Tag Archives: Stoma

The dating game………..Part 1

The dating game is a tricky one and especially hard when you have something that makes you feel ‘less normal’, like an ostomy bag. I see quite often people asking the question about dating and when is it right to tell someone you have a bag or are suffering with an IBD such as Colitis or Crohns. The truth is that there is no right time, it is all down to individual circumstances and what feels okay for you.

I really won’t recount all of my dating stories as it may take an age and whilst I love to tell them, I am not sure my boyfriend Mike will want to read it in all its detail! Whatever our situation, we all have the horror dating stories and have all been through the mill when single but who would be without them? They are great to recount over a glass of wine with the girls, they hold funny memories and also make you realise what you don’t want out of a relationship! For example, there was the guy I dated who was a bit like eeyore, his chat wasn’t exactly lively and everything had a bit of a depressing tone to it, apparently he had a great time though as he wanted to see me again – I dread to think what he would’ve been like on a down day! Then the time I went on a date with a guy who worked at the gym I attended, after I told him I didn’t see the relationship progressing, he never spoke to me again – bit awkward when I would bump into him there, I thought I was taking the mature approach. Then there are the dates that should never turn into second dates but somehow do as you find yourself agreeing to it and then running out of excuses to use! I think my worst date was with a guy who was ever so persistent so I thought I would give him the benefit of the doubt and go out with him. Oh, it was awful, he was so boring and I really had no interest in him, as we were stood chatting I was practically sitting in the plant pot to get away from him. To get out of the date I said I was meeting my parents in a bar, he didn’t mind, he came with me (why??) so eventually I told him I had to meet friends at a different bar, this was so I could go home without him realising, however, said bar was in opposite direction to my home and he watched me go so I had to walk down to the pub anyway all by myself!

dates

So anyway, I digress but as you can see there have been some bad dates but there have also been some great ones along the way! But when it came to relationships (pre-Ostomy), telling them about my colitis was never something that featured, after all it was part of me but it didn’t define me and I saw no reason to tell them in the early stages. Sometimes I would be forced into it, such as being hospitalized 3 months into a relationship, kind of forces your hand a bit! As anyone with an IBD will know, mornings are the worst – it is like an explosion, anyone outside your bathroom may think there was a thunderstorm going on whilst trumpets play! It is horrendous. So trying to deal with that in a new relationship is awful, us girls do not like our men to think we use the toilet at the start of relationships, even going for a wee can be difficult, after all, what if they hear us and realise we are humans and not the non-toilet goddesses we have portrayed? Don’t even get me started on blowing my nose too! Having a poo is something we certainly don’t do in a new relationship, we will wait until we get home, or perhaps use a pub toilet if desperate (public places aren’t great but better than the boyfriends house) and as we exit, having been longer than may be appropriate for just a wee, we can use the excuse that we were on the phone! Men do not have this problem, someone I know (no names, she knows who she is) had a boyfriend, who gaily went off the toilet, newspaper in hand, and this was at the start of the relationship!! Bet men don’t agonise about when and where to go – they just go, and some are proud of the fact!

So, this situation is 100 times worse when you have IBD, there is no holding it in, no waiting until you get home, you need to go and you need to go now or there will be blood on the floor (and sometimes more).I have been in a relationship where there the toilet and bathroom are one room, this is the best situation – you can turn on the shower, poo in peace, safe in the knowledge he will be thinking you just have really long showers (actually, I am not sure a man would sit there and think about that), or run the tap if you have already showered to disguise any noise. Sometimes it just becomes easier to tell a person you have this condition and what can happen, it’s an embarrassing tale to tell as we are all a bit shy when it comes to talk of poo but it makes it easier for yourself in the long run.

