Category Archives: Crohn’s

Bollocks to the salad…

Is what I thought a couple of weeks ago when I decided to try and lose a couple of pounds for my impending holiday.

A bit of background, the last couple of months at work have been hectic to say the least, I have probably been away more than I have been at home and have basically been living out of a hotel (does a Travelodge count as a hotel?!) and a suitcase. It’s really, really hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle  when you are away so much, I really do try but sometimes the urge to give into the wine or the chocolate after a long arsed day is too much.

With only a few weeks until my holiday I decided to take action and up the health and fitness regime to shift those additional pounds that crept on. I was still working away lots and before I knew it I had 17 days to go. I can do this I thought, I will just give up everything that is nice and fun and tasty until I go away, it’s easy, I can eat mainly salad and veg and not drink wine for 17 days. I lasted 5 days, (go me!) until my sister text to say they were having Pimms in the garden and I was invited! And then I just thought, bollocks to the salad, I cannot be arsed to keep depriving myself because I am 2-3 pounds heavier than I want to be.

In the few days before the lure of the Pimms, I was miserable, I was hungry and felt tired and cranky. I just couldn’t do it to myself anymore. I’m bored of feeling bad about myself because I had potatoes for dinner or a sandwich instead of a salad for lunch. I am bored of feeling like a rabbit because all I seem to do is crunch bloody crunch all day long. I am tired of exercising iron clad willpower when it comes to not eating a biscuit or a piece of chocolate (I am still waiting for that will power to come to the surface in the face of wine!). I am fed up of trying to haul myself out of bed every morning to spend an hour in the gym and feeling guilty when I don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I live a healthy lifestyle and enjoy doing so, I want to give my body nourishment and strengthen it so it can deal with life’s curve-balls. But I don’t want to live a life of restriction that never includes a chocolate hobnob again.

I do not want to saute my broccoli, I don’t even know what sauteing is – isn’t it just a fancy word for frying?? I don’t want to eat kale and cous cous for lunch or to have to marinade my chicken for 4 hours for it to be tasty. That is why Marks and Spencer exists – so people like me can throw our veg in the microwave. I don’t like avocado and even if I did I wouldn’t want it for breakfast, I don’t want to snack on 5 almonds or take my Tupperware dish everywhere I go. So I said bollocks to it and decided that I would try to feel OK with the little extra padding and be happy instead. And weirdly enough, when  you stop stressing about food and let go a little bit your body rewards you with feeling better. I think my mum describes it perfectly –  I asked her what she had for her dinner one night and she replied with “a shit boring salad, I might just have fish and chips”!! Don’t get me wrong, I am not going to dive head first into a vat of donuts (no matter how much I want to) but I am just going to try and relax a little, maybe try thinking about my body in a positive manner instead of hating it. After all, it kept me alive during the most grueling of times and it now keeps me healthy, so I really ought to be grateful to it.

Tomorrow is the day I go away to sunny Crete and you know what, rather than stressing over my body not being the same as it was when I went away last year, I am going to enjoy the fact that I am able to go on holiday, that I can travel, that I can feel the sun on my face and make more memories with Mike, you know the important stuff. It’s a long process, trying to come to terms with your body, especially when you have an Ostomy, but I am going to really try. I have naturally ordered  champagne for my outward flight tomorrow and I may just raise a glass to my shit boring salad!!

 

Salad 2

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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

