Up until mid-March 2008, I dressed like a typical young woman. I used to wear tight-fitting Wrangler jeans that were comfortable to wear, while soothing my self-esteem, along with sports T-shirts and designer tops that complimented my body above the waist.
I was in a good place and it showed through my clothes. I had a fantastic boyfriend, I was pretty sure that Sacramento State was confident enough that I finally finished my bachelor’s degree and I was actually using my government-journalism degree as the city government reporter with The Elk Grove Citizen.
However, one operation changed my clothes lifestyle since then.
The doctors at MercySan JuanHospital in Citrus Heights performed an ileostomy on me in March.
Ileostomy surgeries have been performed since 1972, first by Swedish Dr. Nils Kock, to ensure continence. Basically, doctors open up the belly, separate a lower part of the smaller intestine, flip the end inside-out and stick it through a small incision on the belly. This procedure allows the small intestine to bypass the large intestine. Food, which would have gone through the large intestine to be digested and excreted the normal way, is now passed through the small intestine and come out a stoma (the flipped-inside-out end).
The ileostomy pouches, which were also developed in 1969 by Dr. Kock, have improved incredibly over the decades, said Michael Makrakis, a wound specialist at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento.
Pouches now can either be clickable or mesh-like to allow gas to pass through without any solid waste to escape.
I personally have a normal pouch, where I have to empty it a couple times a day and I have to change the bag every four or five days.
To make me feel a little bit normal, Makrakis gave me several nets that I pull up to my waist and it holds my folded pouch, allowing me to wear pants and not having to worry if anyone could see the bottom of my pouch. The pouch only shows slightly when the pouch is getting full.
Ileostomy pouches are not used solely by colorectal cancer patients. There is another condition called Crohn’s Disease
According to Righthealth.com, Crohn’s Disease “is a chronic, episodic, inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract characterized by transmural inflammation and skip lesions.”
Between these two diseases, among others not listed here, there is actually a high number of people who have ostomies that you probably weren’t even aware. Besides everyday workers, such as lawyers, politicians, grocery clerks and postal workers, famous people have ostomies.
One of the most famous is President Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to Evansville Ostomy News. He had chronic dry Crohn’s Disease. Five days after he had an ostomy performed, he was back conducting official executive decisions.
Football fans may be surprised to discover that Rolf Benirschke, the placekicker for the San Diego Chargers in the late 1970s had ulcerative colitis and had an ostomy surgery in his third season, according to Evansville Ostomy News.
“Charmed” and “BeverlyHills 90210” star Shannon Doherty, also a sufferer of Crohn’s Disease, also had an ostomy, according to Evansville Ostomy News.
Essentially, life doesn’t have to end because either these people or I have an ostomy. Technically, I can go swimming, although being totally self-conscious, I would never go out in my bikini with my pouch. Sorry, but it took me seven years to be comfortable enough to buy a bikini after my scoliosis surgery.
I can also go exercising, go out to restaurants, movies, concerts and clubs with my friends. I can even spend quality, quiet time with my fiancé.
However, right now the only thing I cannot do is wear half of my wardrobe. Come fall, I will have to buy either slightly wider jeans or buy something that I completely hate – low-rise jeans. I already do not have hips, so I will have to get used to keep pulling up my pants. Sorry to be crude, but those low-rise jeans are one fad I hope to go in the way of leisure suits and never to return.
As far as my oncologist knows, my ileostomy should not be permanent and possibly by the end of the year, it should be reversed. I will throw a party that day, especially when I think of my wedding day and having to wear an ileostomy underneath a white dress and excusing myself several times to empty it.
Until then, I monitor my pouch, making sure it does not get too full and change it twice a week.
I am getting married this june and I have an ileostomy. I am concerned about wearing a wedding dress and going to the bathroom frequently to empty my bag. It is tricky enough emptying my bag without making a mess wearing normal clothes, but now I have to do it wearing a wedding dress. Heaven forbid I have an accident, I don't know what I would do:( Any suggestions would be so greatly appreciated!!