I have a wonderful boyfriend called Mike, he is handsome, kind, loving and all other sorts of nice things and we have been together just over 3 years. Three years ago was my worst ever flare that led to my month long hospital stay which ended in my emergency surgery and my bag. I didn’t tell Mike about my Colitis until date 3, (dates 1 & 2 consisted of me barely eating and just praying that my intestines behaved). Mike mentioned about staying the night at some point, but given that I was in an awful flare I just couldn’t bear the thought of staying over at someone’s house. I decided to be honest with him rather than try and make excuses as to why sleepovers (separate bedrooms of course) were out of the question for the foreseeable future. It was a good job I did as a week later I was really, really ill and my whole nightmare began. We had a few dates in hospital, obviously I am such hot stuff in my moo cow pyjamas, attached to a drip or two with ever shrinking boobs and sticky up hair that Mike just couldn’t resist the lure of seeing me 😉 But as is to be expected, starting and maintaining a relationship whilst in hospital/recovering is difficult, so we kept in touch but nothing really happened for a couple of months.
So I was left in a situation of being ‘back on the market’ but now I had an ostomy bag to contend with, I also wasn’t sure if things were finished with Mike and I as I still felt it had potential, and I was sure once he saw me out of my pyjamas he might realise I was much better! I wasn’t going to stop myself from maybe meeting someone else but I also wanted to decide how I felt about things with Mike so I needed to give myself time. After a period of recovery, I was ready to hit the town again and so my sister and I would get glammed up and off we’d go. Then there came a point where Mike and I were seeing each other, but it was all very casual, you could say it was ‘complicated’ as Facebook would refer to it. I didn’t want to be unfaithful but then again didn’t know if I had anything to be unfaithful about. Honestly, life is far easier if you’re just honest and ask questions, but why would we be truthful and open when we can weave a complicated scenario for ourselves?! Anyway, back to dating, men may have chatted me up or made advances, shall we say, and this is going to sound awful but I would tell them I had an Ostomy bag thinking it would put them off and you know what – not once did it ever put a guy off, in fact the response would usually be ‘it doesn’t matter’ or ‘oh, so how does that work then?’, definitely not the responses I was expecting and so different avoidance tactics had to be employed!

I am not saying that some people wouldn’t be put off by it, I have not experienced that, and of course, if they were they weren’t worth it in the first place but it is not something you should worry about hiding. Don’t let it define you, have a date or two before telling them, but if it happened to come up naturally earlier on, then fine. It is whatever you are comfortable with. It’s a scary thought; after all, there is a natural feeling of thinking you could be setting yourself up for rejection, but better to find out early on. If someone is put off by it, it is a reflection on them not you, and that is true with dating anyone, illness or not. Mike has never really known me without the bag and it doesn’t bother him one bit, we are both used to it now.

And if I was single I would still go out with as much determination and gusto as before, the bag wouldn’t stop me at all, it hasn’t stopped me in any other area so why that one? Whatever your situation, if you are single, embrace it, enjoy it – even the bad dates, take them as experience, something to giggle about, but know that you are fabulous and someone else will think so too. And really, be honest, tell them you’re not interested even if they end up never talking to you again – it’s easier in the long run!

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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

This seasons must have accessory……

I can confirm that this seasons must have accessory is……an Ostomy bag!! Ok so maybe we’re not quite ‘there’ yet but Ostomy’s are really on the radar at the moment and so they should be. I have always spoken of my desire to raise awareness and reduce stigma and lately this is happening in droves. All thanks to some very brave ladies posting pictures of themselves in bikinis with their Ostomies on display, one has even become an internet sensation.

It’s all great news and every time I click onto Facebook I see another picture of a proud wearer of an Ostomy bag, to the point where I feel it is almost becoming ‘normal’. Perhaps I see it as I am a member of many Ostomy related forums and so it is more prominent, but I do really think that it is becoming a little bit fashionable! (Dare I say that?!) Soon enough everyone will want one, they will become the ultimate accessory, fashion magazines will feature them and those who don’t have them will be a teeny bit jealous.

Ok, so I am exaggerating but it certainly feels as though society is becoming more geared up to the fact that many young people have an Ostomy. It is all just fantastic. And should you be a person (young, old or middle aged) facing an Ostomy then isn’t it great to see so much positivity and realise that life isn’t over because you have one. I said before, when I was facing my operation to have an Ostomy, there was none of this publicity and I know it would have made me feel better if I had seen it.

