Frequent Flyer Disease

Ahh Saturday. A day to sleep in, relax, and not do a damn thing. My favourite day.

A day I’ve hardly seen in the past few weeks.

And holy hell am I tired.

——–

I remember the days when I couldn’t wait for the weekends to hang out with friends, party, and stay up really late, and  travel – basically a few days without sleep. It was great.

Now, I can’t wait for Saturday so that I can stay in my pj’s till 1 in the afternoon.

For me, the past month and a bit has been full of traveling and very little sleep. From Chicago, to London, ON, to Ottawa, and NYC, I feel as if I haven’t stopped moving. I had a bit of time in between each of those trips which were mostly spent to go grocery shopping and clean (you know, adult things.)

Don’t get me wrong – I love traveling. I love going to new places and seeing new things and meeting new people.

Like, Chicago. I had never been before, and neither had my boyfriend, so we decided to make a trip there for a few days. We stayed with some friends, who graciously offered their place, and we had a great time. We did a lot of touring and I saw things I had never seen before (like the Bean!), went to a really fun museum (ugh, yes, I’, a nerd) and ate very, very well.

Only a few days after that trip, we went to London, ON so that I could speak on behalf of Uncover Ostomy at the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of Canada’s Education Symposium. Since my boyfriend had just moved to Toronto from London, we took the opportunity to spend the night before with a bunch of his friends before waking up early the next day for the event. Despite the lack of sleep, it was fun to hang out with his friends, and a pleasure to speak to such a great group of attendees. My brother even stopped by to support (since he lives there.)

Shortly after that trip, I headed to Ottawa, ON – another place I had never been – to speak about Uncover Ostomy at another CCFC Symposium. While I was only there for about 24 hours, I got a glimpse of the downtown nightlife and went out with a few volunteers from the event. Waking up early, once again, I made my way to the event and spoke to another amazing group of people.

Then, for what seemed like only a few days later, I headed off to NYC for a few days. It was great to visit the place I once lived to see some of my friends and even more exciting to meet one of my idols, Morgan Spurlock.

Unfortunately, my NYC trip wasn’t as fun as it could have been because I had come down with an infection. This was not surprising, as on my immediate return from Ottawa a few days before, I had been struck with a stomach virus. I clearly hadn’t recovered enough from that virus, as my body wasn’t able to fight off coming down with another sickness.

I think they call this Frequent Flyer Disease.

It’s known that when you have Crohn’s disease, and that when you’re missing a colon, your immune system is severely decreased. This is something I’ve been used to for most of my life and haven’t really had to deal with. I’ve been able to travel around the world, party, and barely sleep without any problems.

However, it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that as I get older, so is my body. And I guess I’m getting more and more susceptible to this “disease.”

Maybe it’s just being 24. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m not the spry 19 year old like I used to be. I mean, do other 24 year-olds get sick from lack of sleep? Anyone? Beuller?

Ugh, I doubt it.

Fortunately, as I notice the decreasing ability for me to fly somewhere new every weekend, I’m actually happy to not do it as much. I like waking up late, bumming around, and relaxing after a long week of work. I mean, it’s Saturday, at 1:30pm, and I’m still in my pj’s hanging out with my boyfriend – and I couldn’t be happier. 

I guess this is what maturing is all about.

While I’m still recovering from the infection I got in NYC, I am still very happy with the past few weeks. Sure, being sick sucks, but experiencing all the things I’ve been able to experience from traveling definitely outweighs the sick, and I’m not going to stop.

Crohn’s hasn’t stopped me before and it is certainly not going to stop me now.

I just need to figure out how to, you know, not die, in the process ;)

Happy weekend, everyone. Enjoy it.

Well Would Ya Look at That…

Last night I stumbled across an episode of Tosh.0

For those who have never seen the show, Daniel Tosh selects videos off YouTube and cracks jokes about them to an audience. As my boyfriend put it, it’s an updated version of America’s Funniest Home Videos… Well, it is if you add in 50% more inanppropriateness.

Anyway, as my boyfriend and I flipped to his show, I noticed that the topic of the current segment was on ostomies. Daniel had found a YouTube video of a girl explaining how to change her bag.

Oh god.

As I always do when I hear the word “ostomy” on TV, I cringed, not knowing what would be said. I mean, the media has never been nice when it comes to the concept of an ostomy, and Daniel Tosh is widely known for not being nice to anyone. This could be a disaster.

It turns out, I was wrong. And I have never been happier to be wrong.

Daniel began the segment by showing Laura’s video to the audience. As she demonstrated how to change her bag, the audience made some expected “grossed out” noises. Instead of giving into the audience, however, Daniel Tosh immediately started cracking jokes, not only about poop, but how much he wished he had an ostomy.

