Friendships And My Ileostomy

by Nathan Wheeler

Nathan Friendships And My Ileostomy

Hey Ostomates! Today, I want to talk to you about friends. Being with them, being without them, and letting them know about your illness.

Back in 2008, I was 17 and had just finished school and got my first job. I still had all my school friends around and we would meet up weekly.

When I fell ill, none of them really stuck around. I have a certain few dedicated friendships, but the majority dropped off while I was sick, and it hurt!

Back then, being young and naïve, I didn’t understand why. I thought we would all be friends for life. Fast forward to 2019 where I’m 29, and I am so glad that they didn’t stick around - I think in the long run, they would have held me back from the life I have now! However, during the time when they left, I felt so lonely. Not only was I battling ulcerative colitis and adjusting to life with an ileostomy, I also felt like I had no real friends that I could turn to.

I thank my family SO much because without them, I would have felt even worse.

Once I started to get better, I got back out there and made friends at work, but I always found it so hard to talk about my bag. For the most part, no one really knew. I never felt secure enough in myself, to tell them what had happened to me. It took a good few years to feel comfortable enough to tell these new friends about ulcerative colitis and my ileostomy.

I remember thinking, ‘will they leave me like my ‘supposed’ school friends did?’ When I finally plucked up the courage to tell people, I kept what had happened to a minimum. I told them I had an ileostomy and about the illness I had, but I didn’t go too in depth. Partly because I didn’t want to have to talk about it too much. Just knowing that I had told people, was a huge weight off my shoulders. I felt like I didn’t have such a big secret to hide. For a good five years, I felt embarrassed to have an ileostomy. So, this was a big deal for me.

Nowadays, I have such a fantastic network of friends. Without them, I would not be as brave as I am today.

They have helped push me out of my comfort zone. For a long period of time, I never thought I would be able to travel, to have days out, to experience certain things, all because of my ileostomy, but I’ve been able to do all that and so much more!

All my close friends now know that I have an ileostomy. I am comfortable enough to make a joke out of it. I wear my ileostomy as a medal because without it, I would not be here to experience everything I am experiencing on this crazy journey! Of course, I still get down days, and my friends are totally okay with this. They know when I’m feeling down and how to pick me back up. I am so lucky with my friendship group that we can all share each other’s problems. After all, that is what friends are for.

What I really want to stress is that sharing your issues and your story, should make your friendships even stronger.

If people don’t stick around once they know your story or if they don’t wait for you while you heal – they aren’t really friends. Let me tell you, you will find better friends that will accept you entirely for who you are. Take your time to feel comfortable with yourself and allow your friends to help you.

As hard as it is to let people in – this will help you grow!

Trust me, friendship is a beautiful thing when you have found the right group and I am so grateful for the friendships I have made and continue to make along the way…

Stay strong everyone, I promise you are loved! 

Nathan Wheeler

About the author

Hello - I'm Nathan Wheeler! I'm a YouTuber and I've had an ileostomy since 2007 when I was just 17, so I have a pretty good idea about how to deal with the struggles of a stoma!  I want to share my experiences with you and bring a light-hearted approach to all the questions that no one wants to ask! You can follow me an Instagram and YouTube.

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