An open letter to my stoma, six months after colostomy surgery

I’ve never been ashamed to have you by my side.
Jason McIntosh

It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive. — Springsteen

Dear Stoma (clever nickname yet to be determined),

It’s been six months since we’ve been together, can you believe it? Oh, how the time flies. I wanted to take a moment to let you know what you mean to me, reflect on the past, and celebrate what lies ahead.

At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to take you since you were kind of shy and didn’t say much — as if you were a Kuato too lazy to fully appear. It was constant stress knowing how to treat you and making myself well again.

When you first arrived I had so many questions on how to deal with you and make sure you didn’t embarrass me with your unpredictability. Looking back on where I was then, and how comfortable I am now, is like world’s away.

You pushed me mentally and physically to keep going. You forced me to publicly proclaim and take pride in my new normal. This was truly a starting line of the comeback trail. I’ve never been ashamed to have you by my side. As soon as the first day after surgery I was in the hospital hallways doing a strut with my front butt, if you will. 

I’ve heard horror stories of those so embarrassed with their stoma that they didn’t leave home until they were able to get it reversed. I couldn’t imagine not being able to revel in the fact that I had you  an ostomy doesn’t make me any less of a person. In fact, it gives me a quiet satisfaction to know you don’t limit me AT ALL.

If I wasn't public about my digestive track enough, you’ve caused me to annoy the hell out of people by talking about it even more. I thought that was nearly impossible. I already joked about poop and farts but now I get to do so medically. Without a strong spirit and sense of humor, this relationship would be impossible.

To others, the leftover scars may be shocking, but to me they’re barely noticeable. It’s almost like in “The Man Without A Face” when the kid realizes he doesn’t see Mel Gibson’s imperfections anymore. I wouldn’t want them to disappear because they tell a story in themselves and remind me of how hard I’ve fought through all of this.

You’ve brought a whole new community of people into my life. Folks from online advocates, in-person ostomy support groups, nurses, doctors, and related businesses. You’ve brought loved ones even closer to me, and have given me the opportunity to help others. I love being able to share my experiences with those who need answers or are just looking for someone to understand their situation.

Finally, the biggest thing I can admit is, frankly, you saved my life. Without you being placed, I know deep down that I wouldn’t be here. When previously riddled with IBD, all I felt was sick and worried but you’ve allowed me to get back into a full, abundantly joyful life.

Thanks for everything,