..so having a portable toilet attached to my belly button would be great. I’d rather BM in a bag than a gas station any day.”

Daniel – I couldn’t agree more.

Tosh made a few more poop jokes before he began on to interview Laura. In the interview, she explained what an ileostomy is (the same thing I have) and Daniel, obviously, made more jokes. Laura then proceeded shows her stoma to the audience, and Daniel… he touched it. Then, in normal Tosh.0 fashion, Daniel reenacted  a Magic School Bus episode and went through Laura’s digestive track, cracking more jokes along the way.

All in all, Daniel Tosh put a very positive spin on the ostomy through his intuitive questions, his jokes, and his willingness to.. well.. put his finger on it.

While I was happy to see this incredibly positive segment about the ostomy, I did want to clarify a few things. Just from my point of view:

  1. For one, in reaction to Laura’s videos, it really only takes me under 30 seconds to change a bag. I stand, I don’t use a towel, and it’s never that messy. I get she was trying to explain how to do it, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it like that in my life. To each their own, I suppose. 
  2. I don’t wear a see-through bag like Laura did in her video because, well… I don’t think anyone needs to see it.
  3. There were a lot of poop jokes made. While this, again, is obviously in Tosh.0 fashion, I’ve never really been huge on too many poop jokes. I’m not even talking about ostomy jokes- I’m talking about straight up poop jokes. There were definitely not enough ostomy jokes. Maybe that’s just me.
  4. Laura let him touch her stoma, and when she did, it was, well… messy. I’m not sure, exactly, if the writers had asked her to make it that way, but if it had been me, it would have been clean as a whistle. I did, however, agree that it was like touching someone’s butthole. (And no one gets to touch mine. Stoma, I mean. Well, maybe both.)
  5. At the end of the Magic School Bus reenactment, Laura emptied her bag in the sink. Again, not sure if the writers asked her to do that, but I would never empty mine in the sink. It’s too close to where I was my face and brush my teeth..

I wanted to clarify these few things because, well, as an ostomate who was watching the show, was a little grossed out at how it kind of went. I mean, I literally said “Oh My God” out loud when she emptied her bag in the sink, to which my boyfriend laughed at me. (I guess boys enjoy poop humour a lot more than girls do. At least more than I do… haha). I worried that if I found it a little gross, others would too – hence my  personal clarifications. I had to keep reminding myself, however, that this being Tosh.0, it made perfect sense for it to be a little bit gross. I just never found that kind of humour funny. Again, that’s just me.

Nevertheless, as I said, overall this was a great first step for ostomy awareness in the media. Daniel Tosh put an extremely positive and humorous spin to something seen so negatively. Daniel encouraged Laura to talk about it, he joked about it, and he let the audience know he wished he had one too.

Great job Laura, and thank you, thank you, thank you to Daniel Tosh.

Feel free to model an ostomy bag for me, any day.

————————

Please, please, please, feel free to comment on this post here, on the Facebook page, or on Twitter using the hashtag #UncoverOstomy ! Let’s get some discussion going on what you thought about the segment, my comments, and how it’s finally making it’s way into the media!

Oh, and feel free to let Daniel Tosh know how much we appreciate his willingness to talk about ostomies by tweeting him here.

You can watch the segment from the show here. In Canada? Watch it here

They’re Back! …And Just in Time for the Holidays!

Get ‘em while you can!

Uncover Ostomy tshirts are back until December 16th! 

For $15, you can give the gift of ostomy awareness.

Get your “This is where my ostomy is,” “This is where my ostomy was,” and “This is where my ostomy would be” tshirts by clicking the links!

 

All proceeds go towards future awareness efforts.
<3

Ridiculous – The Jess Grossman Story

Whenever I talk about my life as a whole – you know, the general biography of me – I usually describe it with one word:

Ridiculous

All of us, at one point, especially those who have dealt with Crohn’s, Colitis, Cancer, or whatever other hardships we’ve faced, we feel that our lives don’t make sense. The pain we’ve dealt with, the uncomfortable treatments we’ve been exposed to, and the changes we’ve experienced – looking back, it all seems so.. ridiculous.

For me, the ridiculous started when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s at 9 years old. Most of you already know my story, but for those who don’t, my disease got really bad when I was 11, and I was taken to the emergency room with a hemaglobin of 55 (for a normal kid my age at the time, it’s 120) because I was close to death. I couldn’t move or open my eyes, and I almost couldn’t breathe. Luckily, after 2 years of being in and out of the hospital, hovering just over the line of life and death, as the story goes, I made it out alive, thanks to ostomy surgery.

