Ellen Boldt of Brooksville, Florida, has a special affinity for February 19. “That’s the day in 1976 I became cancer-free,” said 80-year-old Boldt in a telephone interview. She reads this column in the Hernando Today edition of the Tampa Tribune.
“In January of that year, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer,” she said. “I was feeling like I had to urinate 24 hours a day. After many tests, I learned I had a cyst around my liver that was pressing on a tumor on the outside of my bladder. They were not connected.”
To make a long story short, a surgeon had to remove 80 percent of her liver just six weeks before having to remove her entire bladder.
“The fact I had to begin wearing a bag on my body (to collect urine) for the rest of my life was very repugnant to me,” she said. “Sure, the surgery saved my life, but I was only 46 years old. I was still wearing bikinis.” She also was married and had two grown children.
Today, Boldt is president of the Hernando County Ostomy Association, a 32-member group consisting of people with a colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy. An “ostomy” is a surgical opening that allows waste products to drain outside the body or into an organ. Boldt does her best raising awareness for people affected.
“There is a stigma attached to (having an ostomy),” she said. “It’s not nice to talk about private things like feces and urine. But I am trying to get the word out and let people know there is a solution to these problems.”
She said having a urostomy hasn’t crimped her lifestyle. For example, the modern urostomy she uses is both waterproof and odor proof, which allows her to swim. Unless she mentions it, she said, people can’t tell, not even when she wears a wet bathing suit. She goes to the bathroom the same number of times as anyone else.
“There are people with an ostomy playing hockey and football,” she said. “In fact, a San Diego Chargers kicker had an ileostomy. I had a friend with a colostomy who used to trim trees and climb up poles for the electric company.”
She said a person with an ostomy can lead a normal life. Her motto: If you are able to do it before an ostomy, you can do it afterwards.