Group Offers Information, Support for Patients

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The Youngstown Area Ostomy Support Group provides an opportunity for ostomy patients to network among themselves while providing ongoing education and information.

“If I had known the symptoms, I would have reacted sooner.” For far too many colorectal cancer victims, those words, uttered by a woman attending a recent meeting of the Youngstown Area Ostomy Support Group, preface tales of hard-fought battles with the second most-deadly cancer in the United States.

Colorectal cancer affects one of every 20 Americans and is the No. 1 malignancy of the digestive tract, according to Dr. Gregory S. Huang, a trauma surgeon at St. Elizabeth Health Center. Dr. Huang served as featured speaker during the March meeting of the Youngstown Area Ostomy Support Group.

Because the symptoms of colorectal cancer – a change in bowel habits, bloating, gas pains, feeling of fullness, blood in the stool, fatigue and weight loss – are often overlooked or ignored, some victims aren’t diagnosed until the disease is advanced.
The woman lamenting that she hadn’t visited her doctor sooner was diagnosed with stage four cancer. That was six years ago. Today, she’s grateful to be alive, but lives with a constant reminder of her brush with death: her ostomy.

Ostomies are surgically created openings that provide for the elimination of wastes from the body.

At least half of the more than 20 in attendance at the meeting had ostomies, some permanent, others in various stages of being “reconnected.” Other attendees were family members, care givers or victims of inflammatory bowel diseases – ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease – treatment of which sometimes requires surgical removal of part of the digestive tract resulting in the need for an ostomy.

Ostomies are very common. Close to a million people in the United States, thousands in our area alone, have ostomies, reports Anna Fitzgerald enterostomal therapy nurse and founder of the Youngstown Area Ostomy Support Group. But, because it is something nobody talks about, most people are unaware of the prevalence of ostomies, and are not informed about the signs and symptoms of diseases that can result in the need for them.

The Youngstown Area Ostomy Support Group provides an opportunity for ostomy patients to network among themselves while providing ongoing education and information. Most of those who attend the meeting have ileostomies, colostomies or ileoconduits. The cause of their ostomies vary and may include ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, cancer, diverticulitis or colitis.

The Youngstown Area Ostomy Support Group originated in June 2011. Meetings take place on the second Tuesday of each month from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Meeting places alternate between Humility of Mary Health Partners’ HM Home Care office in Girard and St. Elizabeth Boardman Health Center. Meetings are open to ostomy patients, families, friends and anyone interested in obtaining information. Refreshments are provided and parking is free.

The Youngstown Area Ostomy Support Group is a member of the United Ostomy Association of America Inc. (UOAA), a national network for bowel and urinary diversion support groups in the United States. The next meeting, slated for. April 10 in the Cedar Room at St. Elizabeth Boardman Health Center, will feature a product fair with several ostomy supply companies represented including Hollister, Conva Tec, Coloplast, Marlen, Nu-Hope and Cymed.

For information, call Fitzgerald at 330-480-3440.

About Humility of Mary Health Partners
Humility of Mary Health Partners is an integrated health system located in the Youngstown/Warren area. It is a region of Catholic Health Partners (CHP) in Cincinnati, the largest health system in Ohio and one of the largest Catholic health systems in the United States. HMHP provides a full spectrum of health care services, including inpatient, outpatient, emergency, urgent care, home care and long-term care. Members are St. Elizabeth Health Center, St. Joseph Health Center, St. Elizabeth Boardman Health Center, HM Home Health Services, The Assumption Village, Humility House, Hospice of the Valley and Laurel Lake. Learn more about HMHP online at http://www.HMpartners.org.

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Maraline Kubik