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):

http://www.ostomylifestyle.org/content/ostomyaid

http://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk

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Preparing for a long haul flight – me and my ostomy are going to see Harry Potter World!!!


It’s finally happening. After months of twiddling our thumbs and searching the internet we finally bit the bullet and booked ouHog2wartsr flights and tickets. I couldn’t be more excited. In just over a month’s time I’m going to be waving a wand, riding a broom and casting spells in a whole world filled with Harry Potter. It is going to be a very expensive dream come true and I am determined to enjoy every single second of it. Yes i will be the one running around in a cape and screaming wingardium leviosa to try and make screaming brats hover in the air!

There’s a long wait ahead before we jet off to the USA, but I’m already starting to think about which and what supplies I need to take for my ostomy. I’ve been on a plane before, so I know all the tricks about getting a doctor’s note about my appliances, dividing them between my hand luggage and my check-in luggage and not drinking fizzy drinks on the plane. You can check out my past blog with my experience flying to Europe last time here. But this time opens up a whole new world of questions. This time I am travelling long haul for the first time with my stoma, so who knows what’s going to happen.

The trip is going to be incredible! We eventually booked with Virgin. It was a tiny bit more pricey but I felt reassured that we would be booking the whole trip as a package, so that in the off chance that something does go wrong we will be covered. It also takes a weight off my mind to know that the flights will be clean, comfortable, there will be free, adequate toilets and we get two items of hand baggage each and cabin baggage included in the cost. They were also great about me taking my ostomy supplies on board the craft – always a niggling worry – and were great with my dietary requirements for the flight.

It’s an epic adventure. We are really pushing the boat out heading to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure; Wet ‘n’ Wild; Sea World and Aquatica. We didn’t want to do Disney (I’m into that whole kiddy animated stuff but Andy isn’t – well he claims he isn’t!) but I couldn’t go to the USA without going to Harry Potter World. I’m so beyond excited about walking through Diagon Alley it actually scares me. I had no idea I was such a geek! But when you look at what we are going to experience (see the website here) I challenge you not to go giddy and want to fork out your life savings to jump in my suitcase and run around this place in a cape and wizard’s hat too! 

We are also spending a few nights at Marco Island, to basically unwind from all the crazy running around and nausea of french fries and roller coasters! Then it’s off to New York city for shows and sights. 

I’ve been to the USA before – but that was pre 9/11, so I don’t need to say that I was very young and that an awful lot has changed since then. I went to Orlando, to Disney and Universal twice as a kid, it was magical. But so much has changed, there are all these new theme parks, rides and massive advances in technology – I think I’m going to see it with new eyes. I almost think that as a kid I was so overwhelmed by the magic that I didn’t appreciate the details, I guess I was far too busy chasing adults dressed up as cartoon characters around the parks trying to get autographs to notice some of the details  – as an adult I’m sure to notice, and experience things so much differently, Andy has never been, not even to the USA, and I can’t wait to show him everything, from the massive burgers and crab shacks to the amazing theme parks and stunning beaches. It is going to be the best trip ever and I’m starting to try to sort out my supplies so that I don’t get any nasty surprises a few days before we go.

Ok, so there are already a few things that are bothering me. I’m trying to find a bikini that fits. I want a high waisted vintage style one, preferably polka dot, if anyone can point me in the right direction I would be sooooo grateful. I also need a sturdy, yet flattering swimming costume – I’m seriously worried what the impact a day at the water park might have on my ostomy; will I need to change my bag all the time; keep drying it; wear a hernia support; or will it just stay on? (at the moment when I swim I change my bag immediately after I get out to avoid leaks).

Other niggling things include: What’s in butter beer? Is it made of butter? If so that will be a no go unless kids wandering around Hogsmeade want to see a bright green gremlin vomiting and passing out….not a good look! Also, how good is America with lactose intolerance, will there be things for me to eat in the theme parks? Can I eat pretzels? Will there be ice-cream (sorbet) for me to eat? How will my ostomy cope with the weather? Are there a lot of toilets? What happens to my bags while I’m on the rides? 