Now, you’d think for only having lived to the age of 13 that this would have been enough ridiculousness for anyone in a lifetime.

But of course, not for me.

Besides being a sufficiently awkward child from years of isolation in the hospital and being overweight from steroids, high school was pretty difficult. I was lucky enough to make it out with a few great friends, and somehow, a personality. 

Thanks to my newfound personality, I was hired by Abercrombie & Fitch - the most prejudice company in existence. Oh, except, I wasn’t hired because of my bubbly attitude, but because they thought I was Asian. They had a “minority quota” they needed to fill and they thought I was half. (For the record, I am not)

That’s where I met my first first boyfriend. Turns out this guy had been dating his girlfriend for a year, while he was dating me.

I obviously didn’t learn much about men, because after joining my sorority in my first year of university, I surrounded myself with a ton of assholes. One of which, kept trying to convince me to date him. I didn’t – and good thing too - because he was actually in a relationship with another girl. And, his ex-girlfriend (now a prominent woman in tech in Toronto, haaaa) and her sorority sisters would call me and harass me because I was hanging out with him.

Oh yeah, that girl he was actually dating? She was the stewardess on my empty flight from Vancouver to Toronto a few years later. Sufficiently awkward – especially when she asked me how I had been. We had never met in person. But she knew who I was.

Then my grandmother died. Which I guess isn’t too ridiculous, because she was older, and an avid smoker. Still sucked, though.

Anyway, I had gotten fed up with men, and decided the next best option was to date my best guy friend – who had been chasing me for 2 years. The beginning of our relationship was pretty much out of an 80′s movie (Read: Pretty in Pink, Andie and Duckie.) He did everything for me, from letting me cry on his shoulder because of other guys, to dragging me to the hospital when I had a cold. 

Just as we started dating, my dad died. From a rare blood disease. Yeah, a rare blood disease.

That, somehow, triggered my best friend turned boyfriend to turn into an absolute nutcase. He’d break up with me every 2 weeks because he “loved me too much” or because he “didn’t love me anymore,” then he would come to my window in the middle of the night and throw rocks at it to get my attention…just to cry on my shoulder and tell me he didn’t deserve me. When he wasn’t breaking up with me?  He was proposing to me. He did 3 times. 2 years of breaking up, getting back together, and angry drunken emails and texts later, I eventually dumped his ass and told him never to speak to me again when I found out he was talking to other girls.  Apparently, dating your best friend doesn’t really mean anything.

In the middle of those 2 years, I met another guy who, within the first few nights of knowing me, expressed his undying love. I was taken, so I couldn’t date him, but he was… well, let’s say, “on my hook.” Think, How I Met Your Mother:

Eventually, after I was done with my ex-boyfriend, we ended up dating, but only for 2 weeks. We stopped because a mutual friend of ours was extremely upset that we were, as she had always liked him. So we broke up. He was supposed to go to law school in Australia, anyway. However, a few months later, I ran into this guy at our mutual friend’s cottage. He expressed how he didn’t want to go to law school so he could be with me. And that was that.

We dated for an amazing few months before I moved to Manhattan for school. We stayed together long-distance and, somehow, made it through.

Surprise! While I was in Manhattan, I had to have 3 minor surgeries, you know, because of course my body needed to fail while in a country without universal healthcare.

I eventually made it back to Canada to move in with this boyfriend. It made sense at the time. Turns out, this boyfriend was not who I expected. In fact, he was a totally and completely different person (Read: an angry narcissist who treated me worse than the dirt under his feet.) I broke up with him 4 months later. 

To take my mind off of that whole situation, and to give me something else to do while living with my mother again, I started working on a startup business with a developer who was brilliantly talented. Unfortunately, after devoting all of my waking hours to the business, I found out that he was absolutely insane. He thought that me – a woman – was only meant to take his orders, be his puppet, and work as his servant. We had to end the working relationship and he wasn’t too happy about it… which, was clearly stated in the 2 weeks of  threatening and absolutely psychotic emails he sent that called me names and said that “the devil was going to get me.”

Eventually, life started to even itself out as I made my way to Jamaica for one of my best friends’ weddings, this past February.

And that’s where I met Jake Gyllenhaal.  

Kidding.

The lookalike’s name was Matt, and he was in the airport sitting a few rows down from my friends and I, while we all waited for our flight.

[Sidenote: I do this thing where I see if there are any interesting looking guys and see if they could possibly entertain me for the week of vacation. I wasn't sure if he was going to be staying at the same resort, but in the meantime, he was pretty to look at.]

