Jessica: Uncovered. - Uncover Ostomy
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Jessica: Uncovered.

I’m sick.

I know it and you know it. Other people – however – don’t.

“Well, you don’t look sick…” the common phrase most of us with Crohn’s/Colitis/IBD/IBS and other invisible disease sufferers hear constantly.

I know I don’t look sick.

I try very, very hard to make sure of that.

Many of us, no matter what the issue, have mastered the art of the fake smile to pretend everything’s alright, the gritting of our teeth to hide the pain, and for some of us, like myself, the magic of makeup that can hide physical evidence of a problem. It’s done to hide painful emotions, self-confidence issues, and imperfections. We all do it – it’s just a matter of why.

In my case, my fake smiles and teeth gritting have, thankfully, been kept to a minimum. Despite a few bouts of intestinal discomfort (like today, for instance), over the past little while I have actually felt alright. Though I have been taken off Remicade (the $8k a dose drug) due to the horrible reaction I had, I’ve managed to open my diet back up to real food (oh salads, how I’ve missed you!) and the remnants of the tiny, yet powerful, amount of steroids I am no longer on have disappeared (goodbye, puffy face!)

Unfortunately, while my intestinal symptoms seem to have dissipated, other unsightly Crohn’s symptoms have appeared. Over the past few weeks, my legs, chest, and face have become home to large, painful, and itchy gaping wounds. While I can deal with the pain and the itch (well, sort of.. thanks to my boyfriend who smacks my hand away every time I scratch), I am having a difficult time with the change in my appearance that these wounds and their scars are causing.

Well, I’m really just having a hard time with what they’re doing to my face.

I’m a confident girl – you all know that. I mean, hello? I’m practically naked all over the internet. I’m practically naked all over the internet uncovering my ostomy.

Then why is it that I find myself hiding a different part of me? It wasn’t until today, as I stepped out of the shower -fresh faced and covered in marks – that I have been hiding. I’ve been hiding the symptoms of my disease under piles and piles of makeup. I can show the world my ostomy bag, but I can’t show the world my real face?

Ridiculous.

Those pictures you see me post on my personal Facebook page/Twitter/Instagram? Yeah – I’m covered in makeup. It’s not me. It’s the “you don’t look sick” me. Even the pictures of me showing off my ostomy? Oh yeah, I’m COVERED in makeup. I mean, how can I tout confidence in one’s self and one’s ostomy if I can’t be confident with the symptoms of a disease I’m trying so hard to fight? How can I tell each and every one of you to accept who you are, no matter what, if I can’t even show myself in public without a mask of cosmetics?

The answer is that I can’t.

This is why I’ve decided to show you me. Fresh faced. Makeup free. Wounds, scars, and all.

Tahdah.

20130715_164508

No makeup. No shame.

Just me. **

WAIT – I’M SORRY I SCARED YOU. COME BACK!

ha.

As I sit here, writing this, I can’t help but think about what these wounds and scars have done. Not only have they made a dent in my face, but they have made a dent in my self-confidence. No matter how much makeup I have slathered on, I can’t help but feel that people are staring at me – like they can see through the makeup. It’s really been getting to me.

But now… now that I get ready to post this.. I feel almost as ease.

Writing really is a cathartic process.

And let’s be serious: If I can realize at 13 years old that having an ostomy is no big deal, I can certainly say “f**ck it” to the shit stuff on my face.

These little marks are part of who I am. They are the symptoms of a disease that I have; a disease that has shaped me,  just as my ostomy has. And if I can be proud of my ostomy, why can’t I be proud of my symptoms too?

After all, I am sick. And I’m damn proud to be surviving it.

————————-

** Compare that with the “you don’t look sick” me (the fake me), it’s almost ridiculous how different I look.

20130715_164917 20130715_165259

Jessica Grossman
info@uncoverostomy.org
19 Comments
  • Paul Bonar
    Posted at 00:32h, 17 July Reply

    Hi Jess,

    You don’t look to bad and at least you have all your hair, I was left with a bald patch at the crown of my head and I had the dreaded moon shaped face all courtesy of the steroids I was on for my Chrons. But as you say, you are still here and you will conquer it again!!

    Lots of love,
    PaulB

  • Chiara
    Posted at 01:08h, 17 July Reply

    Dear Jessica,
    they all also say always to me “you don’t look sick”, but I am, so I can totally understand you. I have not the same courage as you have and so I will keep wearing make up everyday, covering dark circles, pale skin, the scratches. You are an example to me, really, and sometimes uncover our ostomy is far more easy than uncover our face: that is our weakest part.
    A wise man once said “I don’t have to sit around and feel sorry for myself: I just decided to accept the way I am”.

    A huge hug from another sick girl.

  • John
    Posted at 01:49h, 17 July Reply

    With make up, without make up….you look good. Don’t convince yourself you need makeup to look good.

  • Mark Haug
    Posted at 01:56h, 17 July Reply

    Jess: great article. As always, you are a pioneer in the field and I hope your story reaches far more people as you are an inspiration to many.

  • Magan Rish
    Posted at 02:10h, 17 July Reply

    Makeup or no, you look gorgeous. It’s so much easier to tell someome else how good they look then turn around and scrutinize ourselves. I have gained so much weight since my surgery from prednisone that I could scream when someone compliments me. We see in ourselves the details others do not.

  • Angela deBeaudrap
    Posted at 02:23h, 17 July Reply

    I have been following you for a bit since I got my ostomy last November (mine due to
    colorectal Cancer). You are beautiful without the make up and the painful sores…I have those too along with other rashes. I hope to achieve your confidence someday soon. You continue to inspire me and I hope someday soon I can show my pride for my life saving ostomy. I was also thinking you should do a Show Your Ostomy calendar. Get a bunch of us to model our ostomies. Proceeds going to cancer or other foundations that you are passionate for.

  • Stephen Dyck
    Posted at 02:39h, 17 July Reply

    I like your non makeup self and I would sooner know her than the madeup one

  • Ellen
    Posted at 03:18h, 17 July Reply

    I think a lot of people (with Crohn’s or UC) don’t understand your message. You can be completely comfortable with an ostomy and still be a woman; someone who is insecure about a pimple or the extra pound they have gained. But that has nothing to do with the ostomy. It’s hard to distinguish between the two but the insecurities you feel, you would be feeling even if you didn’t have Crohn’s. Crohn’s sucks. But I know I wouldn’t be as awesome as I am now without it. Jess, you are great, flaws and all.

  • Sally
    Posted at 05:36h, 17 July Reply

    Hi Jess

    You wrote: After all, I am sick. And I’m damn proud to be surviving it. that says it all. and it seems you are not only ‘surviving’ but thriving.

    I got UC when I was 15, developed cancer and had an ileostomy at age 26, had two wonderful children in my 30s, have had a great life (for the most part) and will turn 60 in about a week. Thanks for having the courage to share your self with us. I wish you the best of luck, health and happiness.

    • Lori
      Posted at 13:14h, 17 July Reply

      Sally was your Ileostomy reversed before you had children? Or did you have it when you were pregnant ? How did that work for you?

      • Megan
        Posted at 09:01h, 12 January Reply

        Hi Lori, I’m not Sally but I can speak to this issue as I did the same thing: had one pregnancy with advanced refractory UC, the second (much more successful) pregnancy post-ileostomy (my first pregnancy ended prematurely at 32 weeks and fetus suffering unrelated complications, but she’s fine now thankfully : )
        Lori, I am so thankful for the opportunity to have a HEALTHY PREGNANCY in my healthy body thanks to the ileostomy. And my beautiful, beautiful incredibly healthy baby boy is pretty happy about it too. He just turned one. Ileostomy poses no complications to pregnancy, and tremendous gain to those of us who were so sick before (now those illnesses are complications. Chained to a bathroom when raising an infant?!) I am told, however, that the second and third phase surgeries if one pursues a reversal greatly complicate conception as we all risk potential infertility from the scarring. Ileostomy though is fine.
        jessica, just found this site and hope to share some pics soon! Former model battling not feeling hot, love your message.

  • Alex
    Posted at 06:30h, 17 July Reply

    I can pretty much agree with everything here. My family didn’t even believe I was sick until I went to get my colostomy stuff all done (deciding where to place it, etc.). Six years I was sick and most of them just put out the “You don’t look sick.” or “You can tough it out.” I’m glad to see you writing about this. SHows people that we’re not just lying and the doctors aren’t kidding when they say people with Crohn’s/Colitis/IBD/IBS are seriously ill. So just thank you.

  • Melvyn Stead
    Posted at 08:55h, 17 July Reply

    The eyes have it Jessica , I look into them and see a beautiful soul ,take a good look into those eyes and you will see one who cares about others and wants to help, that Jessica is true beauty , so its a fact , you are stunning inside and out !

  • Mark Le Gros
    Posted at 10:41h, 17 July Reply

    Jess, you look perfectly fine as you are, even without the make up. Personally (as a guy) I’m not a big fan of women who wear make up, as it tells me that they are trying to hide who they really are. That pic, especially the full face one is startling, in the sense that you can really see who the real you is and says far more than any bit of make up can try and hide. My opinion at least.

  • Lori
    Posted at 13:33h, 17 July Reply

    You are beautiful with or without make up. You have nothing to be ashamed about. You truly are gorgeous.And the good news they will heal I promise ! I loved your post it says everything I feel all wrapped up. This disease is hard and people just think oh its just a bit of cramps or your not really in that MUCH pain. Or you seem so fine. You never have to worry about being fat. I wish I could be as strong as you and be proud of my Ileostomy but I can’t. I know its what saved my life finally after 12 years of not being able to really live a life at all and always in pain. But I still dont want anyone to see it . Ive come a long way mind you I used to hate hate it and feel like my body was forever destroyed and they mutilated me. Now I’m okay with it but dont really wanna share about it. There’s a lot of crummy things about this disease and as long as you take it day by day everything will be fine 🙂 you seem to be a very strong person. And I’m glad your boyfriend is supportive by helping keep your fingers away. That always seems half the battle trying to find someone who understands what your going through and willing to understand you dont feel well. So hold onto him if hes good to you and lifts you up when your down and I’m sure he still thinks your beautiful as well without the make up 🙂 god bless

  • Mil Bej
    Posted at 15:02h, 17 July Reply

    Jess, you are beautiful!

    Thank you for being an inspiration to me and so many other people. Make up or no make up, I only see the beautiful person you are on the inside. You are not a “surface person” and anybody who cares about weather you have make up or not, should not matter to you anyway. Be true and enjoy life with all its diversity, because, you know what, it goes by so fast that nothing really truly matters but NOW — the present moment.

    Be happy. And do text, when you are in NYC 😉

  • Stellie
    Posted at 18:30h, 17 July Reply

    I don’t mean this in an offensive way but you’re still so young, and so these things matter more than the do to older people. Sure I like to look presentable (I’m 37) but I’m generally pretty disheveled and I’ve got rashes, scars, bumps, my hair isn’t well groomed etc. Thing is, I just don’t care. Carry yourself with confidence, use your voice and let others stare (I can assure you they are not going to and if they do well you should probably be with people who don’t care). So keep on keeping on Jessica. There are no perfect people out there, we all have our issues (phyical, mental, emotional) and the ones who keep going are the ones who grown, learn and achieve. And it doesn’t hurt that you’re still adorable without the makeup anyway!

  • Jan
    Posted at 02:48h, 25 July Reply

    I’m sorry to hear of your Crohn’s situation. Have you tried Dr. Fuhrman’s anti-inflammatory diet? As a fellow ostomate, changing my diet has made a huge difference and I don’t mean just cutting out soda. It was well worth it for me. Many patients have been able to go into remission from Crohn’s on a plant based whole foods lifestyle.

  • Fingers
    Posted at 15:29h, 26 July Reply

    I just stumbled on your blog and it’s so true the fact that people say “but you don’t look sick” and the fact that we Crohnie’s put on a brave face and pretend that all is well. It’s a daily thing for me. I’ve just had my 10th bowel surgery. yup I’ve made double digits. Something to be proud of. I’ve had my ileostomy since 1995 and now my mom has her colostomy called Gladys. I have yet to name mine-never really thought to. But it’s so funny when my mom is talking “Oh Gladys is angry today” She had precancer not Crohn’s but my little brother just got diagnosed last fall. So sad that he has to have it. Felt like I had gone through enough to keep the rest of my family safe.

    I’m sorry to be rambling. I’ve just no one to talk to about this and would be nice to have someone with Crohn’s in my life to sympathize with! I’m 45 and I think you’re gorgeous with and without makeup!

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