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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

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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