On Saturday, I will depart on a road trip to make my husband’s childhood dream of visiting Carlsbad Caverns come true. He turned 50 this summer and after our pandemic pause, we decided this would be a great time to travel and mark his milestone.
This week, as I was trying to get everything prepared for our big adventure through America’s Southwest it dawned on me, during our first week, when we are scheduled to be in Santa Fe, New Mexico, it will be my Stomaversary.
18 years ago, in September of 2004, when my now 19-year-old son, was 18 months old, I went in for surgery to have my colon and rectum removed. I thought I was having J-Pouch surgery, but that just was not possible, and my surgeon created an end ileostomy for me. I woke up, and my husband had to share the news with me, it wasn’t what we had expected.
Life never quite turns out as we expected it to, does it? What I did not know then, and what I never could have imagined in that low moment, is that my 5-year battle with my colon would end that day and set me on a path that I continue to navigate today, and that path would be filled with Love, Joy, Empowerment, Strength, Support and Advocacy.
When I was at my sickest, and even when I struggled through a very long and difficult recovery, I am not ashamed to admit that my mind could go to very dark places, those five or so years were so hard, I battled through, tried to educate myself and find community.
As my body healed and processed the trauma that I had experienced, both physically and mentally I was able to come to a place of acceptance. Acceptance allowed me peace, and with peace came purpose.
As my Husband, Son & I depart for this trip, we are full of reflection, of milestone birthdays, stomaversaries, and beginning new chapters, of adulthood for my baby boy, and that cherry tomato that pokes out of my tummy has been there long enough to be an adult now too.
Each workday I have the honor and privilege of assisting fellow ostomates and their loved ones navigate their journey. All of things that I have learned along the way, stories I have heard allow me to contribute to our culture of caring. I can provide products and services that hopefully can bring the people I meet to their own place of acceptance.
While this is not the life I expected, I can truly look at the first 18 years of my ostomy story with gratitude, gratitude to the people that have helped me, and gratitude that I am able to return the favor every day.
--Post Trip Photos--