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Here's Why You Probably Didn't Know Your Neighbor Has An Ostomy

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Did you know the guy across the street has an ostomy?

Chances are your neighbors don't even know what an ostomy is, but they're still likely to know someone who has had the procedure. Ostomies still seem to be one of the least talked about conditions in medicine. That's hard to believe, especially when you consider that about two million people worldwide have one.

An ostomy is a surgically created opening on the abdomen, known as a stoma, through which bodily waste is discharged. A portion or the entire colon is surgically removed in the case of colostomies and ileostomies, and the bladder is removed for urostomies. The intestine is brought to the abdominal wall and ostomates are required to wear a pouching system over their stoma at all times. The three main types of ostomies are: colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy.

The reason for that might be the location of the condition. Since the ostomy pouch is usually hidden under the person's clothes, there's no way of telling that a person has an ostomy. Ostomates look just like anyone else, they have jobs just like anyone else and they participate in lots of different activities.

At this point you might be asking, "So what's the big deal?"

Well, the very secretive character of this condition could potentially create quite a problem for some. Just imagine you're at an event and you meet someone you really like. You go out on a few dates and discover that things are going really well between the two of you. Then the big question pops, "How am I to tell him/her about my ostomy?" This is the kind of dilemma many ostomates face quite often in their lives. For example, an open letter was sent in by a young lady with an ostomy to an online magazine. Here is an abstract:

'"I am a 23-year-old woman, finishing my last semester at college... I have Crohn's disease and have had an ileostomy bag since I was 13. In other words, I have no colon and I poop into a bag on my abdomen. I almost died before this surgery was done, I was so ill..... As you can imagine, this is hard to talk about, especially with potential dating partners. I have had long periods of time when I literally could not even look at my waist in a mirror..... You would think after 10 years I would know what to say, but it's never gotten any easier....."

We were so moved by this letter and others we've met who are having a difficult time accepting their ostomy. If you need support, there are several ostomy organizations, local support groups and even dating sites for ostomates. It seems like a well developed underground world of online assistance.

So, how many people do you know with an ostomy? If you're on this site, chances are you know quite a few... but your co-workers, your friends, and your teachers might not know anyone. Sharing the articles and stories on OstomyConnection is an opportunity to raise awareness about this lifesaving procedure that has given many a second chance at life.