I’ve sorted my travel insurance, which didn’t cost any more than £100 thank God, and also thanks to AllClear. Which is already a massive weight off my mind. But I would love any advice that anyone has about theme parks with an ostomy, swimming outfits that are flattering and youthful and any other tips you have for long haul flights/and/or visiting America with dietary requirements.

Don’t worry, you have a month to get back to me!!!!! 

Oh, and I have been nominated for the ice bucket challenge – GREAT – I will share it later!  

A mystical experience: falling in love with Ronan thanks to my stoma at a Boyzone gig in a forest!!!!


At the weekend I had the most amazing time watching Boyzone – with no toilet mishaps or major stoma problems. I am so grateful for Winnie (my stoma, if you haven’t met her) for allowing me to finally live my life with little to no fear. Ok, I still had a ‘near explosion’ moment while queuing for the loos, but I wasn’t rushing clutching at my stomach in agony up and down a hill to the toilets every five minutes. I was there, and not staring at the back of a toilet door, when the beautiful Ronan Keating swaggered on stage.

Thanks to Winnie I didn’t miss a moment of the stunning Ronan Keating – and if that doesn’t deserve celebrating and prove my life is 100% better with an ostomy, what is?

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So, although I’m in danger of becoming a little bit obsessed I had to share this amazing moment with you all. Below is the review of the forest concert I did for the paper, and a short video of a moment that left me giggling like a little girl and wanting to run after the Boyzone tour bus like a crazed maniac.

But, at the end of the day, I want to share this moment with you guys. My life so far has been a roller coaster – but I’m hopefully at the end of my horrendous ride and at the beginning of something very special!!! (argh,  cheesy, but I just had to!)

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Walking in a monkey onsie for Crohn’s & Colitis #no93


Oh dear! Yes your eyes haven’t gone wonky, that’s me walking through the streets of York dressed in a fluffy pink onsie, accompanied by a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and a life-sized ladybug – oh, and my Dad, dressed as himself going to bed!

It might look like a bizarre Flint family outing (minus my sister who couldn’t make it) but we are actually walking for a special cause. On Sunday we joined more than 300 people to traipse around the city in the sweltering sunshine to raise awareness and much-needed funds for Crohn’s and Colitis UK.

It was a boiling hot day as we walked 8KM along the banks of the river, and it didn’t take us long to be sweating heavily and deeply regretting the onsies. My kids-size monkey onsie may have been a cheap Primark bargain, but was obviously designed for winter, with thick fluffy lining totally unsuitable for the baking hot sunshine. It was the farthest I’ve walked since my recent completion protectomy operation and I was flagging by 5KM, forced to unzip my top and walk with my smiling monkey hood grinning out from my backside like a weird bum face. But I did feel proud when I’d finished. Even though I’ve started running again, walking 8KM was a massive achievement especially with the heat and added excitement of dressing up. I was exhausted afterwards. My ostomy output went funny due to dehydration, which was obviously something only dairy free ice cream could solve!!!

We may have looked odd, exhausted and far too hot, but boy did we have fun. It was amazing to see so many people giving up their time to raise awareness for an illness which has totally destroyed and transformed my life. It was hard to tell which of the participants were ill and which were friends, family, doctors, health professionals and general supporters, which I guess just shows how invisible an illness IBD is, and, thus, how hard it is for non-sufferers to understand.

And we did come second in the fancy dress competition – so I guess almost passing out was worthwhile.

If you are reading this for the first time and don’t understand IBD (Crohn’s and Colitis) please visit Crohns&ColitisUK to learn more about the disease and how you can help.

 

 

 

Waking up in a fog of morphine – recovering from ostomy surgery for the final time?


