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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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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

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

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

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

The running bug hasn’t quite caught me yet..

I am participating in my second 10k event this Sunday, which isn’t bad for someone, who until this year, had barely taken a brisk walk, let alone a run. However, I did it (just check out my previous blogs) and I have decided to do another one. This time it is Run to the Beat in Wembley, apparently there is a hill in the route, I was rather banking on a flat course as, let’s face it, it is much less traumatic to have a continuous flat path.

I am in nowhere near as good shape as I was back in May and have let the running slide somewhat. After getting back from holiday in June, I spent weeks thinking about getting back to it but decided a cold glass of bubbly in the garden was a much more inviting idea. So I signed up for another 10k to get me motivated again. Everyone says that you get the running bug, especially after your first event, so why I am still waiting to catch it? So, I have also signed up to a local 10K at the start of November, I figure having another one to do will keep me out running and prevent me from lazing on the sofa. It will be 3 in total this year which is a great achievement for me. Mike is also running both of these too but he is much more motivated and sporty than me.

You may think that I must have caught the running bug to have signed up to a further two 10K’s but I really haven’t. I don’t particularly enjoy running and I am not really that good at it, so why am I doing it? I think I am still hoping I may catch that elusive bug, but it also goes hand in hand with my continuous diet and desire to lose weight. Even though I dislike it and I pant and puff my way around and want to stop at every moment, I do feel good when I’ve done it, I like the achievement of having improved my time or had a run that didn’t feel like I was going to die at every moment. Sometimes, it’s just enough to know I have overtaken the walking people.

For now, I will aim to my complete my next 10k as fast as I can (hills pending) and will let you know how I get on and if the running bug manages to catch me.

Running

 

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