Saleem Juma

@saleem-juma | contributor
Saleem Juma is a 23-year-old model and college student from Seattle, Washington. He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at 16 and had a full prolectomy at 19, he was also diagnosed with anxiety disorder and depression that same year. However, he never lost his vision of helping people and being an inspiration to everyone that was suffering from the same things he was. Despite another recent life threatening surgery where he lost 9 centimeters of his small intestine, he has continued to model and is focused on fitness modeling now, as well as running his website/blog Ostomybagswag.com. 
Saleem Juma

Being Honest About Your Health Issues

So many of us hide our health issues — I know I did for years. All through high school, my teachers and peers thought I was a slacker for skipping school and a thug for fighting and getting suspended all the time. Nobody ever bothered to figure out why I did those things, why I was so angry and sad all the time and why I couldn’t look anyone in the eye (due to my anxiety). However, I suppose I can’t really blame them. I mean, how can I, right? I was the one who never said anything to counselors, teachers or even a friend. It took me years until I finally came forward about my illness. Last year, I had just gotten back to school after being away for dealing with my illness. I thought I was ready, but I kept getting hospitalized. I was supposed to be the group leader for a big project in my English class, which was a fairly hard course. I was also working full time in real estate for about 60 to 70 hours a week, but it was worth it. I kept straight A’s and sold two houses in three months. However, I couldn’t have done so without a friend finding out about my illness. I had been hospitalized for the fourth time that quarter, and apparently my group was doing a group vote to decide whether to drop me for not pulling my weight. (They had already voted me out as the leader due to the fact I had missed so much school.) Luckily, my friend in the group told them I was in the emergency room, and she even showed them a picture. When I returned, the new group leader apologized for not understanding what I was going through, and he wished I’d been more comfortable about being honest with him. He told me to keep the group updated about my health, and they would “cover my back” regardless of missing school because they now understood I wasn’t slacking. What I was dealing with was serious and real. I swore from that moment on to be more honest about what was happening to me. I wasn’t going to face challenges alone anymore. Interestingly enough, the group leader became one of my best friends. It turned out we had far more in common than I thought. It just goes to show you why you have to be honest about what’s happening. It may be hard, but it’s so worth it. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Saleem Juma

Getting Through College With an Ostomy

If you have an ostomy and are either in college, like myself, or getting ready to go off to college, chances are you’ve thought about how you’re going to deal with everyday college life and your ostomy. This won’t be the only article I write in this series, but I thought I’d compile a handy guide of the best tips that have gotten me through school so far! 1. Always carry extra supplies with you. Personally I’ve never had a leak at school, but that doesn’t mean I don’t carry at least three pouch changes (and all materials needed for that) at all times. It’s helpful and will put your mind at ease to know that if something does happen, you have your extra supplies ready to go! 2. Know where the bathrooms are on campus. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve drunk coffee before a 7:30 a.m. class and had a bunch of watery output that I had to deal with quickly. It really helps to know where everything is so you aren’t running around in circles if you have an emergency. 3. Carry a small water bottle and paper towels in your pocket. This is something I do just in case; you never know when the toilet paper hasn’t been refilled! If you’re in a hurry, you might not notice until it’s too late (try having to use leaves to clean your pouch – that’s how I learned my lesson). The water bottle is used when you have really thick output that’s hard to get out. I personally use it all the time! 4. Talk to your teachers. I always, always, talk to my teachers on the first day of class. I let them know about my ostomy bag and that I may have to use the restroom more than other people. There have been times when I’ve had to use the restroom three times during a two-hour block class; it always helps when your professor understands what you’re going through. 5. Bring your own snacks. It’s always quite annoying if you know your system will have a problem with something but you’re incredibly hungry and the only food around is what your system will have issues with. It is a good idea to have whatever is easy to carry and won’t give your system and ostomy trouble with you. 6. Don’t feel like you have to tell people about your ostomy. Personally I love raising awareness but you don’t owe anyone an explanation about what you have. It may also be good to wait and get to know people better before telling them about your condition. 7. Always take good notes in class and make sure you have a buddy who can get you the homework in case you end up in the hospital (blockages happen!). Your professors may be forgiving but it still helps to get the work done in the hospital and not fall behind and have to play catch up. That can be quite overwhelming! 8. If your school has a counseling program, don’t be afraid to take advantage of it! It can help to talk to someone and school counseling is generally free. 9. Join extracurriculars and make as many friends as you can. It really helps to have a solid group of people on campus you can trust. 10. If you’re going out for an athletic team (especially contact sports), invest in a guard! It’s well worth it to protect your stoma. Just because you have an ostomy doesn’t mean you have to stop being active, but it does mean you need to take proper precautions. 11. Stay as far ahead in your classes as possible. There have been many times where I’ve had to go to hospital and the only reason I was able to keep up straight A’s was because I’d made sure to stay ahead of the curve. 12. For group projects, though it may be uncomfortable it helps to let your group members know that you may have to miss class sometimes due to medical issues. You don’t have to go into detail, but again, your group members will be more forgiving if you’re missing class and they know there’s an actual medical issue at hand. If they think you’re just slacking they may be inclined to not give you a great peer review! I hope these tips help you! These are just some of the things I’ve learned so far in school. College can be a scary time (especially if it’s your first year), but it can also be a lot of fun! We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Image via Thinkstock.

