DAILY LIVING & MOBILITY

How Getting an Ostomy Changed my Life

Other

Kristen Furey

Starting from the Beginning

When I was little, I dreamed about becoming a professional soccer player. My parents always taught me that anything was possible and to follow my dreams. I played competitive soccer since I was 4 years old and I was very good. I had the athletic genes in me and at the time,  nothing felt better than running on that field and scoring a goal, then locking eyes with my dad who was screaming and yelling and so proud of me. Then everything changed. I got sick.

Crohn's Disease Struck

I started to slow down in all aspects of my life. I was one of those kids who smiled and was happy and always moving. This all changed and I wasn't that same child anymore. My mom noticed this and she realized the horrible abdominal pain could be very serious. This was when I saw my first gastrointestinal doctor. This first of many.

Finding Answers

I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at age 12. After seeing many GI doctors and taking medication after medication, there was no change at all. I looked and felt awful all the time. I was 5'7 and 70 pounds and I looked very frail. I went to the bathroom 15-20 times day and this controlled my entire life. Things needed to change and I was never going to give up on finding answers.

Life Changing Surgery

At age 18 I moved to Los Angeles to attend Cal State Fullerton and at age 19 I met the doctor who saved my life. She decided an ostomy was what I needed, to help me live a normal life. So I underwent a loop ileostomy surgery then later a total colectomy and flap surgery (Barbie Butt) and my life had changed forever.

Positivity

Until I had my ostomy surgery, I wasn't truly living. I still finished high school 12th in my class, participated in all the plays and got a drama scholarship, and played 4 years of golf, but I wasn't living. What I mean is I went through something that no person should ever have to experience. Something that made me always cry from severe pain and go through procedures and medications that caused my body to fight back. Do I regret any of it? Never. I am stronger because of my experiences and I believe there is nothing on Earth that we are given, that we can't handle.

New Beginnings

I do have a happy ending. After my first surgery, I did have 6 after from complications or various Crohn's Disease-related reasons, but I made it through. How? From the support of my amazing parents who have been at every single surgery holding my hand and telling me everything will be okay, even though they were scared to death. From my friends calling and writing letters and visiting me and from me. Me wanting a second chance to live the life I deserved.

11 Health Discovery

I graduated from college and it was the biggest accomplishment for me personally after everything that had happened. I found a job at a company that helps support other ostomy patients and who actually cares about them. This was huge for me because most of the time, not everyone does care. I started as the first ever Patient Champion, now called Patient Coach, calling ostomy patients and telling them that they would never be alone again. Before I started at this company, 11 Health, I did feel alone.

The Wonderful Ending

I have Crohn's Disease and an ostomy and I had to deal with that not knowing anyone else like me. That has all changed now. I can now live the life I have always wanted and I can help make that new ostomy patient feel a little less scared like I did waking up from my first surgery. I no longer feel alone.

"Smiling doesn't necessarily mean your happy. Sometimes it just means your strong."

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