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Accepting Your New Body After J-Pouch or Ostomy Surgery

I Would Rather Die than Have that Surgery! 

When I was diagnosed with IBD during my childhood one of the first things I did was try and learn everything I could about my disease and how to treat it. I came across information about surgeries that people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis might require and my immediate thought was, I would rather die than have THAT! 

‘That’ was an ostomy. 

 I’m ashamed to admit the truth now, but the truth is that I was horrified and disgusted by the very thought of it. I was young. I had been an elite level competitive dancer for many years… my life revolved around dance. In the dance world if you are training the amount that I was then you know how much time is spent in front of floor to ceiling mirrors being critiqued and critiquing yourself. My least favorite day was the day we ordered costumes because my dance teacher would call us up one by one and measure our bodies while loudly announcing the numbers and size of costume we would need. 

I spent the majority of my childhood and adolescence wearing leotards and tights or small sparkly dance costumes and like most dancers I was

acutely aware of how my body looked and performed. I couldn’t imagine what having an ostomy bag would do to my life but I was pretty sure that life would be over should I ever need one. Even if I didn’t need an ostomy but needed some other kind of surgery I thought my life would be over.

You just don’t see dancers with ostomies (I wish I did) at competitions. I figured my teachers and fellow dancers would hate me because we would no longer be able to wear the costumes we typically wore which were small, tight, and usually showed the midriff. I figured I could still dance in the studio but my career as a competitive dancer would be over and I LOVED competitions. 

Gross and Unattractive?

I actually had some pretty dark and hateful thoughts about ostomies that were shaped by fear and not by truth. I don’t like admitting it but I think it’s important to speak openly about and I know that others have had similar thoughts as mine before learning the truth about ostomies. I thought they were gross, smelly, unattractive, and that I would need to hide myself. I figured I would have to wear ugly clothes and that it would prevent me from finding love. I would avoid this at all costs because I’d rather be dead than have that! What an awful thing to think. 

Years later and I was being faced with everything I tried to avoid. I had to have an emergency surgery to remove my large intestine and would require an ostomy for a few months and then I would have a J-pouch for the rest of my life. My surgeries were open surgeries that created a long vertical scar from by belly button to my… well, really far down. That scar has been opened two more times since then for other emergency surgeries. I also have an oddly shaped scar on the right side of my abdomen about the size of a quarter where my stoma used to be.

I Liked My Body More Than Ever Before?

I had to have that ostomy bag and I had to have the large scar on my belly in order to save my life and you know what? I began to like my body more than I ever had before. I don’t want to make it seem like it was simple or that it happened right away because that isn’t the case, but eventually I got to a place of acceptance and even pride.

Acceptance took time. After my first surgery I had to learn to adjust to life with an ileostomy and then my second surgery came and I needed to adjust to life with a J-pouch. My body not only looked differently but it also worked differently and it would never be the same again. It really is true that time heals although I hate when people say that to me because it does nothing for my current situation. 

Over time my new body became my new normal. I learned that I was still a lovable and desirable person after starting new relationships; surgery scars and all. I learned that I could still dress the same, that I didn’t have to hide myself, and that I could still be sexy even with all that I had been through. 

My scars were a symbol of all that I have conquered which made me feel proud and I grew to like them. Acceptance does not mean that you have to be okay with something. Acceptance is understanding that this is your new body and that the way it works is now your new normal. Acceptance is also not linear. You may be cool with your new body this week and hate it again next week.

Time does help and what seems like something you can’t accept today could very likely become something you appreciate later. Be patient with yourself and remind yourself that you are worthy of love just the way you are.

Sara

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