If you’d asked me at the beginning of the school year last fall ‘would you ever have dreamed you’d be traveling to Nepal and trekking to Mount Everest base camp next spring?’ I’d say definitely not. After following my friend Clinton Shard’s trek up Mount Kilimanjaro in September 2009, I felt inspired and started to think about whether or not I could ever do something that extreme. But I never thought I’d get a chance to see if I could. When I first heard that I was being considered to join the Everest trek, I was thrilled. I was jumping around my room with excitement. But I had no idea then how much this experience would forever change my life. We haven’t even left yet, but I’ve already done so many things I never thought I would have.
At just nine years of age, Carly Lindsay of Waterford, Ontario faced a life threatening illness and was forced to make a medical decision many adults can’t fathom having to make: suffer through debilitating pain or surgically remove her colon and forever change her digestive tract and her body’s natural appearance. Within our society, outlooks on a person’s physical appearance often impacts self-esteem, especially in the formative pre-teen and teenage years. Carly’s decision was life changing and extremely difficult to make. Demonstrating a maturity far beyond her age, Carly weighed her options, had ileostomy surgery and hasn’t looked back since. “I have to watch my diet,” said Carly. “But other than a few food restrictions, I’m basically symptom free.”
Many people who live with an ileostomy – a small abdominal opening for eliminating digestive waste post colon removing surgery – have to carefully watch their diets. Inflammatory bowel diseases affect different areas of the intestinal tract. Ulcerative Colitis usually inflames the large intestine, or colon, exclusively. Removing the diseased colon can often result in eliminating the painful symptoms of this terrible disease. But the absence of the colon causes other issues, namely in processing food and absorbing fluids and nutrients. A person living without their colon will often need to drink more to absorb enough fluids and avoid difficult-to-digest foods like raw, high-fiber vegetables.
“At first it was challenging learning which foods my body could handle,” explained Carly. “My doctors and nutritionists told me everyone is a little different, but certain foods are easier to digest and these are the foods I should make sure I get enough of.” Trekking through Nepal shouldn’t pose too many dietary challenges for Carly; most foods are cooked and there are few vegetables growing at altitude. Carly’s diet will be mostly rice, potatoes, chicken and beef, and a few cooked root vegetables like carrots and yam. She’ll be served soup at every meal and be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids to combat the real challenge she’ll face: altitude. The thin mountain air found high in the Himalayas is extremely dry and trekkers who will need to drink often will feel challenged to do so because of the altitude.
The team leaves in just four short weeks, but Carly is already extremely busy telling her story to anyone who will listen. Carly tells us:
I’ve already spoken to three separate groups – a lunch and learn session at MTO, to the faculty and staff of the Waterford District High School and to seven of my closest friends before our school’s semi-formal event. After my surgery I had managed to keep my ostomy a secret from everyone. But I don’t want to anymore.
I chose to tell my girlfriends all about my surgery and sickness while we were getting ready for the dance. I was a bit nervous but I knew I had to tell them before they read all about it in the newspaper! It is important for me to educate my friends about IBD and the ostomy because by making them aware of my situation I am making it easier for someone else in the future who may be faced with a similar challenge. If we tell more people about IBD and ostomy there will be fewer misconceptions about these conditions, making it easier for people facing them in the future.
Everyone is really supportive. My friends and family have been awesome, leaving comments on the IBD Adventures website and saying they are proud of me. My school has been really supportive too. They’ve been very flexible in helping me schedule work for the four weeks I will be away so that I don’t miss any important parts of my education and fall behind. They recently recognized me for an excellent attendance record – though that’s going to change in April!
I’ve even been interviewed twice in the last couple of weeks for newspapers that go out to homes in our region of Ontario. Monte Sonneberg wrote this great article for the Simcoe Reformer that was published last week and Carol Steedman is writing a story that will be published in the Brantford Expositor. Between those two papers I will have made about 30,000 people aware of IBD and ostomy, which is pretty cool. My story is touching a lot of people and the response so far has been great.
We’ve already raised over $1500 towards my $5360 fund raising goal for IDEAS and I haven’t even left for the trek yet. People agree when I tell them how important the work of IDEAS is to raise awareness of intestinal diseases and educate people with the goal of ending stigma. They also support research for an IBD cure, but it’s really important that we support other children and youths living with IBD so that they can feel empowered and in control of their lives again. I’m happy to help IDEAS in this important work.
If you’d asked me at the beginning of the school year last fall ‘would you ever have dreamed you’d be traveling to Nepal and trekking to Mount Everest base camp next spring?’ I’d say definitely not. After following my friend Clinton Shard’s trek up Mount Kilimanjaro in September 2009, I felt inspired and started to think about whether or not I could ever do something that extreme. But I never thought I’d get a chance to see if I could. When I first heard that I was being considered to join the Everest trek, I was thrilled. I was jumping around my room with excitement. But I had no idea then how much this experience would forever change my life. We haven’t even left yet, but I’ve already done so many things I never thought I would have. I’ve learned it’s not just the destination, it’s also the path to get there and the choices we make along the way.