Meet Phyllis Rovner


“That colon has to come out.” That was the consensus from a series of doctors I’d seen over nearly two decades of my young life … a life that was ruled by ulcerative colitis. But I simply couldn’t deal with the thought of having an ostomy pouch on my belly. So I refused.

During college – while still struggling to control my symptoms – I got married and subsequently had two children. I then worked at the University of Maryland and later at the US Department of Agriculture. While I loved my work, it was stressful, which aggravated my medical condition. After an episode of colitis that required four blood transfusions, I finally realized that I couldn’t keep going. It was time for surgery.

It was a blessing in disguise for two reasons. Not only did surgery rescue me from a life of chronic pain associated with ulcerative colitis, but the surgeon discovered severe dysplasia, which would have likely led to colon cancer. This was the turning point in my life.

I’m a firm believer that it’s the defects that make us perfect.

Today, I am happy, healthy and enjoying an active and exciting life. I travel to rain forests and jungles all over the world with my arachnologist husband who studies spiders. We’ve been to Thailand, Ecuador, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Swaziland, Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and several others.

And although I already had a degree and a successful career, I went back to school and got a TOESL (Teaching of English as a Second Language) certificate. I did this in honor of my mother, who was born in Poland and couldn’t read or write. Now, I help people from other countries learn English.

My hope is to continue helping people after this life by donating my body to a medical school. While the students who get my body will find a few parts missing, I’m a firm believer that it’s the defects that make us perfect.

Getting an ileostomy was not the end of my life; it was the beginning. I’m so happy that I want to help others.

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