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Lois Fink, Crohn's Disease Patient

Lois Fink, Crohn's Disease Patient | ASCRS

As a teenager, Lois Fink was sick more times than she can count. At age 17, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Years later, she had a permanent ileostomy, which set her on the path she is on today – international motivational speaker and advocate who brings awareness and inspiration to those suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases.

She shares her thoughts on her life experience dealing with Crohn’s disease and having an ostomy.

“After my gastroenterologist discussed ostomy surgery, it took two years for me to make the decision to have ostomy surgery. I had become sick and tired of being sick and tired. I could no longer deny how narrow and constricted my life had become, and the futility of fighting a disease that kept me confined to a bathroom, destroyed my self-confidence, and scarred me physically and emotionally. I was still scared, but I knew at a gut level ostomy surgery offered me an opportunity to live my life, instead of being a passive and unhealthy observer, chained to a bathroom toilet.

Ostomy surgery gave me the gift of freedom for the first time in nineteen years. The freedom to be spontaneous, go for a leisurely walk, go hiking, enjoy a meal in a restaurant, or sit through an entire movie without bolting for the bathroom were now possible. I no longer needed to know the exact location of a bathroom where ever I went or worry about not finding it in time to ward off an accident. I could actively listen to someone when they talked to me, instead of focusing on my gut, and being terrified my body would betray me. I was finally healthy and no longer defined by Crohn’s disease.

I had been worried that I might not like myself after ostomy surgery. I’m happy to say that did not happen. My friends and family still cared about and loved me for who I uniquely was. My skills, abilities and talents and basic beliefs remained the same. And I could still shop at Nordstrom and wear stylish clothing!

My primary care doctor tasked me with speaking to medical students about my experience with Crohn’s disease and ostomy surgery. I soon included nursing students in my talks. I later wrote Courage Takes Guts: Lessons Learned from a Lost Colon. I wanted people facing ostomy surgery or post-surgery to know they could live an active, healthy life after ostomy surgery.”

Lois encourages those with ostomies to join a support system through the United Ostomy Associations (UOAA), so they can have the opportunity to talk with and learn from those who have gone through ostomy surgery. She recommends seeing a certified wound, ostomy, continence nurse (WOC) after your hospital discharge “Discovering you can do anything after ostomy surgery that you did before your surgery is empowering,” she says.