Living with an Ostomy
I’ve had an ostomy for so far back I can’t even remember.
Do you remember the day you received your ostomy? Well I don’t.
I received my ostomy when I was just a few months old.
Yes, you read that correctly, a few months old. Even though I received my ostomy at such a young age, my first memory of having an ostomy was around age five.
This is when I feel my journey began.
Here is my journey from being a tiny confused 5-year-old, to a school-aged child. Then transitioning into those awkward middle school years, to high school, and finally becoming a confident adult.
Preschool years: Oh, how I wanted to go to school. I don’t remember much about being a five-year-old and having an ostomy, but I do remember very well how much I wanted to go to school.
I begged my mom every day to let me go. As I look back now, my five-year-old self thought, “I’m different. I don’t know why going to school will make me just like my sisters and everyone else.”
I didn’t start going to school on time because I didn’t have anyone to help me with my ostomy during the school day.
My dream finally came true a year later when I started school. In that moment, I was like everyone else, or that’s what I thought.
School age: I felt lucky and like a carefree school-aged child, until my friends started asking questions I wanted to ignore.
How was I lucky?
I was lucky because my grandmother worked at the elementary school I attended, and she was able to help with my ostomy if needed. My friends thought it was cool having my grandmother work at the same school and honestly, so did I!
How could I be a carefree normal child with an ostomy?
The answer is, I wasn’t as carefree as my friends, but I was carefree in my eyes and as normal as can be having three older sisters.
I never got to be the child that spent the night with friends or went over to their houses. But I did have friends over for sleepovers almost every weekend and they didn’t have a clue about my ostomy. This is what I wanted, and this made me feel just like them.
If my friends were at dance class, I was at home probably playing with my 13 cabbage patch kid dolls, watching TV, or fighting with my three sisters. My sisters and I fought just like any other siblings. Truth is, I started most of the fights.
Middle school: I remember those awkward middle school years. Plus, I had an ostomy and, as it happens, my grandmother transferred to my middle school. I don’t know about you, but I think that transfer was on purpose. I think middle school is when it really hit me. I remember having that realization, “I do have this ostomy and it does affect me”
Here I was that lucky school-aged girl that didn’t feel so lucky anymore. I disliked school so much that I missed over 40 days a year. Why did my parents let me?
Because I was different.
While my friends were hanging out talking after lunch, I was in the nurse’s office taking care of my ostomy. When friends questioned why I never got to hang out after lunch I became clever about coming up with ways to change the subject.
I didn’t let anyone in.
My grandmother was the only one at school that knew. I didn’t want to be or feel any more different.
Things didn’t get better during those years, they just got worse.
While those same friends could not wait to start high school, I was trying to figure out how to skip school all together.
High School: I remember the stressful but fun high school years. We all know that high school is about relationships, getting a license, prom, and the best part, graduation.
I wasn’t too focused on these things.
I still had the support and love of my grandmother and she ended up loving me so much that she followed me to high school. This helped me a bit.
I had only a few relationships because if I got too close, they may find out my secret and to me that could have been the worst thing to happen.
Getting a driver’s license is one of the most exciting things for teenagers. Not for me. I did not get a driver’s license in high school like most teens my age. I guess my parents thought you couldn’t drive with an ostomy.
I’m not sure how I made it through those years, but I did, and I am now a confident adult. So how did that happen?
Confident adult: I feel I became a confident adult once I realized having an ostomy is not something to be ashamed of.
I am not ashamed about having an ostomy.
You should not be ashamed about having an ostomy.
People don’t pay attention to your ostomy, they look at you as a person. I was able to move forward, accept my ostomy, and make changes in my life.
I finally told my friends about my ostomy and one even said, “yes I’ve known since high school.” I was very relieved she didn’t make a big deal at all.
I finally got the motivation to get a driver’s license and I even completed nursing school.
Once I received my nursing license I became a gastroenterology nurse in a busy outpatient clinic. This made it possible for me to make a difference in those tiny confused 5-year-old’s lives, those school age children, that awkward middle schooler and high schooler, and even an adult who must get an ostomy.
This has all helped me become that confident adult that I am today.
This is my journey. What’s yours?