In this edition of Giftgowns' Hospital Experience Series, we're talking with Molly, an ostomy warrior who's raising awareness and fighting the stigma around ostomies!
Name: Molly Atwater
Social Media Handle(s): @MollyOllyOstomy
Tell us More!
Giftgowns: Tell us about yourself!
Molly Atwater: I am an ostomy WARRIOR! I was born with chronic constipation that just kept getting worse and worse as I grew up - I thought that constant abdominal pain and nausea were normal. In October 2016, I was hospitalized with Runner’s Colitis that effectively shut down my colon and rendered it unusable, so I underwent ileostomy surgery in June 2017. Since then, I’ve also been diagnosed with Generalized Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder (gHSD, similar to Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos) and Postural Orthostatitc Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), as well as dysautonomia and Raynaud’s. But no matter what life throws my way, like colectomy surgery this June, I’ll keep fighting and advocating for my fellow ostomates! I started my social media account MollyOllyOstomy to shed light on ostomies - a topic surrounded with a lot of stigma. I wanted to show the world that ostomies are not death sentences but instead life-savers! I call my ostomy Olly, and by sharing my story, Olly and I are hoping to change the conversation about ostomies for the better.
GG: In three words, how would your friends and family describe you?
MA: Driven, intelligent, and thoughtful. (Thanks to my fiancé for those!)
GG: Have you ever had a long-term stay in the hospital? What was it like and how do you think Giftgowns could have made the situation better and more comfortable?
MA: At this point, I’ve had a couple stays that have been more than a week long. Staying in the hospital for any length of time isn’t fun, but the ones that have been at least ten days long have been extra tough. I knew by Day 2 of my first stay that I was NOT going to wear those hospital gowns if I could help it. They’re just so shapeless and since I’m pretty small, they feel like massive tents! I find that I’m so much happier if I’m in my own clothes, so now I always opt to wear my own nightgowns or pajamas in the hospital. Not only are they more comfortable, but they also make me feel more human and less like a patient!
GG: What is your favourite Giftgown?
MA: I like the “Stay Cool” gown - I’m a huge fan of motivational quotes, I use them as mantras when I’m in the hospital, so anything with words makes me smile!
GG: What are tips and tricks for those who are currently going through treatment?
MA: Sometimes you just need to wallow! Being sick sucks, it’s not fair, it’s exhausting, and there’s about a million things better than spending your time in a doctors office or waiting for a diagnosis. And when you get overwhelmed, allow yourself to be sad! We are supposed to feel all of the emotions, not just the happy ones. I call these times my “just bag it” days, and on “just bag it” days, everyone in my life has to let me cry and scream and be mad without telling me that it’s all going to be ok. But here’s the trick - a “just bag it” day can only last for 24 hours. After that, I have to pull myself together and keep fighting.
GG: Do you have any tips on making a hospital stay more pleasant?
MA: Bring stuff that makes it feel like home. A stuffed animal, a blanket, a picture of your friends or family, an air freshener, anything to make it less institutional-feeling. Yes, you may be lying in a bed with tubes coming out of everywhere you can think, but if there’s something that can remind you of happy memories, bring it! If you’re feeling up to it, have visitors come by too. It breaks up the long days and gives you something to look forward to. And try to give yourself one thing to accomplish a day - it makes a HUGE difference! For me, it’s setting a goal of how many laps around the hospital floor I want to do, and it gives me the motivation to keep healing.
GG: Do you have any special routines or mantras that help you cope?
MA: I’ve always been active, and trying to find ways to keep my body moving has been super helpful. On days that my health is cooperating, I like to take a walk outside to remind myself of how wonderful the world is. And as I mentioned above, I love quotes - the one that I always rely on when the going gets tough is “And though she be little, she is fierce.”
More Fun Questions!
GG: What’s your zodiac sign?
MA: I’m a Gemini!
GG: What’s your favourite candy/treat?
MA: Embarrassingly enough, Reese’s Puffs cereal!
GG: What’s your favourite vacation destination?
MA: We just came back from a trip to the Southwest, and I fell in love with Moab, UT. But I could also live in Paris forever and be a very happy girl.
GG: What’s your song of the moment?
MA: That’s tough - I listen to so much music that there isn’t just one song! Anything in the alternative genre with a driving beat really gets me going.
Thanks so much Molly for sharing your experiences with us!
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