So Many Videos!

We never imagined how many views this blog might get, and we’re pleasantly surprised. Thank you to the many readers out there, and thanks to all the other bloggers who have cross-posted material from Ostomy Outdoors.

Now that we’ve been rolling out material for a couple of months, we realize the new follower could become overwhelmed, especially in the video department.

To that end, there’s a dedicated page called Adventure Videos, linked in the top menu bar. It lists all of our videos chronologically, starting with the short introduction that was created just after the idea of Ostomy Outdoors was hatched. As of today, there are eight separate clips (the epic backpacking chronicle had to be split into two parts).

So if there are some you haven’t seen yet, sit back, relax, and enjoy some adventure, Ostomy Outdoors-style.

I hope you’ll leave a comment here with your own outdoor tips, or anything at all you’d like to share.

Back to Biking and Running (feat. new video)

Today was Bike to Work Day in Denver. I work up in the foothills, and my daily commute is 26 miles round-trip with roughly 2000 feet of elevation gain. Though I did successfully complete this lengthy excursion for this event last summer, I figured it would be a bit too much after surgery when I am not yet at full strength. Instead, I drove to the park-and-ride 5 miles from work, and made a shorter trip on my bike from that starting point. It ended up being perfect. The route had just enough uphill to work my muscles and get my heart rate up without making me too exhausted. As seems to be the case with all outdoor sports I have been trying so far, I had absolutely no issues with my appliance or ostomy. I wore my usual combo of a Nu Hope Cool-Comfort hernia prevention belt under Comfizz briefs to hold it in place. Over this, I wore the same chamois-padded mountain biking shorts I always wore before surgery. This may sound like a lot of layers, but I find it very comfortable, and I love the way my core muscles feel supported.

Actually, the funniest moment of the trip happened before I left the house. I sometimes get phantom urges where it feels like I have to take a BM even though it is physically impossible with my colon gone and everything sewn up. I got these sensations a lot in the first month after surgery; now I only feel them occasionally. Well, this morning as I was making breakfast and packing up when I witnessed one. Forgetting completely about my ostomy, I thought, “I better really try to go the bathroom before I leave, or I will be miserable holding it on the ride with no toilet possibilities on the way.” Then I remembered that this most definitely wouldn’t be an issue and laughed out loud! These are the moments when I really love having my ileostomy instead of ulcerative colitis!

Biking was not my only sport-related accomplishment this week. I also went for my first jog. I hadn’t really planned my grand entrance back into running. I figured my body would tell me when it was time. Well, last Monday, I gazed out the window and got this overwhelming urge to run. And so I did.

As my feet began to rhythmically hit the ground, I paid close attention to my abdomen. One of my silly fears with running was that my insides were going to shake like a maraca with all the space left where my colon once was. But, no, there were no strange sensations in my abdominal cavity. In fact, everything with running felt really natural, as if I had only been away from it for a few weeks and not almost a year. I went at a slow jog and interspersed it with walking as needed. I ended up going three more times during the past week, the last of which is filmed in the following video.

The Nature Nook

Today I went in for a visit with my stoma nurse for a very minor skin irritation issue. Her office is right next to the hospital where I had my surgery and also next door to my surgeon’s office. As I was pulling into the parking lot, I realized I had not been back to this area of medical establishments since mid-March. Quite a record after driving there every couple of weeks for four months while I was preparing for and healing up from my ileostomy surgery. As I drove by, the tiny park next to the hospital caught my eye.

I had some complications after surgery due to my body being difficult and stubborn in its healing, which required some additional hospital stays. At first, I had no idea this little nature-nook-of-a-park even existed. One day, knowing of my love of the outdoors and my somewhat anxious state during one such hospital visit, my surgeon phoned my room and told me that the weather was gorgeous and that I should head outside to visit this place.

Though it was nice outside, it was a bit chilly and I had left my jacket in the trunk of the car before checking in to the hospital a few days prior. I also had a large drain hanging from my butt cheek. Not the most ideal situation, but I had been given permission to go outdoors!!! Nothing could have stopped me. As I headed through the gate of the park, and situated my sore butt carefully on the bench, peace came over me. It was winter, so there were no leaves on the plants, and I only saw one bird up in the branches. Still, this tiny bit of nature provided just the soothing effect I needed. For the first time since checking in, I found my mind wandering away from the hospital to thoughts of future adventures. I wrote in my journal for a while, soaking in the sunshine and fully enjoying the moment until the cool air finally hastened me back inside. I returned to my room feeling rejuvenated and hopeful.
Continue reading “The Nature Nook”

Happy to be Trying, Blunders and All (feat. new video)

There is nothing as satisfying as knowing that you have faced a challenge and succeeded beyond your wildest hopes. That is how my recent four-day backpacking trip to Rocky Mountain National Park over Memorial Day weekend felt. We hiked 3.5 miles from the car and camped for three nights at 10,500 feet, exploring some of the neighboring terrain on day hikes. (The trip is chronicled in a two-part video: Episode 5.)

Throughout the whole trip, I kept having to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t in some spectacular dream, feeling so strong and healthy. Was it really only four months ago that I was still toting around a wound vac to heal my stubborn abdominal incision? At that time, my wound still hurt too much to even go on the shortest hike. Now here I was in the middle of the remote and snowy mountains, toting a backpack instead of my vac, immersed in the beauty of nature and feeling pretty much unstoppable.

