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About Laura Cox, Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist

Laura Cox
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
05/09/14  10:29 PM PST
Laura Cox

Laura’s Story

You can also watch Laura speak about her diagnosis, surgery and recovery by clicking the button below:

When I was young, I thought I was invincible. I was a healthy kid, aside from the annual cold or ear infection. I was an avid runner, straight-A student, and drum major in the marching band during high school. No one ever expects their life to take a quick turn for the worse, but at 18 years old, mine did. After just a month of experiencing symptoms, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. At the time I thought the only way this diagnosis would affect my life was by taking a pill three times a day. I think my blind optimism actually helped me deal with the diagnosis at the time.

After graduating high school, I was accepted into my dream school, University of Kansas. I attended orientation, met my roommate, and signed up for classes. A week before I had planned to move in, I was put in the hospital for a two-week stay. Deep down, I knew it was too dangerous to go to school out of state. This was the first time, but certainly not the last, that my disease got in the way of a dream I had worked very hard for. I had to throw that dream out the window and compromised by going to community college and living at home.

As my disease progressed and became more severe, I was put on 60 mg of Prednisone, ten mg/kg of Remicade, and was hospitalized about once every three months. For two years, I was never in remission. Every day was excruciating and exhausting.

Even through the health challenges I faced, I tried to travel as much as I could. I found it rejuvenating, and thinking about the next adventure I would have helped me get through my hospitalizations and stay hopeful.

I had been doing relatively well for a couple of months, so  I planned a trip to Ireland with my boyfriend at the time. We paid for our plane tickets and planned out our next adventure. Two days before we were scheduled to leave I started to have pain. I called my doctor, and he scoped me the next day. He informed me I was not allowed to leave the country because my colon was extremely inflamed. My boyfriend and I lost a ton of money, and for the first time, I felt like a burden on my loved ones.

As my disease progressed, Remicade became even less effective than when I initially started. My doctor and I made the decision that it was time to take my colon out. He told me we could take it out that year, or we could wait, but we would eventually have to take it out either way.

December 18th, 2011 was my surgery date. I was told I would either just get a total colectomy, with end ileostomy, or a total colectomy, jpouch, and diverting ileostomy. I woke up with a jpouch and diverting ileostomy. The first time I saw my stoma, I was overwhelmed with joy. To me, this was a step in the right direction. This was how I was going to get my life back! The second night at the hospital I woke up with a high fever, rapid heart rate, and unstoppable vomiting. The last thing I remember for 3 days was the doctors shoving an NG tube down my throat. I developed sepsis and was transported to the ICU. I have only one other memory of those three days: three doctors trying to put an arterial line in. I was so dehydrated that it took them close to two hours of trying before they successfully put one in.

After a 19-day hospital stay with multiple complications, I was released. At this point, I realized I could feel sorry for myself. I could complain and wonder “why me?” or I could be productive. I decided to start a YouTube channel called “Ostomystory” to talk about the trials, tribulations, and beautiful moments of life with an ostomy. Because of my experience, I cater mostly to people with ileostomies and colostomies. I also have followers with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, many different types of cancer, urostomies, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and people whom received ostomies because of different types of accidents and many other circumstances. I’ve found that by creating an online “safe place” for people to feel heard and be part of a community has not only helped them, but me as well.

After two years of making videos I was approached by the producer of the Comedy Central show “Tosh.0.” I was familiar with his humor and wasn’t sure this was the best way to spread my message. My goal has been to spread ostomy awareness, normalize ostomies as much as I can, and show that you can live a normal, productive, wonderful life with an ostomy. I debated with myself for a few months about the offer before deciding to go for it.

The result was better than I could have imagined, and the reaction of the ostomy community was overwhelmingly positive. Through my Tosh.0 episode, Shield HealthCare discovered me. They offered me the title of “Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist.” My goal while working for Shield HealthCare is still to spread awareness, normalize and educate people about life with an ostomy. I want to encourage a happy, healthy, full life with an ostomy.

I look forward to providing my perspective on life with an ostomy, sharing tips I’ve learned along the way, answering your questions to help make your life easier, and I’m grateful Shield HealthCare has given us this platform to expand our community.

You can read more about Laura, her role as our Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist or ask her a question:

Shield HealthCare | Medical Supplies For Care At Home Since 1957

Serving Medicare Ostomates Nationwide
My 89-year-old mother loves to swim but she has found that the pouch fills with water when she gets into the pool. What can we do to fix this?
Cathy
We recently had someone reach out to our Facebook community with a similar question, and several of our OstomyLife community members responded with their own advice.
 
