This time tomorrow…….I will be in the USA – and a magical/ amusing trip to the GP

I’m so excited. I guess I should just leave it there. In a few minutes, if Andy ever comes home, we will be heading off in a car piled high with bags to my parents’ house, so that they can take us to the airport for us to go on our dream holiday.

It’s going to be amazing, but the final preparations have been incredibly stressful, and made 100 times worse by stupid medical things which my specialists have made me have done at the last minute. Today, when I needed to be finishing all the washing, ironing and tidying, I was sat inside an MRI machine, having my brain pounded into mush. I don’t even know why I was having it! If you have never had the pleasure of one of these scans, here’s a tip, don’t ever do, or have, anything that requires you having one – the noise is like being inside a drill.

photo 2-2I finally left the MRI machine, with my head pounding and my legs feeling like they were going to go from under me – to sit in a long queue of elderly people waiting for blood tests. One hour later I was spat out, and a short walk later, found myself in a doctor’s surgery – which, in a breath of fresh air, had a rather comical scene unfurling! Aptly, the self service appointment check-in machine had broken and was giving every single person a NAME FROM HARRY POTTER!!! I am not shitting you!!

I was Hermione Weasley and the guy behind me, Ron Weasley. It was amusing to see, as each person went up to the screen, how they reacted. If someone had read/seen Harry Potter they burst out laughing, and started chatting excitedly, even chuckling to themselves in the, now, very long queue at reception. Those who hadn’t seen/read the Wizarding books, just looked confused. You could really spot the parents, teachers and grandparents among the crowds!

It was, I’m told, simply a technical glitch. But it had to be a joke. I had to take a picture, as I just couldn’t help myself, and even went over to pretend to be a man in the hope that i would get Ron – I did.

I mean how could i resist. Awesome!photo 1-2

Anyway, the bags are packed – hopefully. We have everything – hopefully. And we are ready to go – hopefully. I am as always nervous about going away so far from home with my ostomy, and this will be the furthest I have ever gone, but I am also very excited. I obviously won’t be doing much blogging, tweeting, face booking (is that a word?) while I am over there, so i will see you all in two weeks.

Stay happy, stay safe, stay well.


The weird feeling of putting on weight after a life with IBD – and swimsuit with a Stoma

This time next week me and Andy will be in Florida acting like big kids and running around theme parks waving magic wands and screaming spells at the top of our lungs.

I’m so excited, but I’ve not been able to relax and get in the holiday spirit yet. Why? Because having an ostomy means you have to really plan before you go on a long trip…

Today’s supplies came all packaged up from Charter. I hope that I have enough now for the long trip ahead, and if not it’s too late to order more now! I’ve got loads of appliances, around three a day, as they just don’t seem to be sticking for longer than a day at the moment, and I can’t stand the idea of a leak while I’m upside down on a roller coaster – now that would be messy!

Anyway, the hardest part of preparing for the holiday so far has been sorting out vacation wardrobe. You’ll laugh but this is the heaviest I’ve been in years – I’m now 8stone, which is two stone heavier than when I left hospital following my first op last year! And, if I’m honest, I don’t know how to deal with it!

It’s great not being skin and bone, looking healthy, and I haven’t really got bigger – I still fit in the same clothes and don’t want to lose weight! It’s horrible to say, that for years of struggling with my weight (ballooning with steroids and going down to a skeleton the rest if the time) I don’t feel great for finally reaching, what my doctor says, is a normal weight! I feel lethargic, run down, my skin and eyes are a mess, my hair is dull, and I feel depressed and grumpy. Basically I’m not myself – and all I can think is it’s a combination of stress and my body simply not being used to carrying around the extra load.

I used to swim around 100 lengths every day, run, dance and walk almost everywhere. But I’ve not really been able to get back into it since my op, I’ve felt run down and fed up, and every time I’ve tried to start training my skin has flared up and stopped me, making me feel even worse.

Trying to tell people this is difficult. I can’t say I feel heavy or fat – as let’s face it, I’m still tiny! But when you have lived the majority of your life in aged 9-10 clothes and been so tiny it’s painful, getting bigger is a weird feeling. I can’t moan or people will think I’ve got some sort of body issue, but I don’t feel good – I guess I need to get used to it!