So it’s all good news, however, when I started this blog it wasn’t going to be totally focused around my Ostomy, (there are plenty of very good ones out there for that) the intention was to talk about life in general so that hopefully everyone could relate to it some way and maybe I could take reassurance that as a 30 something year old woman, I wasn’t the only one doing what I do!

So I will be blogging again in the next couple of days, this blog will be about knickers among other things (I hope this subject will intrigue you and draw you back!)But for now I just wanted everyone to know that I, not Vogue, had said it first, what this Season’s must have accessory is!!

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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Ostomy’s go viral – let’s keep it going

Yesterday was a big day for Ostomates and IBD’ers which is great news and all thanks to a couple of lovely young women. BBC Breakfast did an interview with Rachel Flint (http://adventuresofthebaglady.wordpress.com/) about life with Crohn’s and the fatigue it causes, Rachel spoke openly about her Stoma and how it changed her life for the better, a very positive view on something lots of people see as negative. Unfortunately, the interview was marred by a consultant inferring that Crohn’s is caused by a poor diet (but more of that later). This ‘surprise’ element of the interview was handled very well by Rachel and David from Crohn’s and Colitis Uk http://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/ However, overall Rachel gave a positive view of living with a stoma and at least IBD was brought to the forefront and about time. Rachel’s story and her feedback on the diet issue went viral with so many shares and likes and others offering their experience.

The second positive story of the day was a young woman called Vicky who posted a picture of herself sunbathing on the beach in a bikini with her ostomy bag on full display – good for her and to date the picture has generated over 200,000 likes and goodness knows how many shares but it is more good news for Ostomates. And well done to brave Vicky who also happens to have an amazing body! So all in all a positive day of showing Stoma’s in a positive light and maybe giving hope to others who may be facing life with a stoma for whatever reason.

It has also raised awareness of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and hopefully the general public are now more aware of the effects of these types of diseases. Unfortunately I feel that Ulcerative Colitis has become the poor relation, it doesn’t get as much press as Crohn’s and seems to get brushed under the carpet at times. Of course, with Crohn’s getting press other IBD’s will naturally also get an upsurge in awareness but it is a shame that UC isn’t discussed as much as Crohn’s – but still, it’s all baby steps and it’s still good publicity. The difference between Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis is the amount of digestive tract that it affects. UC affects the large intestine (right down to the rectum and anus) whereas Crohn’s affects the whole digestive tract (throat, mouth, stomach, small and large intestine etc.). However, both diseases are debilitating, excruciating and embarrassing.

I mentioned the inference that diet could cause IBD and I would just like to say (as many others have) that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to back this up. Many people with IBD have led a healthy life, I grew up on homemade dinners, we didn’t have takeaways and I was an active child. I had symptoms from the age of 16 and yet it took 10 years for me to get a diagnosis, by this point my intestines were so ravaged that the disease was only going to get worse. The problem in my opinion, is not diet related but lack of early diagnosis. Perhaps if doctors would take our symptoms seriously and not send us away with a diagnosis of piles or Irritable Bowel Syndrome we may get help sooner. If my diagnosis was made earlier on then I would have got medication sooner and maybe my large intestine would have stood a fighting chance and maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t be living with a permanent ostomy. This does not make me bitter, I am still glad I have my Stoma, it has changed my life for the better and I am no longer chained to a toilet. But for a medical professional to insinuate we have brought these diseases on ourselves with a poor diet, is quite frankly insulting. Of course diet affects us and our bodies, we should have a healthy balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and veg and the treats limited but we shouldn’t be made to feel that the odd trip to a fast food restaurant caused us to have a debilitating condition. IBD is an Auto-Immune Disorder, this means the body turns on itself and attacks healthy tissue, there is yet to be more research done to know what does cause it.

So all in all, despite the ‘diet’ issue, yesterday was a great day for people with IBD and stomas and I want to keep that going, let’s share the blogs, the pictures and the posts. Let’s quell the idea that stomas are for old people (I used to think this too, I used to joke about having a bag when I was older because of my UC) and let’s give hope to people facing having to have one, it’s not just people with IBD but people with Bowel Cancer may face a stoma too.

