October 7th, 2017 – It’s another World Ostomy Day, and this year I’d like to discuss the truth about having an ostomy and ways to reach acceptance.
If you’ve followed me through my journey, you’ll know that I don’t sugar coat things and I try to be honest and open about my experience of living with an ostomy.
That experience includes so many of the “highs” and quite a few “lows”, but I hope that through my sharing you can see a common theme: I am happy and grateful to have my ostomy.
The “truth” that I’m referring to is the realization that the ostomy you have, or the one you may be getting, is intended to either save your life or improve your quality of life (or both!).
Once you acknowledge that truth, you have a few options:
- You can be resentful, angry, embarrassed, ashamed, overwhelmed, disappointed, and carry the burden of those feelings for a long time.
- You can be resentful, angry, embarrassed, ashamed, overwhelmed, disappointed, and carry the burden of those feelings for a short time.
- You can be relieved, hopeful, grateful, motivated, unashamed, optimistic, and let those feelings carve a path to your future.
- You can have a mixture of both positive and negative feelings; the negative feelings will often drag down the positive ones.
Do you know what the differences are between those options? Attitude and acceptance.
Every single one of us could take any of those options, and many of us choose options one or two. But the thing is, we all have the potential to choose option three.
Accepting Your Ostomy
You don’t have to love your stoma to accept the fact that you have one!
Acceptance means that you’ve let go of resent and anger, and you’ve started to move forward with your life after surgery.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of this, take it slow and try to learn more about this new lifestyle at your own pace.
You may find yourself isolated or alone, and this can be an opportunity to find others who also have an ostomy so that they can support and inspire you. Finding ostomy advocates was something that turned my perspective around even before I had my surgery – I can’t understate how important that was to me and it was the catalyst that motivated me to become an advocate myself.
Acceptance also means that we can let go of shame and guilt.
Many of us believe that having surgery means we failed as people. I know that I viewed surgery quite negatively for years before going through it myself, and all that did was delay the best decision of my life.
How to Break Through Negativity
One of the key approaches to my advocacy work is to find the lesson in our mistakes or mishaps.
This is an important step to take because when things go wrong (and something will go wrong) you have to find the lesson in it or else the experience will end up consuming you with negativity.
A few years ago, I recorded a video while at a local amusement park. The recording starts as I’m in my car and about to assess a leak I discovered after visiting the bathroom.
In this video, you’ll notice that I’m calm about the situation. Sure, I was slightly annoyed, but I was also grateful to have an opportunity to test my skills changing a two-piece bag in the car.
There was a lesson to be learned from that experience.
In another, more serious complication, I developed a full blockage and was sent to the hospital. While the experience was quite negative at face value, it also taught me some very important lessons about how to eat and how to prevent blockages in the future.
Either of those situations would have been so much worse had I not put in an effort to stay positive and learn from the experiences, so always try to take back something positive when the opportunity arises.
Education Makes Things Easier
Do you know that one of the questions I had asked my surgeon during my initial consultation with her was, “Will I be able to go for walks around the block with my wife with this ostomy?”. I was totally clueless about what an ostomy would mean for me and that made the situation harder to accept.
And when we lack information, stress naturally follows.
Speak to a stoma nurse before your surgery (or after if you haven’t had the chance!); get involved with local support groups or online support forums to learn how others are managing their life after surgery; check out videos or read articles on how to manage your appliance and better prepare yourself.
Knowledge will make things less scary and it will help to change both your attitude and outlook!
Putting It All Together
Life with an ostomy can be beautiful, productive, fun, and fulfilling, but it depends on how we’ve chosen to live with it.
Reaching acceptance will get on the right path, and finding lessons along the way will help to break the cycle of negativity. But the glue that binds this all together is the education piece that can come from healthcare professionals or other ostomates.
Now, go on and live your life!