Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I had an ileostomy for over 3 months at 23. It doesn’t really seem that odd when I had it, since I had to deal with it every day, but in retrospect not many people have had an ostomy for any amount of time. I think that since I shared things I am looking forward to in getting rid of my ostomy, I ought to share some lessons that I learned in having my ostomy:
1) I learned not to care what people really think of me. I have always been a people-pleaser, but when you have a bag with your stool hanging off your side it becomes less of an issue for some reason. I almost checked on my ostomy multiple times in public before realizing that it might not be the best idea to lift up my shirt and see how my intestine is doing with everyone watching. Maybe being in the hospital so long got me used to not caring who was watching, but it was a lesson learned nonetheless. It’s amazing how God uses random circumstances to teach us things like this. I would have never thought having an ostomy would make care less what people think about me — in fact, I thought it might have the opposite effect. I figured it’d make me self conscious. But I was honestly always wondering why people were so worried about hiding it from people they cared about.
2) I learned patience. When your daily routine becomes significantly longer and your typical bathroom visit is lengthened, you learn patience. I can think of a handful of times that I wished changing a ostomy bag was quicker than it was, but that didn’t change how long it took. I had to plan extra time into everything I did so that I could “empty” right before leaving my house when I went into public. And I often had to duck out of something earlier than I normally would have because of the same difficulty.
3) I learned how to do what you need to do even though it hurts. I found out early on that when I got blocked up (very painful) there was nothing that could be done but drinking lots of fluids and walking, walking, walking. There is no quick fix. Walking is the key. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal at 23, but walking is ironically the most painful thing at the time and is absolutely the last thing you want to do! You just want to lay down and hope things pass through on their own. But they don’t. So I learned to simply bear the pain and walk like crazy when it started getting blocked up. Ironically, if you don’t walk, you stay blocked up longer and it hurts worse in the end. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. I remember one time when I started getting blocked up and I went up to the church and just walked in circles and drank water for over an hour straight, in pain the whole time. Within an hour, everything passed through and I was good to go again.
4) I learned self control. For the most part, with an ostomy, you can eat most anything as usual. But there are some things that really don’t go well, and you have to find them out on your own and then stop eating them. I couldn’t drink chocolate milk or eat apples. Ironically, the day after I found out that apple peels take me town, I went to a Bible study where there was an amazing apple-salad. I had to forgo. It’s no fun having to admit that you can’t eat things that you used to love, but pain is a great helper for that 🙂
5) And finally, I learned God’s body is amazing! This may seem really weird, but this is really the reason I wanted to write this post. I was absolutely fascinated with my stoma (the part of intestine sticking out of my stomach wall). I know that’s odd, but it was amazing just watching it work! Not many people get to witness how their intestine actually gets food moving and digests it, but I got to. It really is amazing. Seriously! We can dissect pigs and frogs in class, but you don’t really see how awesome the body is until you see it alive and in action. What a great Creator God is! And what drove this home even more to me was the fact that the appliances that I had to catch the stool (ostomy bags) were more frustrating than anything! Man, in all his splendor, can’t even do justice to God’s digestive system! I mean, it’s amazing that I can live with body parts removed and sticking out, but that’s no tribute to man but rather to God. What an amazing body he has created us with! I can’t even begin to tell you how much appreciation I got for what a Creator God was (and is) by watching my stoma, but it’s incredible!
So there are some things I’ve learned. Hopefully they are an encouragement to someone, even things as weird as growing through watching an intestine. I think in a broader sense, God has taught me that life isn’t all about waiting for the good times in life and just cherishing those — it is about seeking to glorify your Creator wherever he has you! It doesn’t matter if you are asked to marry a prostitute, have to lie on your side for a year, or go through some horrible surgeries — God can (and will!) use all things for his glory if we have eyes to see. I never imagined I could praise God in the midst of something as gross and difficult as having an ostomy — but his grace is far greater than I imagined! May his name be praised. I pray that he will give me eyes to see his grace in everything I encounter from here on out.