And you know what, you can wear whatever the hell you like, as those who follow me and read my blog know, I have never been shy about sharing the fact I wear a bag and often like to show people! The only reason I don’t share so many bikini pics is not because I am ashamed of my bag but because I am no supermodel, I don’t have a rocking bod, and no matter how much I work out and eat well I still feel I could be a good half a stone lighter (and I certainly look nowhere near as good as the beautiful Vicky). But my body got me through a tough time and I try to be proud of it but when faced with pictures on an hourly basis of people with amazing bodies it is hard not to have a negative body image (ironic that it’s my figure that bothers me not the stoma!) But as I bleat on about raising awareness and being proud of what you have then I should practice what I preach and show you what I have! Sherrill Bikini

Hooray, hooray it’s a happy holiday……

So I am off on holiday, I am very excited as hopefully you will remember from my previous posts how much I love holidays!

But before I talk about this I must first celebrate my success! Yes, I did it, I completed the Bupa 10K run in London on Sunday! I was so chuffed, I got round in 1 hour 8 minutes which was ok for my first one, I also managed to run the whole thing (no walking!) although I did have to stop 500 metres from the finish line to throw up a little bit – but I carried on and made it through! I also cried when I got to the Marquee where all the others were, I could feel myself welling up as I crossed the finish line but I held it back until I saw Mike and the Beating Bowel Cancer team! It doesn’t take much for me to cry at the best of times but I think this was just such a huge mental achievement after the last few years that all the emotion came out! In April last year I was sat in the Surgeons office and I was given the all clear, but I was also feeling fat and unfit and never dreamed I could run 1km let alone 10km – so I am really proud and showing everyone who is facing something similar that you can overcome your obstacles! Everyone was so generous and supportive, we managed to raise £1010 in sponsorship money for Beating Bowel Cancer which is amazing and will really help to raise awareness and save lives. Thank you to everyone who has sponsored or supported us.

Once the run was over it was time to get into holiday mode, starting with a celebratory bottle (or 2!) of champagne that afternoon/evening and then on the Monday, Mike and I had a lovely two hour spa experience booked complete with full body massage, it was bliss and well needed. I nearly didn’t make it due to the champagne hangover but I soldiered on. A lot of people with Stoma’s worry about things like swimming and spas but really it is ok and no-one needs to know you have it.  Massages are fine and just the same as before and as for swimming and the spa – well those gorgeous high waisted bikinis come in handy again (I still can’t stop buying them).  I have to say, that I think my sister may have needed the spa more having just completed a 100km walk (yes you read that right, 100km!) with her boyfriend that weekend. They did theirs for National Rheumatoid Arthritis Association as Leanne has Rheumatoid Arthritis unfortunately, so hats off to both them but especially my fabulous sis who also has her own battles to overcome. So we have both done our bit for charity, and if you notice a gorgeous blonde walking wonky alongside a limping man then you know it is only Leanne & her boyfriend still recovering from their walk!

I really should have blogged twice these past couple of weeks as so much has been going on but it’s also been difficult trying to fit it all in (I am BZ remember?!) so I will try not to talk for pages and pages but I have a glass of bubbly in hand as I type (I am officially on holiday) so I may chat lots.

So, back to the holiday – woo hoo, I am off to Turkey tomorrow for two whole weeks with Mike, I cannot wait, it has come at exactly the right time too, after the run and with lots of great stuff happening at work, it is really time to chill and recharge. We are going all inclusive and to a hotel with lots of entertainment. We both love it, you’ve got to have a bit of the ‘Benidorm’ on holiday and evening bingo and stage shows are where it’s at 😉 We also love the daytime activities, well Mike does, the activity I like is choosing which cocktail to have and turning over on my sun lounger. Mike joins in everything, so we don’t see much of each other during the day, we reconvene at lunch and when I am demanding a drink from the bar but we both have fun! We are both very similar on holiday and like pretty much the same stuff which is great, makes it much easier. I have had a boyfriend before who liked to do ‘trips’, I can’t think of anything worse than being stuck on a coach for the best part of a sunny day trying to find culture in Mallorca, so when forced to compromise (it’s good for relationships apparently) I am not the happiest – cue arguments and tantrums. So to have a relationship where we both enjoy the same is great.

