Tag Archives: Toilet

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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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!

fish

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