It’s More Than Just a Bag

Recently I heard an interview with a surgeon on television state that Farrah Fawcett’s cancer might have been controlled had she agreed to have an ostomy.

If I still had a stomach, I would have felt a knot in it upon hearing that surgeon’s comment. I thought to myself, “I wish I could have talked her into having the ostomy.”

Having an ostomy myself, and having also delayed the surgery, almost to the point of “no return” I could certainly relate to her refusal to allow what initially would have seemed to be such a foreign adaptation to her body.

Prior to becoming “ostomates” we, as the general public, think we know what an ostomy is. Perhaps we had an elderly relative who wore “a bag” but it was a topic no one really talked about…the mysterious “bag”, possibly distasteful, certainly nothing that anyone would want to have or would volunteer for.

If an ostomate attempts to explain what “the bag” really is, friends quickly steer the conversation into another direction, brushing aside the topic, feigning that they understand how the mysterious “ostomy” operates, when truth be told, they have no idea. All they know is that it is something strange, something foreign, out of the norm, that they don’t want to have “done” to them.

If I could have talked with Farrah, or with any potential ostomate, I would have told her what my PMP Pal Mentor told me following my ileostomy. Like Farrah, and so many others, I was fearful of any change in my lifestyle, fearful that the ostomy would hamper my life, affect my relationships with close friends and the public, and would prohibit me from participating in life to the fullest.

My mentor, Shai Kochan, telephoned me all the way from Tel Aviv, to where I was recuperating in a hospital in Pittsburgh PA, and gave me a stern but caring pep talk,

“The ostomy is your tool.
Make it work for you!
The ostomy will save your life!”

Indeed, he was correct. Without the surgery, which included the ileostomy, I would have been gone five years ago.

There are several types of ostomies:

urostomy (for urine disposal)
colostomy (for body waste) and the
ileostomy (for rapid, mainly undigested body waste) are the most common.

We all must dispose of body waste. The ostomy provides us with a method of disposing waste into a bag, rather quickly, and without necessarily searching for a public restroom, thus, in some situations, providing the ostomate with more independence than a “normal” person!

Like many life altering surgeries including mastectomies, various transplants, and amputations, ostomies require focused adjustment. Perhaps the mental/emotional adjustments are every bit as important as the physical ones.

What are the risks if we allow our emotions to overshadow a procedure that could save our life?

As challenging and yes, in my case, life changing, as my ileostomy has been, it has provided me with the opportunity to live far longer than ever predicted. It is my wish that everyone who is allowing their emotional fears to prevent them from pursuing an ostomy, would re consider and allow themselves to be guided and mentored.

For many, the ostomy is more than just a bag; it’s a lifesaver.

To request an Ostomy Pal Mentor, visit

The PMP Pals’ Network Blog is written from the perspective of patients and family caregivers. The PMP Pals’ Network does not provide medical or legal advice. Patients should seek the counsel of their own healthcare professionals and legal representatives. This article is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without written permission from the PMP Pals’ Network. Copyright © 2009 by the PMP Pals’ Network. All rights reserved. Visit us on the web at Posted by PMP Pals' Network
at 11:36 PM

Email This BlogThis! Share to Twitter Share to Facebook Share to Google Buzz