Category Archives: Charity

Fitness – a journey

I was at the London Marathon last week (cheering not running) and normally this is something I like to enjoy in bed, with a cup of tea and some toast. But, this year I went to cheer on our charity runners and it was a great day. I am always in awe of those people who can run 26 miles, it isn’t just the effort on the day it is the months of dedicated training too.

London Marathon

It got me thinking about my own health and fitness regime and what I do/don’t do. My goals have changed over the years, during illness it was all about just getting out of bed each day, post surgery it was about putting one foot in front of the other and getting a bit further each day. Then it became a matter of enjoying life whilst I was healthy so I didn’t worry too much about exercise or what to eat. Pre-operation number two, it was about preparing myself to be in as good as shape as possible, so a 10 week bootcamp ensued, post-op again, was about recovery and getting the right nutrients to aid healing and not gaining to much weight whilst sitting on my (now sewn up) arse! Roll on to April/May 2013 and the months of being at home/not exercising/eating too many puddings/the beginnings of domestic bliss with Mike took their toll and we had both gained weight. So then began a health and fitness regime of sorts to try and get in shape. I dappled in the gym, back at bootcamp, exercise classes and a bit of running and tried to stay away from puddings. 2014 I ran my first 10k, followed by two more and continued with some additional exercises. The first 10k was about a personal achievement, something I was able to do even  after all the trauma. Then it became about beating my time and getting better (which I did).

Christmas 2014 my sister bought me a personal training session at the gym she goes to, she recommended her trainer and suggested I try it. So in Jan 2015 I started at a new gym and got some coaching. From that moment on my fitness improved beyond doubt and is still improving today. I completed a couple more 10k’s in the summer but I now just concentrate on lifting weights and the odd interval session. I decided I really didn’t like running so why put myself through it. I actually don’t like the gym either but I like the results it brings! Through the training, I dropped some weight and have kept it off and I feel better than ever. Having a stoma can definitely knock your confidence and for me it was about discovering what I was capable of and what my body could be like. It’s hard to understand your natural weight when it has fluctuated for years due to illness/medication/operations. I am now in a place where I am happier with my body and still like to push it. I have never kept up this consistency before and I am really proud of myself.
Post gym
I want to be one of those people who bound out of bed at 6am to go the gym, or who gets excited because I am off to work out. The truth is, most of the time I have to drag myself there, I have to convince myself to go, sometimes I do get up early and go, but many a Saturday I have spent in bed weighing up the pro’s and cons before realizing whilst I was procrastinating I could have been to the gym and back again! But I go, I don’t let the fact I have a stoma stop me from doing so, there are loads of ‘ostomates’ out there who do all sorts, bodybuilding (This girl is amazing) these people compete in triathlons, 100 mile bike rides, marathons, in fact so much so I feel my gym effort is a bit paltry in comparison. But I will keep on doing it, because I love seeing my body get fitter and stronger, I love the satisfaction of lifting a heavier weight today than yesterday and most of all I love the fact that it has given me the ability to walk up hill, whilst wearing heels, to the train station with a heavy suitcase plus walk up and down a set of stairs with said suitcase plus a handbag in one had and a cup of tea in the other (it was too early for wine ;)!), whilst heaving the suitcase of the ground to get up the stairs! A small girl who was with her mum at the time was most in awe of my ability to do this and told me so – how fab is that!

early gym

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Oops! 

Oops, it’s been totally ages since I last blogged and yet I never meant to go this long. I wish I was one of those people that blogged regularly, but I also wish I was one of those people that got up at 6am to work out, or one of those people that didn’t like wine (do they exist?) or one of those people that ate broccoli for breakfast (wtf?)  but somethings are just never going to happen! 

  

I always get inspiration when I’m driving in my car or some other such inconvenient place and by the time I can write it down I forget! But I’m sitting here on the sofa, whilst Mike watches footie (not for the first time) so decided to ‘be productive’. There are lots of things I could write about and I will ( in a few months or so ;-)!) but I thought I would start with being able to help people. 

I want to and will, talk about clothes with an ostomy (short version, wear whatever the hell you like), travel ( it’s fine, do it), exercise (if you’re so inclined, that too is ok) food ( trial and error but give it all a go within reason). I’ll go into more detail in other posts. 