Hopefully you and your mother will find their answers helpful ...


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25 Comments

  1. Sharon Rendall
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 9:14 pm PST

    My husband has had a ileostomy since 1978. He almost bled out one night after having ulcerative colitis since he was 17 years old. He has lived a healthy, happy life since that time. We have of course, had situations to deal with, but over all most people have no idea for his condition.

    I wish we had the support you are giving people back when we first started. We have been married 50 wonderful years and have 3 children and 7 Grandchildren.

    Their is life after a ileostomy and it can be better than ever.

    Roger & Sharon Rendall

  2. Posted May 21, 2014 at 6:23 pm PST

    Thank you so much for your blog and website. I woke up with an ileostomy on August 16, 2012 following surgery for diverticulitis gone wild where a huge infection lodged itself within the wall of my colon. Unlike your experience, I was horrified! I had asked my doctor if there was a possibility of such a procedure and he didn’t plan on it at the time. So much for plans, right? I was in the hospital for one month and 10 days on heavy-duty antibiotics. I literally fought for my life as the infection had spread much further than originally thought. The ileostomy was supposed to be temporary, only a few months, but scar tissue clogged up my resected colon and made it too risky to take the ileostomy down. I am now an “ostomate” for life.

    Despite my initial reaction, I have learned that there really is life after an ileostomy and have come to appreciate the benefits of living with mine. No more running to the bathroom every 20-40 minutes with explosive diarrhea. Traveling is actually much easier and more comfortable than before when I was chronically ill with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I am also grateful that if I had to be afflicted with this problem, it couldn’t happen at a better time in medical history. There is so much available that I’m sure was not in times past.

    I’ve certainly been through my ‘trial and error’ period trying out different bags. I have not tried the 2 step system but I am interested in it now. You also demonstrate products in your ‘how to’ video I have never seen. My wound care nurse will be hearing more from me!

    I just discovered your website and have found it to be so helpful and enlightening. I look forward to checking in regularly for more information, encouragement and community.

    Thank you again!
    Kris Sorgatz

  3. Janet Fishel
    Posted May 30, 2014 at 12:27 pm PST

    I have had an ileostomy since 1977.
    My life completely changed. I can do things I never was able
    to before. I am an avid runner, very active in my
    community (I live in the mountains in
    Nevada County. I would love to get up to date
    ostomy product advice from fellow ostomates.
    Janet

  4. Julie
    Posted June 5, 2014 at 1:20 am PST

    Wow Laura….. You are A-MAZING!
    I have had my ostomy since 1990, and have never felt sorry for myself. I am so happy to be alive and well. I have done pretty much everything I’ve wanted to do, aerobics, swim, run, travel, etc.
    Seeing and hearing you, reinforces my feeling of gratitude.
    Thank you.

  5. Posted February 26, 2015 at 7:29 pm PST

    Thank you so much Julie! That means so much to me. It’s always so great to hear about and see other people’s success stories with their ostomies! I love your attitude!

  6. Posted June 11, 2014 at 6:20 pm PST

    Roger and Sharon,

    It is so heart-warming to read a post like yours. I am so happy to hear that life has been happy, healthy, and full of love with an ostomy!

    Janet, if you ever have a specific question about ostomy products, please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to make suggestions! There are so many amazing products that make active lives like ours so easy while having an ostomy!

    Hope you’re happy and healthy! Laura

  7. Evelyn Lang
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 9:34 pm PST

    I have ileostomy since June 2011. At first I found it very hard to deal with
    like changing the ostomy bag and everything that goes with it, but after several weeks I become comfortable with it. Once in a while I get some leaks especially when I wear tight pants. So I decided not to wear tight pants anymore or just wear a skirt. I would like to get an updates on ostomy products and some advice from fellow ostomates.

    Evelyn

  8. Posted February 26, 2015 at 7:26 pm PST

    Thank you for the suggestions Evelyn! I’ll look into putting some pieces together!

  9. Barbara
    Posted December 13, 2014 at 5:43 am PST

    I would like to wish Laura and her stoma (Tracy?) a Happy Anniversary and a long and healthy life together. I received my gift of the challenge of rectal cancer in January 2009 and welcomed my life long companion, ‘Bob’, after my surgery on May 26, 2009. He is a bit of a pain in the stomach and sometimes makes a mess which I have to clean up. However, just as I did when I received my diagnosis, I welcomed ‘Bob’ with open arms and hug him to my heart every day. I would not be here without him, and would not want to be. Much thanks for your videos, particularly the ones about blockages and the letter you wrote to yourself. Stay well, stay You.