Anyway, this has been brought even more to the forefront by trying to find outfits for the beach to wear with my ostomy! I’ve been swimming loads of times since my op, but I wanted to get a really pretty costume, or even bikini, to make me feel good about myself.

I’ve not been sunbathing on a beach with Winnie – I’m frightened, but I can’t wait! The pictures in the press recently of women sunbathing with their ostomy bags on show have filled me with confidence. I just have to hope the one I’ve ordered makes me feel that confident!!

Freezing Ice Bucket Challenge for Crohn’s and Colitis UK and Ostomy Aid

ice bucketIf you haven’t seen my Ice Bucket Challenge you can watch the carnage below – I’m warning it’s not a pretty sight!!

Things to bear in mind while watching this:

  • I’d just got back from a run, hence the weird get up;
  • I’m wearing my sports bra as I wanted to show my ostomy scar – I didn’t consider the fact that my bra might have fallen down with the force of the water…thank god it didn’t;
  • Random walkers stopped and watched from the bridge, and a drunk fisherman gawped throughout;
  • I was terrified of falling in or being attacked by a swan – they can beak a man’s arm you know…;
  • and, last but by no means least, it was bloody freezing!!!!

IMG_1462I nominated my best friend out in Spain, Rhian Wyn Evans. She has stuck with me through the best and worst of times, so this might seem like an odd way to say thank you, but she will love it. I miss her so much that sometimes it hurts; she never fails to put a smile on my face, and is the most positive and determined person I know – I seriously can’t wait to see the video of this!

Also I sentenced my chief reporter David Holmes to the baptism of freezing water. I will be shocked, to say the least, if Mr Holmes does this challenge. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing he would willingly do, but if he doesn’t…lets just say I wouldn’t be surprised if three little imps (me included) jump on him with buckets of freezing cold water after deadline day – I don’t think that classes as assault officer, it’s for charity after all.

I also nominated the CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis UK David Barker. This is the guy I sat

Me and CEO of Crohn's and Colitis UK David Barker

Me and CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis UK David Barker

next to on the sofa for the BBC Breakfast junk food saga. He is a lovely man and I’m sure will be delighted with the news that he hasn’t escaped this charity challenge. On twitter he told me he would be partaking in the challenge on Monday, I can only apologise for whatever crazy stunt they have lined up for you at the Crohn’s charity HQ – I’m so sorry in advance David – but it has to be the price you pay for being the CEO of a national charity.

The two charities I nominated are extremely close to my heart. Crohn’s and Colitis UK is a lifeline to so many people just like me. It is a charity – and IBD was a condition – which was hardly heard of a couple of years ago outside of those suffering from the condition. But now it feels like everyone is talking about the condition and it is in the media all the time. Despite that so much still needs to be learnt, so much more needs to be done to understand IBD, and to get the general public to understand the real implications of it to sufferers and their families. So we all still need to keep talking, raising money and spreading awareness – the battle is not won yet, it’s only just begun.

My second charity is one which is a relative unknown. I only stumbled across Ostomy Aid when trying to figure out what happened to all my unused ostomy appliances. I wondered what would happen to the batches of bags I couldn’t use as my skin rejected one sort after another, and once my rectal stump got removed (leaving me not needing a second, child sized bag).

Ostomy Aid (which is run by Ostomy Lifestyle, another charity providing support for ostomates) is a remarkable charity. They take all those boxes of unused bags, which would otherwise have ended up in the bin, and take them to third world countries. My unused fistula bags could help a baby in Africa to survive in the most difficult of circumstances, or be used by an African mother, sister, or grandmother. I guess in a way we take the delivery of the bags (straight from our delivery company, all packaged up with samples) for granted, out there it must be a never ending battle to know whether the most basic aid will get to them, let alone medical supplies like this – which are so needed and essential.

They also twin stoma nurses to communities in developing countries, including Moldova, Iran, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Malawi and Sudan. It is simply breathtakingly good work and something I would love to get involved with one day.

I hope in the future to be able to write more on Ostomy Aid – perhaps even go out and see how my bags are used? But we will have to see if that is feasible.

If you want to learn more about these two remarkable charities please visit their websites (I have provided the links below):

Red raw skin – my body’s rejects another ostomy appliance

Right now it’s 1.25am. I’m sat propped up in bed, exhausted, nauseated and feeling groggy as hell. I probably look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards at least 15 times, and would hate it if any firemen or police needed to break into my flat and see me this way. Lets just say thank god my boyfriend isn’t here to see me like this – he would probably fall out of bed in fright of waking up next to the monster from the black lagoon, and, to be honest that swamp creature is probably better groomed than me right now.

