I first found out about the Patient Coach program through following Maggie Baldwin on social media. I was so excited to hear about a program like this. It is so needed. Going through ostomy surgery is extremely difficult, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. I think for most of us, it takes a huge hit to our self-esteem and really challenges our mental health. The Patient Coach program is not only helpful for the patients, but helpful for us Coaches as well. I am very passionate about mental health and I couldn't ask for a better job than one that allows me to use my experiences to help others. Connecting with patients brings me so much happiness.

I suffered from an eating disorder for almost 10 years of my life. During my battle with my eating disorder, I started to have some really serious digestive issues. Doctors continuously blamed it on my eating disorder. My physical and mental health declined until I was finally hospitalized and diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Since it had taken them so long to diagnose me at this point, my colon was in really bad shape. They stabilized me and sent me home with a ton of medication that I would need to take for the rest of my life. I struggled a lot over the years because the stress of my eating disorder made my Crohn’s worse and my Crohn’s made my eating disorder worse. Food caused me so much pain and I was terrified of it. It took years and many treatment stays, but I am now recovered from my eating disorder. I work at a treatment center helping other women take back their lives and recover from eating disorders. I love my job and my experience only makes me better at it.

In 2018, I went into a Crohn’s flare that could not be controlled by medication. I got worse until I was finally hospitalized and they told me that my colon would need to be removed. I now live with an ileostomy and I am so much better because of it. I have the option to try a J-pouch, but at this time I’m choosing to keep the bag. I am so much happier and healthier after surgery. I am able to eat things I haven’t been able to eat in years.

I was so worried that having an ostomy would limit me. So far, I can do anything anyone else can do! I just have to carry a few extra supplies on me, in case of emergencies. A lot of people believe ostomy surgery takes away your ability to feel confident about yourself, but I have never felt more confident in my life. Not every day is easy, but my life is so much better than before my surgery. I was so sick and in constant pain; my bag has truly given me my life back.

After ostomy surgery, you are flooded with thoughts and fears such as, “Can they see my bag? Would they be rude to me if they found out? Are they going to say something that will hurt my feelings? Will they like me? Will they think I’m weird?” To all the ostomates out there struggling with these intrusive thoughts, ask yourself, “If someone doesn’t like me because of my ostomy, is that really someone I want in my life?” After answering this question for myself, I have felt much better about being unapologetically myself, ostomy and all!