A quick bit on holidays with a stoma – you can still go on holiday and enjoy it the same and do all the same activities you would as before, I find my stoma behaves on holiday (i.e. not too active, knows when to be quiet), I don’t know if this is because of the heat, being relaxed or a combination, but because of this I feel it is my destiny to holiday as a full time job! The only difference with holidaying with a stoma is the amount of supplies you have to take. You must make sure you have absolutely enough of everything and extras ‘just in case’ and take it all in hand luggage in case your suitcase goes missing. The advantage to this however, is being able to have extra hand luggage allowance due to a medical condition so I am able to use my carry on to stash a few extra clothes too! Of course I am also being cautious, making sure I have something to change into in case of a leak but it is also handy to stash a few bits to get me through a couple of days, so in the terrifying event my case goes missing I don’t have to parade around in an ‘I love Turkey’ T-shirt and a Speedo swimsuit!

What I would like to know is if there is anyone out there who has actually mastered the art of packing light? We all read about it in magazines and how one sarong can magically be dressed three ways (although why would I wear my sarong round the pool then drape it artfully around my neck come the evening, I would be so paranoid a boob would pop out) and how you only need a white shirt and a pair of shorts and you have a weeks worth of outfits, but has anyone actually done this? Isn’t part of the ritual of going on holiday to take too many clothes and shoes in the event we may just want to wear it and to come home having worn barely half, saying ‘I took too much, I can definitely pack light next year’……

So I am signing off, ready for the stress of the outward journey, only to relax once through customs with a Duty Free carrier bag full of purchases I don’t need and a glass of bubbly in hand as I am ‘officially on holiday, again’ (besides there are no time zones at airports or on planes so bottoms up!).

See you in a couple of weeks all! J

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Holiday Blues

I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since my last blog, where does the time go? But I have been a little busy, mainly with running in prep for my Bupa 10K next weekend but also with a girl’s weekend away.

I love holidays, they are my favourite thing in the world, even a little one night break counts as a holiday in my book, in fact I might not bother working if it wasn’t for the fact I need to pay for holidays! 😉 When I was ill I didn’t get a holiday for a couple of years, not even a mini-break, well that’s a lie – I did get two summer breaks courtesy of the NHS, even food was included! My sister and I also had a ‘staycation’ too which was amazing and sort of counts as a holiday, despite being on home turf. Holidays with a Stoma can be a cause of concern for some people, but I can tell you that it is absolutely no problem, in fact everything happens the same, you just have to remember to pack enough supplies and then spares and then spares for the spares…..but it’s all good. I will talk more about holidays and the Stoma but that is for another day.

So, back to the holidays, yes I love them but I also get horrific, indescribable, miserable post-holiday blues. I always have done, right from my first holiday abroad with my best friend Lisa, we went to Corfu, I fell in ‘love’ with a Greek barman (has to be done) and decided that I would go back out there to work the following season, I didn’t, we went on holiday to Turkey instead and I fell in ‘love’ with the Turkish entertainer! Upon arriving home, our mum’s were eagerly (that’s mine and Lisa’s, not the Turkish entertainer’s) waiting our arrival and I burst into tears stating I didn’t want to come home. Eventually I decided I couldn’t keep getting the blues like this so did a season abroad for Thomson as an entertainer, my summer of 1999 was spent in Cyprus – where you guessed it, I fell in love with the Cypriot porter!! Coming home this time was even worse, Lisa and her mum picked me up from the airport at the end of season and all I did was cry all the way home, mind you it didn’t help that Lisa had picked up a CD for the Journey called ‘Best Movie Power Ballads’ (or something like that). You get the picture, I go on holiday, fall in ‘love’ with a local and then get the blues. Fortunately, my last few holidays have been with Mike, so there has been no falling in love (much to his relief), except for maybe with my own reflection in the shiny cocktail glass!