I feel like I am slowly going back to square one. Tonight, and last night, feel like the evenings of days gone by. Tonight feels like the weeks following my operation; where I couldn’t lie flat; had to stay perfectly still all night; lived in fear of explosions and leaks; and could feel every tug and pump of my tired and hacked up bowel – oh, and how can we forget, the agonising skin problems. 

Most of that was caused by my mucus fistula, which has thankfully now departed, but – if you can bear it  – you can read about that nightmare here.

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Ok, so things are nowhere near as bad as they used to be, and I feel pretty weedy for moaning about a few nights of sleep deprivation, for years I survived on potentially two-three hours a night if I was lucky! But having got used to living a slightly average life this is starting to feel like torture.

I used to get so little sleep that my nighttimes were almost as productive as my working day. While my boyfriend slept soundly next to me I would pain my nails, read novels, write blogs, record video blogs, write stories up and go into the other room to wash pots and dust etc. Tonight I have started to do the same. But, as I’m no longer used to this lack of sleep (well I am now, for the first time since I was a teen used to more than four hours, be it broken by toilet breaks, of sleep a night), I’m going to be a waste of space by lunchtime at work tomorrow. 

If you’ve been following my pretty feeble attempts at writing my blog while balancing a hectic work schedule and trying to help my boyfriend move into his new house (sob) you will know that I have had a fair few infections (rather unpleasant) ones recently, but apart from that things, health wise anyway, have been finally looking up. But over the past week or so I’ve started to feel run down, exhausted and, to un-sugarcoat things, shit! 

My skin tonight!! see what I mean

My skin tonight!! see what I mean

A lot has got to be said for the fact that I have managed to go without a single day off sick since I returned to work following my operation. Ok, so I don’t get some sort of medal or certificate for that (boo, I totally should!) but I feel pretty proud. But now the signs are starting to show that going at this hell-for-leather might not have been the best thing to do. But, there again, this happens every time I’m starting to get well, so I guess somethings will just never change.

My problem tonight is my skin. It had to happen but my skin has decided to reject my ostomy appliance. You would think this was something that could be easily fixed. WRONG. For most people it is, but I have rejected each and every one that my stoma nurse has tried – this was the only one that didn’t cause a very unsightly and painful rash. Now my body has decided it wants some drama, and decided that it is time to throw a paddy. This is not unusual. My body can’t live without drama, it doesn’t enjoy being well, it likes to be at the centre of attention. And right now it is dancing around in a sparkly spandex suit shouting ay attention to me, look at me, look what happens when you ignore me – and I’m having to sit up and take notice.

I’ve always struggled with my skin, especially around my stoma and other more intimate areas. It has been far, far worse than this in the past. But this time I just can’t handle it. My skin is oozing like crazy, and it looks almost burnt. My bags are struggling to stay on due to how damaged my skin is, and the wound is weeping all over the appliance in a truly revolting manner, which is making me feel smelly and sick.

I feel like I can constantly smell it. I think the smell simply gets in my nostrils and I can’t get it out, meaning I’m constantly paranoid that I’m having a leak, and that other people can smell it – most of the time it is other people farting or drains! 

I’ve changed my appliance to a smaller one for tonight, in the hope of drying out some of the skin, but I’m struggling to sleep. I can feel the itching starting to creep in and I’m terrified I’m going to end up like a recovering crack addict wearing mittens on my hands to stop me itching like I had to last summer during the heatwave to stop me getting at my weeping surgical scar. I simply can’t stop going at it; god knows what people during the day think I’m doing – I don’t want them to think I have lice, or worse!!

I can’t leave the bag off for even a second as my stoma seems to wait for the very moment of liberation to go into overdrive. The only time I can get any sort of relief is when I’m in the shower letting the water seep down into the bag and wash the build up away.

So I think the time has come to give in. Tomorrow I will ring my stoma nurse and get an appointment to try and get this sorted. I want to get some sleep and to stop living in fear of my bags simply sliding off, and wanting to walk around with a peg on my nose. Unfortunately, I think me and my Manuka honey bags (which I’ve been literally attached to for about a year) are going to have to finally wave goodbye, that is before I end up in court for indecent exposure, stripping off and jumping into a nearby fountain simply to ease the non stop itch. I don’t fancy that one going in the press!

