It's International Women's Day and March is Women's History Month, so we’re celebrating five inspirational women who are all ostomates and achieved great things. They remind us that no matter what obstacles we face, we are capable of anything.
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 10 LPGA major championships. In 1953, her career was put on hold after being diagnosed with colon cancer and undergoing 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, her cancer resurfaced and she passed away at the age of 45.
Entertainer, Barbara Barrie
Barbara Barrie is an American actress of film, stage and television. She has been nominated for an Academy Award, a Tony Award and three Emmy Awards and is also an accomplished author. Barbara was diagnosed and successfully treated for cancer in 1994, enduring chemo and radiation treatments, and multiple surgeries including a colostomy. She has written two biographical books about her battle with colorectal cancer and living with a colostomy - Second Act (1997) and Don't Die of Embarrassment (1999) - in order to speak out about the importance of early detection. Barbara lives in New York and is 86-years-old.
Business Woman, Letitia Baldrige
Letitia Baldrige was an American 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 spent 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 mentioned that she lived with an ostomy. She died of cardiac complications in 2012 at age 86.
Nurse, Norma Gill
Norma Gill was born on June 26, 1920 and became the world's first Enterostomal Therapist (ET) nurse in 1958. She was diagnosed with chronic ulcerative colitis, yet found the strength to look beyond her own situation to recognize the needs of others in similar circumstances. Norma finally found relief from the illness after undergoing ileostomy surgery and then became interested in working with ostomy patients. She believed that ostomy surgery should be a stepping stone to an improved quality of life and devoted years to help revolutionize ostomy 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 Ken 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.
The achievements these women made living with an ostomy seem all the more impressive given the modern world we now live in. We applaud all women trailblazers who have worked hard to fulfill their dreams. Eleanor Roosevelt once challenged us to, "do one thing every day that scares you."
Don’t ever let fear hold you back. What do you want to achieve?