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“Finding My Happy” with an Ileostomy: Cindy’s 180 Medical Community Story

finding my happy with an ostomy - cindy's ileostomy journey

Everyone’s ostomy story is unique. Some may go through years of chronic pain due to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, while others sometimes face difficult diagnoses like colon cancer or bladder cancer. Cindy’s ileostomy journey is just as unique. For her, life threw an unexpected curveball with shocking news after an exploratory surgery and weeks of strange symptoms. It wasn’t an easy adjustment at first. However, today, after working to “find her happy,” Cindy gets to use her experience to help others facing similar challenges.

Cindy, one of our amazing Client Specialists here at 180 Medical, is truly an inspiration and a joy to know, and we are so proud to be able to share her story with you.

Cindy’s Ileostomy Journey: Waking Up to a New Ostomy

Cindy’s ileostomy journey began back in 2020 in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cindy wasn’t feeling well at all, but it wasn’t COVID. Her symptoms went on and on for weeks. She made several video appointments with her doctor and even took antibiotics, but she still wasn’t getting better.

Soon, her symptoms became so severe that she couldn’t keep anything in her system or even eat. It was time to head to the emergency room. At the hospital, the doctor recommended exploratory surgery to determine the cause since none of the scans showed anything amiss in her body.

After several weeks of recovery under sedation, Cindy finally got some answers as well as quite an unexpected shock. The surgeon came in and explained the cause of her illness. Her intestines were perforated and leaking, which can cause sepsis and very serious, deadly complications if not treated quickly.

That’s when Cindy discovered her new reality. With a large portion of her colon removed, she was now living with an ileostomy.

Cindy’s Tips for Becoming an Ostomy Warrior

Cindy is the first to tell you that her adjustment to life with an ostomy wasn’t easy. She went through a lot of emotions and a real low point as she grew accustomed to having an ileostomy bag attached to her belly and worked to find the right products for her.

However, she has some helpful tips for other folks who may be new to life with an ostomy.

1. Make your stoma your best friend.

After her ostomy surgery, Cindy says she was in shock, speechless, scared, and feeling lost. Looking in the mirror wasn’t easy either. “All I saw were bags hanging from my belly and numerous large scars from the surgery. I couldn’t help but feel horrific.”

It took a gradual process of learning to accept her stoma and her body with an ostomy. “After some time passed, I started to look at my situation with gratitude and appreciation for my life. My stoma is what keeps me alive!”

She shares that early on, someone told her to get personal with her stoma. As it turned out, that was great advice. “After all, you’re going to have it for the rest of your life,” she says, “so make it your best friend.”

Many people with ostomies have named their stoma, including some members of the 180 Medical Community, like Debra. Cindy did that, too. “I even talk to my stoma, so she knows I’m grateful for her when I’m doing my pouch changes,” she shares. “I think when you get personal with your stoma, you can accept it.”

My stoma is what keeps me alive

2. Remember that the bad days won’t last forever.

Of course, Cindy had many bad days, especially at first. It is normal and natural to encounter some emotional and physical challenges as you adjust to this big change. But it doesn’t last forever.

“The first year I had my ileostomy, I was like, ‘I’m never going to get over this. I can’t do it.,'” says Cindy. “There were days I would tell my husband, ‘I don’t want to live this way.'”

However, after adjusting to life with an ostomy, she says, “Now I am so grateful and so thankful for every day that I can wake up and put my feet on the floor.” She advises, “Just take it one day at a time, and never give up.”

3. Get the ostomy supplies that feel and work best for you.

At first, Cindy didn’t know how to change her ileostomy bags. Sometimes, she couldn’t get a proper seal and dealt with ostomy pouch leakage. She went through several different popular brands of ostomy pouches and accessories before settling on what worked best for her.

Eakin Seals“I found that Convatec makes superior products for any type of stoma,” she says. “It’s improved my quality of life because Convatec ostomy products have good wear time, and they don’t irritate my skin like other products I’ve tried.”

Her favorites? “I can’t say enough about the ESENTA™ Skin Barrier Wipes. They were a total game-changer for me because it doesn’t leave any irritation. It allows my wafer to get a good seal on my skin.” She also loves Eakin Cohesive® seals, which she says help her get a better seal due to having a flush stoma.

But how do you find what works best for you? After all, what works well for one ostomate may not always work for another. Cindy suggests reaching out to 180 Medical to try out different products.

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4. Reach out to a support group.

A support group can really help if you’re feeling alone or depressed. Cindy suggests journaling, as it was a huge help to her in processing and recording her feelings.

Looking back on the first year of her new ileostomy journey, Cindy says that “joining the UOAA (United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc.) was the best thing I could have ever done.”

Through the UOAA, Cindy got to meet other people with ostomies and learned more about living with an ostomy. “I began to realize there are actually quite a few people out there with what I have,” she says. This realization was one of the greatest comforts in the middle of her isolation: she wasn’t alone, after all.

Thanks to online support groups, Cindy found a place to belong, and you can too!

5. Be proud of how far you’ve come.

If you have an ostomy, chances are, you’ve had to go through many challenges so far, but you’re alive today.

Cindy says that finding pride in yourself for what you’ve been through and accepting your ostomy as a part of yourself is a big key to adjusting. “Don’t be ashamed of your ostomy. Love yourself, love your life, and be proud of who you are.”

Don't be ashamed of your ostomy. Love yourself, love your life, and be proud of who you are.

“Finding My Happy:” Using Her Experience to Help Others

During the following years, Cindy says that something inside her changed. “I had been working in the financial industry for 12 years, doing loans and helping people every day. But I wanted to find my happy. I said, ‘My happy is out there, and I’m going to find it.’ I heard about 180 Medical when I was looking for different jobs. It kept coming up.”

She wasn’t sure why, but she just knew in her heart that she should pursue a job at 180 Medical. Today, Cindy is a Client Specialist at 180 Medical, and she says, “I’m proud to work for a company that really cares for everyone. I love coming to work in the morning. I love helping our customers.”

She finds happiness and fulfillment in getting to talk to and encourage other people facing challenges of their own as they learn to use their supplies and live with their condition. “I love to help others understand they’re not alone either,” says Cindy. “I let them know that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. Living with an ostomy makes us plan our lives a little more, but it doesn’t mean we can’t live life to the fullest.”

Cindy’s story of becoming a true ostomy warrior inspires us, and we’re so proud to have her on our team!

Life with an ostomy doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful - cindy, 180 medical employee




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About the Author
“Finding My Happy” with an Ileostomy: Cindy’s 180 Medical Community Story
Jessica is the Sr. Marketing Specialist at 180 Medical, and she has been with the company for 15 years. She loves getting to be creative in her role and hearing from customers about the positive impact we've made on their lives.

Outside of work, you can find her hanging out with her husband and their dogs or browsing garden centers (where she will almost certainly buy another houseplant she doesn't really need).