Amelia’s story is proof that life can still be good without a large intestine
Amelia has learnt to appreciate her body and make the best out of her situation.
By Amelia Ranger
For many, coming up with a Tinder bio is one of the hardest parts of online dating — luckily, I had a good one.
‘I don’t have a large intestine, but I make up for it with personality’.
When I was single, my Tinder matches loved to ask me questions about my colon — or lack thereof — and I loved to answer them.
As my digestive system changed, I wanted my Tinder bio to change as well.
Having a bag of my own poo attached to my stomach felt like something I would need to mention at some point anyway.
A diagnosis then emergency surgery
In November 2018, I bought lunch on my work break and assumed the cramping and nausea that followed was food poisoning.
I went to bed that night believing I’d wake up feeling better.
But a week later, I was feeling worse.
My abdominal cramps were keeping me up all night, combined with nearly hourly trips to and from the toilet with bouts of bloody diarrhoea.
My concerned mum took me to our local emergency department.
What followed was a month of tears, medications, scopes, and poo, during which I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.
My ulcerative colitis was so severe that three days before Christmas, I had emergency surgery to remove my large intestine, giving me an ileostomy, which is an artificial opening made from my small intestine poking out of my abdomen.
I was 18-years-old and utterly overwhelmed.
More surgery and new internal plumbing
Less than a year later, I had more surgery to remove my rectum and rearrange my small intestine into new internal plumbing, known as a j-pouch.
That was followed by yet another procedure, giving me the ability to have controlled bowel movements again.
All of this occurred during what was supposed to be the prime of my youth.
I had been working two jobs to fund a trip to Europe with my best friend.
Instead, I spent our trip dates learning how to cough, sneeze, laugh, and walk again with a fresh scar down my stomach, all the while thanking my former, healthier self for investing in travel insurance.
As I began to heal, I went back and forth with whether to tell people about my disease and my stoma.
Adjusting to the new me
Immediately after surgery, I felt certain my days of bikinis and romance were gone.
Who would want to date someone with a bag of poo on their stomach?
My satisfaction with my body immediately collapsed — only weeks before falling sick, I had told my friends how I was finally happy with how my body looked.
Lying in the hospital bed, puffy from steroids and patched up with bandages, I felt so far from the girl pictured in selfies taken months before.
But time is a powerful medicine.
After nights back in my own bed, and swapping hospital gowns for my own clothes, I became not just fond of my body again, but appreciative of it.
I learned how to manage my stoma and grew used to my new reflection.
Through one organ shutting down on me, I realised my body did a lot more than look pretty — it kept me alive.
My surgeons had given me my life back, and the least I could do was go back to living it.
Finding the positives
My stoma, my disease, and my life as it is now, isn’t going anywhere, and I can either feel miserable about that, or get on with it.
Even now, as I approach three years colon-less, I still have days where I wish my body belonged to anybody else but me.
But there are many days where I think it’s cool that I live the same life everyone else does, but with one less organ inside of me.
It’s also turned me into an impressive multi-tasker.
When I had my stoma, I could have a conversation with someone and be pooing at the same time.
I doubt anyone else could look so composed while defecating mid-sentence.
Most of the time, though, I don’t really think about it.
Going to the bathroom six to eight times a day, avoiding nuts and seeds, and seeing an abdomen covered in scars is just my normal.
Life beyond losing a colon
My Tinder bio worked.
Six months after losing my colon, I went on a date with the man who has now been my partner for two years.
Sharing my stoma on Tinder was a strategy designed to weed out the bad eggs from the good ones.
I underestimated how many good eggs there would be, because there were more people showing interest in me, my confidence, and honesty.
Many online stoma support groups are full of people expressing fear at dating, intimacy, and sex with stomas.
But my experiences show that most people will be okay with whatever you’re okay with — especially if you’ve got a sense of humour about it.
‘So much more to live for’
Australia has one of the highest prevalence of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) in the world, according to Crohn’s and Colitis Australia.
More than 80,000 Australians live with IBD, and that number is expected to increase to more than 100,000 by next year.
Since my diagnosis and surgeries, a lot of people have told me I’m brave.
But I think people don’t realise how resilient the human spirit is, when it needs to be.
I think we could all be a lot more open about the parts of our lives we believe to be too shameful to share.
Dating, working, and living without a large intestine is entirely possible — I am proof of that.
I have a partner, a job, a university degree, exciting plans for my future, and I have all of these without having my colon.
I went into my first surgery thinking my life was over, but in many ways, it didn’t start until I woke up in recovery with so much more to live for.
Original source here.