People with an ostomy are used to overcoming challenges. From multiple surgeries with long recoveries to living day-to-day with any number of debilitating diseases, ostomates show a resiliency that can stand up to even the most difficult of circumstances.
But there’s one often-overlooked challenge that cannot be defeated by sheer will and determination. No amount of personal willpower and inner-strength can change it. That challenge? The costs of living with an ostomy.
It’s no secret that medical supplies and equipment are expensive. But for most, it’s a one-time or temporary cost. For those with an ostomy, however, pouching systems are needed on a daily basis and running out of them or going without is not an option.
Often, the potentially staggering and unrelenting costs of living with an ostomy can force people into a foregoing a vital operation that could give them a much better quality of life.
A case in point was recently profiled in The Citizen Tanzania. A 60-year old man from Mweka – near the border of Tanzania and Kenya – was undergoing chemotherapy for rectal cancer at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar es Salaam. As a symptom of his cancer, he was passing stool uncontrollably, often leading to accidents in public. Doctors told him the only effective and lasting solution would be colostomy surgery.
At first the man was receptive. However, when he realized it would be permanent rather than temporary (as initially thought), he refused. The reasons given were two-fold. One, he didn’t like the prospect of living with a colostomy for the rest of his life. And more importantly, he didn’t think he’d be able to afford it.
Eventually, after talking with his doctors and going over the benefits and risks, he agreed to the operation. It would be very difficult for him to afford, but it was the only thing that could restore normalcy to his life.
Every day all over the world, people are faced with this same decision. Even with insurance, the cost of ostomy supplies can be a heavy financial burden. But without insurance, it can be an unrelenting and seemingly insurmountable expense, adding a layer of constant stress and worry to people already dealing with trying circumstances.
This is especially true in the United States where the cost of ostomy supplies for those not covered by insurance can be astronomical. That’s why Christine Kim started a charity group called Kindred Box. It's a pay-it-forward initiative that's connecting people who have excess ostomy supplies to those who need them. All of the money raised goes to help ostomates in America who cannot afford supplies. It’s a simple solution to a difficult problem born out of the goodness of people’s hearts. By working together with charities like Kindred Box, Friends of Ostomates-USA, FOW-Canada, and Blessing Bags, our shared strength can be a source of optimism and hope.
The author of the aforementioned article, Dr. Lugano Wilson, closes with words of encouragement for ostomates all over the world: “You all are the strongest people on earth, your inborn strength is the reason you should be optimistic.”