It certainly is not easy! Take if from me. From diagnosis to surgery and from surgery to the beginning of your new life, there many times you ask yourself if you will ever be happy again. For some happiness is fleeting. The shock, the disfigurement, the change in lifestyle can be debilitating. Some are unable to even discuss their situation even with those closest to them.
For Molly Atwater, hiding is not an option. Molly and I have a lot in common. We are both ostomates. We are both markedly younger than the “normal” ostomy patient. I was 40 when I became an ostomate. In Molly’s case, she was only in her early 20s. What should have been a time in her life where her only worries were to keep herself in top condition so she could complete marathons, instead, she found herself wondering if she would ever be able to be active again.
I can relate! As a weightlifter and hockey player, I did not have many examples to look to for reassurance that I could continue to do those things. I was very worried and depressed that my active lifestyle would have to be curtailed drastically.
Molly and I had to make a decision. Either we could be devastated by our new normal or we could be a beacon of light for those who will come after us. We both choose the latter. In fact, Molly currently has over 20,000 followers on her Instagram campaign, “Mollyollyostomy” (https://www.instagram.com/mollyollyostomy/?hl=en). Impressive! But what is even more impressive is that she has been able to amass this kind of following on a subject that few people like to talk about. People are drawn to her openness and her ability to allow them to see hope in their own situation! What a gift!!!
Molly’s reach is far and wide. She routinely receives emails from people from all over the world, looking to her for encouragement and advice. Amazingly, Molly answers all of these messages with great sensitivity. That is not easy for her. Molly is open about the continuous health challenges that have not be alleviated by her ileostomy. She shares her journey with all of us; a journey that includes many doctor’s appointments, medications and difficult days. While there is no doubt that Molly shares what she does so that others can be inspired by her fighting spirit, her advocacy is therapeutic for her too. When she sees others benefitting from her story, that make her heart happy.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another part of Molly’s life. She is engaged to a man who has been an incredible source of support for her. I met Molly at the United Ostomy Associations of America conference in Philadelphia, in the summer of 2019. Although not an ostomate, Thomas joined in the conference with Molly. A common worry for ostomates is, “How will anyone love me enough to marry me with this bag on my side?” Both Molly and I have been lucky. We are loved by strong people who see past the “bag.” In the hustle and bustle of those 4 days, I never had a chance to meet Thomas. It would have been nice to speak with him. But even without meeting him, I saw how his enormous love for Molly drives him to do all he can to be the greatest support system that she could hope for. Not every person is that strong. Molly and I had no choice but to live a life with an ostomy. My wife and Amy, and Thomas, made the decision to have ostomy as part of their lives.
Enjoy this podcast and please share it with anyone who is in need of hope. Molly’s story will bring light to any heart, but most especially, to any heart that is hurting.