Jennie's Story: Osto-Me

Jennie is one of our neighbors to the north in Canada and she is also one of the masterminds behind The Gutsy Generation!

All I wanted for my 19th birthday was an ostomy. I would joke with the nurses and doctors that if they didn’t take my colon out for me, I was going to do it myself - they laughed but I had all but gone about my plan to employ a rake in a homemade colectomy.

The excitement level that surrounded my ostomy arguably qualified me for a diagnosable condition - I was so psyched at the prospect of removing the organ that had been my enemy for years. To quote Shrek, “better out than in I always say”. But all the build-up and assuredness I had that an ostomy was the best choice for me couldn’t prepare for me having the surgery. When I pulled the Johnny shirt back to reveal that thick, meaty red stoma, I thought to myself, what have you done?

I had one nurse during my post-operative stay who was especially kind and would often spend time chatting with me. Around the time I was being discharged, she wasn’t going to be working for the next few days and came to say good-bye. I cannot recall the exact words she said, but she started crying and told me how brave I was. I was so appreciative of her compassion, but could not understand how the choice I made could be considered brave.

The steep descent and demise of my colon happened during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year. I informed the surgeon that I would be going back to school in September. Stupid? Likely. What I wanted to do? Definitely. I had to start a week late, but was so happy to be back amongst my peers, and even more elated at my ostomy. I would stand in the mirror and smile at the slight bulge of the bag under my clothes that were too large from weeks of only TPN.

Some people think that ostomy surgery took things away from me. It took my summer, it took my organ. But I can’t see things that way because they simply aren’t true. It gave me my health, gave me a chance to go to school and be with my friends, gave me the strength to run. I love my little ostomy bag as much as it is humanly possible for a person to love an inanimate object. And I think the reason why I love it so much is that it symbolizes the seven years of pain and devastation of living with unmanageable Crohn’s. I earned those scars, and I’m proud of them.

The future is uncertain, particularly with IBD. I know there are still challenges ahead and adjustments to make, but now, at 21, I feel ready and positioned to take on the world. No one wants to be sick, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t all have the right to a beautiful life. Right here and right now I can make a difference, I can be positive, I can help others, I can raise awareness. I can and I will.