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Wow this stoma is just disgusting…

(Disclaimer it isn’t),

There is a story circulating on social media (I will not link to it as I don’t think it is healthy to bring your attention to it, especially if you are facing/new to a stoma) about a woman who hates it as she experiences so many leaks and bag changes per day.

This is not the norm – it is a daily newspaper looking for headlines, for shocking stories, for making ‘disabilities’ appear so horrific we could not possibly cope if it happened to us. I would like to say with stomas, this is not the norm, you have options, different bag choices, stoma nurses to speak to, adhesive bands and removers, this woman’s problem seems predominantly to be a an adhesive one. I hope she can get it sorted, find a product that works for her, but I would just like to say it IS UNUSUAL.

Most of us with bags, don’t want them, (obviously) but find something that works and generally deal with them. Yes, there can be leaks and inconvenient moments, but on the whole you deal with it, move on and realise it happened because of an anomaly.

To roll out headlines about how horrific it is, just isn’t helpful. When I faced mine, it was almost 10 years ago (wow, where did that go!!), I knew so little about it, there was no social media about it and I genuinely thought I was dealing with the most horrific thing known to man, I thought I would be wheeling that baby about on one of those drip poles for the rest of my life!!

If I had known it wouldn’t be like that, that I could still wear the clothes I like, have sex, date, swim, wear cropped tops, lift weights, run (pushing it now…!) then I may have considered it before it was life threatening. I might not have been so ill, so near death, may have been saved from blood transfusions, life or death surgeries and many, many medications, then, I may well have considered it. (we’ll never know, I was never given the choice).

I have said before, nobody wants a bag, we don’t, if we could do anything but not have one we would. I miss some things about not having one (mainly my ability to eat sweetcorn and that’s about the only thing that springs to mind 😉!). Look, of course, there are things that change, but doesn’t life change anyway? Things happen to us that change us. Yet we adapt. I miss certain stuff, but, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s we can bloody well accept a change in life!

I have also said this so many times, but if a person you are dating can’t accept it, move on, if they are struggling to deal with it, chat to them, have an open conversation about how you can both accept it and move on (but always, always get rid it they use it to make you feel less then you are, have they been through what you have – no – so hello and goodbye!!).

But if we look at stoma’s (still in 2021 AND in a pandemic) then what hope does that give to people maybe facing a stoma or just living with one. And it is not just an ‘old person thing’ it really can happen at any age. Mainly due to debilitating bowel conditions (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, which usually happen in teenage/early twenty years as well as bowel cancer, to name a few)

It’s so hard to be out and proud with a stoma, but here I am, nearly 10 years down the road, I refuse to not walk around naked in front of someone, I refuse to cover it up, I refuse to not wear a ‘normal bikini’, I refuse to be silent about it, I refuse to try and ignore the sounds it likes to make, I refuse that someone won’t be intimate with me or not like me because of it.

Ok, it’s not all plain sailing, but we all have stuff that isn’t ‘plain sailing’, so can we stop with the sensationalist headlines and give people confidence that they will live a good life, they will find a ‘bag fit’ and facing a stoma really isn’t the worst thing it can be.

Surely, I am proof of that – I mean if you haven’t read my other blogs or followed me on social media (then why?!?!) then you will see just how much can be achieved and I beg you, do it, live your best life, don’t let that fashionable little accessory stop you 😉

Dating in reverse……

I have mentioned dating in my previous blog and I think dating in a pandemic is really hard! I mean, what do you do, wait for the pandemic to end before you navigate the dating scene or just give it a virtual try and see what happens??

If there is something I have learnt from the last few months, I DO NOT need a man for happiness, I have independence, my own home, a good job, a side business, amazing colleagues, supportive friends and the most delicious (in my mum’s words ‘dollies house’) house!! I am incredibly happy, so for a man to fit in, he really needs to enhance that experience, not just show up and expect me to be grateful!

Anyway, as I said before (being the independent woman that I now am) decided to go on tinder 😉 – it was an experience – BUT a guy slid into my Facebook DM’s (we already knew each other from years ago but hadn’t seen each other for years) and asked if I remembered him, what was someone like me doing on a dating app and he thought he would bypass Tinder and go straight for messenger to see if he could ‘jump the queue’. Well somehow, that made me really laugh and he had me at ‘jump the queue’ 😉

So we spent a good month chatting on messenger, then WhatsApp, video chat etc. We (socially distanced) met to see if we liked each other in person (I mean, we might have terrified each other in real life, so it was good to check we didn’t before we were down a rabbit hole of 6 months facetiming, later!) then I was quite clear that I would be bubbling with my sister for a while. So, queue yet another month or so of phone calls/facetime and messaging.

