My ostomy was my Christmas miracle.
I was in the hospital for 3 months because of a bad Crohn’s flare. On Christmas Eve of 2007, I was finally allowed to go home. As I was signing discharge papers, I started having sharp pains in my stomach. I knew something was wrong.
After that, everything was a blur. The next thing I knew, I was being rushed to the ER. They called my mom and said, “You need to hurry. Your daughter is going to have emergency surgery, and she may lose her life.”
I flatlined long enough that the doctors told my family I was gone. When they came back into the operation room, my heartbeat came back. When I woke up, I remember looking down at my stomach and seeing a colostomy bag—something I was given without choice. I always heard things about ostomies, so I thought my life was over. Like, what is my life going to look like now? I was only 19.
For the first 7 years, I lived in silence. I feared how people would view me because I had to go to the bathroom in a “disgusting crap bag.” I didn’t want anyone to see I had an ostomy bag, so I only wore baggy clothes. I didn’t even tell my family or friends… but I got to a point where I grew tired of people not knowing exactly who I was. All of me.
“HOW CAN I BE EMBARRASSED ABOUT SOMETHING THAT SAVED MY LIFE?”
On Christmas Eve (my “Stoma-versary”), I posted photos of me showing my ostomy from a photoshoot I did with my brother, who is a photographer. This was his first time seeing my bag, and he said he was honored to be part of such a monumental moment in my life. It was my way of “coming out” and embracing myself wholeheartedly. If people don’t accept me, I don’t care.
There was so much output of love. I found ostomate communities online and loved seeing other people with the same experiences as me. Doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to have kids, but now I have 2 amazing boys, and I did it with a bag and severe Crohn’s disease. I ended up doing everything doctors said I wouldn’t be able to do. I question why I lived in silence for so long because now I live unapologetically. I can now look in the mirror and say I like what I see because I see strength.
Live unapologetically, and please know that your life is not over. Show up as yourself, and people will respect you and your differences. Your strength is beautiful!