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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: "B.J. in Georgia" was seeking support from others who have had a permanent colostomy. He seemed down in the dumps. I'm here to say there is definitely life after such an operation.

I was operated on 20 years ago. I resumed riding my motorcycle a month afterward, and my exercise running program soon thereafter. At the time, I was directing the flight testing department for a major combat aircraft manufacturer, and flying F-16s on test flights. Within four months I was again flying the ultra-performance F-16s with no difficulty.

The permanent colostomy need not be a show-stopper or agent of great change in one's lifestyle. I'm now retired and lead an active life at 72, and yes, I'm still riding my motorcycle. -- PHIL IN FORT WORTH

DEAR PHIL: It would be an understatement to say that you qualify as a role model for B.J. and others facing this kind of surgery. I have been inundated with messages of support for him. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: A permanent colostomy is not the end of the world. I am a strong believer that a person has two choices: Feel sorry for yourself and stop living, or get up, brush yourself off, and go back to what you were doing before the surgery. The latter course of action has worked well for me.

If B.J. can do something similar, he'll find that his surgery and colostomy will not greatly hinder his ability to live a good life. I hope that knowing he isn't the only one with this problem will be of help and comfort. -- "GLASS" IN EDMONDS, WASH.

DEAR "GLASS": You have a healthy outlook. Thank you for sharing your philosophy, because it can benefit B.J. and many more people who are coping with a variety of challenges.

DEAR ABBY: Please assure B.J. that he's not alone. My husband had an ostomy six years ago. Common sense, a desire to live, a loving and supportive family, an excellent surgeon and a good ostomy nurse at the hospital have helped tremendously. My husband swims with his shirt off at the beach, plays golf, hikes, travels, and has a full life in all respects. He isn't missing a thing, and neither am I -- and B.J. shouldn't either. -- NANCY IN ANDERSON, IND.

DEAR NANCY: I'm sure he won't. A reader named Lester in Milwaukee informed me that after his colostomy 27 years ago, he has played racquetball, lifted weights and hiked. It's a matter of attitude.

DEAR ABBY: The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses (WOCN) Society is a professional specialty organization of nurses who treat individuals with wounds, ostomies and incontinence. Studies substantiate that when a WOC nurse specialist is involved with the care of patients with ostomies, everyone benefits.

We develop individualized rehabilitation plans to facilitate the patient's return to a productive lifestyle. We help to select the optimal stoma site, provide patient and family education and follow-up care, and promote rehabilitation.

Our Web site is www.wocn.org, and our phone number is (888) 224-9626 for those who would like more information. -- LAURIE McNICHOL, MSN, CWOCN, PRESIDENT

DEAR LAURIE: Thank you for the helpful information. Another excellent resource for information is the American Cancer Society: (800) 227-2345, or www.cancer.org.

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