Finding Self-Acceptance After Ostomy: A Journey of Healing

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w30bob
Feb 01, 2021 5:13 pm

Hi gang,

Here's another musing that just popped into my head. How do we see ourselves? It's an interesting question. I think our view of ourselves changes as time goes on. I know mine is doing that right now. Hopefully, this will be a pick-me-up to those who are new ostomates and struggling with their new self. When I got my unexpected front-butt back in 2014, I was devastated. I mean, I had issues with Crohn's and was in a lot of pain, but I hid it well and maintained a pretty normal life, with the exception that I always had to know where the nearest bathroom was. But other than that, and the errant bowel obstructions (and all that goes with that), I was a pretty happy camper. Then I woke up one day in the ICU with my new ab-ass. And my nice semi-normal world came crashing down. And not slowly. I view life as a sine-wave.....it has its ups and downs but keeps going. When I hit rock bottom, I'm glad because I know the only way to go is up. Similarly, when things are going just great, I start to prepare for the downturn. But I never could have prepared for my front-butt and the pity party I'd be having after that. A pity party I didn't think would ever end. I mean, how could it? But that saying "Time heals all wounds" is right-on. "All" wounds are the thing people overlook. I've been luckier than most in that all my medical issues before my ab-ass were Crohn's related, so when they cut out all the infected bowel, all my issues, from the major to the most minor, went away. Which brought with it a whole slew of new issues. But truthfully, I'm now healthier than anyone I know. That's all good and everything, but this physical deformity hanging off my waist tends to be a game changer if you let it.

So slowly, I've been making ground on getting my life back, or at least as much of it as I can. And I'm in a good enough place now to be able to look around and see most everyone else is having issues of their own, so the bar has been lowered, so to speak, in my age group. I decided to get back into the dating game right as COVID hit, and because of my interaction with military folks, I need to not get the damn virus, so I've been vigilant in minimizing my contact with the outside world and have been lucky enough to avoid the virus so far. But that makes online dating more of a chat room than a place to make contact and then move it outside. So I haven't had to deal with the realities of "normal" women's reactions to my shitbag yet. But I'm expecting the worst and hoping for the best.....and that won't deter me. The whole underlying point to dating is you like what you like, and there's really no getting around that. If at this point in our life you still think you can change someone or make them like you......you're just an idiot. Sorry to be so blunt. But while I can't really go out on dates, it has given me time to reflect on who I am and what I have to offer. I think we all need to have that conversation with ourselves from time to time, even if not dating, to maintain perspective.

So where am I going with this? Well, I'm at a point, very recently, where I'm becoming OK with myself again. I'm not going to appeal to every gal, never did, never will. And yeah, some won't want any part of an ostomy on anyone, so I get that. It'll make finding that perfect gal a bit more daunting, but I'm always up for a good challenge. The dating pool is shrinking, but it's still a pool. Or maybe a pond. But the important thing is I'm liking ME again. I'll never like the fact that I have an ab-ass, but I can look past that now and see the sun still shines most of the time and the majority of life around me couldn't care less if I shit in a bag instead of a toilet. It's just not that big of a deal!

I couldn't see that earlier, so I suppose many of you newer ostomates can't see it now either. But rest assured you will. And it's kind of liberating!! It's no longer the only thing on my mind, which allows me to think of much better things. And you'll get there too. I'm sure many who read this that are well past where I'm at are yawning or rolling your eyes.......and that's fine. But I'm also sure you can remember back to what it was like early on. And it wasn't fun and can be a bit disorienting. So to anyone reading this, today or whenever, know that things DO get better. It's NOT the most important thing in your life. And most importantly......you'll be okay. So at least when you get hit by that bus........you won't be worried about how full your bag is!

Onward we go!

Bob



Bill
Feb 01, 2021 7:30 pm

Hello Bob.

I couldn't have expressed it any better myself -- so I won't try!

Best wishes

BIll

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Puppyluv56
Feb 01, 2021 11:44 pm

Awesome post Bob! I think most of us can see ourselves in your post. I guess I am lucky to have a husband that stands by me through the rough times as well as the good ones, and there have been a lot of rough times!
Great to let the new folks know they will find themselves again, it is just a matter of time!

Good luck on the dating thing! God, I am glad I don't have to be in all that!
Pup

lovely
Feb 02, 2021 12:13 am

Good writing, Bob. I am glad you have come to accept yourself. Hope you and some of the young people can find someone who will appreciate the other assets you have. What makes a good partner is not just someone who does not have a bag. To me, it is no worse than any other health problem someone may have. If I were dating, I would tell the person on at least the second or third date. If they had any interest at all, they would want to find out what that means. If they don't want to find out more about you, they are not what you need. I may have felt different if I had been a lot younger when I got mine, but I was in my 70's when I got mine. And I was not afraid of who knew it. I did not go around advertising it, but if you pass a lot of gas around people, you may have to tell them. Anyway, good luck, best wishes, and stay safe.

