After seven years of ups and downs with ulcerative colitis, my journey is finally coming to an end. In less than 24 hours I'll be in the operating room. I had hoped after the last surgery that my ileostomy would be reversed and I'd be “normal” again. Unfortunately, my body had other plans. I felt defeated when I found out it was going to be permanent. Mostly because my expectations and my reality were clashing. I flew rapidly through the stages of grief.
Denial: There’s no way my surgeon is right. He should take another look. The whole point of leaving my rectum in place the last time was so the stoma would not be permanent.
Bargaining: There are SO MANY medical advances — there’s got to be something else that can be done. Maybe my doctor's wrong? Will he just try the reversal anyway?
(That was a solid “NO” by the way.)
Anger and Depression: Why is my body such a piece of shit?! Why the hell can’t I just be normal? Nothing ever goes as planned. I cannot believe this is happening to me!
And slowly, I’m coming to Acceptance: It is what it is. The truth is that my ostomy has given me more than it’s ever taken away.
Prior to having ostomy surgery, I was so sick. I was on a multitude of medications, from pills to monthly infusions. I couldn’t even walk around my neighborhood on most days without succumbing to excruciating abdominal pain and embarrassing accidents. Most of the communication with my family was through the bathroom door — them on outside, me on the toilet. I was miserable.
Once the toxic colon was removed, my body healed tremendously fast. I always joked that my body was just “ready” after so many years of torture. An anticipated 5-day hospital stay turned into 3, and an anticipated 45-day recovery turned into 2 weeks. Sure, I’ve had some embarrassing moments. Those times when the bag leaks unexpectedly... you know, on a date, at the store, while I’m sleeping, in a work meeting. Luckily, I have a morbid sense of humor and an uncanny ability to laugh at myself. Humor is the survival tactic I developed during my brutal journey. And that's a much better situation than the one I was living in with ulcerative colitis. So, I’ll just wear my bag, until death do us part, with gratitude and grace.
Some things in life just don’t make sense, but we always have the choice to embrace change and make the best of it. Scars are proof you survived. They are marks of strength, resilience, and perseverance. Release any doubt. Wear them with pride. If you’re struggling with something, regardless of the circumstances, I challenge you to rethink your situation. Look at it from a positive perspective. Seek a way to grow from it, to change, to use it to impact someone else who is struggling. It doesn’t matter what it is… we all have unique struggles that we overcome… let it be your testimony.