Hi, I’m Aaron Baker, Shield HealthCare’s Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist. Today, I have the privilege of introducing you to Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist, Laura Cox. Hey Laura. -Hi Aaron. -So Laura, we’re excited to get to know you today. Can you tell us a little bit about your life before your ostomy. -Prior to my diagnosis, I was a pretty normal 18-year-old. I was on track and field team. I was in the marching band. I was very involved with Youth Group. And really just a normal 18-year-old teenage girl. -So Laura, can you tell us a little bit about your diagnosis? -Yeah. So I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2010, when I was 18 years old. At first I started experiencing symptoms, like, kind of bloated, a little bit of pain … … and then I went from having normal bowel movements, to 20 to 27 times a day. And lost a lot of weight, a lot of blood, I became anemic. We knew something was wrong. -How did you know it was time to undergo an ostomy surgery? -Because steroids did not work for me anymore. And I had gone through every single medication that was approved for ulcerative colitis at the time and was never in remission. So I sat down with my surgeon and he said, “We can either do surgery now, or it will be emergency surgery in less than a year, because your colon is so inflamed.” And so, it was very obvious to me that I needed to do it sooner rather than later, so I was as healthy and as prepared for surgery as possible. -So can you tell us what your recovery was like? -Recovery was hard at times. And sometimes it was discouraging. I was lucky that a nurse told me in the hospital that recovery is not linear: it doesn’t just go up and up. Some days are harder than others. So I tried to look at recovery week by week, and look at the small progress I was making. Typical recovery time does fluctuate, from about six months to a year. But seven months post-op, I was able to do Muddy Buddy and backpack the Canadian Rockies. -What was your life like before your surgery? And then, if you would, tell me how your life has changed since your ostomy surgery? -My life before surgery — I didn’t have much of a quality of life. I was in excruciating pain pretty much all the time, around the clock. I couldn’t leave the house because I needed to run to the bathroom every couple minutes, and I couldn’t do the things that I once loved to do. Right after surgery, and now five years post-op, I am able to have an amazing quality of life. I’m able to hold down a full-time job, which I doubted I would ever be able to do with ulcerative colitis. I get to do things that I love, like traveling and running and yoga and these are things that I cherish more now because, for a while there, I didn’t think that I would be able to do the activities that make me feel like me. -So can you give us one tip for life after an ostomy surgery? -One of the best things you can do for yourself is be prepared. So whether that be keeping water with you to avoid dehydration, to keeping food around, bringing your ostomy supplies everywhere you go and just keeping them in your trunk or your purse or your backpack. And this just gives you the confidence to go out and do those things. And it gives you control over your ostomy, instead of letting your ostomy control your life. -So can you tell us about what you do for Shield HealthCare as their Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist? -As the Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist, I put out a lot of lifestyle information in the form of blogs on our website, and also webinars and videos. I talk about everything from intimacy to diet to swimming with an ostomy, and the end goal is really just to encourage a full, positive, happy and healthy life with an ostomy.