I crossed the finish line arms outstretched with “awestomy!” blazened across my shirt. It was the expression I needed to emphasize what I had just accomplished. There were no other cheers from the crowd other than in my mind, but out of those 17,000 people that ran, I can guarantee I was one of the few that ended those 6.2 miles with a pouch attached to my stomach.
This was how my Thanksgiving Day 10k ended. Eight months after sitting in a hospital bed not knowing if I’d ever run again. I can’t tell you how good it felt to accomplish what I had randomly posted on Facebook and held true to only a few weeks before. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could do it, it was the fact that it was out there for all to see and wonder if I would renege.
I had always been a runner in high school, but since then had only love affairs with running every once in a while. About four months after my surgery I tried to run for a short distance and was so uncomfortable. I just chalked it up that I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. The previous year I had run this same 10k race on Thanksgiving after a bottle of wine and a dare. As Thanksgiving approached, a fire in my belly reignited and I decided that if I feel as good as I think I do why not try it again. This time with all the colostomy complications.
How Did I Make It Happen?
Believe me, I didn’t do this alone (does anybody?). I had running partners and the help of a few tools. First and foremost was the C25K Free App on the iPhone. This app helps you start doing 30 minute run/walks and slowly increases the run amount over time.
Second was wearing an ostomy wrap with pockets that was two sizes smaller than my normal size really helped me keep my pouch in place and not worry about it affecting my run.
Third was having a couple of running partners that helped me out in the beginning just to make sure I was making it just fine. I was lucky to have two close friends but I’m sure you could easily find running partners on a reputable website.
What I found was that I had no trouble finishing these C25K runs. In fact I was feeling so good that I wanted to push the envelope a little more with each run. Two weeks before the race I ran 2.5 miles and thought I had discovered super human strength. That was just the start, with each training run that followed I was averaging adding on a half mile each time.
The fourth thing (and I feel most important) was just that little voice saying, “Keep putting one foot in front of the other”. Before you know it, you’ve finished the race.
Parallels To Being An Ostomate
When you look back, it’s funny how things that people say stick with you. When I moved to a new school in the 7th grade and started running cross country I can remember Vice Principal Adams telling us, “When you can’t go any longer just go 10 more steps, then go 10 steps more, then 10 steps more…”. I find this to be an eery parallel to being an ostomate.
I’m not writing this to tell you to walk out of your house and try to run 6 miles. I’m writing this to tell you it’s an uphill battle. The little things you do everyday will make you stronger in dealing with your ostomy situation. Don’t let it get you down.
We have a lot more to deal with than the “normal” person. If it’s not our invisible disease symptoms, it’s dealing with our output. If it’s not dealing with our output, it’s dealing with potential blockages. If it’s not potential blockages, it’s that we forgot our wafer downstairs during a change. If it’s not that, it’s dealing with smell, etc., etc., etc.
What I’m trying to say is another related cliche, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. If the small details get you down, your situation will easily defeat you. Stand up, dust yourself off, and keep pushing forward. This stuff WILL happen, but it’s the things that you overcome that allow that inner smirk when others complain about the complications of their “normal” lives. You’re better than they are.
A lot of people ask me how I deal with my colostomy. Most of the time my response is, “It’s just like putting on a pair of contacts, I just have to do a little bit more in the morning.” Do you need more inspiration in dealing with your ostomy? Check out the guy below, then go 10 steps more.