This month, (June), I am celebrating living for eight years with a stoma. Before this there were those dark days living with Ulcerative Colitis, not knowing what tomorrow would bring, to a life with a bag that I totally embrace. I raise awareness every day about living with a stoma - a life I know full well that not everyone can accept as I do; but my love is for my life that I now get to live with my loved ones.
I know there are people who struggle to see living with a stoma as a life at all; but a life with a bag can be so much more than you think. When I look at how there are so many in the world who battle illness or injury, my only struggle is to manage a stoma bag and I would choose that any day. We ostomates have so many others to help and support us on a daily basis. We are a strong and growing community who support each other and are always there to listen.
I’m sure there are still many people who see having an ostomy and wearing a bag of poo on your belly as smelly, unsightly and instantly obvious to everyone else. These preconceptions are totally misguided. I have worked as a bus driver for the last seven years. I have sat with, socialised with and eaten food with colleagues who only knew I had a stoma when I told them. Many have been really surprised, even shocked when they found out - often after a significant time of working together. I am quite open about my ostomy but remember, it’s up to you whether you choose to tell others. It is easy to work, rest or play without anyone ever knowing. It is your stoma, your life and the choice is yours as to how open you want to be.
Going on my personal experience, being open and honest about being an ostomate has really brought this way of life into focus. Coping with an ostomy is not an age thing - many infants and young people have stoma to combat serious illnesses. Many of these young people are out there showing that having a stoma does not have to change the way you live your life. We ostomates, young and old, still walk, run, swim, sky-dive, cycle, dance - have normal lives that are often a huge improvement on what life was like pre-stoma. A stoma can be a whole new beginning, not the end.