I have been following Nurse Coach, Maggie Baldwin, since I was about twelve years old. She was so inspiring to me and gave me hope as an adolescent ostomate. I saw her as a role model. When I saw on her Instagram that she was working with 11 Health and that they were recruiting, I thought it would be an opportunity to be a role model for others like her!

I couldn’t believe there was a company solely dedicated to ostomates helping other ostomates. When I first emailed her, I was nervous! The program was relatively new, and I wasn’t sure if I would qualify. I am younger, and I don’t have any proper job experience; however, I am a lifetime ostomate! Maggie was super nice and reassuring and even knew of me before!

I am so glad I contacted Maggie and made the decision to become a coach. My life is forever changed for the better because of the amazing people I have met through my 11 Health family.

I am happy that I have learned so much from my fellow coaches! I am one of the youngest coaches being only nineteen years old. It is so inspiring to me to have twenty other ostomates to look up to and know what to expect as my life and my illness progress.

I have already learned so much from my peers and mentors through the Patient Coach program, and I am so inspired by everyone’s journeys. I feel that I can advocate for myself better as a patient and have a better understanding of my personal healthcare and self-care from my fellow coaches. I am proud to be among them as coaches!

Unlike my fellow coaches, I don’t have IBD. I didn't experience tragedy when being diagnosed or told I had an ostomy and must deal with that transition.

Instead, I was born with a rare disease called necrotizing enterocolitis that occurs in premature infants; however, I was full-term! Most of my intestines were removed, and I was given a colostomy and feeding tube just days after birth. I have had thirteen surgeries, three different ostomies, four stomas, a feeding tube for five years and a central line for three. In addition, I have endured countless hospitalizations. I grew up having an ostomy bag and short bowel syndrome which is a chronic illness I still deal with greatly. I also have been diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses. Moreover, I have about three major hospitalizations every year and frequent urgent care visits.

Despite everything, I am a sophomore in college pursuing a degree in English, and I am planning on moving in with my boyfriend of eighteen months soon. Living a full and meaningful life is possible with a chronic illness and ostomy! I am a member of my local UOAA chapter and serve on the board. I always try to spread awareness and advocacy in my daily life!

I have had my ostomy all my life, and I’ve never known any different. I don’t know what it’s like not to have one, so I don’t know how my daily life would have been changed. I can honestly say that having my colostomy and my illness has made me who I am today. A lot of people don’t like to let their struggles define them, but for me, it’s not that simple.

My ostomy has always been part of me just like any other body part. It’s given me amazing opportunities in life and allowed me to meet so many inspiring, kind people. Being chronically ill and having an ostomy has also taught me so much in my short life, and I am so happy that I have had the experiences. Going through these experiences have turned me into a strong, resilient, determined person. Without my ostomy, I would have never become half the person I am today.

I credit my illness, all the hardships it has given me, and the lessons it has taught me with shaping my life for the better.

Never think that you can’t do something because of your ostomy! You can climb a mountain, go swimming, camping, and you can even go skydiving! Never let your ostomy limit you or hold you back from doing whatever you want! I played softball in high school, was a Girl Scout for thirteen years, rock climbed and love going to the beach! It’s so important to live without fear of your illness or ostomy holding you back and to live your life to the fullest. An ostomy isn’t the end of the world or the end of your life; it's just the beginning.