Category Archives: Lifestyle

The art of trampolining…..

Well really, I’m not sure there is any, but more on that later! 

So, last year, Mike and I went on our merry way to Kos, so determined was I to be buffed to perfection, confident and gorgeous, I spent the preceding months wearing myself out with gym visits, low carb meals, lots of walking and quite frankly abject misery! We arrived on holiday and I was ‘body confident’, I felt I had achieved what I wanted (for who? No idea on that one!) but spent the 11 days in a bit of a blue mood. It was like I had a heavy feeling in my soul that wouldn’t shift and I didn’t know why. We had it all, swim up room, champagne and extra leg room on the flight, waiter service round our pool, fab meals etc. etc. But the fog didn’t lift. I still had a great holiday but there was something missing.

About 3 months ago I stopped going to the gym, I just couldn’t face it, so thought perhaps I just needed a couple of weeks off, but yeah, I still haven’t gone back! What I have been doing is going to more of my sisters classes , where she invkokes an atmosphere of friendlyness and body positivity. She is encouraging, fun and supportive and all the fab women that attend are like minded – I LOVE IT! So, come rain or shine (and there had been a lot of shine) I have attended and even when it was boiling hot, I saved my refreshing soda (ahem, and vodka) for when I was home! 

The result has been a more confident me, I even ate (shock, horror) carbs and drank (a lot?) of wine and the result are the pics I post! I didn’t think I would feel good without the gym and a low carb diet but sitting by my swim up pool ( this is now non-negotiable 😂) not feeling irritated by people having fun (true story) I realise it because of this;

A support network of women who are all fabulous and have their own battles – an amazing sister who is working tirelessly to build up her business and help women to feel good – exercise I enjoy not just ‘feel I should do’ and the ability to eat ALL the carbs!! Oh yeah and trampolining – almost forgot…..

The most fun I’ve ever had whilst exercising – BOUNCEFIT – jumping on mini trampolines to fun music 🎶 doesn’t feel like work and yet it has kept me in good shape! Give it a go, have fun, be positive and feel the support 🙂 btw there is no art to it, just have to have fun!! 

Xx

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Hiking through nature with a Lidl carrier bag……

Yes that truly happened but before I get to that… 

Last week, Mike and I had a lovely week in Crete, same place we went last year so we knew what to expect. We booked another swim up room as I have decided I can’t possibly do public poolside again as it’s much better for my ostomy 😉 

There is a trip called the Samaria Gorge which we wanted to do last year but for one reason or another never made it. So, to ensure we did it this year we pre-booked before we went. It’s basically a 16km trek down a steep gorge but with the best views nature has to offer. It’s a long old day, but well worth it. You don’t need special walking gear, trainers will suffice and a bag to carry a few essentials. 


We decided one rucksack between us would be enough, we didn’t need much, a couple of towels for the swim in the sea at the end, suncream, plasters (a change of bag kit for me) plus a few other essentials I can’t go without (lipgloss, kindle, etc.!). We decided to order a packed lunch each from reception and expected a sandwich, piece of fruit and bottle of water each, what we actually got was a lot more and two large paper bags! So we decided to keep this in a lidl carrier bag!


Now you may be wondering why we happened to have a Lidl carrier bag in Crete? Well, the all inclusive package doesn’t serve sparkling wine (I know, it’s a shocking state of affairs) but there is a fridge in the room and a Lidl down the road. So a little daily walk ensued to Lidl to purchase some bubbly for me to sip poolside. Of course we had to purchase a carrier bag for my bottles. 

So back to the hike, we’re all prepared with our rucksack, dressed in shorts, vests and trainers and up at 5.30am to catch the coach at 6am. We board the coach and there are the obligatory stops to pick up other keen explorers. At one stop, a man and his wife got on and Mike said to me – ooh we’ve got a professional. So there’s this man with his hiking boots, fancy rucksack and walking poles and there’s us with our Lidl carrier bag! All I kept saying was “we can’t go hiking in the Samaria Gorge with a Lidl carrier bag!” 


After a bit of kerfuffle at the stop prior to the gorge due to some confusion over the money paid we were a bit delayed getting off, meanwhile, Mr Pro keeps shaking his head, obviously so keen is he to get off and be first to finish (so eager he didn’t even wait for his wife when we did eventually get going). We were dropped off at the top of the gorge ready for a very steep descent down a narrow and rocky pathway and in true Brit fashion, a few of us are moaning about the delay rather than admiring the scenery. I, however, as Mike had the rucksack, had the Lidl carrier bag and kept denouncing that ‘I can’t possibly hike with a Lidl carrier bag! (A few fellow hikers did find this rather amusing). “It’s slowing me down”,I proclaimed,”I’ll be quicker if we can get rid of it”. Mike thinks it was about 1km in, I am convinced it was more like 2km, when we stopped to eat a few supplies and tie the bag to the rucksack. As it happens, I didn’t speed up but it was a relief to not be hiking with that Lidl carrier bag anymore – now it was Mike’s responsibility. 


So we trekked through beautiful scenery, it really was breath taking and I would highly recommend it. It’s definitely tough, navigating streams, rocks, boulders and narrow pathways (and very questionable toilets) but well worth it. The whole of this trek done with a Lidl carrier bag tied to our rucksack. 


Finally, after about 5.5 hours we reached the end, full of euphoria, not because we’d finished but because we were finally able to store the Lidl carrier bag INSIDE the rucksack! 


Looking forward to a swim, we stopped for a bite to eat first (and a glass of wine of course) and went down to the beach. But the wind got up so it was a bit too chilly for a swim, so the towels we packed that took up room (hence the Lidl carrier bag) weren’t used, except they did come in handy when rather windswept we got onto the boat that was to take us to our coach and we deployed them as blankets. 


I would definitely recommend the Gorge if you’re ever in Crete and if you do it, maybe stow away a Lidl carrier bag just in case…….. 

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

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

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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