I am MORE than IBD – I am a PERSON, yes I have an ostomy bag so what? #WorldIBDday

Today is World IBD Day. This morning more than FIVE MILLION PEOPLE woke up with Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis. Can you imagine that? Can you comprehend that many men, women and children living in pain, running to the bathroom, dealing with blood loss, fatigue, weight-loss, skin problems, and constantly battling to stay alive? I live with Ulcerative Colitis every day and even I can’t get my head around that number!

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IF you crossed one of those five million people in the street, at the supermarket, or queuing to pay for a lottery ticket would you know they were ill? If they asked for your help would you give it? If they wanted to go in front of you in the queue for the ladies loo at a bar would you let them? Would you be understanding if you saw someone who looked perfectly fit and healthy using a disabled loo? Would you judge them, would you put it down to period pains, stomach ache or a bad curry if you saw someone racing to the toilet at work with constant bouts of diarrhea? Would you humiliate them, call them anorexic or criticise their diet? Would you play practical jokes on them; use all the toilet rolls to teepee a nearby house, bitch about their size, tell them to get a good feed, criticise their frequent toilet breaks at work, call them names and point at their injection bruises, or call them antisocial for not coming to meals out or going out drinking

OR would you respect them for living with the constant battle against an incurable illness? See the bravery behind the disease, look beneath the pain and see the courage, determination and downright stubbornness to survive?

I was just 13 when I almost died from shame. I decided I would rather die than talk about my symptoms. I allowed people to watch me turn into a living skeleton, coping with agonising pain, living every second in fear, constant agony and wanting to die rather than keep living with the pain. I almost got my wish. Why? Because I didn’t want to be called a freak. I was pooing out my entire body weight, rushing to the toilet around 50 times a day, passing out, clawing at the cubicle walls and stuffing my school blazer in my mouth to stop myself screaming out in pain. But I didn’t get help because I didn’t want to be judged. All my life I’d been bullied, I didn’t want them to have poo freak to add to their name calling list.

YOUS can see a story I did in the Evening Chronicle about my illness here

People can be cruel. I know the things I’ve listed above seem a little extreme, but I know they happen because I’ve seen it. I’ve had fingers pointed at me. I’ve had the names, the insults thrown in my face while I’m almost collapsing from pain and dehydration. I’ve felt the slap of the dreaded A word when I’ve lost all my weight and supposed friends bitch behind my back as I rush to the loo, calling me bulimic and whispering about my skeletal frame and inability to hold food down. I’ve had old ladies shout at me for using disabled toilets in train stations, when my ostomy bag is about to explode, and been told to stand up on trains when I’m about to collapse.

It’s bad enough having to deal with the accidents. With the reality of sometimes being so desperate you lose control, or have to go through the humiliating procedures and undignified bed baths (etc). All those things are hard enough without having to deal with other people’s judgements, we are often giving ourselves a hard enough time.

Even now, 13 years after I first felt the pain I live with every day – first saw the bright red blood and passed out in the toilet cubicle – I’m still left reeling from people’s ill-informed judgements. I don’t show it but I’m horrified when people call me anorexic to my face. I’m a stubborn old goat, but it still brings a tear to my eye, and reminds me of some pretty dark times in the PE changing rooms at high school. How dare they? And what if I was? It is a serious mental illness after all and not something gossips should use as an insult.

People bitch and gossip, of course they do. I like a good gossip as much as anyone, and I’m sure I’ve been a Queen Bitch at times, and upset people in the process. But 13 years is a long time to live with nasty comments behind your back, little snipes about the smell of the toilet you’ve just been in, digs at your weight, pokes at the quality of your work, there is no wonder depression often goes hand in hand with IBD.

Oh and that’s not to mention the people who think you’ve brought it on yourself. I can’t count the number of times people have told me to change my diet, stop drinking, cut down on exercising, have a good feed – oh, and the best one GIVE UP WORK! It seems everyone is an expert when it comes to other people’s illnesses. They might want to help (some genuinely do) but at the end of the day most don’t really want to find out more about IBD, they just want to put their two pennies in.

