Something that seems to be said to me again and again is, “You don’t look like someone who would have an ostomy.” What is someone who has an ostomy supposed to look like? Are they supposed to look a certain way? Many people have stereotypes for all different things. In my case, I received an ostomy due to complications with Crohn’s Disease. Several people I meet and find out that I have an ostomy assume only older people could have one. This is not the case. Any person, any age or size, can have an ostomy. They can have it due to a stomach disorder, cancer, or in one case a mother whose son got in a car accident and had to get a temporary ostomy. I hope whoever is reading this and didn’t know, learns something and maybe shares this with others so more people can be educated on this topic.
I’d like to share with you something that happened to me that changed a lot of how I look at myself. It sounds dumb saying it out loud, but we as people put a lot of importance on how we look. We often worry that looking a certain way or standing out from others is a bad thing and not the norm. My story of my health journey has a bunch of ups and downs. At this point in my story, I would say it hit the all-time low. The one thing I always thought would happen is that I would have my reversal and I could go back to living my normal life. That is what I was told and is what kept me going. This was not the case. I had run out of medications to take and my colon wasn’t getting any better. It was time to make my ostomy permanent. When it got close to my surgery I was in denial; I did not want the surgery, so I kept telling myself I was okay. This did not last long. It resulted in being in the kind of pain you think about that you never imagined you could have. When the time came I told my doctor I was ready and back to the hospital I went.
This procedure was unlike others. I got my colon removed, but since I had a very bad case of perianal disease I had to have a plastic surgeon come in and do a flap surgery on my bottom to close the area so that it could finally heal. Back to when I was saying I was self-conscious about one of my body parts, I meant my bottom. After this surgery I would no longer have the same shape, or just a normal looking bottom as most people do. I was 21 at the time and I was mortified to see what it would look like. This is normal of course, just like when all of you “ostomates” out there who got your surgery. You no longer look the same and this was not an easy thing to accept. There were many days I spent worrying about not having a normal stomach, or a normal bottom which I think were totally a waste. I can walk with no pain, I can live my life normally as any other healthy person does. I just look different.
Having an ostomy doesn’t change who I am as a person. It doesn’t change how I act or feel or live my life. Changing your appearance doesn’t change you as a person. Consider this every time you have a negative thought about your appearance. Any thought like I mentioned in the video whether it’s your feet are not the size you would like, your hair isn’t long enough, your nose isn’t the perfect shape, throw those ideas out. You are perfect just the way you are. That bag on your stomach has now become a part of you; accept it and be proud of it. The opportunities you have in life are endless. Take advantage of that and always stay positive.
- – Kristen Furey
- Patient Champion