Of course, in lockdown, there isn’t much you can do other than video call, when we did, we would both pretty much be in casual wear or PJ’s, I think because we had spent so much time speaking and getting to know each other we were just that comfortable. Plus, I did nothing but laugh when we chatted, which was such a welcome relief.

I have spoken to a few other people who have met during lockdown and it’s a similar situation. I call it ‘Dating in Reverse’.  Normally you meet someone and it’s all awkward first dates, worrying about your outfit, what to talk about etc. it takes ages until you feel comfy enough to swap your skinny jeans for PJ’s, read your book in bed or just binge watch TV. But here we are in this pandemic and we are getting to know the person in depth due to the amount of calls/facetime etc. This isn’t something you usually do when you can date under normal conditions. It’s a while until you get to the ‘comfy’ stage.

So at the moment, we are (all of those dating) getting to the comfy stage really early, which I think is due to that phenomenon of actually getting to know someone! But it feels easy, comfortable and relaxed and I genuinely think that’s such a good thing. Plus, we have the actual dating bit to look forward to (dating in reverse!), wow, imagine, if you like someone with bad hair, PJ’s, a penchant for lazing around, binge watching TV (I mean this is just me!), how much better will they be when we are all dressed up with haircuts?! (Or maybe not, stranger things have happened to put us off people 😉!)

So, how are things going with ‘jump the queue’ guy, well you will just have to tune in for more, but he can cook – really well (more on that later), makes me laugh all the time and we are enjoying each other’s company and are both happy. Plus, we both have the biggest love for ‘The Big Bang Theory’, which I love as it’s one of my fave shows!! We will see how it goes and hopefully decent clothes and good haircuts won’t put us off! 😉

All I will say is that ‘Dating in reverse’ has taught me some stuff, it is so worth spending time getting to know someone, more talking, less ‘dating’, can you hold an 8 hour conversation (yes myself and ‘jump the queue guy’ have done that, I may also have had a little nap in the middle!)? But, if you can find yourself doing that, still laughing, still reluctant to put down the phone, then that’s only a good thing. 🙂

#Notallmen

I had to weigh in on this, I usually like to keep my blogs fairly light hearted but ffs hasn’t it been a heavy week for women. So much has gone on that has made our blood boil, made us despair, feel fed up, disappointed, angry and all we can do is share, share, share on social media.

#notallmen has been the biggest hashtag this week, which beggar’s belief and just goes to show how much men will come together when they think it is an attack on them. But what about when it is an attack on women, all day, every day, where are the men then? They are sitting there, not getting involved because they don’t believe it is them or their friends.

If men spent as much time advocating for the very basic rights of women as they do defending themselves, we might be in a better position. I do not dislike men, I like the company of men, but as I get older I realise that I don’t want to be around men that aren’t willing to listen, to understand, to educate themselves on the abuse against women by men.

Yes men get attacked but it is mainly by MEN – so when men say, ‘oh yeah but men get raped/attacked’, yes, but by WHO???? So why as a man are you still ignoring women or belittling their experience?? Have you not realised that is mainly men that are the problem?

I was catcalled at school when I was about 12 for the size of my boobs (I developed early), I’ve been wolf whistled and intimidated by men on the streets, I have been told to ‘smile love’, I have been physically attacked in a lift because I said I wasn’t interested, I’ve been touched when I didn’t asked to be, had my bum slapped, my vagina grabbed, my leg rubbed, I’ve crossed the street, walked a bit faster, ducked into a shop etc. etc. much like every other woman. IT IS NOT OKAY.

Now, on the basis of #notallmen I have had males that have looked after me, seen me safe, not taken advantage, checked I got home ok, but this is a fundamental human respect, not just a good guy mentality surely?

We really aren’t going to see a change until men start taking a stand, educate your fellow men, call them out, don’t engage in sexism/misogyny, read books or articles that give you stats and information. Yes, I appreciate that for men, it is nerve racking, that you might get called ‘a pussy’, ‘to man up’ or may get ridiculed etc. but to point out again, this vitriol is coming from MEN. Do you want these people in your life?? Also (as my work bestie said) the worst thing they have to worry about is being ridiculed, not actually being raped or murdered. I can’t tell you how many times my friends have taken the mickey out of me for the things I have said, but I have never worried one of them might actually attack me. Because I trust that they are good people!

Not all women are good either, I get that, I have been bullied by females- a lot, that is scarring, yes I could be attacked by a bunch of females but it is far less likely than being harassed/attacked/frightened by a male.