Luckily, he was staying at the same resort. It turns out, as I learned when he approached me the first night there, that he was from London, ON (where I used to go to university, and where my brother and cousins still did.) Apparently, he also used to live with the older brother of a guy I went to high school with. I had a great time with him and his friends that week and was a little sad when the week came to a close. After all, what happens on vacation, stays on vacation, right?

Apparently, not. While we collected our luggage in the airport back in Canada, Matt asked for my number. Coincidentally, I had already planned to be in London that very weekend, to see my brother and cousins. And I thought he should know.

So I visited him that weekend.

And then I visited him again, shortly after.

And then he visited me.

And somehow, we ended up meeting up every weekend for 3 months. And it was wonderful.

But I knew, having done the long-distance thing before, it wasn’t something I wanted to do for very much longer. No matter how amazing Matt was – and amazing he really, really was.

But this was….Ridiculous. 

So one weekend, we’re at my friend’s cottage and he gets a call from an old roommate-friend of his.

He had bought a house. In Toronto. 2 blocks from me.

And he needed another roommate. 

Very long story, short…

This weekend, Matt moves to Toronto. 

—-

While most of what I call the “ridiculous” parts of my life have often made me sad, upset, lonely, and angry… this, by far, is making up for all of it.

The reason I went on this long-winded rant is to clearly illustrate that no matter how hopeless, how awful, how inconceivably ridiculous your life seems, it is important to remember that ridiculous has two sides. The really bad, and the really good.

You could be sitting in a hospital bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering if you are going to make it through the next day. You could be looking at your changed body in the mirror, wondering if you’ll ever feel normal again. Or you could be thinking of people past and wondering how they ever treated you in that way. I know I did.

But I also now know that you just have to make it through one side to get to the other.

—-

Oh, yeah, that award I was supposed to Skype in to accept in NYC this past weekend? It would so happen that the internet went out in the North East at the same time I was supposed to do it. 

Ridiculous.

I was not only sad that I couldn’t make it into the city to accept in person, but I was even more upset that I could barely be a part of the event because of the failure of technology.

Until I looked over at Matt, who made a stupid joke, just to make me smile.

And suddenly, all that seemed ridiculous to me, didn’t seem so ridiculous anymore.

Jess & Matt

So, I Got a Bit Ahead of Myself..

The other day, I posted some awesome news on the Uncover Ostomy Facebook page.

What was it? Uncover Ostomy was nominated for an award from WEGO Health! I was so unbelievably excited, especially since we just find out we won that award from NYU, that I posted it as soon as they informed me on Twitter!

But I seemed to have gotten a bit ahead of myself…

You see…

Uncover Ostomy had actually been nominated for 4 different categories. 

 

 

 

Awesome!

Another chance for us to be recognized. Another chance for ostomies to be recognized.

So, how can you help?

To ensure that we keep getting recognized, each and every one of you needs to go the WEGO Health Awards site and start adding your own nominations!

It’s super easy to do. Just head to http://awards.wegohealth.com and start here:

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 7.37.01 PM

All you have to do is type in my name, or Uncover Ostomy, and fill out the information. The two minutes it takes to do the nomination is the two minutes it could take for us to win, and for us to get the recognition we need. (PS; it asks for my email address, so feel free to put in jessica@uncoverostomy.org)

While you’re at it, follow any other health activists online? Nominate them too! We in the health community gotta help each other out, right?

In advance, I want to thank you all, and let’s keep our fingers crossed!

<3

Happy World Ostomy Day, and 4 Year Anniversary to Us!

For those of you who don’t know, today, October 5th, is World Ostomy Day; A day for all of us to get off of our (unused, for some of us) asses, and destroy the negative stigma surrounding ostomy surgery!

Whether it be getting outside and talking to strangers on the street, to tweeting about it, to posting pictures on Facebook, to simply thanking yourself for accepting what you have, today is the day to appreciate the ostomy, and teach others about it, as well.

On another note, I want to congratulate you all for supporting Uncover Ostomy and helping us reach our 4 year anniversary! 

While we technically launched Uncover Ostomy on October 3rd, 2009, that year, we launched it in tandem with World Ostomy Day. So, today, I am celebrating both! (What an awesome day, right?!)

Now, after four years of growing our community, spreading awareness, and accepting who we are, you may be wondering what Uncover Ostomy has been able to do in such a long period of time. Well, some really great things:

1. We have gotten ostomies in the mainstream media spotlight (Global News), which, 4 years ago, was almost impossible!

2. We’ve also gotten recognized by major institutions, (NYU)!

3. And most importantly – I, personally, have noticed an extreme change in the attitudes of ostomates around the world! I am no longer getting Facebook messages telling me that we should be keeping our ostomies a secret (yes, I used to get those) but I am getting messages asking me for advice on how to tell as many people as possible.