Continue reading “Happy to be Trying, Blunders and All (feat. new video)”

The Man Behind the Camera and the Love of My Life

Seventeen years ago today, I married my husband and best friend, Doug. We had already been a couple for four years at that point, which equals a grand total of 21 years together.

Our life together has always been steeped in outdoor adventure. One of our first dates was a winter camping trip to the Porcupine Mountains in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

Snowshoeing on a winter camping trip in the Porcupine Mountains, Michigan, in 1990

Since then, we have made may trips into the wilderness to rock- and ice-climb, backpack and ski. Such trips are often riddled with trials. We have weathered storms for a week in our tent, dealt with some scary moments on climbs and made it through some of those tension-filled arguments that oftentimes erupt between couples during stressful moments in the outdoors. We have always emerged from these events stronger.

On top of Gannett Peak, Wyoming, in 1999

Perhaps facing these adversities in the outdoors together helped us prepare for one of our biggest challenges yet: my severe UC flare up and eventual ileostomy surgery. Just like facing those trying times in the mountains, this experience has helped strengthen our bond and has showed me the depth of my husband’s love for me.

Often in life, it is the simple things that demonstrate love the most. Almost every morning, when I woke up in the hospital around 5 a.m. Doug would be there. During my hospital stay for my final UC flare, he helped get me through the seemingly endless days by bringing my favorite chick-flick DVDs to my room and watching them with me (yes, this included The Notebook–not one of his faves). Doug strolled the same hospital floor walking route with me countless times to help me maintain strength and kept me from becoming too scared when we stopped at the scale in the hall each day to discover I had lost yet another few pounds. When I was too tired and sick to stay in contact with my family, friends and coworkers, he worked hard to keep everyone updated. Doug held my hand during my first Remicade infusion and monitored my vitals even more diligently than my awesome nurses. He took off from work so he could be at the hospital when I was making important decisions about my treatment with the doctors. He came with me to my initial surgery consult so I wouldn’t miss a bit of information.

After surgery, Doug reminded me to push my pain machine button on schedule. He brought me ice chips and summoned the nurses for help. He sat with me during my first couple of appliance changes with the nurse and then helped me when I got home, never once showing any aversion to my new plumbing. He got to know my surgeon and became a partner in my care, oftentimes calling and communicating with him when I was just too exhausted and sleepy. Doug became my wound-care expert when my incision opened up, coming home on his lunch break to painstakingly pack it with gauze–just one of three times he did this each day.

And most importantly, he was always supportive of my desire to have the surgery, and has continuously made me feel beautiful even with the addition of a stoma and pouch on my belly. When I had moments of doubt and tearful times, he was there to lift my spirits and remind me of how awful I felt before the operation and the new life this was going to give me. Now that I am feeling better, he continues to support me by helping to make these films. I pretty inept at most things techie, and could not do this project without his help. My biggest hope for all new ostomates is that they have someone as loving and supportive as my husband in their life to help them get through surgery and on the road to recovery.

Hopefully, in 30 more years we won’t be sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch, but instead will still be swinging from ropes on rock faces. There are likely to be more uncertain times between now and then, but I know after this challenge, we are ready for anything.

Climbing at the City of Rocks, Idaho, in 2010

Loving Life and My New Normal (feat. new video)

What an amazing week of outdoor adventure it has been. We are still working on the video for our backpacking trip last weekend, as there is a lot of footage to sort through. We hope to get it on the site in the next week.

Until then, we created a short film covering a fun day-hike Doug and I completed along with Doug’s dad and our good friend. Shadow Canyon, leading to South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak in Boulder, Colorado’s famed Flatirons, has always been one of my favorite hikes. It is a challenging ascent that links up two peaks, and has around 3000 feet of elevation gain in a little over 3 miles. I have been day-hiking a bunch to get strong again, and figured I was finally up for something more strenuous. And was I ever! I could not believe how great I felt on the entire hike. Everyday I realize more and more how my diseased colon had held me back. Now that it is gone, I am blissfully getting used to my new “normal” and loving life!

There were a couple of new things to deal with on this excursion. One was scorching temperatures. The high today was 90 degrees–definitely my warmest hike since surgery. I had to really stay on top of hydration and ended up tanking up on water before getting to the trailhead, drinking about 4.5 liters of water on the actual hike and then guzzling another 1.5 liters when I returned home. I am finding that avoiding dehydration on the trail is not that difficult. It just takes planning to make sure you carry enough water, and then some self-discipline to make sure you drink, drink, drink.

Continue reading “Loving Life and My New Normal (feat. new video)”

A wonderful community of people

I just returned from a four-day backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was an amazing adventure with some unique challenges including some extremely cold temperatures, deep snow and National Park Service requirements to pack out our human waste due to the winter conditions. We shot lots of footage for our next film, so stay tuned!

On a separate topic, last week I went to my very first local ostomy association meeting, sponsored by the Ostomy Association of Metro Denver. I had intended to go much sooner, as I am sure it would have been very benecial right after surgery. Unfortunately, during those first couple of months, I had a few healing hiccups and didn’t feel up to it. After that, other scheduling conflicts always seemed to crop up. Finally, things lined up and I headed to my first meeting.

I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect, but those fears quickly vanished as I found myself among some of the most welcoming people I have ever met.

Continue reading “A wonderful community of people”