I mentioned a girls weekend, well the weekend just gone, myself, my sister Leanne and 3 of our friends (Vicky, Lisa, Jo and Kelly, they all deserve a mention) all went to Butlins. And I don’t mean Butlins of the ‘take your kids for a family holiday’ variety, I am talking the adults weekender. This one was an 80’s themed affair, we went in September for a 90’s style one (S Club Party anyone?) and it was so good we had to instantly book for our next one. The weekend is just so much fun, responsibilities are left on your doorstep and all that ensues is 3 days of fun, alcohol, dancing and dressing up. We dressed up every night in something different, the Sunday we did pyjamas, all I can say is it is very liberating & very comfortable to go out in pyjamas and your feet appreciate the slippers! So it’s a great weekend, with a pool party, a fun fair and lots of great girlie times. My sister is amazing at organising girls nights and weekends and she had got us personalised totes made with lots of goodies and t-shirts inside plus loads of games to play before our nights out, so there wasn’t an unfilled moment in the whole weekend!

summer-holidays

Weekends like this would have been a worry for me with my illness, but now with a Stoma it is easy. Everyone knows I have one (and probably a few people at Butlins now know!) so I don’t have to worry about sharing rooms or anything, and I can wear anything I like and go swimming and enjoy myself and generally have a good time. So a Stoma isn’t so bad.

You can probably guess that I am now suffering with the post-holiday blues or post-Butlins blues, we all are, we’ve had so much fun and then it’s back to reality. We all want to go again, we keep saying this time last week…..we all want to go to the pool party, we don’t want to be at home and working when we could be having so much fun! Still, it is not so bad for me as I go on holiday again in two weeks, I can’t wait. I won’t be falling in love with any locals but I can guarantee I will have a severe case of the blues upon return and may be a nightmare to live with.

Still I guess I will just have to book the next Butlins weekend to give me (and the girls) something to look forward to!

By the way, if you fancy sponsoring my 10K you can do so here! 🙂 http://www.justgiving.com/Sherrill-Hawker

Sad cat

 

Running, tantrums and bumbags….

So, it is now less than 4 weeks until my Bupa 10k – eeek, how did that come round so quickly? I am very nearly at 10K, my last ‘long’ run was 8.87km so I am getting there. I have upped the training, courtesy of a company called Fitness Fondue, they gave me a great training plan and it has really helped so I am feeling positive. The last time I ran was 6 years ago when I took part in a Race for Life 5K, I completed the course and promptly threw up at the finish line! My goal with the 10k is, NOT to be sick! As I have mentioned, Mike is also doing the run, however, he wants to achieve his own time goal so won’t be running be with me on the day. He has been out on two long runs with me recently, which has helped massively, it has definitely increased my speed and distance, but what is a hard run for me is an easy one for him! I have said I don’t like running with him but I discovered it was actually ok, until Sunday when we went running and ended up having a little argument as we neared our finish line….First of all he clapped me!!!! Why is this so bad?? I don’t want to be clapped at mid run!! Then he told me not to get out my phone, I shouted at him, dropped my phone and then swore at him! Poor Mike, only trying to be supportive and I have a little tantrum at the end! So it is probably a good job we are not running together on the day – it probably wouldn’t look too good if I stamped my feet mid-way! I have also come up with a practical solution to store items when I run, obviously the weather is getting hotter & my clothing doesn’t have pockets. I like to take my phone for music, a tissue (just in case), my lip gloss (not for vanity, I don’t like dry lips & well, I love lip gloss), £2 (for emergencies) and my key. This amazing, lightweight, practical item is a bum bag!! Yes, a bum bag, all the way from the 80’s. It’s from B&M Bargains and was only £1 – assorted colours too. I have one in pink and one in red. I am seriously rocking this bum bag and have even started wearing it to the gym – I am not even ashamed. In fact, my friends are all asking me to get them one – it may be tricky, those babies are flying off the shelves! It did make me wonder though, at what point in life do we stop caring what people think and do what pleases us, it’s a much happier way to be, or have I just got to the point when practical is overriding glamour??? (This cannot be happening, I will always prioritise high heels). It’s all a bit of a turn around as roughly this time least year, I was sat in my surgeons office and getting the sign off (yay) but crying because I disliked my body (operations do that to you, funnily, the stoma bag was never an issue) thinking I would never get fit or lose the bit of weight I had gained whilst at home recovering. Now 1 year on I am running a 10K and almost enjoying it. You really never know what is round the corner and when life feels hard or you are despairing, just remember, a year can change everything. And for those who may be facing a similar journey, it turns out you really can run, hop, skip and jump with an Ostomy (if the desire takes you)! If you do fancy sponsoring Mike and I and helping a great cause in the meantime then you can do so here  http://www.justgiving.com/Sherrill-Hawker 🙂 bumbag