But it’s not all their fault. IBD is an invisible illness. Looking at me today you would probably think I have an eating disorder not a chronic illness. If you passed me in the street you might not even think I was any different to anyone else. I look thin, tired, but fairly normal. I’m not holding onto the walls for support, I’ve not got drips hanging out of my arms (most of the time), I’m not in a wheelchair or being supported by a carer, and I’m most definitely not obese. At the end of the day, despite more than five million people living with IBD all over the world, many people still have no idea what it is. And out of the few that do, there is still this preconception that Crohn’s and Colitis sufferers are just people who need to go to the loo a lot. 

There is so much more to it than that. IBD is not IBS. It doesn’t go away if we change our diets (it can help some people); it won’t go away if we take Imodium, cut out booze, stop eating curry. Many IBD sufferers end up reliant on a toxic mixture of drugs to keep the illness at bay – including Immunosuppressant drugs which do exactly what they say on the tin – and some (me included) on chemotherapy. Many have to have surgery in their lifetime, either to get rid of blockages or strictures, or to remove large parts of their colon.

And that’s where I’m at this WORLD IBD DAY. At 26-years-old I’m a loud and proud OSTOMATE. Me and my stoma Winnie have been attached at the abdomen for just over a year and I’ve never felt better. Two months ago I had her made permanent during a serious operation which left me without a rectum. I now have an ostomy bag, something I never thought I would be able to cope with, but you know what I’m fine. In fact I’m more than fine, I’m alive, and without it I would be a living shell, probably too ill to leave the house.

I would be lying if I said I don’t wish I could have my old, flat stomach back, but it’s not going to happen. Me and Winnie are going to be together forever. I still go to the toilet, just in a different way to other people. I’ve got used to it, I’ve accepted it, I wish other people would do the same.

I am not just an illness, please don’t label me, I am a person not a disease. IBD does not define me, I define me! People with IBD are some of the bravest and most determined people I have ever met. I mean you only have to look at Sir Steve Redgrave to know we don’t let our illness stop us doing anything!!!




My Mini Egg phobia – it may be “egg”ordinary but I’m not making it up


When I was at high school I had a music teacher who was afraid of buttons. I don’t mean freakishly large buttons, ones with weird designs on them or even Button Moon, I mean just the average cardigan button. She hardly ever wore clothes with buttons on, and would freak out if a stray one happened to be placed on her desk. Obviously the moment she confided this in someone, word got around like wildfire (as it does in schools filled with pubescent teens) and we revelled in her bizarre pain; with students leaving buttons here there and everywhere in the hope of finding her shaking behind the piano during choir practice after finding a spare shirt button sneakily wedged between the keys – note to self, children are cruel.

I always thought these unusual phobias were just downright silly. I secretly loved watching those documentaries on “the woman who is scared of supermarkets, bananas, tea bags and washing up liquid” – you know the ones on people who literally can’t do anything for fear of seeing a giant purple penguin as they walk down the street. WEIRDOS RIGHT????

Little did I know that just a few years later I would be getting a serious taste of being the ‘freak’ with the irrational phobia. I learnt the hard way that weird phobias are usual born from horrible, often unforgettable experiences. Ok, so mine is one of those phobias that I often laugh at. Mine is a phobia which would raise a smile to a gargoyle’s face. In fact I would challenge you not to smirk when you hear about my possibly unique fear which used to reduce me to a blithering wreck this time every year – thankfully I’m just about starting to get over it.

Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’m frightened of mini eggs. Not just any mini eggs though, Cadbury’s Mini Eggs – you know the ones which are everywhere from around January every sodding year. Easter is hard for me – button phobia doesn’t seem so weird now does it – poor woman.

Shockingly enough not many people know this about me. I’m sure you can understand why I don’t shout it from the rooftops. For one it’s embarrassing, childish and well a little bit pathetic. Oh and it takes a bloody long time to explain and often I just can’t be bothered. Usually I save this quirky fact for that ‘getting to know you’ game; you know the one where you say three facts, one which is true and two which are false to a room full of strangers and they have to decide which is true. Shockingly enough no one ever decides the mini egg phobia is true but would rather believe I studied to be a forensic scientist, or my father’s an astronaut than my weird chocolate fear. You can only imagine the looks of surprise and, well horror when they learn they will be studying with, flat sharing with, or working with a totally irrational freak for the next so many days/months/years of their lives.

