Tag Archives: Bowel Cancer

Fitness – a journey

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

London Marathon

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

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

early gym

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Oops! 

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Then and now…..

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

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

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

Pre_bag (during my Ulcerative Colitis days and before 2011)

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

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

(A few pics of me now)

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

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

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

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

 

Cheers!

Life change

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

Did you say poo??

I was at the Brighton Marathon on Sunday, nope not running it, just the thought of that makes me feel a little bit sick, but supporting the runners that were running for Beating Bowel Cancer. Brighton is one of the areas I cover so it was nice for me to go along and cheer the runners on as they pushed themselves along the gruelling 26 mile course. I am full of admiration for Marathon runners, it takes so much dedication and training and must be, quite frankly, exhausting. My mum volunteered to come and support the charity as well so it was great to have her there. One of my friends took part (she is also doing the London one as well – crazy!) and she waved at us as she came by at the halfway point – she looked fresh as a daisy, how?? If that was me I’d be crawling by that point, I won’t even look like that halfway through my 10K! In fact my goal, other than completing the course is not to throw up at the finish line as I did when I took part in a 5K many years ago! The Marathon had a fantastic atmosphere and I was glad to be a part of it in some way and it’s great that people are running for us at Beating Bowel Cancer.

Bowel Cancer is the UK’s 2nd biggest cancer killer and yet it’s a cancer that still does not get the exposure it should. People are still too embarrassed to talk about their bowels and yet they shouldn’t be – early diagnosis is the key to saving lives. I can totally relate to the embarrassment factor but once you poo into a bag attached to your stomach it’s suddenly not so embarrassing anymore! This month is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and at work we have a #LiftTheLid campaign which is to get people talking and raising awareness of symptoms http://www.beatingbowelcancer.org/liftthelid. I hope I can encourage people to talk about their poo and bums and help people to realise it’s not so bad.

Yesterday I was at Channel Radio on Who Cares Wins radio show talking about the Charity and our work, the presenters were really supportive and it was a great opportunity to promote Beating Bowel Cancer. I also love a microphone so any excuse to talk into one! But if you fancy a listen then you have until Monday http://www.channelradio.co.uk/listen-again-Monday/ and pick the Who Cares Wins section.

I have always said that when you go to hospital you leave your dignity at the front door and if you are lucky you pick it up on the way out! When I was admitted in 2011 (before op) I was given a side room for a couple of days. Anyone who has been in hospital will also know that the doctors do their rounds once a day and you don’t want to miss them, it’s your only chance to discuss your illness and treatment. So in a side room you only need to be in the loo to miss the rounds, I was often in the toilet due to the nature of my illness, and on one occasion I heard the doctors come in – so I shouted “please wait, I won’t be long”, I exited the toilet to be greeted by three very good looking junior doctors! Oh the shame, I couldn’t believe it, I was stood there in my moo cow pyjamas knowing these doctors knew I’d been for a poo! But I got over it – you have to, and have never been embarrassed since, even when Dr McDreamy (as my sister referred to him) had to question me on the frequency of my stool movements! So you see, it’s not so bad! So talk about your poo, read up on the symptoms, listen to your body and get checked out if you are not sure.

Oh and if you want to encourage my little 10K then text SHER78 £5 to 70070 and not only will it give me a boost it will also pay for a ‘Just Diagnosed’ information pack to go out to a worried bowel cancer patient.

Poo