I Can. Being a Father with IBD
By: Brandon Pomish
Companion Magazine Staff Writer
On December 31st, 2017 for the first time in over three years, I went into a swimming pool with my daughter. My feelings were overwhelmed the moment I entered the pool. Like the lottery balls blowing in the vacuum chamber, synchronized emotions burst out as our smiles connected in the splashes.
Joy and amazement first hit me. Then indignation and self-pity slid through and took charge. Why did I have to be incapacitated for so long and miss out on these precious father-daughter moments? Other people in the pool were drawn in and tried to interact with us. Why couldn’t they leave us alone and let us enjoy the pent-up excitement of an activity I so eagerly had been dreaming about for years? Sadness and remorse filled up as well. I had an ostomy, but, I had researched a variety of methods to enable me to swim and enjoy these types of activities.
I had used plastic wrap on one occasion to dip into the ocean, it was extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing. Happiness engulfed the anger quickly as I reminded myself to enjoy the moment, recognize and relocate my negative feelings, and show my daughter I had the capability and determination to triumph in the water.
I read stories of ostomates (a term describing someone with an ostomy) who, by medical necessity, were driven to a life of ostomy permanence, were enjoying the life without hesitation and seemingly with a boundless optimism. Yet, for reasons of embarrassment, stubbornness, deliberate recognition of my handicap, and fear, with my ostomy appliance fastened, I never entered a pool shirt on or off.
The feeling of relief and freedom once I could forget all my fears was exhilarating. It was a feeling of rebirth and a moment of happiness I’ll never forget. It’s a moment I got to share with my daughter. There are many similar moments of joy that I’m experiencing now that my ostomy is no longer my companion. I can now lay on the floor on my back and play with dolls without constantly being distracted if my bag is full, or constantly adjust the position I’m lying in, or being self-protective if my daughter wants to jump on me. I can be present when reading bedtime stories. I can build a fort and curl up underneath the fort in any position. I can take my daughter to piano lessons, I can lay with my daughter in bed if she’s having nightmares, I can show my daughter that daddy is an energetic, fun, and silly person.
Life is almost stationary when you are sick. It is extremely difficult to enjoy the small moments because no matter how focused you try and become, the uncertainty of the disease is always a participant. A spontaneous walk with my daughter was circumscribed by my diet, the timing of my food and beverage consumption, my energy level, and overall desire to chance an accident. This is similar when I would take my daughter to a trampoline park, a playground, ice skating, a movie, or any place where I was not supported by another adult. There is a likely chance that my disease reoccurs in my lifetime and I’m ready if it does.
I refuse to put my life on pause again no matter the obstacle. I can install the values of determination, positive thinking, and gratitude into my daughter so if she ever has a health battle of her own, she has the tools to succeed.
I can and so can you.