Those that know me/read my blog/follow my Facebook page know that I work for Beating Bowel Cancer Charity. It keeps me incredibly busy but I love it. April is Bowel cancer awareness month and during this time we hold a ‘patient day’ where we invite people affected to a free event. They can meet other people in similar situations, talk to nurses, attend seminars, visit the stands and just generally meet staff and supporters. It’s a great day and people seem to really love it. What’s great is being able to talk to people who also have an ostomy, some have colostomies, some have ileostomys, some don’t have a stoma anymore but did. It’s really lovely to have people come up to me and ask me about mine and ask me questions. Some people I have spoken to over Twitter and was able to meet in person and share stories.

I love that I can work for a charity and have empathy and can share my positive experiences with people going through a really tough time. But I also benefit, I also get to meet people with ostomies and hear their experiences and so many of them are incredibly upbeat, despite having to face some of the toughest times of their lives. 

I am always happy for people to approach me and ask me questions and advice and I will always be honest. I have no issue with anyone, stoma or not, asking me questions about mine. I find it far easier to be open and hope my experiences can help others. 

So, this is just to say the blog is back in action, and between 6am gym sessions and breakfasts of broccoli 😂 I shall be posting a bit more regularly!  

 

Then and now…..

Today is the 4th anniversary of my stoma and of course it’s a day I will never forget so I think it is appropriate to mark the occasion. It was the day that would change my life for ever

Sometimes, the truth of it is that having a stoma does get me down now and then. It is hard for friends and family to understand (as great and supportive as they are) as they just see me as being healthy now and that is all that matters. But, despite the positives, having a stoma is bound to have an effect on how you feel, your body image and the problems that can come with it. But, rather than talk about being down, I figured why not compare my life to pre-bag and post-bag and see the difference?

Now, I am not saying that some of the things I have now I wouldn’t have had anyway, but a major life change can cause you to reassess your life and for things to change in ways you never though possible! So here goes…..

Pre_bag (during my Ulcerative Colitis days and before 2011)

  • I had an incredibly stressful job that took up a lot of my time, didn’t allow for me to look after myself physically or mentally and I worked a lot of hours.
  • I was unfit, exercising was off the table when one wrong move could cause me to poo myself, plus the general exhaustion from being unwell made it difficult.
  • I ate what I was able to not what was necessarily healthy.
  • I was on a concoction of strong medication, painkillers and was self-administering twice daily enemas (how glamorous!).
  • Relationships were tricky and let’s just say I didn’t always make the best choice, so I was either single or in a not so great romantic liaison.
  • Travelling/going to social occasions (e.g. concerts) was a minefield and far too stressful due to the constant worry of an accessible toilet.
  • I lived in a rented flat
  • I drove an old car
  • I didn’t have pets
  • I hadn’t been on a holiday since 2009 and didn’t have many weekends/days away

Fast forward to post-bag (and after 2011) and this is what I have

(A few pics of me now)

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  • A job that I love, where I work from home and travel around the South East, I get the best of both worlds, there is a good work/life balance and because it’s a bowel cancer charity I can offer my experiences as well as fight for a very worthy cause.
  • I am so much fitter than I have ever been. This year I have managed to run a sub 60 minute 10k and a sub 30 minute 5k, plus I have been lifting weights since January and the amount I can lift has increased. Working out has become a part of my daily life and I feel so much better for it (my body has had some nice changes too – bonus!).
  • I eat whatever I want to, but am choosing to eat healthily and I have never felt so good, with so much energy. In fact, I never thought I would see the day, but I have almost gone off pizza, unfortunately the same can’t be said for my wine habit 😉
  • I don’t take any medication at all, apart from the odd Alka Seltzer after a night out ;). Or the occasional ibuprofen for normal niggles.
  • I have an amazing boyfriend, we had only been on a handful dates when I was taken into hospital, but he stuck around and 4 years later we are still together. We have a lot of fun, respect each other, make time for each other, he looks after me and I look after him and it is a GREAT relationship.
  • I have had holidays (yay) and weekends away, spa days/weekends, concerts, theatres, parties, girlie holidays, day trips and so on and I couldn’t be more appreciative. In fact I am off on holiday next week and I can’t wait.
  • I now live in a house with my boyfriend Mike and we have another property we rent out.
  • I have a nice new car.
  • I have two very cute and very mischievous kitties.

