On March 3, 2010, a new Great Comebacks™ national award winner was announced at a gala event in Washington, DC. Robert Hill was there to celebrate the winner; several years ago Rob was designated the Great Comebacks™ Global Ambassador to recognize his efforts for intestinal disease and ostomy education and awareness on a global scale. Rob Hill’s mission, shared through IDEAS and its IBD Adventures program, aligns perfectly with the mission of Great Comebacks™ by Sharing Stories and Giving Hope.
Twenty-five years ago, retired San Diego Chargers kicker Rolf Benirschke created the Great Comebacks™ award to recognize individuals who had undergone ostomy surgery and driven themselves to new heights afterwards. The award has grown over the years through a partnership with ConvaTec – a global leader in ostomy product manufacturing – and is now presented to regional winners throughout Canada and the United States and in several European nations as well. A national award winner is chosen by representatives of the Great Comebacks™ program, ConvaTec, the United Ostomy Associations of America, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and the Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society (IDEAS).
Rob’s climbs prove intestinal disease and ostomy surgeries are not the barrier to living a great life that many people believe them to be. While Rob is certainly taking his awareness campaign to the extreme by scaling the 7Summits, there are many other inspirational ostomates (a person living with an ostomy) doing extraordinary things: running marathons, racing Ironman triathlons, bull riding on the professional rodeo circuit, starting businesses that support ostomy patients with innovative products, playing music, achieving educational goals and creating families.
“I know those last two or three examples seem fairly ordinary to many of you,” said Rob…
But I want you to understand that for many people living with an intestinal disease and an ostomy, creating a family or heading to college can appear to be impossible. These diseases attack the body, they affect reproductive organs, the surgeries and drugs people may have to have can create huge emotional challenges.
There are hundreds of thousands of people around the world who believe they are alone in their fight, who may be suffering bouts of depression as a result of their illness, isolation and treatment. For many of them, just leaving the relative safety of their own homes is enough to create significant anxiety. Too many public places lock their bathroom doors, preventing us from accessing our communities for fear of not being able to get to a washroom before an IBD or ostomy-related emergency occurs.
When I hear stories about people saying ‘I’m not going to let my illness or my ostomy stop me from living my life,’ I am inspired. I carry those stories with me when I go into the mountains. I use them to get me up the last final challenge before the summit. I think to myself, if Charlie Grotevant can run the Boston Marathon, if Bob Cuyler can fly a helicopter in Iraq, if Lisa Becker can start a business and a family, if Tony Bell can ride in the professional rodeo, then I have no excuse for not reaching this peak. But as inspiring as these people’s stories are, I gain equal inspiration from the other stories I am told by the kids at Youth Rally and Ostomy Camp, by kids who haven’t been formally recognized yet for their amazing comebacks. This may sound cliché, but it is also true: if all of these people can survive illness, overcome challenge, live great lives with an ostomy, then so can anyone.
We all have it in ourselves to achieve our dreams. These Great Comebacks™ award winners are special, there is no doubt about it, but so is everyone who has IBD or an ostomy. When people survive these experiences they can become incredibly strong-willed. They just have to embrace their inner strength and take those first few steps on their own path to greatness. The stories shared through the Great Comebacks™ program serve to motivate us all on our own very personal journeys after ostomy surgery.
Congratulations Tony Bell, for being named the 2009 Great Comebacks™ award winner in Washington, DC on Wednesday, March 3, 2010. It’s great that you’ve committed yourself to educating others about ostomy. I can’t wait to have you on the trekking team in Nepal in just a few short weeks time.