This time last week I was coming round from a major operation. I was groggy, spaced-out, nauseous and exhausted. Shockingly (and unlike last time) I remember quite a lot of what happened in the hours after I woke up, but I still think someone could have told me they’d transplanted a donkey’s head onto my shoulders and I wouldn’t have even twitched.

Waking up following heavy anaesthesia is a bizarre experience. You can vaguely hear what’s going on and sense people fussing around you, but even if you try to come to your senses and communicate, your body and mind doesn’t give a crap and simply wants to remain in a state of tranquil ignorance. It simply refuses to respond to commands whether given by yourself or by nurses and doctors poking and prodding you in the recovery room.

Rousing in the recovery room is a daunting feeling, one that always reminds me of a scene from an alien encounter or zombie experience in a movie, where the unwilling patient is strapped down, drugged and experimented on despite being able to see the faces of their tormentors bobbing around in front of their drooping eyelids. It really is another world in there; one where tubed and wired-up patients lie in rows waiting to be roused and taken back to their wards. It is not really a place of panic, screaming or yelling, as the sedative is still too gripping for us to feel the true extent of the surgery aftermath – but a place of bleary-eyed confusion and slow responses.

During my subtotal ileostomy operation 11 months ago I don’t remember anything about the recovery room. Apparently I was drowsily chatting away to the nurses removing tubes and administering painkillers, but for all I know I told them I was the Prime Minister and owned a £2M mansion in the Maldives. I don’t remember much following that operation apart from finally waking fully alert around 10 hours later screaming in agony and realising I did in fact have an ostomy bag and a massive scar right down the middle of my once flat stomach.

This time I remember pretty much everything. I didn’t have an epidural for this operation – I point-blank refused following the massive complications last time. I guess that means I was probably in more pain following this major surgery than I would have been if I had given it a go, but I just didn’t want to take the chance again because I was frightened it would go wrong and no one would believe or listen to me again. 

Anyway I remember what happened before the dreaded op and the aftermath. On the morning of the big day I woke up after a rather restless night at 6am in order to drink an obscene amount of this pre surgical drink. I think it was 400mls, and that’s following 800mls of the vile tasting stuff the night before – no wonder I was up and down to the loo all night. I headed back to bed for a reassuring cuddle before shakily showering and arriving at the theatre admissions waiting room at 7.30am.

The theatre admissions room is full of fear. Everyone has that half-slept scared out of their minds glazed look about them. The people there were anxious, puffy eyed and exhausted. I sat in silence with my boyfriend waiting until he had to leave – apparently partners are not allowed to stay – you have to spend those agonising last few minutes/ hours alone with no one to distract or comfort you. It was hard saying goodbye to Andy: mostly because I was frightened (you never know what will happen in major surgery) but also because I just didn’t want him to leave my side. Luckily it all went very fast after he left and it was only around half an hour before I was donning a bumless gown for my big op.

Before I forget, this operation almost didn’t happen. After all the weeks of worrying and questioning my judgement I almost didn’t go under the knife last Wednesday. My surgeon was concerned about the cold I’d picked up from a flu-infested office, you know the one that was making me feel like I was going to pass out 24/7. Anyway the anaesthetist disagreed and said I was coming to the end of it so why delay? I honestly don’t know how I felt when she said it was a go; part of me longed for it to be cancelled, the other part would have been devastated to have to wait anxiously for another month for a surgical slot.

Anyway I did what I always do when I’m nervous or scared – make jokes and chatter. I was chattering away about my holiday to Venice as they administered the dose of anthestia. And this time, unlike the normal try to count backwards from 100, I was asked to talk about where I would like to travel next, so I started whittering on about how much I loved Italy but was hoping to travel to America next year….before I got far I was waking to the bustle of the recovery room.

I remember the nurse talking to me, trying to find out if I was ok, if I was in pain, if I knew my own name etc. To be honest I couldn’t tell her. I guess I was surprised I was awake so quickly, it felt like only a second had passed since I was put under – in reality it was around three hours. I remember frowning as I heard a nurse tending to me moaning she should have been on her break, before I was put back under and woke up to my partner sat next to me on Ward 44, which was both reassuring and weird in my dopey state.

