Bittersweet Celebrations

 

Those of us Girls with Guts out there who have ostomies know that a stoma is not something easily forgotten. Your stoma’s presence is there in sight, sound, and smell. After fighting a Crohn’s flare unsuccessfully for almost 3 years, I had my permanent ileostomy created in 2015. Prior to the surgery I was an anxious mess. You see, as I teen I had a temporary ileostomy with my j-pouch surgeries. I had so many horrible memories from that time of my life, that I don’t even feel that I can recount them now.

Rachel Gulley and Button’s Birthday Cake!

Rachel Gulley and Button’s Birthday Cake!

Since I am now far on the other side of surgeries with Whinnie (my permanent ileostomy), I wish I wouldn’t have put surgery off so long. I can look back and reflect on all the good things that Whinnie has allowed me to do with my life. I affectionately refer to this day June 24th, as my Whinniversary. Every year I try to celebrate in a different way, we have done fancy dinners and hosted big barbecues with friends and family.

Since joining Girls with Guts roughly a year ago I have made some great friendships, so I asked, “Do you celebrate your ostomy-versary? What are some ways you do?”

 Here’s some of the responses:

“I celebrate every year, but not really in a big way. It’s like a 2nd birthday since it saved my life. It’s not easy but I’m forever grateful.” Elise B.

“After the first year (which was hard)- Yes!! This year my sweet husband even got a cake. It saved my life so we just have to celebrate.” Rachel G.

“I celebrate mine every year. It saved my life and improved my quality of life. So, we usually go to a nice dinner.” Kelsey L.

“It’s like my 2nd birthday… My first year ever I did the half marathon in Vegas with CCFA. I came in close to last, but I did it!” WhoDay G.

“Absolutely without a doubt it’s a day of celebration and gratitude for me. I take the day off of work and do things to pamper me, nails, dinner with a best friend or spouse, anything really.” Alisha T.

Kristen Sanders and her stoma-macarons that she made to celebrate “Roo”.

Kristen Sanders and her stoma-macarons that she made to celebrate “Roo”.

“I made stoma-macarons!” Kristen W.

“I am gonna celebrate by eating CORN!!!” Shirley O.

“It’s my birthday…so we celebrate both of us.” Taylor M.

“I’m only 8.5 months post-op but definitely plan on celebrating…Despite all the trauma and grief associated with the process of receiving an ostomy. I see my bag as a blessing because it gave me my life back. Getting a second chance at life is definitely worth celebrating.” Katie S.

In answering the same question, there were also many comments about not wanting to celebrate due to the trauma and painful memories associated with the experience. That’s ok too!! There are no rules dictating the way that you must react to any given situation. I know from experience that surgeries are not always viewed in a positive light. As a teen, my surgical journey and the end product of having a stoma was extremely traumatic. Not something that I would have ever even considered celebrating. I urge you though, not to let the moment pass you by. Think about every day, week, month, and year that you are fighting! It doesn’t have to be anything huge, just even taking a second to say to yourself, “Man, I am stronger than I thought, and I am doing this!

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Charlotte Rensberger is from Battle Creek, Michigan. She has been battling Crohn's disease since she was 16 years old and currently has a permanent ileostomy at age 36. She has been married for 13 years, and they have two school aged children who keep them busy. Charlotte is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who currently works in a community hospital's newborn nursery. In her spare time, she bakes, re-finishes furniture, buys antiques, does crafts, and sing with her church's worship band. She started a Facebook page/blog in 2015 when she underwent permanent ileostomy surgery. During that time, she realized that she enjoys writing and finds it fun, relaxing, and therapeutic.