From Stillwater-Ponca City (OK) Ostomy Outlook November 1997:

Developing a Sense of Well-Being After Ostomy Surgery

by Sue Bergman, PhD, Owensboro (KY) OA; via Austin (TX) Austi-Mate

Some people see illness as being opportunity. It is hard to believe that such a negative experience as a severe illness could have positive aspects. Betty Rolling, author of First You Cry, is quoted as saying, "Although cancer was the worst thing that ever happened to me, it was also the best. Cancer enriched my life and made me wiser, happier. Although I would do everything possible to avoid getting cancer again, I am glad I had it." People in this position re-evaluate their priorities, and tend to take less for granted.

Rose Bird, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, has spoken on the positive effects of her breast cancer, quoted in a Los Angeles Times article in 1983: "In a peculiar way, death can teach you what life is all about. It is a painful lesson and a difficult journey, but I am personally grateful that I was made to travel this path at a relatively early age. For I have learned much about myself, much about what I want out of life, and much about how precious life and people are."

When we go through a dramatic change like ostomy surgery, after the initial adjustment, we have to explore what parts of our old selves we still have, what parts we have gained, and what old dreams we can still hold on to. Somehow, life goes on, no matter what happens to us. Any crisis requires that we develop a new form of self-discovery and a reorganizing of all the pieces of our lives. This changes our relationships with others. We now have to make new rules for ourselves--a very new and difficult thing to do! The old sense of security--the old 'walls' now have to be rebuilt.

One might feel very much alone in this new situation. If you were able to cope well with life's setbacks before, you might be fortunate to experience a relatively good adjustment. A network a friends and concerned relatives is also very helpful to successful rehabilitation. But, if you feel all alone, it can be a tremendously difficult uphill and bumpy battle. Grief can show up as anger and fear, and the healing process might be a slow, tedious journey. People do best when things go smoothly and big changes are few and far between. Much more adjustment is needed for large scale changes.

Life is so often a series of challenges, some of which are capable of giving us renewed strength, and renewed personal growth. If we are able to overcome problems without being overwhelmed by them, we can move on and at times even become stronger. In the words of Leo Buscaglio: "Don't ever believe that you are going to be peaceful--life is not like that. When you are changing all the time, you've got to keep adjusting to the change... Once you are involved in the process of becoming, there is no stopping."

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Content last revised 1997-11-16