When I first heard about my friend Charis’s IBD/Ostomy themed pumpkin decorating contest on her great new Facebook site (http://www.facebook.com/FullFrontalOstomy), I knew I had to enter. However, I had no idea what to do for a design. I went to the store and bought a pumpkin and sat it on my table… waiting for something to come to me.
And it did. While changing my appliance at 6 a.m. my stoma started to act up and spew output. I used to get frantic when this happened, but now I am accustomed to it and just chill out for a while, paper towels in hand and let my stoma do its thing. However, the event did spark the inspiration for my pumpkin. I suddenly knew that the round vegetable on the table would provide the perfect canvas for a portrait of my mischievous stoma! That afternoon, I painted my creation.
Okay, okay. I know that stomas aren’t really mischievous. As a naturalist who teaches others about everything from astronomy to zoology, I have a well-developed logical and scientific side to my brain. I know that the wiggling of my stoma is merely peristaltic waves in my small intestine and that gas traveling through my system is going to cause noise. I realize that the food that I eat for dinner, after having nutrients absorbed, is going to come out of my stoma in 4-5 hours. This logical side also said it was ridiculous to name my stoma. After all, I didn’t name my right eyeball and certainly never felt the need to give an identity to my intestine when it was in my belly. Why call it anything now?
As strong as the logical portion of my brain is, I also have an even bigger side that is pure whimsy. This part sees my stoma as this crazy little critter on my belly that likes to dance, sing and spit. In fact, today while serenading my husband with a wonderfully off-key rendition of happy birthday, my stoma chimed in with a little cheer during the last verse. The playful side of me felt a strong need to name my stoma after surgery. But what?
For weeks it didn’t have a name. Every time I would try something out, it just didn’t fit. Then one day, I was curiously observing my pink, squirmy, noisy and messy stoma through a clear appliance and instantly thought of a piglet! A name suddenly popped into my head: Wilbur. I had always been a huge fan of the classic story Charlotte’s Web and the spirited pig in the tale. It seemed like the perfect name for my stoma. After all, in the book, Charlotte had described Wilbur as “some pig” and “terrific.” I felt that way about my stoma and thought my surgeon had crafted the best one ever.
I still remember how surreal it was to first see my stoma sticking out of my belly. Now that I have had Wilbur for almost a year, “he” feels as much a part of me as my leg. I know all of Wilbur’s subtle nuances. My stoma is fairly tall, a little irregular in shape and tips over towards the bottom of my pouch… a wonderful thing when one wants the output to travel in that direction anyway. If there was ever a lineup of 100 similar stoma suspects, I would be able to single Wilbur out in a flash. Wilbur is a vocal fellow and during my quiet afternoon work meetings is when he most likes to speak up and share his opinions. After I eat, Wilbur whips around in a tango that would put the routines on Dancing with the Stars to shame. If I don’t feed Wilbur the correct combination of marshmallows before a change, he lets me know. Sure, sometimes I get annoyed at Wilbur’s antics, but I quickly remember that the little rascal gave me my life back.
Oops, there I go being fanciful again. The scientist in me should say that say the surgical process of bringing my ileum to the surface of my abdomen to eliminate bodily wastes gave me my life back. But that wouldn’t be nearly as fun.