Today is the two-year anniversary of a surgery that resulted in me living with an ileostomy for the rest of my life. While this end result certainly wasn't ideal, this outcome definitely beats the alternative being put into the ground. My abdomen showcases the aftermath of seven different Crohn's-related surgeries. The scars related to my ostomy as well as the bag that covers some of them up are obviously the most noticeable and protruding features on my stomach.

If you're not noticing the ostomy bag on my stomach, you're probably noticing the PICC line in my arm (as well as my medical backpack) that pumps calories and nutrients into my body daily. The stares, remarks, and questions I get from curious folk about both medical devices don't bother me anymore, but it definitely took a while for me to get comfortable talking about the “baggage” I have with my body.

I used to refrain from bringing up what's hiding under my shirt. Most people don't even know what I mean when I say the word ostomy because poop bag talk is still considered (but shouldn't be) a taboo topic. While living with an ostomy does present its own set of unique challenges, I'm learning to embrace it and open up about it because, 1) I'm still alive because of it, 2) My ostomy isn't going anywhere, and 3) Nobody should have to feel ashamed or inadequate because of the medical equipment they need to keep going.

To those trying to overcome obstacles related to living with external medical gadgets on their body… just hang in there. If need be, make funny faces back at the people who stare or criticize. I am, too, still working on acceptance. My gadgets certainly weren't part of my lifelong goals, but I appreciate the fact I’m able to exist outside of a hospital because of them. I remind myself to focus on all the ways that an ostomy is providing a better outcome for my life. And life is so much more worth living when you're not ashamed of or trying to hide the equipment that's keeping you alive.