  10. Bruce Thurmond
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 2:24 am PST

    Laura,
    I was diagnosed with rectal cancer last October, underwent radiochemotherapy the following two months, and woke up with a diverting ileostomy after my lar surgery on Feb 20. I went into this with my eyes wide open and with the assistance of a terrific surgical and post surgical team (and most certainly my amazing wife) I am a month into recovery. I discovered your ostomy videos while looking for some additional information online and was blown away by your positive attitude. An ostomy is definitely not the end of the world. Thanks so much for spreading the positive word and being so encouraging.

  11. Posted March 24, 2015 at 3:39 pm PST

    Bruce,
    I’m so happy to hear you had an amazing support network after waking up with an ostomy! How is recovery going? I am so glad my videos could help! Ostomies, many times, save lives! I want to make sure people are able to have the tools and support to live a positive, happy life with their ostomies!

  12. Muhammad Ahsan Ilahee
    Posted August 6, 2015 at 6:50 pm PST

    Dear Laura,
    Thanks for your web information. I had no idea that so many people are enjoying their life after such hurdle. I was hiding my ostomy information so long. Now it’s time to share my experience. Please don’t get surprise- God blessed me with the highest qualification in the world on parachute, around 10 years i was flying in the sky with that profession having a robotic physic. Alas !! on 2012 suddenly i had ulceritive colitis & had to undergo surgery within next year…..was going well BUT again on July 2015 it got worst with a twisted intestine , so I had to undergo same surgery once again(Same surgery twice). I am still on medical leave. I think, I am having highest experience on this issue as I faced all those symptoms narrated above..Taking all types of medicine/ injections, vomating, infection stay in ICU & so on. However, Thanks to God for giving us life , time & again. We just have to get mentally strong enough to bear this..Life would be really wonderful..Regards.
    Muhammad A. Ilahee

  13. Posted August 13, 2015 at 12:06 pm PST

    Hi Muhammad, thanks for sharing! I hope you’re feeling better after the second surgery! – Laura

  14. Posted September 16, 2015 at 8:38 am PST

    Hey Laura,
    So glad I finally came across your advice and video page on Shield Healthcare, where I purchase my products. I appreciate your great advice on many things.
    My story is very similar to yours, ulcerative colitis, at 16, very sick until the surgery at 18! Unlike you though, I did not take it very well! I was young and did not want to live with a “bag”. Unfortunately I woke up with one after an emergency surgery, still wishing I had just died. I would like to explain why I felt that way. I came from a very small town in Canada, there was a girl in our town who had a urostomy, I didn’t know a thing about it and felt very sorry for her because everyone talked about her and pointed to her saying “that’s the girl with the bag”, we were young teenagers. Well, I became that girl with the bag! I could feel the eyes on me when I entered a room. I was so uncomfortable and it made me very unhappy. I married my high school sweetheart who fortunately stayed with me through the entire thing! I found out that I couldn’t have children, due to endometriosis caused by an infection I got after my surgery. I had multiple tubal surgeries to try and correct that, to no avail. My husband and I had an opportunity to move to California when I was 26.
    This was the greatest thing I ever did. No one knew me! the girl with the bag! I had decided that this would be my “secret” no one would know about my ostomy. I began to feel comfortable in my own skin, as well as accept my ostomy and be grateful to be alive. My problem now is there are some people that I need to tell, friends who have been my best buddies for 25 years now. I don’t know how to do it! I told one so far and she was very angry at me for keeping this a secret from her. She even cried, saying how could I call her my best friend if I could keep this from her. I felt awful! After all these years, how can I tell my friends about this? Am I the only ostomate that had or has feelings like this? Please give advice. Thanks

  15. Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:05 am PST

    Hi Lori, that’s a great question and you are definitely not alone in feeling like this. Many people chose to keep their ostomies a secret, and many people chose to share. It’s all personal preference! I’d like to refer you to a blog I wrote about how to tell people about your ostomy. http://www.shieldhealthcare.com/community/ostomylife/2014/07/27/how-to-tell-someone-you-have-an-ostomy/ You can also watch the video if you would prefer http://www.shieldhealthcare.com/community/ostomylife/ostomy-lifestyle-videos/2014/07/26/how-to-tell-someone-you-have-an-ostomy-video/

