Meet Rachel, our newest #fashiontruth monthly spotlight star! She joins ranks with Jennae, Brittney, and Emily, who continue to inspire us with their fashion fierceness. What unites these wonderful women (besides being totally awesome) is their unique approach to fashion, style, and the challenges and triumphs of getting dressed every day.
Rachel is a nurse, wife and mother from Murfreesboro, TN. In her words, “I work full time as a nurse in a Spine, Joint, and Pain Office. I love, love, love my job, I love working in medicine, and my co-workers are genuinely my family.” When she’s not giving her all on the job, Rachel also teaches dance and throws ‘Guitar-eoke Parties’ with her musician husband. “We grab a guitar or two, pull up song lyrics on the TV screen, and everyone sings along. Music is very clearly a gateway to your memories, and I love how music brings out your moods and therefore, your sense of style. It’s ALL an art!” Rachel’s namesake item channels the sultry yet laid-back vibe of Lana Del Rey, Rachel’s current fashion/music icon, and you can clearly see Rachel’s vibrant and eclectic taste in her special collection!
There are many things we love about Rachel. Frankly, she’s the kind of person you want to grab a margarita with. But what really got our attention was not her ever-changing tastes (she told us her high school style inspirations ranged from NKOTB to David Bowie), or her generous spirit (fact: Rachel’s donated her bone marrow not once, but twice), but her inspiring story of survival, acceptance, and hope.
So, Rachel! Tell us your story.
Last summer I was involved in a horrible car wreck that turned my (and many others’) worlds upside down. The neurosurgeon told me I had what’s called a ‘chance fracture’ to my spine which he said “you usually only get from jumping out of airplanes.” Once they realized I could move my legs the bigger emergency became my abdomen. My intestines were shredded. The surgeon repaired eight holes in my colon before she took out about six inches of small intestine and six inches of large intestine, including an important valve between the two, and my appendix. Amazingly, my son, who was in the backseat of the car, only had a tiny chipped tooth! A few days later one of many surgeons came by to discuss my ileostomy with me. “Ummm… ileostomy? Say what?” I asked him. I had NO IDEA that they had disconnected my colon and made a hole in my abdominal wall, pushing my small intestine through it to create an outlet (AKA a stoma) for waste. Most people only know this as a ‘colostomy’ and honestly, it drives me nuts! There are colostomies, ileostomies, urostomies and probably more I don’t even know about!
What are the most common reactions you get from family, friends, and strangers, when you share your experiences?
I have no shame, and after healing, I was on the beach four weeks later! I’ve shared my party trick with just about everyone. Now maybe it’s in partly because my best friends and family are in the medical field, but everyone has been very curious how everything “works”, and since they know I am an open book, they are not afraid to ask.
The most common thing I hear is, “I just don’t think I could handle it. I just don’t know how you do it. I just couldn’t.” This is a surprisingly hurtful thing to say, although it’s clear they mean well. When someone says this, what I hear is: “I would rather die than live with that,” and worse, they’re implying that you CHOSE this path. I remind them that I handle it because…what’s the alternative? I will say this, even if I do become fully ostomy-free in the next few months, I will always consider myself an ostomate and will do my best to help other ostomates feel good about themselves and love who they see in the mirror!
Can you walk us through the process of getting dressed, as an ostomate? How has your ostomy affected your wardrobe?
There’s an abundance of information online about how to take care of your ostomy and yourself but there’s really no tips on how to style, distract, layer and hide your ostomy.One of the biggest issues I had upon coming home from the hospital was my closet. I love clothes and I love style! I bought a lot of form fitting clothes and crop tops for high-waisted skirts this summer. Thanks to the gigantic incision running from the top of my stomach to the bottom, and now the ileostomy to the right of my belly button, the crop tops have new homes. I held on to my form fitting clothes because my ileostomy is supposed to be temporary and reversed in March, but certain tops, skirts, or jeans are very form-fitting and ostomy-friendly. On the days that I felt bloated, I found there were longer, layered tops that helped hide the inflating balloon under my shirt.
That said, getting dressed as an ostomate is really no different than anyone else. Twice a week when I get out of the shower I take the extra five minutes to place a new ostomy bag, but otherwise it’s very much the same. In the beginning I used to feel like everyone knew it was there and it was my scarlet letter to bear, but honestly if not for my big-mouth, I don’t think anyone would be any wiser! As soon as I was ready to re-enter the world, I bought an ostomy band on Etsy to help hide my secret. I also use jewelry, make up, scarves, and cardigans to draw the eye away from my abdomen.
What’s your #fashiontruth?
Through fashion and style we can feel good about ourselves, and that’s the first step to loving ourselves.
We applaud Rachel’s courage, honesty, and unconquerable spirit, and are honored to share her story. Get to know more about her through her awesome style by perusing her special collection, including her namesake item, the All About Rachel Top!
+ Take the #fashiontruth plunge! Share your thoughts on fashion, style, and life by tagging #fashiontruth on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr. A $100 gift card, namesake item, and feature on ModCloth could be yours!