By: Meghan Brown

September 1st, 2016 was the day my life changed forever. I dragged myself out of bed early that morning, only to sit in surgery pre-op, counting down my last few moments with my colon and without an ostomy bag. I stared at my flat, unscarred, untouched stomach for the last time, hoping to forever imprint the memory of it in my brain. But, despite the unknown, the heartache, confusion, and mixed emotions, I wanted to stay optimistic about my new situation; my new life with a permanent ileostomy.
Ten years of scarring from indeterminate Crohn’s/Colitis turned my colon precancerous. With only a month to prepare, I was wheeled back into the surgery room and quickly fell asleep to a team of surgeons standing over me.

It’s been three years now since I’ve lived that moment, and so much has changed. It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity, stereotypes, and stigmas of living with an ostomy, but it’s hard to feel resentment towards something that has given me so much.

The past three years with my stoma have been three of the best years of my life. I’ve rediscovered what it means to “feel good,” and my life no longer revolves around the toilet. I’ve learned what it feels like to be free; free from the everlasting, constant pain of IBD, free to do the things I love, and free to live my life the way I want to live.
However, life has changed in other ways too. I use the bathroom differently, emptying my bag then rolling it back up, hoping to be discrete in public restrooms. My emergency supplies are attached to me at all times to prevent an eminent bag leak from occurring. I’ve learned that poo is just poo; whether I’ve had a bag leak at night and wake up covered in it, or deal with a spewing stoma while I’m trying to shower. A little poo here or there is not the end of the world.

My life has changed so much since having ostomy surgery three years ago. I’ve had to adapt and make lifestyle changes, but I’ve also chosen to change and grow as a person. I’ve found a community of others just like me, who have supported me and allowed me to be vulnerable. They’ve encouraged me to be myself and to embrace the life I have been given.

My ostomy didn’t take my life away like I thought it would three years go. Instead, it’s given me hope, a voice, helped me to feel confident, and allowed me to finally be the person I’ve always been meant to be.

The biggest change in my life since surgery has also been the greatest gift of my life; my ostomy giving me the power to be me.