By Ellyn Mantell

It continues…the pandemic is rearing its ugly head and seems to be gaining strength once again, despite never universally weakening. Whereas we assumed by this time in the fall, we would be back to some sense of normalcy, we are, instead, buying jackets, shawls, gloves, and hats so we can eat outdoors and continue to safely socialize. Travel requires an army intelligence level approach including Ultra Violet wands, visors over masks, dozens of wipes, and gallons of hand sanitizer. Seeing family feels like a tease, since hugging and kissing are off-limits, with no change in sight. I could go on, but you know all of this, and more.

The one good thing that keeps me upbeat is the wonderful feeling of connecting with our support groups via Zoom. Ostomates still have concerns and needs, surgeries continue to happen, and new members need a safe place to begin their journey to their new normal. Even those of us who are comfortable and knowledgeable still need the same safe place to discuss concerns that continue to develop. And the ability to see familiar faces goes miles in feeling comfort.

I know from others who are doing virtual support group meetings that they, too, are feeling so much more secure in the roads they are traveling. Whether it is AA, or NA for addiction, or Alzheimer’s support for spouses or caregivers, cancer survivors, etc., people need to be able to talk and gain strength. Perhaps the ability to remain anonymous may be even more positive than in-person meetings.

Zoom and virtual meetings have been a lifesaver, and had we not been in this demanding situation, we may never have discovered that. I can still remember being asked to participate in a Zoom meeting a few years ago, and running as quickly as possible away from the involvement. It seemed so overwhelming and daunting. But necessity is truly the mother of invention, and I am eternally grateful that Zoom has made itself available for the masses.

Please consider reaching out to an ostomy support group via a computer or smartphone, if you are in need of…support. There is, undoubtedly, a group to help with almost every issue you may have. I believe I speak for those who facilitate when I say we care about you, want to help you, are likely to share your concerns and feelings, and most of all, are committed to you. I know that each ostomate who walks into my life represents an opportunity to help them look at their new life in a positive way, and with that in mind, our value is rather invaluable!

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

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