Saleem Juma

Things I Learned About Working Out After Ostomy Surgery

Your ostomy surgery didn’t take your body away from you, and it didn’t change who you are as a person. It simply changed your body and made you more unique. Personally, I now feel more in control of my body than I ever did when I had ulcerative colitis. I still remember one of the first questions I asked my doctors before my ostomy surgery was: “Can I still work out with a ostomy bag?” They told me of course I could, but I needed to stay away from contact sports and heavy weight lifting. I thought to myself, “Man, I’ve been doing MMA for six and half years. What a waste to not even be able to spar anymore.” Now I’m not advocating contact sports for ostomates, but I did a ton of research and found a boxer in Thailand, who also happens to be in his 50’s and had an ostomy just like mine and was taking down fighters who were much younger. I figured, “I guess that answers my question about whether I can work out or not!” Before I went back to the gym, though, I researched as much as I could. Hernias can be one of the biggest worries for ostomates who lift weights. Please make sure to follow your doctor’s advice about waiting to go back to the gym. You’ve just had a major surgery, and your body needs time to heal. Start slow and go on walks in the park. When you feel up to it, test yourself at home first and slowly work your way back to the gym. I was told I needed to wait about six to eight weeks until I could resume weight lifting. I waited 10 weeks just in case, even though I really wanted to be back in the gym. I was still a model when I had surgery. Even though they were just part-time gigs, I needed to stay fit. Not only that, to prevent leakage and issues with your pouches, it’s best to stay fit. The one time I gained weight from antidepressants, my pouches had a hard time sticking to my round stomach. Wait extra time before resuming any kind of core workouts and listen to your body. If something hurts, play it safe. I’m not saying not to push yourself. What I’m saying is we all can walk the same path even if it takes some of us a little longer to get there. I’d much rather go slow with weights and take longer to get fit than deal with serious issues and potentially even go through surgery again. Here are six things I learned about working out after ostomy surgery. 1. Get a belt. This has been one of the most important things for me. I personally use a vertically placed Stealth Belt. It just what works for me. There are many other companies out there that have belts that will support you while you exercise. Talk to your ostomy nurse or surf the web to find out which one will work best for you. 2. Hydrate. As ostomates, we don’t absorb water like most people. From my understanding, a lot of that happens in the large intestines, which you may be missing or missing parts of. I had an ileostomy and drink at least two to three times as much as I would have otherwise. Please talk to your doctor for more information. 3. Empty your ostomy bag before a workout. It can get a little annoying to have to stop in the middle of a workout — especially when you’re in the zone — to run out and empty your bag. 4. Get a gym partner who isn’t going to push you too hard. I know this sounds counterproductive to what a gym partner should be doing, but it’s important. A gym partner who drives you too hard could lead to an injury. You want someone who will push you but also understands your needs at the same time. 5. Avoid contact sports without at least having a guard on. If you’re going to participate in any heavy contact sport, wear a guard! That goes for anything heavy like boxing, MMA, football and rugby. And you need to check with your doctors first. My doctor wouldn’t clear me to fight in a TV show I was in. 6. Practice working out at home first. It sounds tedious, but it will get you a little more comfortable about your workout routine before you go back to the gym surrounded by people. Remember, your body is different now and you need to utilize it differently. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Saleem Juma

