October 4th, 2014 marks this year’s “World Ostomy Day”. It’s a day that many ostomy associations and advocates use to promote greater awareness for ostomates around the world. I don’t typically tend to put extra emphasis on “special days”, since living with an ostomy and advocating for other ostomates is something I do every waking hour, but for this year’s World Ostomy Day, I’d like to encourage ostomates to celebrate life, and not be slowed down because of an ostomy.
Last Sunday, my wife and I celebrated our 12th Anniversary. The last 6 years of being sick with Crohn’s Disease had really taken a toll on my family life, so we try to make up for the lost time. Last year, we were able to get out and go for a hike just over a month after having my ostomy. This year, we wanted to do something extra-special, so we drove 3 hours (over 200km) to get to The Blue Mountains, Ontario, and had an AMAZING time. It seems that all the worries I had before having my ostomy have quickly become non-issues over the past year: “what will I eat when I go out?”, “how will I wear a seatbelt comfortably?”, “will I ever be active again?”, “will an ostomy restrict my life?”.
To prepare for the outing, I packed some lemonade and Clif Bars, along with a spare change of clothes (just in case!). I was fortunate to be using a new stoma guard, which I’ll be reviewing later in the month, but this new guard allowed me to wear my pants over my stoma and protected it from the days events. Our plans for the day started at Scenic Caves Nature Adventures, where we were able to go on an amazing hike through some very beautiful forests. Hidden in those forests were caves, which we could move around in and explore. Navigating through narrow passages and slippery rock wasn’t easy, but we got through without any problems. I took some time to take photos of the breathtaking view and gems that this mountain offered.
As part of our package, we also had a chance to go zip-lining down a 2500+ft zip-line that overlooked Collingwood, Ontario. This was my first time doing anything like this, but it was so fun and I’d do it 100 times over again! While waiting in line my wife asked if I was nervous, and I had told her that “I’ve been through two surgeries without being nervous, and this doesn’t bother me”. It was a snap-response, but the more I think about it, the more I realize just how much of my life my ostomy has given back. This is why I hope that if you’re reading this as someone who might be headed towards ostomy surgery, that you’ll find a story like this to be reassuring.
After zip-lining, we continued our hike and walked across southern Ontario’s longest suspention bridge (over 125 meters long), which was 300 meters up from the ground. The bridge was rocking quite a bit, and the feeling was a little unsettling, but the view was incredible!
After more walking, we played a round of mini golf before heading out to grab something to eat.
Not wanting to spend too much time at a restaurant, we headed to a local Pita Pit in Blue Mountain Village. Now, I haven’t been to Blue Mountain since I was a teen, but I was thouroughly impressed at how developed the area was. This place felt like we were on a European vacation. It was gorgeous!
I had a very loaded hummus pita and we walked around the area for a while. The ski lifts were working and people were riding dirt bikes up and down the side of the mountain, but we noticed people walking up (struggling to walk up) the mountain, and we decided to give it a go. I will say that this was something we did not expect to do; I didn’t have any water with me and we had already walked quite a bit, but something in me said “you have to do this” so I was determined to make it to the top.
The walk up was challenging, but not as bad as I’d expect, given that just over a year ago I was barely able to walk up stairs to get to the bathroom. Despite the sweating, movement and heat, my ostomy appliance held on firmly without any trouble.
We decended back down and decided to make the 3 hour drive home.
An ostomy did more than just save my life: It gave me back a life worth living. If you have an ostomy, celebrate what it have given you back or allowed you to do again. If you are about to get one, celebrate the good times that are waiting for you.
Happy World Ostomy Day – May every day be an awesome one.