Certain events ( and of course the impending New Year) have brought question to my mind about friendships and what they really mean. Some of us have loads of friends, big groups of them, friends for every occasion and in every corner of the globe. Some of us have just one group of friends, friends that were formed at School or University and have stayed with us. And some of us have a few select friends or friend that come and go as life changes.
What matters is not the number of friends you have but the meaning of those friendships. In the days of social media it’s all about ‘friends’, ‘fans’ and ‘followers’ that I think it is easy to forget what true friendship really means. It’s easy to post a status and get ‘100 likes’ or several positive/sympathetic/advising/inquisitive (delete as appropriate) comments that our egos are fed and we feel popular (or unpopular when a status only gets 1 like, if you’re lucky!) But it isn’t necessarily a good thing, who knows if the comments are genuine or for show and we shouldn’t get fooled or measure our worth on social media ‘friends’.
A lot of people agree a true friend is someone you may not see or speak to for months, but when you get together it is like you have never been apart, or you know they would be there for you in an instant if you needed them. My friend Lisa is exactly one of these types of friends. We’ve known each other since we were 2 and have always been friends. I think it is easy to remain friends with people because they have just always been in your life regardless of if they should really be there or not. But Lisa needs to be in my life, I can’t imagine not having her there! We hardly see each other, yet we live round the corner from one another, we are always saying we should catch up, yet neither of us makes the effort! I guess we are both a little lazy and maybe we just take for granted that we will just be there. But I would rather have someone like Lisa in my life than a dozen acquaintances that I didn’t feel secure with. When I was ill in hospital , Lisa was always there, even though we hadn’t seen each other for ages, she helped me clean my teeth when Mike was coming to see me, she brought me jelly babies round when she knew I needed to eat them (I promise that is genuine!) and we gossiped over our love of strong Ribena!
When we were younger, we used to see each other every weekend until we both got bored and said we didn’t want to spend as much time with each other, neither of us got annoyed, we just somehow knew it was needed. Approximately 3 years later, I went on holiday to France with her and parents, even though we hadn’t spent much of the previous years together but it was like we hadn’t been apart!
When you have a debilitating and often invisible illness it can be incredibly isolating, you don’t always tell people you have it and many people just don’t understand. It is not their fault but people cannot understand that you are actually really ill, yet managing to hold down a job and function day to day. They don’t understand when you don’t want to or can’t go out, or that you are not being lazy you just really, really need to sleep. It is also hard to form friendships or even keep them when you are so consumed with ill health, it sometimes seems as though you are being selfish or self-centred but actually it is self-preservation and just trying to get through the days the best way you can.
So for me, having been through what I have been through, the friends I have are more precious to me as they are the ones that have been there with me, have seen the tough days and know what I went through.
They are the girls of the world, like Hayley, who kept my job going for me and has been in my life since, Ivana, who despite losing her own mum in 2010 whilst I was in hospital, never stopped being there for me, endless hospital and home visits to see me & far too many M&S biscuits! Plus not forgetting the girls who I have a great time with (the Butlins babes to name a few!) who completely understand about my ostomy bag and still listen to me talk about it even though they have heard it 1000 times!
Then possibly the most precious of all (apart from Mum of course!) is the lasting friendship I have with my sister. No-one can possibly replace that bond that close sisters have, no-one is ever the same and the best times in life are those spent with her. It would have been very easy not to have made other friendships as at times it felt like we didn’t need anyone else but each other. But those other friendships, whether friends with Leanne first or friends with me first, have just enhanced our times together and given us more precious memories. It’s a bit of a shame as we don’t spend as much time together as we used to and I miss that more than anything. We used to phone & text each other constantly, see each other every weekend and were always out together and that doesn’t happen as much these days and I miss it. But, we both have boyfriends and full time jobs and we live in different towns (this is much worse than you can imagine) so things change, but one thing that will never change is that we will always be best friends.
To me, it doesn’t matter how many friends you have (and I am sorry to the friends I have not mentioned, you are not forgotten) but what those friends mean. It is ok to have friends that you know wouldn’t really be there for you or that you know may not be in your life for ever, but for now they make a good Friday night drinking buddy, or love knitting as much as you do, or can get you a discount at Karen Millen!
But if you have just one or two friends that you genuinely know would drop everything for you and be to you in a heartbeat if your life got turned upside down, then you are richer and more fulfilled than anyone! And I am lucky and blessed because I do have those friends and a bonus friend in my sister and not many people can say they have a bonus friend!

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Spread a little Christmas love………

These past few days of Christmas have got me thinking. These modern days are unfortunately, so full of consumerism and greed, people are queuing for the sales at 5am on Boxing Day and poor retail staff are barely getting a day off to enjoy Christmas. At what point did the material things in life outweigh spending time with loved ones? For those who have lost loved ones, I am sure they would trade all the presents in the world if it meant one more Christmas day with them, so why are we still so fixated on ‘getting a bargain’ rather than personal time? Would we rather spend Christmas day glued to our phones waiting for the next sale item to pop up, before going to bed at 10pm ready to get up at 5am to hit the sales than spend it ‘in the moment’? I know I would rather turn my phone off for the day and enjoy the time with my loved ones, playing silly board games, laughing, having to dive through 3 black sacks of wrapping paper because someone thinks they threw away a gift voucher, not arguing over the best chocolates in the Roses tin (as I am the only one who likes the creams, yay for me!) and deciding who’s turn it is to make the 10th cup of tea of the day. I am not going to deny my love of shopping but I know when to draw the line and when family time is priority. I could harp on for hours on this subject as it makes me so cross that everywhere is consumed with greed, shouldn’t we just incorporate some simple measures back into our lives? Far better to have a lived a life full of love and friendship than be surrounded by gadgets, clothes and a cold heart.

