Sarah - My Own Strength

My name is Sarah Lemansky, I’m 21 years old and am from Franklin, Massachusetts; a small town right on the border between Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  I’m currently a senior in college, getting my bachelor of fine arts in photography from Lesley Art and Design in Boston, Massachusetts. I like to read, watch crime documentaries, and eat way more popcorn than I should. I spend my time usually trying to communicate with my guinea pigs, and screaming along to early 2000’s hip hop alone in my car (specifically Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss”, debatably one of the best musical creations of all time).

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2014 at age 17, a senior in high school. I had a full colectomy after developing toxic megacolon in May of 2016 at age 19, as a rising junior in college, and have been going on adventures with my ileostomy for the last year and a half. I never thought IBD and ostomy advocacy would be such a huge part of my life, but it has changed my life completely. 

Having IBD, and getting an ostomy, was something I never thought I would have to go through, but it has not only taught me the strength of the people that truly love me, but the strength of how much I truly love myself. Being diagnosed at a young age (or any age) can be alienating, especially when none of your peers and classmates understand your situation, and even with incredibly supportive family, friends, and boyfriend, it often feels like a road traveled alone. No matter how many times people tell you how strong you are, it never really kicks in until you find yourself in a situation where you need to force yourself to believe it. I never knew my own strength until I was forced to pull myself up from a very low point, and my relationship with myself has never been the same since; I know the strongest person and best friend I have on my team is myself. 

It also showed me how passionate I am about teaching other people about this disease. Health professionals, family, and friends that help patients with IBD need to understand that the issue stems far beyond our gut, and how much of an effect it has on our mental health. It is hard to feel broken, to feel that our body is something that is out of our control, something that is against us. The world needs to see that “poo problems” are not something to be laughed about, not something to be fixed with over the counter pills or something only old people deal with. Ostomy bags are not only found in nursing homes and your health is never something guaranteed or something to take advantage of. Having an ostomy is not the end of the world, and does not mean you are broken, but that you are strong enough to pull yourself back together.