Of course my wonderful friends and family haven’t changed and have been there through it all which I am most grateful for.

So, it really helps to look at all the good stuff and what I have been able to achieve, things that once were so difficult or seemed impossible are now just part of my life. If you are going through a hard time or having to face something difficult, just remember, as much as life can change for the worse in a blink of an eye it can always change for the better just as quickly.

So, happy anniversary to me and the stoma that not only gave my life back but improved it too.

 

Cheers!

Life change

The important things in life……

Over the last couple of months, there has been lots going on in my life and yet I still seemed to have had writers block and not been able to come up with a post, despite always saying I would definitely write weekly! But certain things have taken place this week and it has made me think and given me some inspiration for my blog.

There was a lot of negative press over Black Friday and people pushing and shoving and shouting over reduced price TV’s and I had to wonder, when did we all become so materialistic? I have made no secret of my love of shopping, but I simply cannot be bothered to attempt going out into a bull ring full of aggressive shoppers determined to snap up a bargain. I cannot say that I have not been guilty by the tempting pull of the material stuff, I mean I am still searching for the perfect travelling outfit (It’s nearly there, but must consist of comfort yet class and glamour) and I keep finding the next item I simply must have. But, I do not let it consume me.

There are people in life that would be happy with a safe home, running water and food on the table and want for nothing more, the last thing on their mind would be a bargain TV. Yet we seem to forget this. I work in a job where I am surrounded by sadness, it is hard to work for a cancer charity and not feel it. Because we are still a small charity, we often get involved on a personal level, this is really nice as people fundraising for us can see how much we appreciate it, however, it also means being affected on a daily basis by the complete sadness that comes with people suffering from cancer.

Because of this, I am constantly appreciating what I have in life and being grateful for waking up each day and feeling healthy. But I also know, first hand, what it feels like to feel you are not going to make it and I also know how quickly life can change. I never in a million years ever thought I would have to wear a bag or have a permanent stoma. That was never part of my life plan and certainly not something I would ever have chosen. I know that in an instant, life can change so dramatically it will never be the same again. We take simple things for granted, like having an unblemished stomach, all of our limbs in tact or a body that can help us to live each day, we never expect to have these things change. And as much as people may admire my grit when it comes to living with a bag, I bet each one of them will be feeling so glad it is not them.

Just yesterday I was out with Mike, my sister, her boyfriend and some friends, we were in a pub when I realised I need to empty my bag but the worst happened and I felt like it had leaked. Upon a visit to the toilet it had leaked, now not wanting to go into too much detail, it was very watery, which made it near on impossible to deal with. Fortunately, I have a wonderful sister who came to my rescue and helped me and we got me sorted. I was determined it wouldn’t ruin the rest of my evening and carried on. Yes I got upset but that’s natural. Unfortunately, a bag leak knocks your confidence but you cannot let it stop you getting on with your life, there are worse things that can happen. I have always been honest about how I actually appreciate my bag as it gave me life back, but at times like yesterday I can really hate my bag and feel a bit down that I have it. But I will never feel sorry for myself because, I am alive. I also have so much to be thankful for, a nice home, a good job, lovely friends, an amazing family and a great boyfriend, sometimes I have to pinch myself that life is treating me this well. But as I said earlier, it is so important to appreciate every moment as it can so easily be snatched away, hopefully it won’t but it’s still better to be grateful.

I remember being in hospital before my operation and feeling so dreadfully ill that I actually thought I was dying (In a way I was, the op saved me), and I also remember feeling at peace with it, I always assumed if you were dying through illness it would be really distressing but there was something peaceful and accepting about it. However, all I cared about and all that mattered was knowing I had love in my life and just hoping my family knew how much I love them. There were no regrets, no ‘I wish I had…’ it was all about my loved ones. Nothing material even crossed my mind. Although, I do also remember thinking it would have been nice if I had managed to get in one last glass of champagne (well, this is me!). Fortunately I lived to tell the tale and got to drink  my champagne, so I can’t hate my bag, despite the leaks. But I can also appreciate that when all is said and done, all that will matter are your loved ones.

