Born and raised in the Reno area, Roxanne Orman was enjoying her 20's as a caregiver to Alzheimer’s patients and studying to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. While taking her usual one-hour bus ride to work, something inside didn’t feel quite right. Not thinking it was serious, she went to work that day – and every day for the next three weeks – with an upset stomach and more frequent visits to the bathroom. After a month of discomfort, Roxanne made an appointment with her doctor who prescribed a regimen of antacids, but the medication didn't relieve her pain. As symptoms worsened, it was now difficult to eat and her fatigue was nonstop. She went for a second opinion.
Her new doctor thought perhaps she had a psychological condition, questioning her diet and mental health. Knowing something was seriously wrong with her body, not her mind, Roxanne was still without a diagnosis. “Everyone says that my symptoms are so vague it could be a million things but that’s not helping with how I’m feeling," she said. ”I'm getting impatient and frustrated." Common feelings many patients experience while waiting for a diagnosis, and that's completely normal.
“When people constantly tell you that you look okay or even great from the outside, and they can’t imagine what you’re going through, it’s a really difficult thing.”
Her one-hour commute to work was now taking three hours because she had to get off the bus to use public restrooms. For nearly two exhausting years, Roxanne went to her job in severe pain. One day her co-workers thought she was having a heart attack and took her to the emergency room. Blood tests and x-rays were ordered. She presented with anemia and an enormously swollen colon. Roxanne was referred to a gastroenterologist who diagnosed her with Crohn’s disease, and because of its severity, surgery was the next step. In 2005, Roxanne underwent a J-pouch procedure (continent ileostomy) at the Oregon Health and Sciences Hospital in Portland, Oregon.
“Sometimes when you have a very serious health condition, you go from doctor to doctor, until someone finally says… I know what you have and who you need to see. Thankfully, that person was my ER doctor.”
With her health reclaimed, Roxanne started working for a national home improvement company. She told none of her co-workers about her health issues, until someone she met changed her mind. Coming from the rear of the warehouse, she heard a man singing opera and went over to see who it was — that person was Chris Luckman. Soon they started dating, but it was eight months before Roxanne explained Crohn's disease. She also shared that ileostomy surgery was needed to replace her J-pouch — thinking this news would ruin their relationship. She was wrong. “Chris saw this as an opportunity to get closer to me," Roxanne said. "In 2009 we got married and my ileostomy happened two years later, followed by several stoma revisions and peristomal hernia repairs."
Roxanne and Chris wanted to start a family which was proving difficult, but their dream was an irrefutable reason to try every option possible. Fertility specialists said she had little chance of becoming pregnant, even though her health had greatly improved after ostomy surgery. After two failed rounds, they decided to stop further treatments. She prayed and decided, “I’m going to give it all to God.” Amazingly, a few months later she became pregnant. Roxanne calls her son Emmett a “miracle baby” and shared, “my pregnancy was totally normal and Crohn’s even went into remission, but I did plan a C-section because of the scar tissue in my abdomen.”
Now Roxanne and Chris are expecting their second child, Hazel, in January. After a recent checkup she wrote in a Facebook post, “An incredible moment in my day was having a 32-week ultrasound and seeing Hazel's beautiful face with her hand and foot curled up next to it.“ Earlier this month, Roxanne’s family got together with close friend and photographer, Jonni Dunn, for a photoshoot and maternity pictures.
As a young woman living with an invisible illness, Roxanne learned some valuable lessons early in life. “Society seems to have this idea that women are supposed to look a certain way and be a certain way. Health issues definitely don’t fit into that idea.” Now, 33, she wants other women with ostomies to know this: “Fear is a liar. Don’t let it steal your happiness. Even though your external appearance will change, be grateful, it will make you a better person. You'll grow and meet the right person.”