A pause… and the obvious questions always follow. What? Why? How? The great classics…and I launch into my spiel, which is a lot more sensitive, understandable and hilarious than you might expect. You never know you might just feel sorry for me!

Of course I’ve not always been frightened of little balls of chocolate. Easter used to be a fun time filled with magical Easter egg hunts around caravan sites, back gardens and rooms in my house, or searching for golf tees (to win eggs) in my primary school playing fields, getting Thorntons’ bunnies from my gran and ending the day covered head to toe in chocolate and feeling sick on our annual caravan holiday. So many good memories.

But it all changed for the worse when I was around 14 years old. I hadn’t been diagnosed with Crohns (then, now UC) for very long when I was admitted to Booth Hall children’s hospital in Manchester for treatment. I was suffering from a severe flare and needed IV steroids pumping into me in a hope it would stabilise my condition and allow me to get back to school and stop collapsing all over the place. It was only meant to be for a few days, but it all went horribly wrong when I picked up a hospital virus (which my mum only later learned was MRSA when she deciphered the doctors notes when they weren’t looking – it was in the days before the wash your hands 15 times before touching a patient and ties/ flowers were banned).

I have been in a lot of pain in my life, but nothing ever like that. I went into toxic shock and ended up on so much morphine it took weeks to finally come down from the high. In the end the doctors had to knock me out to stop me screaming, and I finally woke up in the peace and quiet of HDU attached to a cinema of monitor screens, with wires coming out of every patch of exposed skin and my parents watching anxiously by my side. During this time I watched the Matrix with my dad – I’ve never watched it again as it gave me motion sickness and I think it is a another phobia – I’m afraid of seeing it again.

At the time of my admission it was Easter. The wards were full of crayoned pictures of chicks, eggs and bunnies. Paper sunflowers, lambs and other spring things littered the walls of the children’s gastro ward, and relatives had brought in enough Easter Eggs to supply a food bank. During my stay the Man U seconds (right name??) team even came round to give out Easter Eggs – I was having a scan or asleep or plain didn’t want to see good looking footballers when I was chucking my guts up, had no makeup on and with unwashed hair- so I didn’t meet them. But I did end up with a variety of eggs around my bed during my stay – none of which I got to eat as I was on a liquid only diet and my sister had eaten them all by the time I got home.

Anyway the presence of eggs everywhere the eye could see combined with large quantities of morphine resulted in a very odd effect on me. As my body fought off the toxins coursing through my skin I started my life long torment of night frights, which I still have today. These are very real nightmares which leave me reaching for the phone to check family members are alive and terrified of opening the front door in case of a massacre outside – frankly these have become rarer but when they happen are still horrific. I also experienced horrific hallucinations – some which have stuck with me for a very long time.

The mini egg thing comes from a particularly frightening hallucination. Me and my family had recently watched the Mummy, and for all of you who’ve seen it I’m sure you’ll remember the bit with the Scarab beetles? Well I must have been more traumatised by them than I thought, because my hallucination, which I saw clear as day as if it was as real as this iPad Mini screen, was of me being eaten alive by swarms of scarab beetle style Mini Eggs!!! Basically the hallucination, which was followed by a reoccurring nightmare, saw me walking without a care through a meadow on a sunny day when I hear a weird scurrying noise behind me. Then I see a swarm (well ocean) of multicoloured ovals cascading towards me… I start to run as they get nearer and I see thousands of mini eggs with sharp pointy teeth and evil eyes scuttling towards me. YES I’M SERIOUS MINI EGGS WITH TEETH!! As they get on top of me, swarming over me like the scarab beetles, looming over the hill comes the Cadbury purple bird.. giant, hideous and laughing at me as I’m nibbled to death!!!!

Terrifying!!! And it seemed so real! Ok, so sat in the comfort of my home I think it’s fairly funny, I mean Mini Eggs with teeth, but even now when I see a bag of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs I want to throw them across the room. It honestly played havoc when I worked on the tills in Sainsbury’s, I could hardly bear to touch the packets and flung them across the scanner to the packing areas… so many kids must have had smashed mini eggs that year because of my morphine trip! Obviously most of my mates thought my phobia was hilarious, and many tried tricking me into touching and eating the chocolate monsters, with one friend kindly buying me a krispie cake while we were working at JD Sports together…when I reached into the paper bag and felt the shape of the eggs I almost threw up!!! Extreme I know!