Christmas love

A lot of my Christmases’ were marred by my Ulcerative Colitis, rushing to the toilet in between trying to eat a bit of turkey all whilst plastering a smile on my face for the sake of my family. When you have a debilitating illness, part of it is putting on a front as you don’t want others to know how unwell you really are, partly because you don’t want to worry them or spoil their day but partly because you don’t actually want to believe it yourself.  In 2010 I spent Christmas eve in hospital but luckily wasn’t admitted, in 2011 I was really excited for Christmas as it was 4 months post-op and I knew I would be able to enjoy it. Unfortunately, a hazard of having no large bowel is the risk of blockages, (comes with the territory, especially in the early days, you learn to manage it). A bit of steak on Christmas eve resulted in immense pain and a blockage on Christmas day (my sister had even removed the fibrous parts from the parsnips so I could enjoy them and I never got to eat them!) so off mum and I went to A&E, but I only walked around the car park for a bit as I really didn’t want to go in! Eventually I decided I was well enough but had to spend most of the rest of day sleeping. Christmas 2012 was ok but my 2nd op in early January was looming upon me so played on my mind a bit. Then in 2013 I came down with a dreaded virus, I knew I wasn’t right when a bottle of champagne I opened on Christmas Eve lasted me for hours! I luckily got through Christmas day and just about managed Boxing Day before succumbing and spending 4 days in bed.

Despite all that, I still consider myself incredibly lucky as having no bowel and an ostomy bag has meant I am here to enjoy the time with my family and friends and there are so many people out there who don’t get that opportunity. I am also determined that this Christmas there will be no A&E, no steak, no virus and the champagne will slide down a bit quicker!!

If you are having a hard time this Christmas, for whatever reason, try and take what good you can from it and have faith that things can get better.  And for all of us, put down the phone, spend a bit longer with loved ones, go back to basics, argue over monopoly and the purple sweets and how about giving the sales a miss on boxing day and snuggling up with hot chocolates and silly films instead?

And on that note, all that leaves me to say is, whatever you are doing and wherever you are,  make it a good one and have a very merry Christmas and New Year! x

Snowmen

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

 

When did my ovaries and marital status become public property?

I am an odd human being, you see, I am in my 30’s (been in them a while) and I do not have children and nor am I married and this seems to warrant much bewilderment among, well, everyone. It seems it is very unusual indeed to be this person, I don’t think it is, but the way people act you would think that it is as unusual as an Alien landing on Earth. I have a boyfriend and we live together but it seems this isn’t enough in the world of people. I am sure there are many women out there who can relate to this, but I am ALWAYS being asked, ‘when are you getting married?’, ‘do you want to get married?’, ‘do you think he will propose?’ ‘does he want to get married?’ ‘do you think you will have children’ ‘do you want children’…..you get the picture.

Of course it isn’t just me that suffers with these questions, married women without children are asked the child question, married women with 1 child are asked if they want more children, pregnant women are asked when the next one will be. Men do not have this problem, men talk to men about football and boobs and computers. Have you ever seen a man get into conversation with another man and ask him, ‘so then mate, when you having children?’. I am not saying it doesn’t happen but certainly not as frequently as it does for us women.

It seems that you hit your 30’s (I don’t remember it being a frequent problem in my 20’s) and your ovaries are suddenly everyone else’s business. Why do complete strangers feel it is ok to question my marriage and child preferences? Those who have read my blog or who know me, will know that I am not a secretive person, I am very open, perhaps a bit too much sometimes. I would love to be one of those mysterious types, the sort of person others find intriguing because I am such an unknown entity, but sadly I just like to reveal stuff about myself whether or not people want to know!

I am not saying I am completely innocent, I have probably been guilty of asking women myself in the past, but since I have been the subject of much interrogation I am very aware of it and do not ask unless it seems it is appropriate. Plus, who knows what a woman may be going through, how do you know she isn’t trying for a baby but is having difficulty conceiving, bringing up the subject could cause a great deal of upset and hurt.

But what baffles me the most is people’s incessant desire to know such things, is it because they are a bit stressed with their brood and want you to be too, or are they indescribably happy and want you to have the same happiness, or are they just plain nosy? Whatever it is, it drives me crazy and I don’t know what the fascination is. It just seems that unless you are married with two children over the age of 5 you are not immune to the questioning on marriage and children.

What I will say is that I am not married (or engaged, noooo of course this doesn’t bother me ;)! ), but it also means I am not saving for a wedding and can instead spend my money on shoes, clothes and lovely holidays. I will also say that currently I do not have children which means that I can have lovely lie-ins, I can go on holiday on a whim (I would never do that, I can only cope with planned spontaneity, but I could if I wanted!) I can go out to dinner any day of the week without planning it, instead of buying toys I can buy more shoes and clothes and best of all I can drink my beloved bubbly any day of the week if I want to and if I have a hangover, the day is all mine!

Marriage