Ostomy Awareness Day is an important observation that helps eliminate the stigma surrounding ostomies and ostomates. Ostomy surgery is lifesaving and many people who have an ileostomy or colostomy surgery due to ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease experience improved quality of life.
I had an ostomy for 3 months, in between surgeries for my j-pouch. It was such a short period of time in my life, but while I had a stoma, nobody knew I about it unless I told them, I wore all the same clothes I did before, and I finally had freedom from the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. In fact, I almost didn’t want to have my takedown surgery. My ileostomy freed me from 10 years of continuous disease.
I’ve interviewed several people who live with an ostomy for About IBD. Here are their stories, told in their own voices, about how their lives have been affected by ostomy surgery.
What has been your experience with ostomy surgery? If you know someone who lives with an ileostomy or a colostomy, you’ll likely get your impression about having a stoma from them. But what if that person struggles to accept their stoma? When Amber Wallace Ogle of The Ostomy Diaries was faced with ileostomy surgery to treat her Crohn’s disease, she was reminded of the negative experiences of her family members who lived with an ostomy. However, it didn’t take long after her surgery before she was embracing life again and working to show others that life with an ostomy can be fulfilling and beautiful. Amber tells her Crohn’s disease story, gives 5 tips for advocating online, and shares a message she received from a family that has been touched by her advocacy.
Ostomy surgery can improve quality of life for people with IBD but it is still not discussed often enough, or early enough, in the disease process. This leaves patients to cope with the surgery and the acceptance of an ostomy during a time when they are already critically ill. For Austin Powers, who goes by The Ostomy Guy, he exhausted all his possibilities to treat complications from Crohn’s disease before having surgery to place an ostomy. It was several more years before a quick encounter with another ostomate set him on the journey of acceptance. Today, Austin runs a podcast and has written a book about his experiences, The Ostomy Guy Story: Memoirs of a Bagman, which is available on Amazon. Listen all the way to end to hear one of the many letters Austin receives from his readers, who are inspired by his story.
Ostomy surgery is a life-saving procedure that can improve quality of life, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy to accept. Stephanie Hughes founded The Stolen Colon after having ileostomy surgery for Crohn’s disease. She shares her journey through Crohn’s disease and acceptance of her ostomy, including what her kids think of her stoma, how she manages issues around privacy, and what happened when a person who didn’t know she had an ileostomy told her that ostomies were smelly.
Living with a permanent ileostomy as a result of Crohn’s disease hasn’t stopped Ryan Stevens from participating in the sport he loves. He worked his way back from crushing IBD flare-ups and multiple surgeries in order to train for the ultimate triathlon: the IRONMAN. In this second part of Ryan’s story, hear what happened to him while on the bike route, why the ostomy may actually provide an advantage, and Amber’s unfiltered thoughts on the competitiveness of the triathlon community.
A diagnosis of Crohn’s disease and an ileostomy hasn’t stopped Ryan Stevens from competing in triathlon races. He swam competitively through high school and college and was sidelined by Crohn’s just after falling in love with triathlon. He’s worked his way back twice from devastating flare-ups to get back to swim, bike, run, and now to the ultimate race: the IRONMAN. Come with us as we relive the IRONMAN Triathlon in Madison, Wisconsin and discuss how Ryan prepared and competed while living with IBD and a permanent ostomy.
Many young people who are undergoing ileostomy surgery to treat Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis have never met another younger person with an ostomy. Gaylyn Henderson, founder of Gutless and Glamorous, wants to make sure that people living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) don’t experience the uncertainty and stigma that she encountered before her ostomy surgery. In between running a successful foundation and a support group for people with chronic illness, Gaylyn has also become a spokeswoman for people with an ostomy, proving that her ileostomy is not a barrier to success.
People who live with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis experience stigma because of their inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The taboo topic of bowel disease can permeate all aspects of a person’s life, especially when there are cultural influences also at play. Tina Aswani Omprakash, who lives with Crohn’s disease and a permanent ileostomy, shares her story of personal empowerment and how she is working to help other people with IBD live their lives with confidence. Tina describes how IBD has profoundly affected her family as well as why she decided to become an outspoken advocate for the IBD and ostomy communities and start her blog, Own Your Crohn’s.
How can we help new ostomates better adjust to their stoma? Megan Johnson, who you might better know as The Front Butt YouTuber, had a unique journey on the way to becoming a permanent ileostomate due to Crohn’s disease. Her experiences with the abysmal patient education material in the hospital after ostomy surgery sparked her desire to make accessible content that helps people adjust after surgery and “be comfortable in their own skin.”
It’s estimated that half of people who have an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) try complementary and alternative medicine to treat their disease. Eric Polsinelli of Vegan Ostomy describes how he tried dozens of complementary therapies for his Crohn’s disease but never found anything that worked. He did, however, come away with vital insight about how people living with IBD can assess alternative therapies and talk to their physicians about working them into a comprehensive treatment plan
What are your goals? Are you taking steps each day to move towards those goals? Brian Greenberg, endurance athlete and president of Chronically Better You, tells us how he moved from goals after surgery—getting out of bed and making his own lunch—to training for an Ironman in 2018. People with IBD know the value of structure and Brian explains how he has learned to manage his life with Crohn’s disease and an ostomy through careful planning and setting goals
Being diagnosed with IBD as a child presents special challenges for kids and for parents. Learn how Brian Greenberg of Intense Intestines Foundation dealt with a Crohn’s disease diagnosis at a young age and transitioned from being a child reliant on parents to help manage his IBD to learning how to manage it all himself.
What’s it like to be a competitive swimmer and one day develop Crohn’s disease? Well, you don’t stop swimming! Hear Ryan Stevens, Crohn’s Guy, talk about the work he’s doing to raise awareness of IBD.