Ok, so it’s not a severe fear – like fear of flying, spiders (although I am scared if these) or work (often referred to as laziness) which will actually stop me from living my day to day life – but it’s a phobia none the less which I’ve had to come face to face with in work, while shopping, in cafés and in restaurants. It’s not helped by the fact Mini Eggs are the face of Easter or that they’re usually placed next to the till so you literally can’t avoid them. And it’s definitely not helped by the fact Easter (according to the Gods of marketing) actually arrives in our supermarkets straight after Christmas.

I’ve luckily got over my fear (somewhat steadily) over the years, something which has been helped by Cadbury’s removing the bird off the packaging, oh and me no longer frequenting the chocolate aisle due to my lactose intolerance. But it still lurks in the back of my mind. I may no longer throw the packets across the room, ban them in the office, or avoid the Easter Egg aisle, but I do shudder at the adverts and packets/tubes when doing my weekly shop.

I guess that will never change. It’s a laughable fear but one that reminds me of one of the worse moments of my life and no doubt after writing this I will wake up sweating and screaming “anything but the Mini Eggs” at 2am!

The painful and often hilarious road to recovery – drain pulling, arse up and bikini waxing

Why is it every time I start to talk about being well do I find myself lying on a hospital bed with my bright red bum sticking up in the air like a baboon displaying its sexual availability? 

Last Monday I finally had my drain taken out of my pelvis. An experience which will be etched on my mind until the day I die, and indeed will probably be one of thousands of images of my bum waving around in the air which will flash in front of my eyes in my final moments. It is also an experience I never want to go through again. Last week I found myself back on Ward 44 waiting to see my heroic surgeon, who was in a rather chirpy mood (he was going on holiday again!) as I stumbled into the stoma clinic and the scene for my next probing session. As per usual he checked my stoma was working, my scar was healing, before uttering the dreaded words….”I need you to turn on your side so I can look at your back-end” (well possibly more technically put). I always think the best thing to do at this point is leave all sense of modesty aside and just whip your panties down and let them have a good poke around. Which I did. But it is always at this moment, when my bum is unceremoniously  thrust in my surgeon’s face, and a team of student nurses are bobbing up and down over his shoulder for a closer look as I huddle my knees closer to my chest, that I start wishing I’d had that bikini wax in the weeks before my operation. I couldn’t care less that my bum is all stitched up and I can no longer poo or fart, I’m worried that the world and his wife are looking at me and wondering why I haven’t stuck to my end of the bargain of personal grooming, or why the hell I’m wearing those faded granny pants reserved solely for laundry day.

Anyway only moments after my 3D pink scar lining my bum had been given the all clear I was left alone with the ward sister whose unenviable task was to remove a drain from my lady parts. My surgeon departed the room with a cheery wave and with the confidence inspiring words of “don’t cut her vagina sister, you have done this before right?”. I felt the hot wave of panic flush over me, and I had an overwhelming urge to let her simply leave the drain in (no matter how uncomfortable, inconvenient or ugly it is) forever. Part of me thought that there was no way I was letting this rubber gloved and scissor wielding woman near my lady parts, not for a million dollars, the stronger part of me, who has battled more painful procedures, thought suck it up Flint it will all be over soon. I should have listened to my gut and run as fast as my muscleless little legs and flailing drain bag would allow me to.

Sister Sue said the magic words assigned to all nurses for these moments of panic. When I asked her if it was going to hurt she said “it might be a bit uncomfortable”, describing my drain as a pig tail – to which I imagined a little pink tail hooked into my pelvic muscle refusing stubbornly to budge for love nor money as she waggled it out. I couldn’t have been more right, and she couldn’t have been more wrong. I like to think I have a fairly high pain threshold having lived with severe Ulcerative Colitis and all its horrific side effects for most of my life. I’ve been through far worse than having a drain pushed and pulled out of my vagina, but to describe what she did as mild discomfort was the understatement of the century. She must have been tugging at it for at least 25 minutes as it simply refused to let go. I’m ashamed to say I moaned and yelped and at one point screamed out in pain as she tugged and it felt like my whole abdomen was about to explode through the pressure. Anyone passing the room must have thought I was having my eyeballs removed under some sort of torture due to the farm-yard style noises coming from the stoma nurse room. I panted and puffed as if I was in labour, until she finally came to a halt, embarrassingly confiding in me that it was almost out but had got wrapped around a rather stubborn sprout of pubic hair….if I hadn’t been in so much pain I would have died of shame!

