Meet Ellen Hepp

Living with an ileostomy since 1987

In 1985 – at 25-years-old with three small children – I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. Within a year and a half of my diagnosis I would have a complete colectomy and ileostomy surgery. I knew nothing about Crohn’s Disease and had never heard of the surgery they were recommending. I was so scared, but I knew I had to get better to take care of my children.

At the time, we lived in a very rural part of Montana. My husband worked on a ranch 6-7 days a week, and I was a stay-at-home mother. To set my mind at ease and calm my fears of surgery, my family physician connected me with a woman living with an ostomy willing to share her story. We arranged to meet her at her home. When we arrived at her house she was on the roof helping her husband replace shingles! I had convinced myself ileostomy surgery would end any sort of normalcy in my life, and I immediately felt better after our visit.

Here I am 31 years later. I know the surgery saved my life but I still get frustrated sometimes feeling that I am  not "normal”.  We live 130 miles from any pharmacy or store that sells ostomy supplies, and I have learned to keep plenty of supplies on hand. I can never forget about my ostomy. I have worked full time since 1990 after getting two 2-year degrees at our local community college. Our children have grown up, and we now have seven amazing grandkids. I am enjoying an adventure filled life with my family, and I feel like I haven’t missed out on anything!

Our adventures include zip-lining with my 12-year-old grandson at Mount Rushmore and fishing for two days in Alaska a few years back. (I was a little anxious wondering how to empty my pouch on the boat, but it turned out fine.) My husband and I go hiking when we can and ride our bicycles all summer. We fly from Wyoming to Texas a couple of times a year to see our sons and their families. My life is good.

Ellen and family fishing in Alaska

Ellen on a successful hike

Ellen stays extremely active with her family from biking and hiking to even zip-lining with her grandson.


Physical Activities with an Ostomy

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