For Women's History Month, we'd like to recognize several inspirational women who've lived with an ostomy. They remind us that no matter what the obstacles are, we're capable of achieving anything. Meet five ostomates who inspire us.
Athlete, Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Babe Didrikson Zaharias is widely regarded as one of the greatest female athletes of all time. She won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Summer Olympics before turning to professional golf and winning ten LPGA major championships. Her career was put on hold in 1953 after being diagnosed with colon cancer and having colostomy surgery, but she made a comeback in 1954 winning her 10th and final major championship at the U.S. Women's Open. In 1955, cancer came back and she passed away at age 45.
Entertainer, Barbara Barrie
Barbara Barrie was born on May 23, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois. She is an American actress of film, stage, and television and has been nominated for an Academy Award, a Tony Award and three Emmy Awards. Barbara was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 1994 and treated successfully through chemo, radiation, and multiple surgeries including a colostomy. She's written two books about her battle with cancer and living with a colostomy – Second Act and Don't Die of Embarrassment – to speak about the importance of early detection. Barbara lives in New York and is 87.
Business Woman, Letitia Baldrige
Letitia Baldrige was an etiquette expert, public relations executive and author who was most famous for serving as Jacqueline Kennedy's Social Secretary. In 1964, she founded her own PR business and wrote several successful books. Most of her career was as an entrepreneur but she also did significant charity work with Jane Goodall to help fundraise for the preservation of habitats for wild chimpanzees. The Washington Post wrote that she was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1978, and the NYT said she lived with an ostomy. Letitia died of cardiac complications in 2012 at age 86.
Nurse, Norma Gill
Norma Gill became the world's first Enterostomal Therapist (ET) nurse in 1958. Her grandmother lived with a colostomy during a time where many had to wear dressings before ostomy pouching systems were available. As a young woman, Norma was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and underwent ileostomy surgery. She became interested in helping patients adjust to life with an ostomy and believed that surgery should be a stepping stone to an improved quality of life. Norma devoted years to help revolutionize ostomy care and was nicknamed the "Mother of Stomal Care."
Activist, Linda King Aukett
Linda King Aukett is recognized globally for her volunteer and advocacy work in the ostomy community. She had ileostomy surgery in 1970 because of ulcerative colitis. Linda and her husband co-founded the United Ostomy Associations of America in 2005 and she was also involved with Youth Rally, an annual summer camp for children with bowel and bladder diseases. Linda dedicated her life to helping ostomates by advocating for thousands who are underserved with national insurers. She passed away on March 1, 2013, at age 69 after battling thyroid cancer. Linda worked tirelessly and selflessly for all of us and her legacy will live on for many years to come.
We applaud all women trailblazers who worked hard to fulfill their dreams. Eleanor Roosevelt once challenged us to, "do one thing every day that scares you." Don’t ever let an ostomy hold you back. You can overcome any obstacle in your life. We believe in you.