Having an ostomy... it’s not the best thing in my life, but it’s far from being the worst. In my case, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s for 26 years and the disease stayed in the same area of my intestine with uncountable flare-ups. There came a time when my doctor told me that proctocolectomy surgery could happen at any time. Like many long-term inflammatory bowel disease patients, I was warned about colorectal cancer occurring over time, so the right decision for me was to have colostomy surgery in order not to take a risk.
From the moment I became an ostomate, life changed. I had many complications after my first surgery. I went to the ICU and stayed for more than two weeks in the semi-intensive care without drinking or eating — only TPN (total parenteral nutrition). I was in the hospital a total of 34 days and for 20 of those days, I went through three complicated operations. Each one was literally life or death.
When I returned home, I felt unmotivated to move on. I didn’t have the courage to look at myself in the mirror. When I did look I thought, “This is not me.” My husband (who had been with me almost the entire time in the hospital) encouraged me a lot so that I would return to being the same Luciana that I’ve always been… a cheerful, smiling, playful person who enjoyed life. So that’s what I started doing. Over time, I gradually began to accept myself as being an ostomate. It was a long process, but today – a few years after my first surgery – I can finally say that I enjoy my life. I do everything I want with a colostomy. I don’t have to worry about constantly finding a (clean) public toilet or being in terrible stomach pain after eating as I did with Crohn’s.
"To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself." ― Thich Nhat Hanh
Literally, my life has changed for the better, it just took time adjusting to living with an ostomy. I don’t feel less beautiful or less sexy because of what happened — it’s quite the contrary! I actually take care of myself much more than before and my confidence is higher.
So, what happened to make this shift in my life?
Many things, but here are just a few:
I became grateful for my life. I view it now as my second chance to live, so I’m going to make it better than before.
My values changed. What was important to me in the past is not anymore.
I’ve become much more selective with people in my life. I pay attention to who is good for me and who is not.
I am totally detached to material things. Since I was close to death, I don’t care for “things” anymore. If I had died I would have left everything, so why should I care now?
I feel a great desire to help those in need. I have always been giving but after everything I went through I want to support the ostomy community even more.
I’m not waiting for someone to make me happy. My personal happiness has everything to do with conscious choices and the determination to live a good life.
An ostomy for better or worse? For me, it was worth seeing from both perspectives. I’m glad I got it sorted out. We often go through life see things one way — then along comes something (like near-death) that completely reframes our perspective.