Stephanie remembers growing up in Minnesota with mixed emotions—dancing competitively more than 20 hours a week and going to the bathroom more than 20 times a day. Her stomach aches progressed to IBD, then to Ulcerative Colitis, then to Crohns Disease. Despite the pain, she graduated college and began planning her life, refusing to allow her health to sideline her from pursuing her dreams.
An ostomy shouldn’t hold anyone back from doing anything. I love proving that to people.
During a brief remission, Stephanie auditioned for and landed her dream job—dancing at Disney® World. She moved 1,000 miles from home, found a gastroenterologist and started dancing at Disney. Pushing through the flares, Stephanie performed for the next four years, until—at the age of 28—doctors gave her no choice but to have her colon removed. She feared that her days of dancing were over.
To her surprise, the surgery was a blessing in disguise. Without the pain and constant trips to the bathroom, Stephanie returned to Disney World just five weeks after surgery. For the next two years, she danced in many roles, including her favorite – a waltzing ghost in the Haunted Mansion. “I always need something jazzy or absurd to do,” says Stephanie. “The costumes and the crazy routines filled a need in me to do anything elaborate and ridiculous.”
Since then, Stephanie has pursued another lifelong dream—teaching. Today, she’s living that dream in a classroom full of 5th graders and serving as the school’s dance team coach. During summers off from teaching, Stephanie works as a counselor at Youth Rally—a camp for teens with bowel or bladder diseases. She also serves on the board of the Ostomy Association of Greater Orlando.
“Having an ostomy shouldn’t hold anyone back from doing anything, and I love proving that to people. It hasn’t closed any doors for me; in fact, it’s just the opposite. I’m so excited to be alive that I can’t say ‘no’ to any opportunity. I happily share my story with anyone who will listen, because I am so thankful for what my ostomy has brought me—health, the ability to do my dream job and the energy for whatever comes next!”
Having an ostomy hasn’t closed any doors for me; in fact, it’s just the opposite. I’m so excited to be alive that I can’t say ‘no’ to any opportunity.