By Stephen Holman
June 17, 2016 is the two-year anniversary of a surgery that resulted in me living with an ileostomy for the rest of my life.
While this end result certainly wasn't ideal, this outcome definitely beats the alternative of me being put into the ground. My abdomen showcases the aftermath of seven different Crohn's-related surgeries, but the scars related to my ostomy as well as the bag that covers some of them up are obviously the most noticeable and protruding features on my stomach.
I used to refrain from bringing up what's hiding under my shirt because most people don't even know what I mean when I say the word 'ostomy', and internal plumbing issues are still sometimes (but shouldn't be) taboo topics. That, and I guess most people don't consider poop bag conversations to be appetizing dinner talk.
While living with an ostomy does present its own set of unique challenges, I'm learning to embrace it and open up about it because:
1) I'm still alive because of it.
2) My ostomy isn't going anywhere.
3) Nobody should have to feel ashamed or inadequate because of the medical equipment they need to keep going.
If you're not noticing the ostomy bag on my stomach, you're probably noticing the PICC line in my arm (as well as my accompanying backpack) that pumps bags full of calories and nutrients into my body daily. The stares, remarks and questions I get from curious folk about both medical devices don't bother me anymore, but it definitely took a while for me to get comfortable talking about the “baggage” I have with my body.
So to those trying to overcome obstacles related to living with unexpected medical gadgets on their body… just hang in there, and make funny faces back at the people who stare or criticize, if need be. My gadgets certainly weren't part of my lifetime plan but I'm appreciative of the fact that I’m able to exist outside of a hospital because of them.
I’m working on getting past how they make me look and cause people to react toward me. I remind myself to focus on all the ways that an ostomy is providing a better outcome for my life. And life is so much more worth living when you're not ashamed of, or trying to hide the equipment that's keeping you alive.
Stephen had permanent ileostomy surgery in June, 2014 due to Crohn’s disease. He works in the service industry in West Des Moines, Iowa and enjoys playing the piano, hiking, and singing Disney karaoke.