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Digestive Health

Q&A with Chantelle Leonardo-Fernandes

Chantelle sheds light on practical tips, emotional resilience, and advocacy, offering support and inspiration to those navigating similar paths

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Can you share a bit about your journey with digestive health and what led to your decision to undergo ostomy surgery?

I suffered for many many years and I was finally diagnosed with UC at the age of 34. I was on many medications – oral, infusions and injections. At the age of 41, I had to undergo emergency surgery for my Ilesotomy.

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How has living with an ostomy impacted your daily life, and what adjustments have you made in terms of diet and lifestyle?

Living with my Ostomy has had its challenges, but I feel I have adjusted pretty well.

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Managing digestive health can be challenging. How do you prioritize self-care and emotional well-being in your journey?

I take time doing things I can tryly enjoy now with my Ostomy that I couldn’t before. At the beginning of my journey I struggled looking at myself and was worried how my kids were going to look and think of me. I am now proud of myself and love to share my story with others, I love being that person to others that I didn’t have for myself.

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Have you encountered any common misconceptions or stigmas surrounding ostomies, and how do you address or overcome them?

I haven’t encountered any misconceptions or stigmas yet, but if I did, I would share all the positive things that my Ostomy has done for me.

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Can you share any memorable or empowering moments from your journey that have positively influenced your perspective on living with an ostomy?

I have had a few memorable moments since my surgery that will always put a smile on my face. My first Ostomy change alone my 8-year-old daughter wanted to help, I couldn’t believe it because I thought she would look at me and think I was gross but she didn’t, and she actually helped and asked lots of questions that I was happy to answer. Another time was my oldest son, we picked up a large pizza and sat in the car and ate the pizza calmly and he looked at me and said, I can’t believe we couldn’t do this before, doesn’t it feel so good? It made me tear up but also made me so happy because I could enjoy these small moments with them. One more, my middle son plays soccer and for a long time I couldn’t watch him play so he would FaceTime me after his game to give me the play-by-play of the game. Since surgery, I’ve been to every game and the look on his face seeing both his parents there is pretty amazing.

As much as this surgery was scary and I now live with an Ostomy bag for life, this surgery has given me so much more…

I truly appreciate all the small and big things I couldn’t before!

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If you could offer one piece of advice to others navigating digestive health challenges, facing the prospect of ostomy surgery, or already living with an ostomy, what would it be?

My only advice is to share your story. I know that that can be a very hard thing to do, but the second you do you’ll feel so much better in your own skin.

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