From the moment you became an ostomate, your life has changed.

Having a bag—it’s not the best thing in life, however it’s far from being the worst. I want to believe that every change is for good.

In my case, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s for over 26 years and had the disease in the same area of my intestine with uncountable flare-ups. There came a time when my doctor said that proctocolectomy surgery or cancer could happen at any time in my gut. For some long-term bowel disease patients life myself, I was warned about the chances of colorectal cancer over time, so the solution for me was colostomy surgery in order not to take that risk.

I had many complications after the first surgery. I went to the ICU and stayed for more than two weeks in the semi-intensive care without drinking, much less eating, only with TPN (total parenteral nutrition). I was hospitalized for 34 days, and in 20 of those days I went through three complicated surgeries—each one was literally life or death.

I returned home apathetic and 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 I was and returned to love. It was a long process, but today – one and a half 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, like I did with Crohn’s.

Literally my life has changed for the better, it just took time adjusting to an ostomy. I don’t feel less beautiful or less sexy because of what happened—it’s quite the contrary! I take care of myself much more than before and my confidence is higher than ever. 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.

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