My stomaversary month came and went before I had a chance to give it the public attention it deserves! When I sit and think about my ostomy, I think of life. I begin to reflect on what the experience of becoming and being an ostomate has done for me, and I smile. I also cry sometimes, because like all of you, I’m human and life isn’t as perfect as I sometimes wish it were. That said, as I reflect on my life before my ostomy and my life now I see some changes in myself that make me really proud.
The change that’s been most in my awareness this year is my determination to face fears. I won’t go so far as to say facing fears is my new hobby, but I’ve made a real, conscious effort to step outside my comfort zone this year and I’ve been really happy with the results.
Before my ostomy, I lived in my comfort zone and took the route easiest to travel. I made most decisions based on (1) whether something cost money and (2) potential for success. If potential for success didn’t seem high enough, I didn’t even try. If it cost money, easy out – I “couldn’t afford it”. In hindsight, I could totally have afforded many of the opportunities I kind of wanted to experience, but was too afraid of. Don’t get me wrong, old habits die hard and old ways of thinking don’t change easily. It’s not like I woke up one morning as the “yes” girl, but I do try to think about why I’m making the choices I make instead of defaulting to “no”.
I think I was forced to start facing my fears as soon as I had to decide to live my life with an ostomy. The decision for surgery was easy, but the reality after was scary and the only choice I saw was to face my fears head on. Right after my surgery, filled with anxiety and fear about what I could and couldn’t do, how to take care of my ostomy, and how to avoid hernias, I spent a ton of time researching and compiling tons of information about having an ostomy. What better to do with all my research, then put it up online to hopefully save someone else a little bit of anxiety in their recovery? I also took a big leap and put my story out there for whoever wanted to read it. Putting all the info together and sharing my story took guts!
Aside from my website, I kind of put my fear-facing on hold for a couple years and fell back into the old routines of my comfort zone until I was offered the opportunity to go to the UOAA Conference in St Louis, MI. Despite a partial scholarship, I hesitated because it would cost money and I was afraid of traveling to a new city alone and not knowing anyone. Ultimately, I sucked it up and made hotel reservations, booked my flights and had one of the best weeks of my life.
Realizing that I had almost let myself miss out on that week because of money and my comfort zone reminded me of many of the lessons I had learned while I was struggling (and then forgotten). Life is short and I want to live it, why else would I have opted to have an ostomy instead of living on the toilet or not living at all?
This year’s stomaversary celebration has been a year long escapade. In the last year I’ve had the opportunity to work full time in a position that I really enjoy, taken classes at the local community college, put myself on a lease with my roommate, and done numerous outdoorsy, athletic, and other small things that I had made excuses to avoid in the past, all with awesome outcomes. Except school, I had too much on my plate and got a little overwhelmed there. But at least I tried, and acknowledged my limits before completely compromising my health, right? I love the more adventurous me and the life experiences it’s lead me to explore, and without my ostomy I may not have found the courage to become who I am today.