Hello, I am Patient Coach Beth Kalbus. I learned about becoming a Patient Coach from Sierra Cabezas and am so excited for this new adventure. I am here to listen to you and share my experience on my ostomy journey. The best part about coaching; it is a two-way street. You learn from me as much as I learn from you. It is a partnership.
My ostomy journey started about six years ago. After spending about five days in the hospital, all of a sudden it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Emergency surgery occurred and I had a colostomy. For the next year I was treated for Crohn’s while the doctors tried to figure out what was going on with me. The treatment, along with steroids, caused me to lose a lot of weight, lose my appetite, and continuously get dehydrated. The dehydration cycle included going every two months to the hospital for a “fill-up.” This meant a few bags of saline, potassium, and magnesium. My doctor shared my case with other GI doctors in the area and the unanimous recommendation was to take out my colon. Hearing that news, I felt like a cartoon character with my eyes popping out of my head and basically freaking out! I went to UCSF for a second opinion, where a wonderful doctor told me I have undetermined Crohn’s/Colitis. Having an ileostomy, I would have a very high rate of being cured or at minimum feeling better because my colon was causing all the issues. After several days of soul searching, I decided to go ahead with the operation. On my 50th birthday I checked out of the hospital as the new owner of an ileostomy.
A lot of learning and experimenting was to happen next. With an ostomy you get to be a scientist, an inventor, and an advocate for yourself. My scientist experiments came with tracking the food I ate and watching my skin reactions. The inventor needed to figure out a way to manage my olfactory issues. Which, by the way, turned out to be a swimmer’s nose clip. I have had to advocate for myself on different occasions, however the one that stands out most was working with the nurses to move me to a different room. I am embarrassed to say, it did involve crying and I got a private room.
What is next? Right now, I am on this new adventure becoming a Patient Coach. An ostomy is only part of who I am. I am also a wife, step-mom, sister, auntie, step-sister, sister-in-law, friend, dream coach, and President of the Carmichael Chapter UOAA. Along with these roles I like to garden, travel, fish, and do art. I, like you, have a lot of parts to myself and look forward to getting to know all about you. I will encourage you to determine what is next. As a Patient Coach, I want to give you the confidence that you can do this even when times get tough. It starts by listening.