What’s in a name? That which we call Wilbur!

A pumpkin portrait of Wilbur.

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.

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9 thoughts on “What’s in a name? That which we call Wilbur!

  1. Great post! I think it makes it easier to talk about your stoma if you name it. Even my friends say is Charlie ok and I can I need to go look after Charlie. Just makes life a little easier. My nurse actually asked me if it was a boy or a girl and I was like huh? and then I said boy because boys are trouble and then she asked me his name and I thought of this old guy I played pinochle with online who was always asking me to marry him and said “Charlie.” I tried to find a better name later, but it stuck.

    1. I agree that naming your stoma makes it easier… or at least adds humor to some difficult situations. When my stoma does something embarrassing it is fun to joke around and say, “oh Wilbur…. what have you done now!”

      Great story about how your stoma got its name. Sounds also like your nurse has a wonderful sense of humor too.

  2. Funny my doctors told me to name my ostomy since it was a part of me…like an arm. I told him that I didn’t name my arm…his response was…it already has a name – it’s your arm. So, I named mine “Ivy” because she clings to me! Good luck to everyone!

  3. You have such a great attitude about your situation! I have only had ileostomy for 6 weeks, following colorectal cancer surgery. I had a colostomy for six months before that. I’m still getting used to it. I found your blog to be very helpful in how to incorporate foods back into my diet. I miss eating salad and popcorn most. I tried popcorn yesterday, just a bit, and everything was fine! I’ll try salad this week. Thank you for your blog!

  4. Yvette,

    Thank you! I am glad the site had helped. I remember being really intimidated by those “foods to avoid with an ileostomy” lists. However, my stoma nurse told me from the beginning that once I was 6-8 weeks post-surgery, I would be able to eat most anything if I introduced it slowly, ate small quantities, chewed well and drank lots of water. She was absolutely right! I eat popcorn, nuts, apples with the skin, legumes and salads with all the fixings (yes… including a sliced mushroom or two). I really haven’t found any foods that don’t go through my system fine. The only thing my surgeon said to avoid were really tough, stringy things like Chinese vegetables, so those are the only items I haven’t eaten yet. Again, I just introduced things slowly. For instance, I ate a few lettuce leaves at first. When those caused no issues I tried a 1/2 cup of mixed salad greens. When there were still no problems, I slowly added in raw veggies to my salads like carrots, tomatoes, green peppers, black olives, and broccoli in small quantities. When this still caused no issues, I confidently started eating regular sized salads with all the toppings I like. Just experiment, chew really, really well and drink tons of fluids. It is not unusual for me to drink 3-4 quarts of water a day which keeps my output a nice applesauce-like consistency. I also make sure to mix foods. For instance, nuts or apples with skins go through much better if I eat them in combination with something else, such as a sandwich or some crackers. This seems to prevent fibrous foods from balling up and causing blockage issues for me. Also, remember that just because you read that a food did or didn’t work for someone else, you really need to try it on your own. We are all so different… just don’t let fears stop you from giving your favorite foods a try.

    -Heidi

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