Tag Archives: Illness

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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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

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

 

Why I love my stoma……

Ok so the truth is I don’t always love it but most of the time I do. It’s a hard thing to believe, after all who in their right mind could love something that is essentially a bag of poo stuck to their belly? But for me, like a lot of other people it saved my life.

For some people, a stoma comes as a shock, it is the result of a freak accident, a sudden diagnosis of IBD or perhaps cancer. Sometimes (and not in all cases) the stoma is unwanted and incredibly difficult to come to terms with. But I consider myself lucky. My stoma ended years of suffering, illness, fatigue, hospital admissions, strong medications and embarrassing accidents to name a few. Nobody, no matter how sick, would wish or want to have a stoma, wearing a bag is the last chance saloon, something that perhaps you see as a possibility in the future but not something inevitable that will come at you in your prime. The truth is, we never really know what is round the corner or what fate awaits us.

This time 3 years ago, I was very sick, you wouldn’t know as I still worked full time in a stressful and full on job, had a social life and to the outside seemed normal. What people didn’t realize was that I was consumed with a mouth constantly full of ulcers, it hurt to eat even ice cream, I couldn’t even contemplate taking on the day unless I was stuffed with as many painkillers as I could take and just getting through the day would muster every ounce of strength I had. I would plaster a smile on my face, wear my high heels and then cry in secret when I took a painful bite of one of the only things I could bear to eat (banana),only for seconds to pass before an emergency dash to the toilet to expel what little was left inside me. I was constantly starving, I was so hungry I would cry and yet just the smallest morsel would send me into spasms of pain and hours on the toilet. But even then, the thought of a stoma terrified me, in fact I didn’t really know anything about the ‘bag’ (3 years ago there wasn’t the positive publicity we now see) I assumed it would be like a hospital drip where you had to carry it around with you on a pole on wheels!! So when I was told I would be receiving infliximab by the Gastro Doc I was over the moon. Infliximab is so strong and powerful with so many potential side effects that you have to have tests for TB, Hepatitis and a myriad of potential underlying diseases before it will be administered. I was told there would be an 80% chance of not needing surgery. So when days later I was told surgery was my only option I was distraught. How could I wear a bag, it would be awful.

However, by the time the surgeons came to see me I was in so much agony I distinctly remember saying to them “I don’t care just get the f***er out”! Eventually I awoke from Emergency surgery with two bags (one was a mucous fistula, more of that in later posts) but instantly felt better. I was in agony from the op but could tell that my ravaged, poisoned intestine had gone! It was days before I was allowed to eat properly again, which was torture but when I could it was absolute heaven!

So why do I love my stoma?

1) I can eat anything I want without fear of mad loo dashes, except sweetcorn, it’s the devil for me, I love it but it’s a small sacrifice (missing the large intestine means certain foods can be more difficult to digest and can cause issues but it’s all individual).

2) I can exercise again – ok not so much of a love as I don’t really like exercise but there’s no excuses and the sky’s limit if I want!

3) I can wear white and whatever else I like (yes with the aid of some amazing albeit expensive knickers!) but I can still wear those things. I mean who would wear white if the fear of sh*****g yourself was always at the back of your mind?!

4) I can have a relationship, yes you can date with a stoma, it doesn’t seem to put people off. But the best thing is no longer (as happened to me) having a date over for dinner, excusing yourself to use the loo only appearing half hour later, pale and weary! Emptying the bag takes seconds so no embarrassing ‘you’ve been a while’ moments.

5) I don’t have to find a nice toilet to poo in! Obviously nice toilets are a bonus, but it’s not like having a poo, where (especially us ladies) would rather do in private and comfort, but a practical task, that can be done almost anywhere. Oh, and no more waiting until I’m home to poo, nope it’s on the go now!

6) Travelling – I can travel, on planes, trains and automobiles! No worries of being on a plane, feeling an urge to go and yet seeing a dreaded queue. As yet, I have not had to empty on a train toilet and I hope I don’t have to, but I still could, no fear about being stuck in a god-awful train toilet for ages and risk missing my stop! Before travelling I make sure I empty, eat light before hand, take a couple of Imodium and away I go!

7) I am free of medication, fatigue and pain which is just amazing. Ok, so occasionally I don’t chew properly or I eat something that’s difficult to digest and I may get a ‘blockage’ which is painful but manageable yet it’s still better than before.

There are several more reasons but I realize I’ve chatted enough so maybe I’ll leave you wanting more! 😉

But as I said, I am lucky, suffering for so long made me appreciate my stoma. But if anyone is facing a similar situation, it isn’t all bad and you can have fun with it (yep you can, but more on that later!)

So I love my stoma, really for the freedom it gave me and the fact I can now enjoy life – which is really the important thing 🙂

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