I have had a colostomy my entire life.

This year I have just begun my sophomore year of College, and I am excited for what this semester will bring...and confident that I am strong enough to do it.

It was always expected, since my ostomy surgery at birth, that I would someday move out into “the real world.” As a normal young adult, it was my time to attend college with other like-minded young adults.

Although I had taken care of my ostomy myself since the age of eight, the thought of moving away from my protective parents and into a dorm room with several other girls triggered my anxiety.

I get extremely homesick being away from my family for even a little bit (I know, I’m nineteen), and I was unsure of what medical plan I would have in place if something should happen. College is a big step in anyone’s life, but for someone with complex medical issues, it was all that more nerve-wracking.

Because of circumstances unrelated to my ostomy, I opted to attend my local community college. It was the best choice for me and my lifestyle at the time.

I could work, be devoted to my family and my health, and keep up with my studies, all whilst saving money.

Nevertheless, the day before school, my mind was riddled with anxieties about my health.

What if I have an accident at school? What if it’s during an exam? Will the professors treat me differently, should they find out? Am I taking too many classes? Will I fall behind if I get sick?

Even as a veteran ostomate, I still worry about these things. As I am becoming an adult and learning to be responsible for my unpredictable health, I could end up in the hospital at any moment with an obstruction blockage, dehydration, or worse.

Heading to my school, I made sure that my car was fully stocked with extra supplies and even extra clothes. I was ready.

My college, and most colleges, have a special Disabled Student Services Program that provides extra time on exams and other accommodations. I made sure to contact them and my professors to make them aware of my accommodations, should I ever need to leave class for an emergency.

Of course, with my complex disease and my short bowel syndrome, I ended up having to be hospitalized during my spring semester. This was right before finals week.

Even after a minor bowel obstruction and stoma retraction, I completed my first year of college three weeks later with straight A’s!

It was important during my first year to prove to myself that I could do it, that I was every bit as capable as my peers to finish the year strong. Even though I had to work harder.

I am never afraid that my ostomy will get in the way of anything. I never worry about my classmates seeing it, having an accident at school, or getting sick in the middle of class.

It is far better to live your life than to live in fear of what may or may not happen.

If I let my ostomy stop me from getting my education, or from attending school like a normal nineteen-year-old, I would be living in complete unhappiness.

I know not every teenager with these ailments is even able to attend college. For those same health reasons, I have decided to continue my studies online next semester. It can be embarrassing or even degrading to be unable to attend school because of your illness, but it is important to remember that your health comes first, even before school.

In my first year of college, I was particularly hard on myself, and I admit this year I am even harder. I’m constantly reminding myself that I must try harder than my peers to achieve my goals, and sometimes I overload myself with too many classes or even too many goals.

Something that helps me is taking a moment to calm down and remember my body’s limitations. Are you going to let your illness hold you back?

Chloe Moody