    I hope this helps and that you’re happy and healthy!
    -Laura

  16. Bobbi
    Posted September 26, 2015 at 11:26 pm PST

    Wow what a trip! After waking up from an induced coma with an “addition”, I was more frightened then I was mortified. I started calling my new addition Junior since I looked like I was pregnant on my left side. My friends get a kick out of my trials and tribulations with Junior, especially the “mind of his own” problem. I guess naming our addition is kinda normal, but at 60 yrs old, some people think I’m bonkers when they hear me telling Junior to behave himself! Ah well, sense of humour totally a requirement

  17. Posted October 1, 2015 at 3:08 pm PST

    Sense of humor is definitely the way I cope too! I like your stoma’s name! Mine’s name is Trixie, because she can sometimes be a little tricky when I’m changing my appliance! How is little Junior doing now? Are you two getting along? 😉

    -Laura, Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist

  18. Amy
    Posted February 22, 2016 at 6:45 pm PST

    Dear Laura,
    I cannot thank you enough. When I was told I would get a temporary ileostomy as part of repair of a perforation and bowel abscess, I was pretty freaked out! I cried for a day. Then I sought information online (knowledge is power, right?). I found your YouTube videos. Seeing you, young, confident, totally at ease with your appliance change video inspired in me so much belief that I could do this. And I have! I am 6 weeks post-op and have bonded with my stoma, Willa. She is scheduled to go back under in a couple weeks. Glad I found you on this website so I could reach out and say THANK YOU, LAURA!!! You have taught me lotssssss and I wish you all the best in your future. 🙂

  19. Posted February 23, 2016 at 8:43 am PST

    Thank you so much for your kind words Amy! People like you remind me why I’m so passionate for sharing resources! I am so happy to hear you’ve bonded with Willa (what a pretty name)! How are you feeling? I wish you the best of luck with the take-down surgery! <3

  20. Salve
    Posted March 3, 2016 at 5:21 pm PST

    Hi Laura!
    Wow you are such a huge blessing to the ostomate community!! … I am a colorectal cancer survivor and just had my surgery last month (February 2016).. Before ostomy, I was always bleeding every time I pooped and waste discharge came in trickles because of the tumor near my rectum. Had back pain and fecal retention because of it. Then finally after surgery and had the bag on, it felt more liberating. No bloody poop anymore.
    Thank you for your videos, it helps us a lot with the “know-how and feel-how” of having ostomy … A year before I had my ostomy, your video was the first I got to watch because I was prepping myself up for a likely surgery back then, 2015 (it didn’t happen though because we opted for chemotherapy at that time)… Then a year after, God led the way and here we are… very grateful with the ostomy 🙂
    We emulate your cheerful spirit and positive disposition… Thank you and God bless you more! ^_^

  21. Posted March 8, 2016 at 10:59 am PST

    Thank you so much Salve, for your sweet message! I’m so happy to hear you’re grateful with your ostomy 🙂 Keep smiling! I hope you’re happy and healthy!

  22. Jan Carter
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 1:33 pm PST

    As I write this my husband is in hospital care and has temporary
    Ileostomy stoma after rectal tumor removal. There have been some problems with everything starting to work again but he and I are overwhelmed with what is ahead for him at home . He is somewhat confused and wondering how he will ever cope. any links to hints for changing bag Care of skin etc would be greatly appreciated. I am trying to help as much as possible but ultimately he will want to be independent with this

  23. Aimee Sharp
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 11:10 am PST

    Hello Jan. Thank you for commenting and we understand how you are both overwhelmed at the moment, but we hope that with the right information you both can handle this temporary situation. You can find our bag changing video here and our video about skin care here along with our article about that subject. You may also find our FAQs about ostomies helpful. Best of luck to both of you and wishing quick recovery time for your husband! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  24. Robert
    Posted July 17, 2017 at 10:36 am PST

    This is the first time I’ve watched one of your videos, though my wife said she’s watched a couple. One of our daughters has an ileostomy since birth, she is currently 2.5. I feel watching your videos and I will become immersed in this site, I feel will help me be that much better prepared as she gets older. I am VERY grateful with your clear and straightforward approach. THANK YOU!!!

  25. Posted July 18, 2017 at 12:02 pm PST

    Hi Robert, thank you so much for sharing. That means the world to me. Your daughter is lucky to have such supportive parents! I hope she is healthy and happy and is and will continue to live her life to the fullest!

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