Finding joy in the colostomy storm

13 June 2023
Finding joy in the colostomy storm
Finding joy in the colostomy storm - Desiree Montalvo-Holt

Desiree Montalvo-Holt shares her story of triumph over adversity, offering hope and guidance to others facing their own health storms

Hello, my name is Desiree Montalvo-Holt. I am so excited to share my story of joy with you. I am 52 years old and so grateful to still be here, colostomy and all. I am a wife, a mother and a grandma (nana). Fighting for my health is not only for me. It is for my family. It is for all of those that just need to find joy in their colostomy/health/life storm.

As a child, I had a deep affinity for the written word. Expressing myself through writing was second nature to me, providing a sanctuary where I could immerse myself in my emotions. It served as an escape from the tempestuous nature of life. In my darkest moments, the act of putting pen to paper brought me solace and infused me with hope. It was during the tumultuous period of my early twenties, specifically in 1996, that the challenges within my marriage became achingly real. Seeking an outlet for my pent-up emotions, I turned to the therapeutic practice of journaling. Within the pages of my journal, I poured out my frustrations, fears and failures. It became a sacred space where I could release the swirling emotions that stirred within me. It was during this time, as I grappled with the weight of my own struggles, that I received a life-altering diagnosis: stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Confronted with the reality that my time on this Earth may be limited, I felt an urgency to ensure that my son understood the depth of my love for him. Through my journal, I wrote heartfelt letters, capturing the essence of my journey, should I be unable to share it with him in person. Today, I am immensely grateful to have surpassed those uncertain times, and to still be standing here, a testament to the strength within.

In hindsight, I now understand that the radiation treatment I underwent had a significant impact on my body, taking a toll that I was unaware of at the time. As the years went by, I gradually began to experience the consequences. Additionally, a poorly performed hemorrhoidectomy further contributed to my journey. However, looking back, I recognise that this entire experience has shaped me into the person I am today.

I now have the opportunity to tell my story to all of you, in the hope my words can guide your journey and give you the strength you need.

In my thirties, I started experiencing fissures, skin tags and the unpleasant arrival of a fistula (which I despise with all my heart). And let’s not forget the poorly executed hemorrhoidectomy that added to my woes. Despite enduring over 13 surgeries in an attempt to rectify this persistent and embarrassing issue, I eventually found myself with an ileostomy. Unfortunately, my hopes for a successful reversal were dashed as it failed. It was a devastating blow! However, I made a difficult decision and opted for a colostomy. I must admit, when I first heard the terms ‘ileostomy’ and ‘colostomy,’ I felt as though my world was crumbling, fearing the worst. But guess what? I’m still here, alive and kicking!

The colostomy has proven to be a better option for me compared to dealing with fistulas. It’s surprising to admit, but it’s the truth. With the ups and downs that come with an ostomy, I feel like my life is somewhat normal again, even though I’m still battling with a persistent fistula. But you know what? I’m determined to emerge victorious. Why? During those challenging days at the hospital when I felt overwhelmed and exclaimed, ‘I can’t handle this anymore,’ I found solace in trusting my faith, which has been reignited, reminding me that this is just a temporary phase. I am filled with immense joy, knowing that I have the strength to endure. Do I appreciate what I’ve gone through? Absolutely not! However, this health journey has allowed me to share my story with numerous women, write a devotional in two languages and raise funds to provide ostomy supplies and cancer joy bags to those who need to witness the love and light of humanity in the midst of the storm.

I hope for a future where a cure is found for my recently diagnosed condition of Crohn’s colitis/ulcerative colitis. I am thankful for the chance to live a fulfilling life because of my ostomy, and my deepest desire is for every woman out there to experience the same.

My passion lies in empowering women to navigate the storms of life, rejecting the notion that they are destined to live in misery because of their circumstances or health challenges. The story within me was meant to inspire joy, and that is precisely what I aim to do!

Desiree Montalvo-Holt teaches others how to live life with joy, regardless of the diagnosis

Instagram and Facebook: makingjoycontagious