If you’ve read my blogs before, or know me at all, you’ll know that I am all for raising awareness. For me, the main issue I hope to raise awareness for is IBD and Ostomy. I spend a lot of time working closely with different companies, support groups and charities, and encourage others to raise awareness also. There are a lot of things that can bring you to needing an ostomy, including colon cancer. I have met others who live with an ostomy due to battling cancer, the loveliest people who are so grateful for their stoma now, as they now live the lifestyle they always hoped for.
So to me, the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advert came as a complete shock. I’m not sure if you have seen it, so I will just quote exactly what was said.
“I’m Julia, I smoked and I got colon cancer. I had chemo and two surgeries. But what I hated the most, was the colostomy bag. That’s where they re-route your intestines so you have bowel movements that go into a bag. Through a hole in your stomach. My tip is: get over being squeamish. You’re going to be emptying your bag 6 times a day.
The video ends with her holding up an ostomy bag, with a voiceover telling you where to visit to help you quit smoking.
I know it may not concern many people that don’t have an ostomy, or those whom don’t know much about them, but to me, it hurt. It hit a nerve, quite hard. Watching this video bought out so much anger that I didn’t know was there. I am absolutely, utterly disgusted that they feel they can advertise a quit smoking campaign with something that has saved so many lives.
It angered me for many reasons, upset me on so many peoples behalves. Now, I understand that the aim of this advert was to help smokers quit. I understand that the aim of this advert on their behalf, was a positive one. But what I don’t understand is why they felt the need to use a condition that can be caused by a variety of diseases – not just colon cancer – to put people off of smoking? Why should we have our condition used as a negative towards something like smoking?
How the hell do they think that makes people who live with ostomys feel? People like me? Who at 19, underwent EMERGENCY Ileostomy surgery for ULCERATIVE COLITIS. This was not in anyway my fault. I did not do anything to add to my need for an ostomy, nor could I have done anything to prevent it.
This advert is painting the image that a need for an Ostomy is caused by something we have done to ourselves. Telling us that we are facing the consequences for disrespecting our bodies. Treating it as a punishment; telling us that we deserve it.
It angered me even further to know that the woman speaking had been through chemotherapy and countless surgeries, but decided that having to wear a colostomy bag was the worst of it for her. How could she forget to mention the fact that her colostomy bag was the reason she’s still here to help contribute to this horrendous advert?
What has insulted me even more is that the company felt confident enough to use a life saving disability as a reason not to smoke, yet couldn’t get their facts right. In the videos description, it states “She needed an ostomy bag taped to a hole in her abdomen to collect waste.” This is absolute shit. You don’t TAPE an ostomy bag to your stomach. And there is NOT just a hole in your abdomen. Your intestine is bought out to keep it working. To keep you alive. There is no hole, there is a stoma. A part of your intestine that everyone is born with, just positioned differently.
How the hell does this company have the audacity to make people feel so insecure? And how the hell do they have the nerve to use my condition as an example of why you should not smoke?
Can you just imagine it. Just please, take one second. One second to think about your biggest insecurity. The thing that you feel makes you feel different to the rest of the world. The thing that you would have to talk to somebody about in complete confidence to overcome. Okay, now imagine it being talked about negatively in public. Somebody taking that insecurity, and using it as a consequence of something that could kill you.
That’s exactly what this company did. This company took smoking, something obviously unhealthy, which carries a lot of risks. Something that a lot of people deem as dirty. Something that can cause you illness in so many ways. This company took that, and expressed the opinion – not fact – that if you carry on smoking, you will end up with a stoma bag. Oh wait, they didn’t even mention a stoma did they – sorry. And what’s worse, is the fact they tell you that you will need to get the “squeamish” side out of your system to be able to cope with it.
How dare they. How dare they do this. My ileostomy bag saved my life. It does not make me feel squeamish. If anything, I am just damn grateful to be alive.
There are so many people out there with ostomys, due to a variety of illnesses. I can guarantee most of these illnesses are not self inflicted. I won’t go into detail with these illnesses because I can’t pretend to know much beyond what Google tells me. But what I do know is myself. And I know that my bag is not something to be used to counteract a negative decision. It is not something to make others squirm. And it is definitely NOT something that should be used as a fear. It is what has kept me walking on this earth, and has kept me living. Really living.
This advert should be banned entirely. Please do carry on helping others quit smoking, and please carry on raising awareness for Cancer. But do not by any means do this by making people living with other conditions feel like they’re inadequate. Because by doing this, you are making it twice as hard for people like me to speak out. To raise awareness on our own behalves. To feel normal. For people like me, my bag was a god send. It was the difference between life and death. It is not something to be ashamed of or disgusted by.
How are we meant to move on and embrace our bodies when such a large company are drilling it into the minds of society that Ostomy’s are nothing but a consequence?
We’re not an anti-smoking campaign. We’re people. Real, living, feeling people. Remember that.