On my 40th birthday, I had a party in a pub that was 5 mins down the road. On the way home, my feet were in so much agony (from my stupid heels!), I sent my then boyfriend home to get my trainers whilst I perched on a wall. 3 women came out and asked if I was ok, did I need help, and they stood outside with me until my BF had come back with better shoes (I had explained the situation!) – I mean how amazing is that. Women surrounding me, to make sure I was safe, and didn’t get attacked by a man!

And if you are a ‘not all men’ man, ask yourself, how many times have you felt unsafe, worried about turning a man down, having to lie and say you have a boyfriend because they will respect a man more than your right to say no. If you are a #notallmen then for the love of god, stick with us females and call out the misogyny and harassment and help make the world a safer place.  

And let’s take a moment to remember a female, who did nothing wrong, who just walked home and got attacked and murdered by a member of society that is there to supposedly keep us safe #RIPSarahEverard

Dating with a stoma?

Dating is so much fun, like the funnest (not a word I know), you get all the good bits of someone and even if they are not that good it’s a funny date story to recall. So, if you’re lucky, you get chemistry, butterflies and compatibility. If you are not lucky, you find yourself squished into a plant hoping to get away…(yes I have done that!).

But it is fun, even when you are in a good relationship, I bet you still miss the heady feeling of a first date or the anticipation of what is to come, it doesn’t mean you want to go down that road, but you can miss it.

Whether you are new to a stoma, facing one, like me are entering the dating world after years with the same person or simply curious then hopefully this blog will help!

So, here I am, single for the first time in almost 10 years and it’s so fu*&%ng amazing ha ha! I love living alone, I love having control over my own life, I love knowing I can live how I like and just be me! That’s not to say having a partner isn’t great, but I am learning it’s not everything.

In a nutshell, you can 100% date when you have a stoma, it’s up to you when you tell someone and take it at your own pace. Personally, I like to get it out in the open straight away, I mean if someone is going to be put off by it, I would rather know straight away so I am not wasting my time. If someone is put off by it, it IS NOT a reflection on you, it is a reflection on them. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad person either, they just don’t understand it, but, whatever their reasons, you can make a swift and dignified exit.

I have never had a negative experience when telling men (I talk about men here as that is the sex I choose to date), in fact (and as awful as this sounds) I have used it to try and put men off! This was in the early days of having it, I would get chatted up in a bar and I would say ‘oh btw I have a stoma bag’ thinking they would do a U-turn, but nope, the usual reaction was either ‘oh what’s that then’ or ‘oh I don’t care about that’ or something along those lines. So, what you think is going to be really scary actually isn’t and I genuinely think most people aren’t that bothered.

So, I find myself navigating dating, not just for the first time in years but in a pandemic! Plus, I was always with the ex, before the stoma (albeit a few weeks) but he stuck around. So, it’s my first time dating with a stoma, so to speak.

Some of my best stories have come from the worst dates, and some of my best (men) memories have come from great dates, that may not have worked out but gave me a glimpse of what I would like. I mean, we are in the 21st century, so what if we date a guy for a month or two then call it a day, or a year, or a week, who says we must have a relationship for life? I am not just saying that because I am now single, but I remember always thinking that when I was young. (I also thought I would get married 3 times like Joan Collins, but I am yet to even come close to a sparkling diamond ring 😉 so I don’t think I will bother with that idea now!)

Confession time, now there is no urgent need to date right now, we are locked up, can’t go on proper dates and I have only been single for 6 months. However, one Sunday, I was bored, had devoured a glass or 2 of wine and thought I would sign up to a dating app! Ha ha, that was an experience, for me, it was a good one, (massive ego boost too, not gonna lie) chatted to quite a few men, but I soon got bored so came off it. Anyway, when I would speak to men (I am not talking about the ones that message saying ‘hi, how are you’ then never engage in any further conversation) but any that I might chat to for a bit longer, maybe going over to WhatsApp…. I would let them know that I have a stoma, personally I would rather they know, if they are put off by it then I can say bye and crack on with my life. But my experience, so far, really has been a positive one. TBF, there can’t be many people that don’t know I live with a stoma – for those who know me or follow me on social media, you will know I am very open about it, it is nothing to be ashamed of and I see no reason to hide it. But it is still a bit of a nerve-racking thing to deal with when meeting (albeit virtually right now!) potential new dates.

So, I guess what I am trying to say, is own it, be proud of it, think of what you have gone through to get to the point of needing a stoma, that makes you bad ass, any potential partner should realise that and be in awe of you. You will be able to date and kiss and have sex and everything else that people without stomas do.

Whether you have a stoma or not and are navigating the dating world, good luck, be safe, have fun and bloody well ENJOY IT!!