Yay.

While these accomplishments are absolutely amazing, and proof that we are making a difference, they are just the beginning.

In fact, there are still a number of things that need to change, that, even after four years, still require much more work. What are these, you might ask?

1. Ostomy is still not considered a word on spell check:

Screen Shot 2013-10-05 at 11.44.41 AM

 

 

2. There are still people who are having a hard time accepting the change in their body

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3.  We still have many people in the public seeing the ostomy as negative

Screen Shot 2013-10-05 at 11.52.59 AMScreen Shot 2013-10-05 at 11.51.00 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Notice how she’s in health care??)

4. And this is still happening:

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I brought light to these things above, not to discourage, but to motivate us to keep pressing on. This is all proof that there is still much more work to be done.

World Sodomy Day, seriously?

So friends – those with ostomies and those without – make today a day of awareness. Tell every one you know or don’t know, show every one you know or don’t know, and most importantly, be proud. 

I know I am.

<3

WOD2013

NYU-SCPS Bart Lawson Award for Service: Humanitarianism!

Yesterday afternoon, I received a very exciting email.

Myself, along with Uncover Ostomy, was awarded the NYU-SCPS Bart Lawson Award for Service for Humanitarianism!

The Bart Lawson Award was created to encourage social responsibility and recognize members of the NYU alumni community for their accomplishments in the community and the industries they serve. The Humanitarianism category recognizes:

 ..the extraordinary contributions of an alumnus/a who is committed to the education of others, anywhere in the world, through participation in community service and the alleviation of human suffering.

Wow.

I am speechless. I literally cannot express into words how proud I am of each and every one of you. Every one of you who has had surgery and spoken out about their bag. Each and every one of you who has helped another facing surgery. Each and every one of you who doesn’t even have an ostomy, but has been supporting the cause. I am proud of you all. And you all are the reason this happened.

The best part? Not only did we win an award for spreading awareness around the world, but we’ve all worked hard enough to make our contributions recognized by a school such as New York University! An ostomy campaign winning an award like this? Absolutely amazing.

Since I will be speaking for UO at an event at Mt. Sinai Hospital on the same day of the awards ceremony, I will be unable to attend in person. I will, however, be Skyping in to receive it, on behalf of us all.

Again, thank you to everyone for making this possible and proving that we are doing something great.

What’s Good About 24?

So today I turn 24.

The big two-four.

The exciting twenty-plus-four.

The life-changing-not-quite-twenty-five-but-almost-a-quarter-of-a-century-old, twenty-four.

24.

I’ve never been 24, but from what I can tell, it isn’t that great.

So, being the always-knowledge-seeking individual that I am, I wanted to do a bit of research on what I could expect to experience in this new stage of my life. I mean, at 13, I “became a woman” according to Jewish tradition, at 18 I was able to vote and buy lottery tickets, at 19 I was able to drink, and at 21, I was able to drink in the US. 22 was exciting for me because I moved to NYC for grad school at NYU, and 23 was exciting for me because it was my first time legitimately joining the workforce.

So what’s left?

Well, apparently, this:

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 2.28.31 PM

Greaaaaat.

Now don’t get me wrong – this isn’t going to be another one of my “woe is me, my birthday sucks” type blog posts that I’ve had in the past. I mean, I’m still not a huge fan of my birthday, (mostly because of the timing), but this year, I’ve decided to look on the brighter side of things. After all, I’ve had a pretty great year as a 23 year-old; getting an awesome new job, buying my own home, finding an amazing boyfriend, and beating my Crohn’s (again!) – so I really can’t complain.

But what’s next?

Like… what is actually supposed to happen at 24? Do I get any tax breaks I can look forward to? Do I get special discounts at the grocery store? Will anyone respect me more as a 24 year-old? I’m pretty sure the answer is no.

So really, what do 24 year-olds get to look forward to?

Well, according to my Facebook newsfeed…. all of this:

Engagements

Weddings

Babies

(Ok, not entirely true… Some of them are so freakin’ cute.)

Home improvement shopping

Going to bed before 11pm

To be completely honest (as I always am), 24 is actually scaring me.

Do I want engagements and weddings and babies and home improvements and a full night’s rest? I mean, I guess I do? Eventually… but seeing this stuff happening all around me is almost surreal. I don’t feel even close to old enough for any of this to happen to my friends, let alone myself!

But it’s happening.

Everywhere.

And I just have to take it.

I have no idea what’s going to happen in my 24th year, and apparently, the possibilities are endless.

But for now, I do know one thing:

And I’m going to enjoy it.