So whatever you are doing, make sure you give your loved ones a big hug tonight, appreciate everything you have and be thankful you get to wake up tomorrow and enjoy life all over again.

Thankful

 

Woooo I did it!

That was the 10K run on Sunday, where Mike and I ran for Beating Bowel Cancer in the Run to the Beat event in Wembley. It was our second 10k of the year, which in itself is shocking, as I never even thought I would do one, let alone 2 but it was a good goal to work towards. Now, I certainly wasn’t as fit or in as good shape as I was for our Bupa 10k, the training kind of fell by the wayside over Summer as I preferred to drink bubbly in the garden than go out and exercise, but I was pretty confident I could run the course.

That was until we received the race pack only to find out the course had some hilly parts, I was actually relying on a nice flat course thinking this would get me round quicker, but nope, wonderful hills awaited us. But still, I thought I could still run the 10k with hills, if a little slower.

On the Friday and Saturday before race day I had been to Surrey for work, so lots of travelling and walking (you can see the excuses forming!) and no time for short training runs. On race day, we were up at 5.30am to ensure we could get to Wembley in time. A quick banana and some water en route and we’re raring to go. A quick toilet stop for me (all Portaloos) only to discover my bag had leaked, this is a fairly rare occurrence, stoma appliances are pretty good and tend to be quite hardy. However, every now and then a leak happens and you just have to deal with it as best you can. Always having a change of bags and a clean pair of knickers on your person is usually a good idea (a clean pair of knickers is never a bad idea even if you don’t have a stoma, that and a toothbrush, you just never know!). Fortunately I had caught the leak before it got too bad and had a change of bag. Changing my bag in a Portaloo toilet is not something I wish to experience again, not particularly easy but I managed. I think it affected me psychologically though and something seemed to switch mentally despite my positive pep talk to myself. I also had a foot injury from a run the week before but was determined to run anyway as it didn’t feel that bad.

So, the race starts and we’re away, Mike is in a different group to me (the faster ones!) so I know he is well away before I have started. I did the first 1k ok, as it was all downhill and then it all just went horribly wrong. I had a stitch, I had to stop at 5k for first aid because my toes were covered in blood, I would like to be dramatic and say it was a huge gash in my toes caused by fast running but it was just a tiny cut that bled a lot! Then after that point it seemed to be all uphill, horrible steep mountains which just felt impossible. But I hobbled, jogged & walked and eventually got round. Perhaps if someone had yelled that there was a bottle of champagne at the finish line I may have got a sprint on, but it was just a few cheerers trying to encourage us slow ones (it’s a bit embarrassing) across the finish line. But at least I can say ‘Wooooo I did it!’

Mike did incredibly well, me, not so good, but I was determined to finish the course no matter what. I actually hated every minute of it but I think I may do it again next year, just to improve my time (which won’t be hard) and because it will also seem like a good idea at the time.

You will be relieved to hear that the champagne came out upon arriving home, followed by a very delicious burger, so all was not lost. Now, I have 7 weeks until the next 10K, and I am DETERMINED to do this one well!

homer

It’s all about the knickers!!

I have said for a couple of weeks now that I would talk about my knickers and I really don’t wish to disappoint anyone as I am sure you are all very excited for this 😉

It’s amazing how much publicity there has been recently around girls and guys wearing Ostomy bags and hi-lighting Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), encouraging people not to be shy and to proudly talk about their bags and/or their IBD. I think this is great and it really is a taboo subject that we should all be more open about. I work for a bowel cancer charity and we are all about raising awareness and encouraging people to talk poo.

But there are times when you might not want to have your bag on show or you may need to cover it up, so what do you do then? Sometimes you just need to keep the bag under control and not have it all wild and free!

Well, like I say it is all about the knickers!! We all wear them (well some may not but that’s up to them!), we all need them, (if nothing else, then just to protect our modesty) and they are an integral part of any outfit. We all know we need the right pair of knickers to make an outfit look good, in this day and age of assorted knicker shapes, vpl’s (visible panty line’s) are inexcusable. How many times have you seen a lovely looking girl with a fab figure wearing a beautiful dress, only to glance at her derriere and realise she has ruined her look with the wrong pair of knickers, the elastic is digging in, she has the dreaded vpl and yet she doesn’t seem to have noticed (good for her, I am not criticizing – well maybe a teeny bit 😉 but if she’s happy then so what?) But the right pair of knickers would just finish off that outfit. This girl obviously wanted to go for sexy thong over Bridget knickers but we all need the Bridget’s at some point!

