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5 Important Things My Ostomy Taught Me About Life

I'll admit, at first it’s a little difficult to adjust to a new lifestyle.

When my GI doctor suggested a three-step procedure for a J-pouch to treat my ulcerative colitis I was scared. But I made the decision to go forward for a chance at a better quality of life.

It was extremely hard to manage my new life with an ostomy for the first month or so, but living with a temporary ileostomy taught me plenty of lessons that have helped me in life.

1. Planning

When everyday life depends on ostomy supplies, planning ahead is essential. I became an expert at keeping track of my inventory, ordering products from different suppliers, managing medical claims, and coordinating delivery so I’d always have the products I needed. Going through all of that taught me key skills that I still apply to many aspects of my life today.

2. Organization

My ileostomy brought a lot of new products into my life that I never knew existed. Weeks after my first surgery I had samples from many different ostomy manufacturers. Once I mastered the art of choosing the right products for me, I soon realized there was another issue to tackle—storage! It was very important to have my ostomy supplies stored in a clean and safe place. I would box up the items I didn’t immediately need, and the products I'd use within days or weeks had their own pretty little storage bin in my bathroom. The products I used everyday were stored in my bathroom cabinet in their own space where I could reach quickly and easily.

3. Confidence

Living with an ileostomy taught me to love myself and showed me how strong I truly am. I made it through years of pain with ulcerative colitis, then a temporary ostomy, and finally a J-pouch. I felt I could take on anything! All that I survived gave me the confidence to share my story, become a patient advocate, create a website, and accomplish my goals… no matter how difficult the journey becomes.

4. Friendship

Going through the surgeries, living with my ileostomy, dealing with the ups and downs, malfunctions and blowouts really taught me a lot of things about friendship. Having close friends by my side to support me really showed me what it meant to be a good friend, and how much of a difference it can make in someone’s life. It also showed me who my real friends were. There were people who, of course, didn’t show up, didn’t check on me, and really didn’t care at all. I didn’t let it bother me then, and I don’t let it bother me now. I wish them the best, but I no longer waste my time or energy on those people.

5. Attitude

A positive attitude was so important to my health. When I first came home from ostomy surgery, I felt a little distraught. I was tired and confused. I didn’t know anyone else living with an ostomy and I just I wasn’t in the mood for much of anything. I'll admit, at first it’s a little difficult to adjust to a new lifestyle, but being aware of my attitude towards my ostomy made all the difference. With a positive attitude I found myself more open to new information, I learned more much faster than I would've if I allowed myself to stay down and out. I was more approachable, which allowed me to meet new people, learn from them and use their experiences to help myself. I was grateful to have my healthcare team – the nurses, physicians, and surgeons – who would visit me in the hospital, lifted my spirits, and called me brave. I try to think positive to benefit myself and those around me.