Learning to love my stoma

Stacey Sweedman (second from the right) celebrating Melbourne Cup with new friends from the Queensland Colostomy Association

Stacey Sweedman (second from the right) celebrating Melbourne Cup with new friends from the Queensland Colostomy Association

Stacey Sweedman

Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 21 and having battled symptoms since 18, it was hard to hold down a job, eat in public or go out after eating.

Finally it came to the crunch. After another visit to the emergency department my surgeon sat on my hospital bed and said: “We can’t reconnect intestines if they are as bad as yours – you are getting a poo sack.” Okay, this was probably not how it was said but my mind decided to interpret it that way.

As the days went on I got used to it a little; after a week I bargained with it: “You can stay for now but don’t expect me to like you”. Two weeks later I realised I had been out shopping, started eating in public and in general feeling healthy like that person I once was years ago. This is where it got hard: Why did this little poo button on my gut make me feel like I once did years ago in the care-free healthy days?  I thought, “Right, let’s put you to the test”.

I started swim training again, hoping that everyone was lying and this thing would fail in water. It didn’t. I put this poor little medical miracle through the ringer and it was still just keeping me healthy. I thought, “I am starting to like you and think you’re kind of cool, if you’re going to give me my life back. But just because I like you, maybe no-one else will like us as a team.”

The next test was a dating site, leading to very blunt conversations: “How do you feel about humans with poo sacks?” While I am very socially awkward, the right people find the approach rather funny. Rejected by one, I was accepted by many who informed me that I’m still good looking and have a cool personality and when in public look no different to anyone else, so why would they care about me having a sack or not?

Don’t get me wrong. I have had my leaky bag and down moments but at the end of the day stoma juice is a lot easier to wash out of clothing than battling a fear of the too well-known disease.

While my story doesn’t always sound pleasant, to me it is, because I have back what I thought I would not see again: my health.

This is an edited excerpt of an article first published in the Autumn 2014 edition of Inside Insight

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