from trying the j-pouch and failing, to finally getting a permanent ostomy just this past December.

Somewhere along the way, I found my strength.  I dealt with major emotional and physical changes faster than I could even process.  I had to adapt to a whole new way of life and a whole new way of looking at myself.

Somewhere along the way, I found my strength.

These three years have been incredibly hard. They have tested me in every way, broken me down to smithereens of myself, and caused me to question everything. The true strength that just suddenly overcomes you when you least expect it is something you don’t really understand until you are there and have no other choice. Life after that is forever changed.

Along the way, I started to feel strong. I was amazed by what both my body and my mind could accept and turn into a positive. I started to really take care of my physical health, and in the three years that I have been the sickest in my life, I became the most physically strong I have ever been by participating religiously in barre class. This physical strength, along with the help of the ostomy community, is what helped me to then discover my mental strength.

I literally stared death in the eye and won.  It is hard to even write that today.

Feeling very alone, I stumbled across some ostomy bloggers one night while scouring the internet.  Reading their patient stories blew my mind at the time, because I didn’t comprehend how they could just accept living with an ostomy.  But all that changed and I began to understand when I was so sick that it was no longer a choice if I wanted to keep being a mommy.  The decision to have a permanent ileostomy was the best choice I ever made.

This physical strength, along with the help of the ostomy community, is what helped me to then discover my mental strength.

I just had what I hope to be my final surgery and got my permanent ostomy on December 1, 2020. Since then, I have made some promises to myself. I want to be my absolute best version of myself now that I am able to really live again.  I want to help as many people with IBD and facing the possibility of an ostomy as I can.  I want them to see what I have come to see, that they too can use such an incredibly difficult period in their life to find their strength and their best version of themselves.

“God said to me, I am going to show you pain.  And then you are going to help other people who are in pain because you understand it” (Lady Gaga).