More about my time in hospital and recovery tomorrow…. but for now know that I’m doing well and the only thing I regret is the sore bottom!

 

Westminster and Winnie – me and my ostomy head to Parliament for challenge #83


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If there wasn’t so much shouting in Westminster a lot more would get done. Those are my words of wisdom following what I saw yesterday as me and Winnie headed to Parliament as part of our time at the Daily Mirror.

Sitting in at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday I finally understood why a lot of the public think politics is a group testosterone-fuelled men, heckling and grunting to try and ridicule each other, and not something they should waste their precious time with. It’s a shame, because if you manage to shut out the din the whole process if frankly fascinating.

Walking into the press gallery as PMQs began yesterday I felt like a gladiator walking into a packed amphitheatre. As I stepped into the stairwell a wall of noise erupted all around me. I was surrounded by heckling, jeering and grunting so loud that for a moment I wondered if I’d taken a wrong turn and stumbled into a football match.

The noise is really quite incredible. So is the notion of standing up, which sees MPs bobbing up and down like puffed up meerkats every time the PM finishes whatever point (if you can hear above the din) he is trying to respond to. First time journalists in the Commons must stand out like a sore thumb – I must have swallowed ten flies gawping in amazement at the spectacle going on below me.

Of course I knew it would be like this. We’ve all seen the rabble on the tv, the constant battle between the Reds and the Blues, the face off between Cameron and Miliband. But it is so much better when you are actually there. Of course it would be frowned on to join in (I wouldn’t advise it), but it rather feels like your at Wimbledon waiting for someone to tell you to shush as play resumes, until then it’s pretty much a free for all.

But despite all this rabble going on, a lot seemed to actually get done. Ok, there were a lot of snipes and harmless nips at each other from the opposing parties (some of which were rather amusing), but once you tuned out all of that some very important points were being made.

I heard MPs ask for harsher legislation for dangerous drivers, security for victims of terrorism charities, food banks, the secret letters and, most importantly, a lot of chat about our love of curling!

Earlier that morning I met one of the Daily Mirror political reporters and headed to a monthly press conference with Deputy PM Nick Clegg, who surprisingly enough still looks fairly sane and alive despite his time in Government. The system was fascinating. Questions were thrown at him left, right and centre, by the room of reporters and I left feeling like I’d just witnessed an amazing magic show, which I could go back and watch time and time again.

As I left parliament last night, I couldn’t help but think that a year ago I wouldn’t have managed to sit through all this. Something would have happened; a shadow across my eyeballs, blacking out, diarrhoea, vomiting or even dizziness. Whatever it was, something would have stopped me experiencing this. Ok, so I’m not feeling 100% at the moment, and I’ve been feeling worse every day, but right now I’m grateful my body is just giving me enough energy to get to work and experience this amazing job and see these incredible parts of society that most people never get the chance to.

The whole day was an incredible experience. I was amazed by the number of women in the lobby (Yes, there were only a handful, but that was more than I expected) I was lucky to have the guidance of James Lyons (Daily Mirror’s deputy political editor) and Tom McTague (political correspondent) who helped me coordinate my wave through the maze that is the corridors of power and settle into the hectic male dominated press corridor with ease.

And as if the fast paced day wasn’t invigorating enough, I was lucky enough to be visiting on the same day that the Chairman if the Press Gallery handed over his reign. This meant all the political correspondents gathering together in a ‘pack’ for drinks and salty snacks (I said no to a drink and I may as well have shot someone! But was forgiven when I said I had upcoming surgery) before listening to humorous speeches in a style reminiscent of those a best man would give to humiliate his mate at a wedding.