But you don’t look disabled……

This is what I am sure many people think when they see me go into a disabled toilet, especially when I use my RADAR key. I am sure people think that I am just trying to skip the queue when I hop into an empty disabled toilet, but this really isn’t the case. I don’t overly care what people think but I guess there is a small part of us all that doesn’t want people to think we are ignorant morons! And by that, I mean I would never park in a disabled bay and if I did I am sure people would secretly tut tut at me for doing so and so I suppose I don’t want people thinking that of me when I use a disabled loo. You see, I have an Ostomy, which means I wear a stoma bag which is attached to my stomach to collect waste from my small intestine. I had a debilitating bowel disease called Ulcerative Colitis which got so bad that I had to have emergency surgery to remove my large bowel. I don’t look disabled, there is nothing you can see by looking at me that would indicate my need for disabled facilities, I am not in a wheelchair, I don’t have any missing limbs, I am young and look fit. But what you don’t see is my stoma bag I wear beneath my clothes, the bag that fills up gradually over the day, the bag that needs emptying regularly, the bag, that if not emptied will burst and I will end up covered in poo. No-one knows you wear a stoma bag, it is impossible to tell, they are surprisingly discreet, but it is something we have no control over, we can’t tell it not to fill up, we can’t hold on to it until it is more convenient. So when the need arises to empty, I personally prefer to do it in slightly more private surroundings. Like any poo, it smells, but unlike (and I know this may be a bit TMI!) people with large intestines, it is more acidic, more raw, it hasn’t gone through the usual bodily processes. So it’s nice to have some privacy and not feel paranoid about the smell. Now, I generally don’t care what people think, I am not going to see them again, and when I have to use a ‘normal’ toilet I have deodorising sprays and perfume which helps, but I still like the privacy. There are also times in which I may need to change my bag, it is rare, as once done at home I tend to be ok for the day but every now and then, the inconvenient leak happens which requires a change of bag. Can you imagine trying to manoeuvre yourself in the smallest cubicle known to man, having to deal with changing a bag and all the paraphernalia that goes with it, plus the need for access to water? Unfortunately, people assume that to use a disabled toilet you must look disabled, what people don’t realise is that there are people like myself who need use of a disabled loo. I think the worse thing for me is when I may go to a busy bar or club on a weekend. It fills me with dread that I may need to use a ‘normal’ toilet to empty, as I have said, I am not ashamed, but on a busy weekend, where alcohol is involved, people are unforgiving and not backward about coming forward if they think the cubicle smells. It’s a horrible experience and one I try to deal with as best I can, I just get on with it, but it is these times especially that I prefer a disabled loo. But you know what? In a busy bar or club the disabled toilet tends to be locked and only a member of staff can open them (they often don’t use the RADAR key system).  This means that I have to find a member of staff to open it for me and then I am having to explain why I need to use it when they tell me it is for disabled people only!! I could name and shame but I won’t, but the point is that I don’t want to have to explain myself to anyone, why should I? I understand that they are worried about drugs but why should those of us that don’t look disabled need to explain our reasons? Fortunately (well the majority of the time) it isn’t an ‘emergency situation’, when I had Ulcerative Colitis (which basically means you have barely any control over your bowels) if I had to stop to ask for a key or try to find a member of staff then I may have sh** myself there and then!! So, I guess what I am trying to say is don’t judge those who don’t look disabled but need to use a disabled toilet, bars & clubs listen up and do something about your locked disabled loo situation so those like me, don’t have to explain ourselves and if you walk into a toilet cubicle that smells, before you turn your nose up in disgust, just think that someone may be really suffering. Image

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