We had an interesting discussion at my ostomy support group last week. We talked a little about the thoughts that we all dealt with when we first knew we’d have to have this surgery and about the grief that is felt over the loss of a part of yourself. We finished up by discussing what we actually went through and how we made the decision to keep going. It wasn’t a lecture on what’s the right way to handle all of this, but simply a discussion of what we’ve each found.
At the meeting, we also talked about acceptance of our ostomy and the question was asked, “Can you ever truly and fully accept it?” We discussed a little about how people have or haven’t accepted theirs, but all the while, it got me thinking. And I began to realize I’m not so sure that you can.
Please don’t get me wrong, if you’ve been following The Stolen Colon for any length of time you will know that I am so thankful for my ileostomy and what it has allowed me to do and the life I feel it has given back to me, but there are still times that I see it and it makes me sad/angry/frustrated/fill-in-the-blank-with-any-other-word-that-might-fit. And maybe that’s because I’m still pretty new to this whole thing and perhaps when I’m 85 and I’ve been living with it for nearly 60 years I’ll feel differently, but I doubt it. I think there will always be a small part of me that resents it, even just the tiniest bit, and even if all of the good outweighs it by a hundredfold, that resentment will probably still rear its ugly head every now and then.
So I have decided that my goal is not to be 100% OK with my ostomy 100% of the time, since I honestly don’t think it’s possible. I think it’s more about an understanding that we have to come to. Sort of a deal between my ostomy and myself. We have agreed to coexist. I agreed to let my ostomy do what it needs to do and promise to take care of it when necessary, and my ostomy allows me to carry on with the rest of my life. Since I have given up so much, including a vital organ, I vowed to not let anything hold me back any more. I decided that I will do all of the things I could not do before, because that’s how I make living with an ostomy bag worth it. And that’s exactly why I have taken part in 3 half-marathons and a triathlon. That’s why I decided I could take on the extra stress of going back to school. That’s why I now talk about things online that I was uncomfortable with in the past.
Getting an ostomy is scary. It’s not fun and, let’s be totally honest here, nobody wants an ostomy. I sure as hell didn’t. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be one of the best things to ever happen to you. I can’t stand here and tell you that everything is great and ‘s wonderful and ‘s marvelous once you get an ostomy. But I can tell you that it doesn’t have to be scary. You can still do all of the fun, great, ‘s wonderful, ‘s marvelous things that you want to do (and perhaps weren’t able to do before your surgery). If I can have that, then I can accept living life with a bag. What I can’t accept is living a life of pain and worry about an accident and exhaustion and living my life in the bathroom.
Life threw me a lemon of a colon and now I’m doing my best to make lemonade out of this ostomy (…please ignore any strange visuals that came to mind with that sentence). So while I don’t think I will ever say that my ostomy is my best friend, I will say that I do not regret it coming into my life and it has changed that life for the better. There will likely always be a love-hate relationship between the two of us, but together, we live a pretty good life.
Do you feel you have accepted your ostomy? Do you think you will ever be able to fully do so? What in your life do you feel makes having an ostomy “worth it”?