Remember your teenage years? Wanting the right hair and clothes, having a crush on that special someone – who didn’t know you existed? Recall feeling awkward and out of place…all alone? Remember trying to fit in? Now imagine that you had a chronic illness that required surgery to save your life. What if on top of all the “normal” adolescent issues, you used the bathroom through a pouch on your side, because your diseased intestine had to be removed. How’d you like to miss your birthday party, the big game, even prom, because you were in the hospital- AGAIN! Sounds like a bad dream, doesn’t it?
For thousands of teens across the nation, THIS IS REALITY.
A reality that I was all too familiar with. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 9, I spent much of my childhood in the hospital. When I was 15, I had my diseased large intestine removed, leaving me with a condition called an ileostomy. The ileostomy is a surgically created opening in the abdomen through which doctors bring a portion of the small intestine. I now wear a prosthetic (called a pouch) on my abdomen that my waste is collected in. There are other types of ostomies,too, depending upon the type of bowel or bladder diversion the person is in need of.
When I was 17, I attended my first Youth Rally. It was there that I met young people from all over the country who shared my very same experiences. For the first time, I didn’t feel alone, and the support and camaraderie I received through Youth Rally shaped my life’s work.
I’ve gone on to be a Rally counselor over 12 times, helped to start a support network for young adults with ostomies and diversions, and have led the ostomy community in the U.S as the president of United Ostomy Associations of America. I now work for an amazing company that makes undergarments for people that have had ostomy surgery, helping them regain their confidence and active lifestyle.
My passion is to let others know that no matter the trauma a person has been through, there is always a purpose for the suffering, and a light at the end of the darkness. I want others to recognize that they too can rise from the ashes of disease and live life to it’s fullest, something I have been doing since 1993 when I first attended Youth Rally as a camper. Rally taught me that I was not alone, and that is what made all the difference.
By returning to Youth Rally as a counselor, I have the opportunity to use my experiences (with Crohn’s Disease and 14 subsequent surgeries and as a leader in the ostomy community) to bring a message of hope to other young ostomates who may not see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Would you consider making a donation to help me share the hope of Youth Rally with teens from across the country?
Thank you in advance for your support!
*** To make a donation, you can click on the Sponsor Me link on the right side of this page, or navigate to my Youth Rally Fundraising page ***
For more information about Youth Rally, see their website located here