Ritz
Feb 02, 2021 12:32 am

Bob, just continue to be you. I lost my husband quickly after my recovery... now alone. Open your heart and I know someone that sees that will come into it, unconditionally. I have allowed someone to open mine and I'm a better person for doing so. As far as us toting, that's their thing if they can get past it. So, don't try to hide it, it's part of you and it's okay. Good luck, don't give your bag a second thought when it comes to dating and by the time you both seek intimacy, you'll have her heart so it won't matter at all.
Ritz

 
Words of Encouragement from Ostomy Advocates I Hollister
charleston_sunny
Feb 02, 2021 1:45 am

I can remember telling the surgeon that whatever the outcome of my surgery, I did not want a colostomy. That freaked me out. He was doing this fancy DaVinci robotic technique where I only got the bikini cut. Awesome! So, when he proudly told my family that the surgery was successful, just like the textbook and the fact that I didn't have that "thing" hanging out of my stomach, well AWESOME again! A month later I find out that I'm leaking poo into my abdomen. Well, so much for perfection. I was septic and now I was going to be cut wide open to clean me out and give me the colostomy. I was already reeling due to the driving factor of this all...colorectal cancer. So two double whammies in 2 months. I don't know how I got through those early days because I was miserable. Surgeries, chemo, then dealing with the bag. BUT things do get better and I've learned that you must find blessings and positivity in your life. This disease has taught me SO many things that I used to take for granted. Now I'm just grateful...for everything.

And dating...hah, try to date when you have cancer and a bag. Oh and put COVID on top of that...yah, just gonna do my thing unless I find a brave soul who is ready for an adventure. I think though that you could easily distance yourself and meet someone in person. Maybe a walk out in nature or sitting by the water or sit at a really long table and yell across it...LOL.

w30bob
Feb 02, 2021 2:55 am

Yo Shannon,

 Your reply made me sad for what you've been through........but you ended with me laughing.   "HEY......YEAH YOU.....DOWN THERE ON THE END......WHAT DID YOU SAY YOUR NAME WAS...............STELLA?.............OH, SHIELA.......GOT IT.    HEY SHIELA..................YOU'VE GOT NICE EYES.....................WELL, MAYBE NOT.............I CAN'T SEE THEM FROM THIS FAR AWAY...............BUT CAN YOU PASS THE SALT?...........THIS WAS FUN................CAN I HAVE A SECOND DATE?.............NO, NOT SECOND BASE...............I SAID SECOND DATE....DATE!!!"

;0)

Bob

w30bob
Feb 02, 2021 3:03 am

Hi gang,

After I wrote the above, I started thinking about what the milestones or turning points were for me... in case any new ostomate wants to know if it happens in discrete steps or just gradually. For me, it was both. I think the biggest thing that allowed me to not focus on my shitbag so much was when I changed from a transparent bag to the skin-colored bag you can't see through. While wearing the transparent bag, I was always looking at my output. With the flesh-colored bag, you can't, so you stop trying. And then you build confidence from the fact that you don't need to know what's coming out all the time. At that point, it just becomes something you wear, like a fanny pack, and not something that needs your attention. And I switched over because Hollister stopped making the transparent bags in the quiet plastic and switched to the thinner, noisy clear bags. So thanks Hollister for the push... it's much appreciated. I'm sure others have other milestones or reasons for becoming more accepting of their new ab-mounted change purse, sans change.

Just FYI in case anyone reading this is wondering.

Regards,

Bob

HenryM
Feb 02, 2021 9:03 am

I had totally forgotten about having a transparent bag, and how much I hated it.  Having an opaque one was a big step forward for me, enabling me to get my mind off the constant flow and the worry that it generated.

Angelicamarie
Feb 02, 2021 10:28 am

Nice post, Bob...

Take care,

Angelicamarie

iMacG5
Mar 23, 2021 9:36 pm

Ya know, Bob, I’m really happy you put these thoughts together for us. I’m about a century older than you but experienced lots of the same things you did. When first diagnosed with CR cancer then a malignant bladder tumor I felt broken. My education and work experience involved identifying faults, fixing and making better every kind of electromechanical system used to manufacture everything from surgical robots, misile vibration eliminators to tennis balls. I could fix or supervise the repair of anything. Now I was broken and didn’t know where to begin. I was told I would probably need a colostomy and I didn’t hesitate to reply, “That’ll never happen”. But it did and in time I realized I wasn’t broken. Actually, I was fixed!

Since I was already married over 40 years to the love of my life I didn’t have the dating considerations you did but I still needed to shoot hoops, field long fly balls and beat my grandkids on the golf course. That all started thirteen years ago. I don’t try fadeaway jumpers anymore. I hope I get only one-hoppers. I can’t hit the ball 300 yards but never did. I’m still competitive at pitch ’n putt. The stoma does what it’s supposed to do and the bag keeps it ‘till it’s ready to empty.

Besides my family and you guys, nobody knows I have one of those things and if they did I wouldn’t care.

I see myself as a person who has experienced lots of stuff others have and some things others can’t really imagine. I see myself as someone lucky to have avoided some not so good things others experienced.

I see myself as fortunate to have you guys here.

Thanks Bob for a great job,
Mike