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I Won’t Say Ostomy Life Is Perfect, But You CAN Have Swag!

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I’m a 23-year-old model, actor, writer, budding novelist, real estate broker, college student, blogger, and politician… because in this day and age you’ve got to be multi-talented in order to survive!

I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16, although I had symptoms since I was 14 and was simply afraid to tell anyone about this “poo taboo” disease. At 16 I left home for six months to attend Military School, which not only helped me get back on the straight and narrow (I was unfortunately drawn to trouble as a teenager), but to help me graduate from high school early.

As I went through the academy's rigorous training, the disease became worse. After graduating and returning to regular high school, I finally had the courage to tell my father what was happening to me (not easy to tell your old man that you’re bleeding out of your arse). For the next few years I tried every treatment available (including Prednisone and Biologicals) and the side effects were killer. Anyone who’s ever had to take those medications long-term knows what can happen; massive weight gain, moon face, bloating, anger, mood swings, impatience, insomnia, and more.

I was in the bathroom over 25 times a day at the height of the illness and was literally ALWAYS IN PAIN. I was drinking and partying all the time, running with an extremely rough crowd, getting into brawls over petty things… all to mask my pain and forget about the sickness. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going away so I started researching surgical treatment options.

Saleem Juma in the hospital

my life with ulcerative colitis.

I realized that ostomy surgery was needed in order to have any semblance of a life.

At first I debated trying the J-pouch because I heard many people had success with it, however there were also many people who did not have a good experience. I’m not afraid to take calculated risks, but my future life and health was not a risk I was willing to take. I stuck with my instincts and went with the bag. I wasn’t forced to choose this (though some could say circumstances drove me to it)… I WANTED IT!

I remembered reading Jessica Grossman’s blog (Uncover Ostomy) and said to myself, “Hell, if she can do it, I can do it too!” She’s a well-known ostomate/model/actress in Canada and I was modeling at the time too. I decided that I also wanted to become a bright shining light of inspiration for those who felt that they were unattractive and had to hide their ostomy bags.

After 18 long hours in surgery I remember waking up in the hospital with the ostomy bag attached to my stomach for the first time (props to my surgeon Dr. Martin Hermann. It can’t be easy to stay awake that long, let alone be in surgery). May 9, 2013 was actually the happiest day of my life because I had my 20th birthday at home while I was recovering from ileostomy surgery. For the first time since I was 14-years-old I wasn’t in pain, and it was an amazing feeling.

8 mile run today! Feelin stronger!

8 mile run today, feelin' stronger!

Now I won’t say life was perfect. I mean really, I had a poop bag and that’s not easy for anyone.

Of course I thought women wouldn’t find me attractive. Of course I thought I could never swim again. Of course my life would never be the same, and it didn’t help that I was diagnosed with extreme social anxiety and depression a year later. However, I refused to let anything get in my way of having a dope life.

That summer I started throwing house parties with my buddy, DJ Hobbit and one of my modeling buddies. Eventually we were throwing parties with around 2,000 people attending, it was totally nuts! I used our newfound reputation to start a business running nightclubs and yacht parties and we eventually grew our organization to 150 people. At 21-years-old I was making great money, dated incredibly hot girls and had a pretty awesome life in general.

I eventually ended that business because I was tired of the lifestyle, and now I’m back in college studying hard! I hold an active real estate license and am very focused on my blog and a modeling/acting career. I’m also in the process of writing a book, “Improving Your Social Skills and Having a Dope Life While Having a Disability/Anxiety/Depression.” I serve on my hometown’s Planning Policy Commission and am the Vice President of my college chapter, Young Americans for Liberty.

I did it all to prove that despite having an ostomy and social anxiety/depression (which to this day nobody really believes I have), you CAN still have an AWESOME LIFE!

Saleem Juma modeling for Lexus

At a photo shoot for Lexus!

I started a blog with a mission to inspire those who suffer from chronic illness.

When I was in my teens, dealing with the pain of this disease, lack of control and body changes made me different a person. In high school I felt that none of my friends or teachers gave two shits about me or ever bothered to find out why I was acting out, skipping class all the time and getting into trouble. If I’d had a mentor back then, things could have been much different. Somehow God has helped me find my own way and I want to give back by becoming a mentor for others who are suffering and feel alone.

I have a vision where people with anxiety/depression/disabilities are no longer looked at as different. I want to destroy the taboos our culture has about “invisible” diseases. Maybe I don’t have the brain power to cure things like inflammatory bowel disease or fix our fragile minds (that’s not to say I won’t bloody try!), but I can show people that it’s not just a normal life you can have living with an ostomy. It’s actually a dope life and you CAN have swag! Ostomy Bag Swag that is ;)… Fortis Et Cauteriatam Habentium Animas Cicatrices!