A Book Review of Brenda Elsagher’s I’d Like To Buy A  Bowel Please Ostomy A to Z (2006)

I recently had the opportunity to hear Brenda Elsagher’s offbeat presentation.  She is a stand-up comedian, a parent and wife, an author, a public speaker and advocate, an ostomate, and runs her own business.  She is also highly involved in her community.  Does she live a full life after her surgery?  I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Ostomy A to Z is a collection of humorous stories and poems by enterostomal therapists and ostomates from many different backgrounds.  All express situations and experiences of life with an ostomy.  I highly recommend this book for those individuals who are about to have, or recently have had, surgery because it vocalizes many of the concerns we all felt in the beginning.  It also conveys a strong message of optimism.  Yes, your surgery will make you physically “different,” but so did the reason you needed the surgery in the first place.  Yes, it is natural to go through a period of grief and self-doubt.  Or as Brenda writes, “sure go ahead and mope for a little while.  Having an ostomy can be a bummer” {not sure if that is a pun}.  “As soon as you turn that mope into hope then you can cope” (page. 70).

The underlying theme of her book is “lets laugh about our bodies’ mishaps and enjoy each day as it comes”.  Brenda comments that “people living with ostomies in these stories have big lives…for many, ostomy surgery was a fresh start to a new adventurous life put on hold for too long” (page 8).

Those who contributed to her book include: Pat Parish, a volunteer with the Peace Corps, who helped victims of Hurricane Katrina (page 112); Mike Ster, a scuba instructor, (page 107); and Carol Haack who is also a part-time dive master and enjoys wilderness camping and canoeing (page 98).  These activities didn’t stop after surgery, in fact Carol didn’t even learn how to scuba dive until after her surgery.  These individuals don’t see themselves as “heroes” or “exceptional” people.  They have contributed their stories to dispel the idea that ostomates are in any way handicapped.  If worse comes to worse, yes you may have a leak, lose your pouch clip, or have the occasionally noisy stomas.  And of course, there is never a good time for any of that to happen.  But you will get through it the best way you can just as the individuals do in Brenda's book.

If you need a confidence booster, I suggest you pick up her book and laugh along with those who recount how they've dealt with various situations.

Excepted via OstomyToronto Monthly Newsletter, by Deb Pelletier
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