Ostomy United’s founder, Ted Vosk was invited to speak to hundreds who gathered at Coloplast’s headquarters in Minnesota on October 1, 2016 to celebrate National Ostomy Awareness Day. The 45-minute speech was followed by an hour of questions from ostomates and guests. Quite a few people in the audience were moved to tears and others approached Ted feeling elated after hearing his inspiring words.
Here is an excerpt from Ted's speech:
The first thing that I remember feeling after waking from ostomy surgery four years ago was hopelessness. Hopeless at the prospect of living the rest of my life with a bag of poop on my belly. I cried myself to sleep at night. But I realized that I had a choice. I could live the rest of my life as if it were a prison sentence or take advantage of the second chance that my ileostomy gave me.
It’s a choice a lot of people living with ostomies face. Waking from surgery to realize that part of your insides are now on the outside can be traumatizing. It’s not only the loss of physical security, but there is a feeling that you are now ugly or grotesque. That’s the stigma at least. And that’s how many ostomates feel as they struggle to come to grips with their new reality. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Each of us holds the key to living an extraordinary life with an ostomy.
I chose to take advantage of the second chance my ileostomy gave me. Since then I’ve completed my first Ironman triathlon, a 140-mile race consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26-mile run, had my first book published, my first peer reviewed paper published in a scientific journal, become an international speaker, traveled to Europe for the first time, taken part in my first case before the United States Supreme Court and founded Ostomy United, a triathlon team made up of ostomates and their friends, whose goal is to inspire and empower people living with ostomies. Absent my ileostomy, I would have died without ever having done any of these things. So, when people ask if I like my ileostomy, honestly, not really. But I do LOVE the life my ileostomy permits me to live.
There is nothing special about me. Other ostomates have done more. There are people with ostomies who work as firefighters, policemen, trial lawyers, construction workers, models and nurses; those who surf, pilot their own planes, climb mountains, ride motorcycles, play hockey, ski and go to the beach or a ballgame with friends; and many who, like me, have better lives now than they did prior to getting an ostomy. And these individuals are no different from you or I. You can live the life that you dream of. The secret is to believe in yourself and be willing to fall and get back up as often as necessary to reach those dreams. There will be setbacks and times when you get so frustrated that you’ll want to quit. But if you keep trying, you’ll find that others rally to your cause, and that you have become an inspiration. Not because of what you achieve, but because of your enduring spirit in the face of adversity.
This is why I founded Ostomy United. The Team uses triathlons as a metaphor to demonstrate its motto: There Is Nothing We Can’t Do!! There is nothing that anyone with an ostomy, nothing that YOU, can’t do. To drive home the point, Ostomy United has a photo album of ostomates from around the world doing all those things one living with an ostomy might want to do. And as I’ve searched for things that one might think that an ostomy could prevent someone from doing, I haven’t found a single activity.
We only live once, and that is the only chance that we’ll ever have to realize our dreams. Your ostomy is giving you another chance at that life, so you might as well live it, exactly the way that you want, without fear or regret. The strength to do so lies within you, simply take the first step, a small step… and then take another. Each of us is capable of extraordinary things, but extraordinary is not required. Simply live the life that you want to: There Is Nothing YOU Can’t Do!!
See more exciting things that happened on National Ostomy Awareness Day 2016 here.