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OstomyLife Community Member Spotlight: Saleem Juma

Model, Ostomate and Winner of Mr. Washington State 2017
08/14/18  2:00 PM PST
Saleem Juma

Saleem Juma reached out to the OstomyLife community through our Facebook page and wanted to know if we would be interested in hearing his perspective — the answer was yes! It’s always lovely to hear from different community members with their own experience and advice for others. Thank you to Saleem for introducing yourself!

“The strongest souls are seared with scars” – Khalil Gibran

That quote has gotten me through some of the hardest times in my life, my greatest struggles. I’m not sure why it stuck with me but I used to think of it as a testament to my character that I was able to not only survive my trial by fire but thrive.

My name is Saleem Juma. I am the former Mr. Washington State 2017, a fitness/pageant and fashion model as well as both a commercial and reality TV actor. I’m a sponsored writer and a motivational speaker, BUT what you probably didn’t know is I have a secret (not a very well kept one but a secret nonetheless). I have an ileostomy bag attached to my stomach. I had my large intestine, rectum and anus removed when I was 19, after being sick with ulcerative colitis for five years. Eventually, seven surgeries later, I had to have nine inches of my small intestine removed.

But let’s back up a bit. I want to tell you about everything I’ve gone through so you can not only understand my struggles and my life but perhaps use it to further your own inspiration and goals. While I was sick I underwent every treatment under the sun, from steroids that made my face blow up and acne popping up all over my face as well as major weight gain, to actual chemo-infusion drugs that cost well over $100,000 at the time. I remember crying in my girlfriend’s arms one night at a fraternity party because I was drunk and although I was good at hiding my emotions, the strain  had become too much. That night, I really thought I was a dead man walking and wouldn’t be around for very long.

After we tried everything, it became obvious I could never have a normal life if I continued being sick. I was going to the bathroom over 30 times a day, literally spending half my waking hours in there. So we finally decided on getting the surgery. I remember waking up in the hospital after a 17-hour surgery (no that isn’t a typo — it literally took that long because there were complications). Even though I was 19 years old and had a bag attached to my stomach for the rest of my life, it was the happiest I’d felt in years.

Adjusting to the bag was very hard for me. It was hard to find products that worked properly. It was hard to continue my active lifestyle: playing basketball and working out in the gym, as well as doing water sports with my buddies at Lake Chelan. But I said to myself, I’m going to make this work. I’m not going to let life pass me by and not have fun and experience EVERYTHING that everyone else gets to do.

Unfortunately there have been many complications since my ostomy surgery. I have had over 70 emergency room visits and hospitalizations, as well as several surgeries. I nearly died from the most recent one. My small intestine had become knotted and cut off the blood circulation. I was told that nine inches of my bowel died and that if I did not get it untwisted and removed I would die.

I remember being in the hospital after that. That was a very trying time for me. But an epiphany came to me while I was there. I remember reading Jessica Grossman’s blog about her lingerie modeling in Toronto. I had some modeling contacts from when I was 18 and I figured, hey if she can do it, why can’t I?

So I did! It was an uphill battle at first. Most agencies wouldn’t even THINK about representing me because, well, I was different. I was told that I didn’t have the “right look.” But I kept pushing forward and eventually I started picking up gigs. I’ve done fitness modeling for the Flow Fitness Gym in Seattle, I’ve done basketball modeling for Essentia Water. I’ve modeled for Columbia Sportswear, and Chase Bank. I’ve began modeling for many different brands and I started doing some light acting. I did my first feature length film that will be on Netflix this year! Not only that I managed to take the Mr. Washington State title for the Mr. United States Pageant in 2017!

So, I just want to tell this community that you really can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. I like to say: “We aren’t defined by our obstacles but how we choose to overcome them.”

Serving Medicare Ostomates Nationwide
Dear Laura, I wear a two piece ostomy bag. I need help with concealing an ostomy bag. When I move around my shirt hikes up and the tip of the bag peeks out from under my shirt.
Tom
Hi Tom, I have a few suggestions that may help!
 
First, I'm wondering if a stealth belt would be a good option for you. This is a black belt that you can conveniently tuck your pouch...


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