How to Love a Guy With Anxiety

So I was browsing The Mighty, and I came across this wonderful article called “How to Love a Girl With Anxiety.” I thought it was a brilliant article, but I also decided that especially with the extremely small box of masculinity that our society and culture paint men in, it would be a great idea to write an article about “How to Love a Guy With Anxiety.” My Personal Experience Reading that article got me thinking back to one of my more recent exes. It was probably one of my happier relationships, but she never really understood my anxiety and panic attacks. One of the hardest moments I had to deal with in that relationship was when we went to a wedding together. At the reception, she told me her ex-boyfriend was there. I’m not particularly sure why my anxiety chose that particular time for me to have a panic attack, but it did. I wasn’t afraid; I still can’t explain what it was that triggered me. But then again, I can’t explain most of the things that trigger my anxiety or panic attacks. Basically, as she introduced me to him, I shook his hand and then noticed my body was feeling really, really hot (one of the symptoms for me is sweating, and when my body gets all hot like that I know it’s coming). I had to “gracefully” make an excuse that there was “an important phone call I had to make” and go out by the street to chill (it was a massive lake house property, but there was nowhere to “hide” exactly). I felt this was one of the most horribly emasculating moments in my life. I wondered what on Earth was wrong with me. I’ve never been afraid of a confrontation/fight, and there was literally no tension whatsoever. I couldn’t even stand next to my girlfriend with her ex there, let alone protect her if there had been an issue. My girlfriend called me a few times (I didn’t answer) and texted me worriedly when I didn’t come back for almost 30 minutes (I had texted her that I needed to be alone for a bit). The anxiety didn’t go away for the rest of the day, and I missed the champagne toast as well as pretty much everything else. My girlfriend kept giving me weird looks on the ride home, and when we got back to her place, she asked me to tell her what was wrong and said she was there for me no matter what. I explained my panic attacks and anxiety (at the time, I wasn’t an activist or a blogger, so telling someone, even a romantic partner, was a lot harder!). Unfortunately, instead of understanding she tried to “educate” me on ways to get past the anxiety. I know she was just trying to help, but I’ve already tried working out and meditating. Hell, I do both of those things every day! It just bugged me, and when I saw the article about loving a girl with anxiety, I knew I had to write something for guys with anxiety. What to Do Please don’t try to give us tips to deal with it. Unless you struggle with serious anxiety yourself, you probably don’t know what we’re going through, and chances are we’ve tried everything you’re suggesting already anyway. Comfort us. Even if we act “tough” and “manly,” we can be hurting on the inside, and we want your love and attention. Show us you don’t think we’re less of a man. One of the first things that always runs through my head when I first tell a girl I’m seeing I have anxiety issues or depression is: “Will she think I’m weak/cowardly/less masculine/etc.?” Men in our society have a very small box we’re supposed to fit into by “societal standards,” and anxiety often is not in that box. When he says “I’m OK” and puts a smile on, please realize he may be saying that for your benefit as much as his own. The trembling hands, the shaking knees and his insides churning — he can’t control it! Just hold his hand, and let him know you’re there for him no matter what. In my last relationship, my girlfriend knew just what to do when I had panic attacks/anxiety (she was a bit older than me and a nurse, so she knew her stuff). You can help. Just make sure you’re helping in the right way! Image via Thinkstock. Follow this journey on Ostomy Bag Swag. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Saleem Juma

Dating Advice When You Have an Ostomy Bag

So you met a really cool girl (or guy) at the club and you guys hit it off; or maybe you matched on Tinder and now you’re off to her place. What. Do. You. Say? I mean, it’s not like she’s not going to notice the bag hanging off your stomach, right? So how do you tell a stranger you’ve literally just met about your ostomy? The answer is it’s really up to you how much to tell them. Me personally? I’m straight-up honest. However, I will say that the fact that I have a bag has stopped a few women from hooking up with me. I’m not kidding. About two months ago a gal I met and I were literally about to leave for her hotel room when she felt my Stealth Belt under my shirt. She asked what it was and I explained. Suddenly she stops and says she really needs to get back to her friends. Now of course she said my bag wasn’t the issue but… come on, really? I’ve also had the above posted screenshot happen to me as well. A girl straight-up told me she could never find my ostomy attractive (at least she was honest, though… many are not). I’ve had plenty of women disappear on me when the whole ostomy thing came up, but I’ve also had women who were drawn to the fact that I was 100 percent completely honest about it and said it was ballsy and attractive that I “owned it.” I’ve never felt the need to hide who I was and you shouldn’t, either. However, if you’re just looking for a casual fling/hookup, I’ve found it may be best to give very sparing details. The “I had surgery and it’s complicated but don’t worry I’m fine” usually works pretty well for me. I’ve used this when I don’t feel like explaining it right that second; I always tell them later because I’m more keen on raising awareness, but they don’t ask a second time — it’s always me bringing it up after they’ve already asked once. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your ostomy, disease or whatever else you may have (unless you have an STD or communicable disease, then you do owe it to them to say something). I think this generation especially is more tolerant than previous generations but also more shallow. In a world where a new sexual partner is literally a “swipe away,” I think we’ve become more obsessed with a certain “generic conformist standard of beauty.” Here’s the thing: I would never advocate hiding who you are, but if I’m just looking for a casual thing or a hookup (and many men and women are), if I want the greatest chances of success I believe it’s best not to potentially kill the mood with too much information. This is the complete opposite of what I think you should do if you’re looking for a relationship. Ever since I added this disclaimer to my online dating profiles: “Disclaimer: I have a bag attached to my stomach, I’ve been through a lot and I’m lucky to even be alive right now. If that’s not your thing I totally get it, but say so before we waste each other’s time. I’ve also uploaded a picture so before you judge me for shirtless pictures just remember it’s because I’m being honest about what look like haha,” the amount of traffic and responses I’ve gotten have not only been better and of way better quality, they’ve also been a much higher quantity. I’d say it’s at least doubled if not tripled my traffic/responses on OkCupid and Plenty of Fish. It didn’t seem to make too much of a difference with Tinder (which I would say is a good thing, since that’s almost purely based on looks) and also didn’t seem to make much of a difference on Coffee Meets Bagel. The real kicker is when I go on dates and meet these women in person, it just seems like the connection is so much better. Relationships are based on honesty. I think hooking up is most certainly not; there is a huge difference between the two and I hope this article will help ostomates and other people with disabilities feel a little bit better out there in the dating scene. I know it’s scary putting yourself out there, but stay courageous and keep on fighting! Follow this journey on Ostomy Bag Swag.

