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Caitlin McGinnis dedicates her ostomy story to World Ostomy Day 2015

World Ostomy Day is October 3, 2015! One of the first comments people make when they hear my medical story is “I am so sorry!”

Bre and Caitlin

If I’m not sorry for what I went through, you shouldn’t be either. I am dedicating this blog to World Ostomy Day 2015, as I will be sharing what having my ostomy has meant to me.

First, let’s bring it back to 2009 while I’m in my junior year of college. This is when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and immediately started on numerous medications including everyone’s favourite: Prednisone!

Pictured is my cousin Bre and I during my illness. I felt pretty good here (thanks to the Prednisone). We were headed out to dinner with some friends. These are days I will not forget. I suffered my illness through undergraduate school and my first job. In February 2011 when I was admitted into the hospital, everything changed. I was there for a month until a colorectal surgeon took my entire colon out, created a j-pouch and gave me a temporary ileostomy. Welcome to the world Stan! During the next year and a half, life was not easy with 7 additional surgeries. It was hard to stay positive and see the light at the end of the tunnel. I eventually did. I chose to stop my surgeries in July 2012 and move on with my life with my temporary ileostomy and internal j-pouch. I applied for graduate school and while recovering from my last surgery; my mom and I went to pick up my books. My two years of graduate school were tough but very rewarding. I worked full time, went to school full time and did a full year internship each year. It kicked my ass but totally worth it! On May 10, 2014 I graduated with my Master’s in Social Work! I wasn’t sure if I would even make it to graduate school let alone actually graduate! It was quite an accomplishment!

Many people think there are so many limitations to living with an ostomy when there are actually very few. I recently met a new ostomate who was told by their doctor that they could never swim again. I immediately told her otherwise! To prove we can swim, in the photo gallery is a picture of me at the beach SNORKELING in Turks & Caicos for a family trip. It was an amazing trip and I didn’t have one issue with my ostomy the entire time. I went horseback riding on the beach, swimming, snorkeling, limbo dancing, you name it! Traveling hasn’t stopped me one bit. While in graduate school, I was given an opportunity to travel to Germany for 2 weeks to study genocide and human oppression. I was very nervous to travel that distance on a plane and then stay with strangers (host students) and eat different food (even though I’m German and have family there). I was very hesitant on going but knew an opportunity like this wouldn’t come again. So I packed my bags and off I went to Germany with 10 other graduate students. In the photo gallery you can see images of me out to dinner with my Aunt Marion in Berlin eating one of my favourite German meals, wienerschnitzel and with my German host student, Sophia in Leipzig. What an amazing person and host! We had such a wonderful time together. I have so many fond memories of that trip and have made wonderful friendships since. My ileostomy didn’t give me any issues on the trip and I brought MORE than enough supplies. Since traveling out of country, I’ve always travelled throughout the United States and did camping. Below is me after I set the tents up! Pretty amazing. We were in the middle of the woods at a campground so there WERE bathrooms at the campsite. There is no way I’m emptying my bag in the woods. No thanks! I did survive in the dead of summer with extreme humidity.

Apart from camping and traveling, I left all my family and friends and moved to a whole new state not knowing anyone for a new job opportunity. Hard to see but my shirt says “Spread Love, It’s the Nashville Way!” Yep, I moved to Nashville, TN for a job at Vanderbilt! Who would have thought this Yankee would go to the Country Capitol. I moved 6 months ago and absolutely love it. I love my job and have made many new friends. Of course, I miss all my family and friends in CT but hope to call this place home in the future. My family came down in the summer and we spent a few days in the Smokey Mountains. It was so beautiful and relaxing. No shame in my game to tan with my ostomy out and about.

My ostomy has allowed me to experience all these different opportunities. If it wasn’t for my surgeries and ileostomy, not sure I’d even be here. Although I have days where I’m mad at the world and wish I didn’t have an ileostomy (these days aren’t often), I have embraced my new body and my new life. I look at the situation as a second chance and a way for me to share my experience and advocate for others. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend this year’s UOAA conference in St. Louis but I did attend the one two years ago in Jacksonville and made some amazing friends. I did a photo shoot for StealthBelt and enjoyed every minute of it. I attended social events. I did a photo shoot modelling different outfits that can help disguise your ostomy and have you looking sexy and classy! I love to show people that they’re not alone and that we can all get back to a “new normal” way of life.

It’s amazing how many people I have met that have gone through something very similar. Through my articles and my time with the UOAA, I have met many wonderful people and made lifelong friendships. I met some beautiful and inspiring ladies at the UOAA conference and even though we all live states away, we always have each other’s back and continue to provide support for each other.

For all my life experiences including the ones shared in this post are the reasons my ostomy means so much to me. I have decided that I want to dedicate my life to helping others with Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s and/or an ostomy. This is my life and my passion and I want to make a lifestyle out of it. I’ve finally found something that I can see myself being a part for the rest of my life. I never thought I would be able to say that. Although it’s been a really tough and scary road, I wouldn’t change it. It’s given me a purpose in life and it is amazingly rewarding.

Visit Caitlin over at her blog site 

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