Erin is passionate about removing the stigma around stomas and sees Support Groups as one of the best avenues for new Ostomates, young and old, to receive the encouragement and support they need.
In 2006 Erin started her journey with a diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis. Surgery followed in 2007, and in 2008 Erin underwent reversal surgery. Unfortunately, the following year she was back in theatre with complications and in 2010 Erin underwent the procedure that would create her permanent stoma.
This was a life-style choice for Erin and one she does not regret “Since becoming an Ostomate, I got married in Thailand, travelled to Bali, hiked through Malaysia, climbed the Sydney Harbour bridge, and ran the City to Surf just to mention a few.”
As part of her Great Comeback, Erin has set up a Facebook Page, an online support group and a variety of face to face support groups. The on-line support group also offers assistance to international Ostomates seeking advice. Although these initiatives have been championed by Erin she recognises the value of the support of those around her, “Before having a ‘bag’ I can honestly say I would never have dared to even imagine myself in such a situation but now after everything I have endured and the loving support of my husband, this seems less daunting than the bag itself did at the beginning.”
During the three years immediately after her surgery, Erin volunteered at the Western Australia Ostomy Association where she saw her role as a young Ostomate to be one for change. This drove her to seek opportunities for change as she took up the role as Association Treasurer and eventually President.
Although life has settled down for Erin she still has days where it all gets her down but she is determined not to let her stoma define her, “I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to and believe the same of every person who has undergone stoma surgery.” She went on to say “As for the future, the best is yet to come.”
Erin’s list of tips for Ostomates is long but her last word on becoming an Ostomate and working through those first few months seems to best sum up her approach.
“It’s better to laugh than cry but it’s OK to do both, sometimes at the same time.”