Every so often I will hear a conversation about romantic relationships while living with an ostomy. Often someone will say they were left because of their ostomy, or that they’ve resigned themselves to being alone because no one could love them now. And I have one thing to say to them: STOP IT. An ostomy does not make you unlovable. It doesn’t make you anything other than another human with your own set of experiences. That ostomy is simply a symbol of the life you have lived and who you have become through those experiences.
Now full disclosure before I get too far into this: I was married when I went through surgery to get my ostomy, so I have not gone through the dating process with one; however, I believe what I am writing is true no matter what point you are at in a relationship.
Sometimes, it’s not the ostomy.
When you go through something that necessitates getting an ostomy—whether it’s a chronic condition like IBD or some sort of trauma—that’s a lot for a person to handle. It may bring up feelings of “why me?” or resentment towards God or the world. Constant pain can make anyone feel frustrated. Having difficulty after surgery can lead to depression, feeling sorry for yourself, and lashing out at others. All of these can cause issues in a relationship. If you were someone whose partner left after your surgery, I am not at all saying that you are at fault. What I am saying is that going through this can change people, and when people change, the relationship changes and sometimes that relationship no longer works. So, if you were someone who was left and you felt they left because you now have an ostomy, there may be a lot more at play than simply that. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →