The triathletes of Team Ostomy United bring an unexpected challenge few of us realize or are aware of. An ostomy refers to a surgically created opening in the body to discharge waste - certainly not the easiest condition to talk about much less live with. But the members of Team Ostomy United are dealing with the delicate nature of their physical challenge while tackling triathlon.
Team Ostomy United was envisioned and created by Ted Vosk, half-marathoner, trial attorney, and ostomate. Read Ted's Story below. The Team will participate in the Lake Meridian Triathlon on Sunday, August 23. To date, over a dozen people have committed to the team, with a goal of recruiting at least a dozen more. Participation is open to all, with at least half of the team consisting of people who have had ostomy or continent diversion surgery.
To raise awareness of the condition and funding for education, many team members are fundraising as part of their race experience. They will create awareness and support two worthy 501(c)(3) organizations: The United Ostomy Associations of America and Youth Rally.
Surviving and Thriving - Ted Vosk
A few years ago severe Crohn’s disease caused my small intestine to begin scarring up and blocking food from passing through me. Unable to eat, I lost over 60 pounds, becoming so weak and frail that my doctor told me that I would need surgery and an ileostomy or I would likely die. I told him that I would rather die than have an ileostomy. My wife vetoed that decision and I ended up getting surgery the summer of 2012.
After a month in the hospital with repeated complications, I returned home looking like a concentration camp survivor. I was so weak that my legs trembled when I stood and I could barely walk 50 yards down the sidewalk in front of my home. Things seemed so bleak that I cried myself to sleep every night feeling hopeless, scared and wishing that I had simply died on the operating table.
My wife stood by me, however, and helped me to fight my way back. She shared with me stories of others who had been forced to get ostomies but yet refused to quit on life. Their rise to greater heights than I thought possible was the inspiration I needed. So I used the strength I had and walked the 50 yards down the sidewalk in from of my house with the goal that I would one day again be able to run. And within 6 months I was able to fully run two half-marathons on back to back weekends to help raise money and awareness for those with Crohn’s and Colitis.
Today, a little over 2 years following my surgery, I run 7 miles every morning, try cases in courts around the State of Washington and speak internationally on matters of science and law…and few who meet me even realize that I have an ileostomy. While I don’t “love” my ostomy, as I’ve heard some other comment, it doesn’t stop me from doing anything that I want to and I hardly notice it anymore. There are many struggling with, or facing the prospect of getting, an ostomy who feel the same way I did: stigmatized, less than human, helpless and, frankly, look to the future with a sense of hopelessness. But there are also many of us who have fought through the darkness and learned that the only limits on us are the ones that we place on ourselves.
There is nothing that anyone else can achieve that our ostomies can stop us from achieving. Most of us had help traversing the night, either from family, friends or, in many cases, a favorite ostomy nurse. And as others helped us to reclaim our lives, we want to empower those who follow behind us to do the same…to rise above the fear, pain and loneliness…and soar.