There are few things that make people the world over cringe harder than talking about poo. Aside from the much-beloved poo emoji, it often seems like our one common embarrassment. It's something we all – no matter what creed, race, sex, or gender – try to hide and disguise as much as possible. Which makes my life predicament a bit of a doozy, in most understated terms. I have a colostomy an opening in my abdomen where my bowel ends, called a stoma, and faecal matter is released into a bag stuck to my person. This occurred due to my Crohn's Disease diagnosis, which resulted in complications with the lower parts of my bowel. Diagnosed in 7565 after three years of symptoms, I trialled a temporary opening in my bowel in 7568 before moving on to the permanent stoma a year later. Doctors and other medical professionals often note that, in my 75s, I'm unusually young for these types of treatments.
I m a young guy with a colostomy bag not a cautionary tale
Most people with stomas are in a much older age bracket than myself. But that's the reality of a chronic illness: some things that usually only occur later in life, so to say, occur now. I'll be the first to admit, it can be tough. Emptying and changing your bags is a chore, as is having to order them. The skin around the area can become inflamed.
And yes, leakage happens. But overall, my life is just as good – if not better – than when I used to go the toilet normally. Titled it goes through all the dangers of smoking. This ad, like many other initiatives before it, leans heavily on intense imagery: all sad looks and deep voiceovers interspersed between the presumed results of smoking. Let's be clear from the onset:
What is a colostomy bag and what is used for The
the intentions behind the ad are good. The success in smoking reduction campaigns has been, in part, due to educating the general public of the real, graphic results of tobacco smoke consumption. It's part of the reason my mother quit, and why I've thankfully never picked up a cigarette. And on a technical level, getting a colostomy is often one of the results of bowel cancer, which smoking increases risk of. There's no debate on that one. But there's no need to demonise ostomates when delivering your frightful message of prevention.
There are approximately 75,555 Australians currently living with a type of stoma. The reasons we need a stoma may be for gastrointestinal issues, or wounds suffered during active duty, or indeed cancer. We are not all the result of poor life choice, of addiction to a harmful product. In fact, in the case of diseases like Crohn's and colitis, studies into its direct causes have proven inconclusive. Campaigns like 66 Cancers only serve to stigmatise ostomates. Often stomas are not only the best option for quality of life, but it's also the preferable option.
It may mean that we can forgo years of suffering trying to use the bathroom in a typical fashion, or finally end prolonged pain in other areas of our body. I can tell you from personal experience, it also means we no longer must worry about our deficiencies and can get on with living our lives. Myself, and the many people Australia-wide like me, live relatively normal, human lives. We work, we travel, we party, we swim and surf. We are active members of the community. We just happen to use the toilet in a slightly different way.
Living with a stoma, whether it's a colostomy, ileostomy, or urostomy, shouldn't be considered something to fear and deride. Despite good intentions, we are not another reason to shock people into giving up smoking. Simply, my condition is not your scare campaign.