I’ve had my ileostomy for almost 11 years. Even though I’ve always felt confident with it, until recently, I never really thought about how my experiences might be able to help other people.
It’s weird that I hadn’t considered that since online chat rooms, message boards and ostomy websites are where I gathered all my pre-surgery information. Being able to talk to other people who had already “been there, done that” was such a valuable tool for me back then.
Why hadn’t I given back by offering the same support to others?
This past year has been pivotal for me because I am moving into a support role for other ostomates. I find that the more I open up about my story, the more I’ve been contacted by other people who either have an ostomy they’ve never accepted, or they’ve been told they need the surgery but are fighting it, or maybe they are doing okay with their ostomy but just want to know another ostomate who can relate. Regardless of the reason for reaching out, I want to be a good resource for them. No matter how different our lives are, I’m usually asked the same questions:
How will I ever live with a bag on my side?
Will life ever be normal?
Will I ever feel pretty again?
Will people be able to see my bag?
Will I ever feel sexy again?
Will I have to wear “loose-fitting” clothes for the rest of my life?
Will I be able to exercise?
I’m going to answer those questions in a non-traditional way. These photos answer all of the questions above. I am proud of my body, my scars, and yes... even my ileostomy. I am comfortable in my own skin. These photos are living proof that there IS life after an ostomy. Live it! Choose it!
This year’s Ostomy Awareness Day campaign focused on resilience.
#IAmResilient because I’ve never asked “why me.” It just “is” and because I won’t let my mind get bogged down with “why me” or pity parties, I’m able to see outside of my current situation. I had a few really bad years with Crohn’s but then I had 10 GREAT, healthy years. I’ve had a recent set back, but if I can go 10 years between Crohn’s and surgeries... then that’s winning to me!
#IAmResilient because I learned to fight for my life. I have more empathy for those fighting their own battles (whether illness or something entirely different). Everyone has struggles in their life, I’m not special. I did the same thing thousands of others have done in my same situation – I chose ostomy surgery. One of my doctors actually said to me this week, “I firmly believe if you did not had your surgery, you would not be alive today.”
#IAmResilient because I have allowed Crohn’s and my ileostomy to change me – in a good way. I have learned to live more for today. If it’s a day that I feel good, then you can bet I’ll pack that day with as much activity as possible! I l.o.v.e. the aerial arts (trapeze and silks) and I l.o.v.e acrobalancing. I love event planning and being on committees for large events that benefit local charities. I love dancing and live music! My ileostomy doesn’t stop me from doing the things I love. It’s actually quite the opposite. I get to do the things I love because of my ileostomy!
A version of this post originally appeared on Blog Days of Janie.