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 match.com 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.