Healthy You - Every Day

Living With an Ostomy

Nothing Stops Rebecca DeJesús From Active Pursuits


An active 38-year-old woman and yoga teacher, Rebecca deJesús has lived with severe health issues. Since high school she’s had Crohn’s disease – an inflammatory condition of the intestinal tract.

“Crohn’s can lead to many health problems, including chronic diarrhea, bowel obstructions, fever, fatigue, pain, bleeding, anemia and weight loss,” says Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) hematologist oncologist William Scialla, DO, with LVPG Hematology Oncology. Currently, Scialla manages deJesús’ care for anemia along with anticoagulation therapy to prevent blood clots that can cause deep vein thrombosis and/or pulmonary emboli.

In addition, deJesús, of Bethlehem, struggles with a spinal joint disease (ankylosing spondylitis) and endometriosis, a painful disorder in which endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus. As a result, she’s had countless hospitalizations and multiple surgeries. “I couldn’t make plans because my illnesses are very unpredictable,” she says.

Lifesaving surgery

In 2012, deJesús chose to have ostomy surgery. During the procedure, an opening (stoma) is made in the abdomen, and the small intestine is connected to a plastic, odor-free pouch that collects waste outside the body. “It was a tough decision,” she says. “But it saved my life.”

For many patients today, newer anti-inflammatory medicines such as adalimumab (Humira) and infliximab (Remicade) can powerfully reverse the course of Crohn’s. “I’ve seen patients on the verge of surgery, and a year later their colon is healed,” says LVHN gastroenterologist Paola Blanco, MD, with Eastern Pennsylvania Gastroenterology and Liver Specialists, PC.

In contrast, the seriousness of deJesús’ condition led to her ostomy. While many people are concerned an ostomy will force them to stop their favorite activities, deJesús is living proof that’s not true. “After an ostomy people can exercise, wear tight-fitting clothing, and have a normal and healthy life,” says Blanco.

deJesús credits the ostomy and her LVHN doctors for getting her life back. “I used to take several medications,” she says. “Now I give myself a Humira injection once every two weeks.” Last summer, she and her husband went on vacation. “We swam in the ocean, went fly-fishing and hiked,” she says. She also became a yoga teacher, an accomplishment of which she’s quite proud. “My goal is to show other ostomy patients they can live active lives and still have a lot of fun,” she says.

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