Saleem Juma

Dating Advice When You Have an Ostomy Bag

So you met a really cool girl (or guy) at the club and you guys hit it off; or maybe you matched on Tinder and now you’re off to her place. What. Do. You. Say? I mean, it’s not like she’s not going to notice the bag hanging off your stomach, right? So how do you tell a stranger you’ve literally just met about your ostomy? The answer is it’s really up to you how much to tell them. Me personally? I’m straight-up honest. However, I will say that the fact that I have a bag has stopped a few women from hooking up with me. I’m not kidding. About two months ago a gal I met and I were literally about to leave for her hotel room when she felt my Stealth Belt under my shirt. She asked what it was and I explained. Suddenly she stops and says she really needs to get back to her friends. Now of course she said my bag wasn’t the issue but… come on, really? I’ve also had the above posted screenshot happen to me as well. A girl straight-up told me she could never find my ostomy attractive (at least she was honest, though… many are not). I’ve had plenty of women disappear on me when the whole ostomy thing came up, but I’ve also had women who were drawn to the fact that I was 100 percent completely honest about it and said it was ballsy and attractive that I “owned it.” I’ve never felt the need to hide who I was and you shouldn’t, either. However, if you’re just looking for a casual fling/hookup, I’ve found it may be best to give very sparing details. The “I had surgery and it’s complicated but don’t worry I’m fine” usually works pretty well for me. I’ve used this when I don’t feel like explaining it right that second; I always tell them later because I’m more keen on raising awareness, but they don’t ask a second time — it’s always me bringing it up after they’ve already asked once. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your ostomy, disease or whatever else you may have (unless you have an STD or communicable disease, then you do owe it to them to say something). I think this generation especially is more tolerant than previous generations but also more shallow. In a world where a new sexual partner is literally a “swipe away,” I think we’ve become more obsessed with a certain “generic conformist standard of beauty.” Here’s the thing: I would never advocate hiding who you are, but if I’m just looking for a casual thing or a hookup (and many men and women are), if I want the greatest chances of success I believe it’s best not to potentially kill the mood with too much information. This is the complete opposite of what I think you should do if you’re looking for a relationship. Ever since I added this disclaimer to my online dating profiles: “Disclaimer: I have a bag attached to my stomach, I’ve been through a lot and I’m lucky to even be alive right now. If that’s not your thing I totally get it, but say so before we waste each other’s time. I’ve also uploaded a picture so before you judge me for shirtless pictures just remember it’s because I’m being honest about what look like haha,” the amount of traffic and responses I’ve gotten have not only been better and of way better quality, they’ve also been a much higher quantity. I’d say it’s at least doubled if not tripled my traffic/responses on OkCupid and Plenty of Fish. It didn’t seem to make too much of a difference with Tinder (which I would say is a good thing, since that’s almost purely based on looks) and also didn’t seem to make much of a difference on Coffee Meets Bagel. The real kicker is when I go on dates and meet these women in person, it just seems like the connection is so much better. Relationships are based on honesty. I think hooking up is most certainly not; there is a huge difference between the two and I hope this article will help ostomates and other people with disabilities feel a little bit better out there in the dating scene. I know it’s scary putting yourself out there, but stay courageous and keep on fighting! Follow this journey on Ostomy Bag Swag.