photo 2As it was finally yanked free I stared in wonderment at the tiny coil of string which had caused such pain over the past couple of minutes. It always amazes me how something so small can cause so much disruption. Being free of the drain was an overwhelming relief, but the feeling that the string and tube were still firmly lodged inside my pelvis and protruding from my vagina remained, it would be almost two days before the ache started to fade and I felt almost human again.

Walking with a drain or catheter is a bizarre experience. For a week I dragged around the heaving bag of septic mucus and liquid with it dangling down my leg and having to hoist it up to sit down, stand up or go to the bathroom.  When I left the hospital they finally gave me a leg strap so I wouldn’t be forced to carry the clear bag around like a medical handbag for all to see, but that still presented challenges, with me struggling to conceal it under my baggy track suit bottoms, pyjamas and loose trousers. The plastic spout always found a way to work itself into view and almost trail along the pavement while I attempted to walk in a cowboy like style during the days of building myself up slowly walking into town. Having it taken out meant freer movement, less pain in my abdomen and the prospect of wearing jeans, skirts and tights again. It has meant a new world of freedom, and has been a blessing relief to be able to sit down properly (well to an extent) without having to find the rare position which doesn’t cause pain – difficult when you have stitches in your bum and a drain sticking out of your vagina – take my word for it!

Now, just over a week after having my drain pulled out, I have finally managed to get a taste of my normal life back. Yes I’m still the woman who can be seen every day at around 2pm hobbling into town with crowds of students stuck behind her as I walk slower than a grandma with a Zimmer frame, and yes I’m still struggling with food and feel like fainting over the prospect of wearing a bra over my tender scar – but I am able to move around and at times leave the flat to buy a paper, sweets or simply to feel the air on my face. I also am hardly seen without a doughnut ring cushion (you know the ones I mean – mostly used for piles etc), which embarrassingly enough has my name written in huge letters across it, a security device against theft my mum put in place while I was in the hospital. But walking into the city you work in as a well-known newspaper journalist with your name emblazoned across a medical pillow associated with piles is not always a good thing – especially in a small town like Chester, and when most of the criminals know exactly who you are and now believe they could jump you at any moment and due to a problem with your bum you couldn’t begin to run away.

Over the past few days I’ve walked significantly further than I thought possible so soon after a major operation. I’ve stumbled through gardens and shopping centres, marvelled at daffodils and sunflowers, and managed to start cooking. I’ve sipped a giant non alcoholic cocktail at my best mate’s leaving party (sob!) and put on minimal makeup in a bid to look human again for the first time since my operation. I watched in amazement and horror as my boyfriend was forced to conquer his fear of heights by swinging from the tree tops in Go Ape at Delamere Forest. I was struggling to stay on my feet and dealing with my overwhelming instinct to run from seemingly harmless dogs as we traipsed around the course following his exhilarating zip wire course. And I was more exhausted from the massive walk through the forest than he was climbing trees when we got back to the flat frozen and covered in mud on Sunday 3

Yesterday I made it to the small theatre in Chester to watch a remarkably entertaining amateur dramatic production. It was a comedy, but an agonising one both due to the rock solid seats on my pink bottom and the agony from my raw scar as I laughed out loud at some of the scenes. The play was excellent, but my bum and joints didn’t agree to sitting still for hours on end and it was a blessing relief to sit back at home on my polo mint pillow ( which, to my horror, I forgot) drinking a hot chocolate and scaring myself shitless watching The Following.

On a serious note every night I pray I will continue on this remarkably fast if painful road to recovery. I pray for hope, courage and bravery, not just for me but for my family, boyfriend and friends, and for everyone awaiting or recovering from surgery, or who is experiencing a flare or has recently been diagnosed with a chronic condition. I’m not devoutly religious, but I’ve always found a few words help keep me grounded and give me hope. I can’t sleep until I’ve said these words or silently prayed in my head. For some weird reason Winnie always farts during my prayer and makes me laugh, and I find myself in the bizarre position of apologising to God for my stoma’s rudeness and bad timing!