I have not come across a single person whom has not adopted a new personal reality, either by choice or design. As much as we assure ourselves of how our lives will pan out, there is always a change to the destiny we envision in our minds.
I speak a lot about adaptability for this reason. When I was in high school I surely did not envision my life as it has turned out. The same can be said by many people. I saw myself successful in my career, with a woman who would be my perfect match, having children, eventually owning a dream car and a dream home, living “happily ever after”. All of these would be achieved, just not in the fashion I expected.
Becoming acquainted with my Ileostomy, I began to worry about certain circumstances that would certainly arise and how I would be able to do certain things. Everyday things that I had not thought about while in the hospital. Such as what to do if the pouch came lose or leaked while I was out. Whether that meant at work, a friends house, a bar, restaurant, or just about anywhere outside of the house.
I was asked by my E.T. Nurse if I would like a man she knew to come and visit me and my girlfriend to discuss such concerns. I appreciated the offer and took her up on it. Unfortunately, I do not remember the mans name or that of his wife. They came to our apartment, started with the usual “How are you feeling?” “How are you adjusting?” After answering these sorts of questions, I began to ask the questions I just mentioned. He assured me that leaks in public were inevitable and unavoidable. A tactic he used and shared, was to name my Stoma. He went on to explain how far easier it is to use a name if he was having a problem to excuse himself from a situation.
He named his Stoma (Ostomy) Bill. He went on to say he and his wife were at a dinner party one evening. He used the restroom and saw he had a leak. Rather than returning to the dinner table, explaining his poop bag was coming lose and he had to go home straight away to avoid a mess. He simply looked at his wife and said he had just spoken with Bill and unfortunately they had to leave shortly to go and see him. They were able to politely finish their dinner conversation and go home without the awkwardness of telling everyone at the dinner table he was an hour or so away from a literal shitty situation.
It didn’t take long for me to come up with a name for my Stoma. There was only one name that came to mind and it stuck. Charlie, because he’s a little chocolate factory.
This is one example of how I adapted to my new reality. In the months to come I would seamlessly adapt my life to fit my new reality. Before the surgery I was measured for my belt line, this was to place Charlie underneath it as best the surgeon could. As I healed and was able to wear regular pants, meaning pants that did not have an elastic waistband, I was surprised to see that I would have to wear my pants higher up than before. I tried different things to avoid this, such as wearing my pants below Charlie, tucking the end of the bag into my pants. This obviously did not work well. For my new job I was required to wear dress pants and a dress shirt and tie. Using this strategy I would be uncomfortable and look very odd. So I adapted. I began to wear my pants higher up which still looked a bit off, although far lesser than wearing pants below Charlie.
Adapting to life with Charlie there are many small things that come up and need to be adapted. Sleeping as an example. Many people say they are still able to sleep on their stomach even with an Ostomy. For me it does hurt so I don’t sleep on my stomach, or my right side for that matter. So I either sleep on my back or my left side every night. Wearing a seatbelt, there are belt clips for children to keep the shoulder strap away from their neck. I use one of these to keep the waist strap off of Charlie.
I truly believe it is in our perspective and thought process, how we adapt our lives to any given life event. Are we accepting? Do we build walls? Or do we simply not accept the change and avoid adapting?
With life change there is a process one goes through. In the hospital and the first month with Charlie, I had gone through a heavy grieving stage, followed by anger and sadness. Eventually leading to acceptance. Charlie was not going anywhere, I had to accept that for what it was worth. I could not dwell on the what ifs of the future, I had to ensure I prepared myself for the inevitable circumstances that would come up.
One such example of this comes to mind. I was traveling through the Rocky Mountains with my wife, when we were dating at the time, years before being married. We stopped for gas in a town called Revelstoke. After filling the tank we both got a coffee and used the bathroom. This is where I noticed I was beginning to get a leak. There was no way it was going to hold for the next six hours until I would get home. Being that it was winter and this was not a skiing town, I pulled my car off the road into a a deserted mountain park. My wife went for a walk while I reclined the seat back as far as I could and proceeded to change my appliance. Given we were still dating I thought to myself, either she’s going to make up some reason to leave the relationship, or one day I am going to marry this girl. Lucky for me it was the latter!
Don’t worry she wasn’t attacked by a wild animal.
You see, life is a journey. We cannot always see the turns in the road ahead but we must prepare for the conditions. When the route goes a direction we did not prepare for, we must change our mindset and adapt the way in which we go forward. Sometimes, especially for me, we stop. When we stop we can build a framework of how to move forward. This may not always be how others expect we should proceed, but rather in a framework that works for us.
I have made incredible connections within the Ostomy community across the globe. In similar situations others do things differently than I do. Does that mean they are wrong? Does it mean that I am wrong? Of course not, it simply means that everyone adapts their life in a different way. A way that works specifically for them.