I grew up in a very close community. Later on in life I realise that it is still unheard of to speak out as a black woman about bowels. It is not necessarily about bowels and diarrhea. IBD is a condition that affects the whole immune system and can even develop into cancer.
There are numerous times I was asked not to speak about my disease. To keep it quiet. A secret even. Told that it is embarrassing and even losing friendships. IBD is not spoken about. I was told things like; ‘no one will marry you’ and ‘in the black community, a person does not wear a stoma bag.’
Even during my stoma operation, I realised the stigma in the hospital ward - and was stared at. I was told that in ethnic communities this surgery and stoma pouches are usually kept hidden or sometimes, a person's family opts-out completely from this kind of surgery.
The community is so quiet about it but I am proud I underwent my surgery and wish to sing from the rooftops that I have a stoma and I am an ostomate. Surgery saved my life. So, I don’t wish to hide the fact I defecate in a pouch.
I suffered years in silence. To this day, it is suggested in my black community to never break the silence. I grew up in a small Yorkshire Town and left Yorkshire not knowing I had Crohn's disease. I would still suffer in silence from the telltale signs and yet, keep my symptoms as a young teenager a secret. I am not that shy girl anymore.
As a proud black individual, I am planning to one day reach out to ethnic communities who suffer in much silence and are riddled with shame and hate by others; as a non-profit, advocate and mentor. Especially on how to persevere as a black stoma warrior.
The secrets of bowel disease are suffered by many in the black community and other ethnic minorities. It is time we stopped hiding and be supported by a community that cares about us. We are diverse and we are stoma warriors.