Today is World Ostomy Day. In its honor, I’ve chosen to write about the moment – the exact moment – I chose to go back to an ostomy and change my life forever.

It’s rare that you can pinpoint an exact moment when your life changes, when a decision you make alters the path you’re on for the rest of your life. I have two moments like that. The first is when my now-husband sent me a message on almost ten years ago. I had my cursor on the delete button and hesitated, then moved the cursor away and chose to reply instead. We got married this past April – 9 years and 2 days after we met.

The second moment is when I chose to go back to an ileostomy. It was 2011 and I was in my second year of having a j pouch. I’d been recently diagnosed with chronic severe proctitis, multiple cases of cuffitis, and had anal strictures that were working to close my butt entirely, thus requiring me to have increasingly aggressive dilations every 7-10 days – all without success. Pouchitis had become my newest enemy. I was in constant pain, becoming sicker by the day, and was overall miserable.

One afternoon in August I was on the toilet (my usual hangout), resting my head against the wall and crying. I hurt so bad. I bent over to throw up (yes, while trying to poop!) and when I came back up, I had a moment of clarity. I thought, if I had an ostomy, this wouldn’t be happening. And then it hit me…I could choose my existence. I could change my life. Forever. I asked myself, what do I want? And the answer was simple: TO LIVE. And so my decision was made. I wanted to go back to an ostomy, permanently.

I wish I could adequately describe how I felt in this moment. Saying that I felt relieved doesn’t come close. Saying I felt cleansed comes a little closer. I felt like I now had a clear separation between my old, painful life and this new, pain-free life I’d just chosen. I felt all of my anger and frustration melt away. I knew I’d never be the same after this, physically, mentally, or emotionally. I had just chosen to be a different person and to accept a new identity. It is, to date, the most profound moment of my life.

So to celebrate World Ostomy Day today, I’ll be doing a few simple yet personally meaningful things. I’m starting the day off with this post and later on I’ll be going to the gym where I’ll wear my “Ask Me About My Ostomy” hoodie. Then Ronny and I will head out to my parents house for a lasagna dinner and apple crisp dessert, foods that I love but that were off-limits for me for a long time. None of this sounds like anything major, but for me each of these activities is meaningful simply because I can DO them. I will never forget those days when I could barely walk, let alone go to the gym or visit my parents, or eat what I wanted to without paying for it severely later on.

But most importantly I’ll be spending the whole day appreciating what all my ostomy has given me, all the friends I’ve made because of it, and the present and future I have because of it. A lot of people say that an ostomy doesn’t define them, as if all definitions are negative. I think of it differently. My ostomy has affected every single aspect of my life, positively. It DOES define me…and I choose how.

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11 Responses to World Ostomy Day 2012

  1. Emma says:

    Happy happy World Ostomy day right back at ya Charis!! After 5 months since my ileostomy I had my first swim last week. GOD IT WAS GOOD. I am in hospital this week to check if the crohns is behaving but I am the healthiest I’ve been in 3 years and my ostomy has given my life back. All the best to you Charis x

  2. Kerrilynn says:

    I just love reading your blog. You are such an inspiration to me! I was so scared when I was first told that I would need an ostomy, and that it would be permanent. Now, I’m looking at it much like you did, I just want to live without worrying about accidents, without having to take laxative after laxatives, enema after enema. I wouldn’t be having incessant intestinal pain and cramps. Sure, there are a lot of risks the come with having an ostomy and surgery in itself is really risky given my other chronic illnesses, but it has to be better than this. At 30yrs old I shouldn’t be needing to research adult diapers because I keep having accidents at night. It’s no way to live. <3 Love you, Lady!

  3. Louise Lord says:

    Wow I got my ileostomy on 10/5/2009 and today is my birthday!!
    So much to celebrate!!

  4. Lisa says:

    Amen, Charis! You’ve said everything I would say. Like you, I’ve chosen my ostomy over my j-pouch. There is no price on feeling healthy again. Thank you for sharing your story. You made my day!

  5. Your worlds encourage me a lot.
    One day could write about gym? Happy day today and always!

  6. julie says:

    Happy world ostomy day…thanks for all you do. Ironically, i made my decision to have my ostomy on Oct. 11, 2012. Ahhh so close to World Ostomy Day! Bless you guys*

  7. Hollie Barnett says:

    Happy World Ostomy Day! Thanks so much for all you do for the IBD community! You rock girl! <3

  8. Amy Critelli says:

    Wow you have been through a lot! I’m sorry you have all those terrible complications that led up to all those surgeries. .. thanks for sharing such private I.nformation .

    what’s awesome about.your post is that you are happy and have peace and
    Are content with the decisions :) that radiates from your page. its encouraging . So many people accept it and have no hope or care to even see if there’s anything new , maybe offer to participate in a trial, start researching ways to improve life. No one said ypu live in your existing situation for.ever.. Happiness can be in your life. Choose it. Also don’t completely rule out something until you know all the.details.

    hope your day is exactly how you want it. Xoxoxoxo. . Amy

  9. Katryna says:

    Happy world Ostomy day Charis. Today is significant for me as I found out last week that I shortly will be joining your club. I am not freaked out about this at all, and this is because of the information and support from all of you Girls with Guts, and for this, I thank you.


    • lizzy taylor says:

      Well my sugery was april 12th and I was out of town this weekend for a nf gathering and I was going to go swimming for the first time untill I started having troubles with my bag it started leaking on me and I had a hard time getting a new one on so I spent a lot of time in my room mising out on the fun :-( . So I didn’t go swimming. But the next day I saw that there was a post for ostomy day and charis’s blog and it mase me feel so much better. I just put some shorts on and sat down by the hot tub and took pics and video and still hung out with my new friends.

      • Jennifer says:

        I’ve had my Ostomy for almost 3 years from a bad surgery. I didn’t know such a day existed, How exciting! HAPPY WORLD OSTOMY DAY!!! .
        I make beautiful covers for pouchs, email me if you would like. ; )

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