I’m an ostomy and IBD advocate plus an illustrator and graphic designer from Sydney, Australia. I love to create art to raise awareness about ostomy life and to show the positive side of living with a bag. On my 1 year stomaversary I painted a colourful ostomy mural at Bondi Beach in Sydney, proudly sponsored by Omnigon. My mural intended to raise awareness about ostomies, as well as inspire ostomates to get their bag out at the beach.
I love to be creative (drawing/painting/murals/tattoos), visit art galleries, enjoy espresso, relax with acupuncture, walk in nature, plan travel adventures and hang out with my hubby and my cat.
From IBD warrior to Ostomate to J-pouch
I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at age 17. I had a long battle with the illness, including years of severe flares, medication side effects, restricted diets and early signs of bowel cancer (dysplasia cells). 17 years later I had a total colectomy and an ileostomy.
I had my ileostomy for 3 years and my health was the best it’s ever been. I was very grateful for the freedom my ostomy brought me: I no longer took medication, I ate what I liked pain-free and no more bathroom anxiety! Hydration issues were a struggle post-surgery, which affected my energy levels, but very manageable. Having an ostomy was like life 2.0 – I never could anticipate how good it would be.
In July 2020, I had surgery to have my j-pouch formed. This was one of the hardest surgeries and experiences of my health journey. I was extremely dehydrated, malnourished, fatigued and felt very weak every day. As I waited for my j-pouch to heal, I had to deal with a troublesome loop ileostomy and had more leaks/skin issues than my end ileostomy. I had my takedown in September 2020 and my j-pouch started functioning from day 1 (milestone!). I’ve been adapting to my new j-pouch life ever since.
Although I’m not longer officially an ostomate, I’m incredibly grateful for my ostomy life, and will always look back on that time in my life with happiness.
Leading up to my colectomy, I researched what life could be like with an ostomy. I reached out to ostomates around the world via Instagram or YouTube for advice, it was so helpful. They inspired me as they showed you can still lead a normal and happy life with a stoma.
During my hospital recovery, I decided to document my ostomy surgery experience. I wanted to help at least one person with their ostomy journey, like I had help on mine. I started to draw ostomy artwork and share them on my Instagram. It had such a great response, I kept drawing!
Art can help spark a conversation about topics like ostomies or IBD. It helps people find out more about these conditions in an approachable and positive way. I’ve also created some ostomy awareness shirts, like the “no colon still rollin” tee and “ostomy love” tee that I sell on my little shop: https://mjpix.redbubble.com/
I’m proud to do advocacy work as an ostomate (speaking events – sharing my story) and have collaborated by creating art for amazing organisations including Omnigon, Crohn’s & Colitis Australia, Crohn’s & Colitis UK, Oshi Health, IBD Passport UK, Ostomy Connection, Kindred Box, Coloplast Canada, and Gali Health.
Follow my journey on https://www.instagram.com/emjayuc/