For general outfits (i.e. no special underwear needed) in my pre-ostomy days I would throw on a lacy thong or some other teeny pair of knickers, without a care in the world, well that was until half way through the day when I wished I hadn’t thrown on the thong with such abandon and had gone for comfort instead. But, knickers weren’t really something I thought about, they were something I would wear (my mum brought me up well) and had to be clean (obviously) but I wouldn’t go and spend copious amounts of money on them. I HATE spending money on underwear, I don’t care how beautiful it is, how wonderfully that bra sits or the matching knickers just look gorgeous, I do not want to spend £50 on them, I would much rather purchase a dress with that money. Let’s face it, yes wearing expensive & matching undies may make us feel wonderful, but only for about 5 minutes before everything starts to dig in and we are yearning to take them off. And if we are wearing the matching set for a nice little boyfriend surprise then again how much value does it bring, where men are concerned, the bra is usually first off before they have even so much glanced at your carefully put together beautiful matching set. Life isn’t like a film, where we find ourselves in several situations which require us to strip down to our underwear, so always sporting sexy co-ordinates isn’t such an issue for everyday life.

Now I know I sound slightly contradictory as I have stated that it is all about the knickers, whilst in the next sentence saying they’re not that high a priority but what I mean is that you need the right knickers for certain outfits but I resent spending lots of money.

However, now I have my Ostomy bag I have become more obsessed with knickers than ever before. I still want to wear tight dresses & tops and other nice clothes and do not wish to be restricted by my bag so the secret is in the knickers. There are a couple of specialist websites for underwear for Ostomy’s here and here which are great but I have also found some fab knickers from Triumph, Littlewoods and Primark. Most days, I can still wear ‘normal’ knickers, having a bag doesn’t stop that but when you want to feel a little more secure and want to flatten the bag and hold it in you need a special knicker! I found some amazing ones in Triumph which were high waisted thongs, so perfect, they even had the matching bra, the discovery of these knickers meant I could wear all my lovely tighter dresses without the vpl safe in the knowledge my bag was secure, even better, they even looked nice, slightly 50’s style, so I didn’t have to feel frumpy either! Unfortunately getting a few pairs has set me back about £150 but I think it is worth it. I cannot believe that I am now willing to spend so much on knickers, but it is important to feel good, and I think whatever your situation, if something makes you feel confident, sexy and happy then it is worth every penny! But if you don’t have a spare £150 hanging around (Mum’s credit card came in handy!) then Primark have fabulous shapewear that is great if you wear a bag and even if you don’t have a bag the knickers are fab anyway, we all need everything to be sucked in sometimes!

Of course there are times when I miss my days of carefree knicker wearing moments, it would be nice not to have to worry about which pair suits which outfit, if today’s dress needs a special pair or if I can wear a pair of jeans and vest without having to wear the more unattractive bigger variety just to have smoother line over the torso, but it is still a small price to pay for being healthy. But, when you wake up tomorrow, still slightly sleepy and just grabbing a pair of knickers from your underwear drawer, spare a moment to feel grateful that you can pick your knickers with such wild abandonment!

And one last thing, is it just me or does anyone else ever pack waaaay to many knickers when going away? I always like a few spares (of course from a practical perspective, I need a spare in case of leaks) but I am definitely OTT with the amount I take, I always have been, I am not sure what I am expecting to happen or why I should need so many spare pairs but I just cannot bring myself to pack ‘just enough’. Men do, if they are away for two nights then they will pack two pairs, exactly what they need, they don’t feel the need for a spare pair, clearly they shouldn’t need them, they are old enough not to have accidents but why do they not feel the need for a ‘just in case’ pair? How can they be so confident and carefree?

So, for now I shall continue to over pack my knickers, run around buying every high waisted thong I see and hope that if you are walking behind me then you are not checking out my derriere to see what knickers I might be wearing!!

Knickers