It was fascinating, and a great work environment. I have never seen so many reporters from different national papers and broadcasters together in one room – and all getting along. I loved the atmosphere, the attitude and the passion they all showed for their jobs. Everyone in that room, be it hardened hack, well known political correspondent from the telly or little me, truly wanted to be there and (seemed) to love, live and breathe their job.

They all seemed to be working together to demand the truth from the government, and to hold the people we elect to account.

Now if that’s not something to get better for and aspire to, what is?

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Can you hack it? Week one at a national rag with an ostomy


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If I ever see a glass of wine again it will be too soon. I’m not cut out for drinking, but in the past five days I’ve possibly consumed enough alcohol to make even the most hardened of drinkers weep. I’ve finally realised I can’t drink. And to say I’ve learned the hard way would be an understatement.

I simply can’t hack national newsroom drinking. I don’t know why I thought I might be able to either.

Perhaps I’m allergic to alcohol – like plasters, lactose and ibuprofen. In reality I got a little too excited by the fact there is even a bar anywhere near the office, not just a B&Q and Boots.

So far in my time at Mirror HQ I’ve fallen over, drunkenly eaten an avocado wrap (urgh) and had my first ever night time ostomy explosion. I’ve woken up covered in blood (from my fistula), and other horrible illness related problems. I’ve forgotten where I live, lost my purse (potentially pickpocket victim) and been helped home by the lovely Met police after getting hopelessly lost with no money.

I’ve also met truly inspirational women, talented reporters and news editors, got some great advice and had a lot of laughs. I’ve also had chance to get stuck in and write stories I never dreamed I’d get the chance to have a crack at.

No one can claim I haven’t jumped into the experience with both feet, unfortunately I’m starting to feel really quite ill from trying to get to grasp with the fast-paced London lifestyle. I’m excited to be working in a newsroom where people go to the Brits, interview royalty and eat sleep and breathe news. And where you can bump into the CEO in the lift and see the O2 arena and Shard from the most stunning office in the whole of the city.

Today’s massive success of getting a picture byline in a national paper was overshadowed by the realisation I was stuck in a strange city with no bank cards or ID, oh and the fact someone tried to access my email account, suggesting someone actually nicked my purse from my bag and I didn’t drop it. I spent part of the morning wanting to burst into tears in the HSBC.

I’m far from proud of myself, and I’m horrendously humiliated. But I’ve been told I will laugh about it in a few years, unless someone steals my identity after taking my purse – right now I’m not finding it very funny if I’m honest. I guess I feel like I’ve just been part of some sort of initiation ceremony and failed horrendously.

Ok, so I can’t drink like a national hack, and I’m no longer going to try. I’ve finally realised (despite all the warnings and horrific tales I’ve got from nights out) that I don’t get on with alcohol, and recently I’ve found alcohol is having a disastrous effect on me. I seem to get drunk just from the smell of wine, but this week I’ve made things worse for myself by simply not eating before I go to the pub.

I’ve decided, now that I’m stuck in London with no bank cards, ID and a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach called shame, that I’m going to give up drinking for the next six months. I imagine my liver has been shrivelled more in the last five days than in the whole of fresher’s week. It has to recover and I have to face consequences that something even more serious could have happened last night and what I did was very stupid indeed.

Being a national journalist isn’t all about the drinking, they write ground breaking stories too. And I’ve had a taste of how amazing it would be to work for an incredible place like The Mirror full time. I’ve written stories on cancer toxins in food wrappers, artwork being sold for far too much cash and my own personal reaction to news Towie’s Sam has Crohn’s – it’s more than I could have hoped to get put of my trip.

I love it here and would eventually want to become a national reporter, going to court, hopefully on the right side of the dock. But am I ready for this? Until last night I thought I was. Now I seriously doubt it. I have some growing up to do and another massive operation to seriously get myself together and improve my chances of having a fantastic career, one that doesn’t put me on the front page of the company’s own paper, lying in the pavement beaten to death after not saying no to people (kindly) buying me drinks.

I guess it’s better to learn that now before it’s too late. But I hope I’ve not ruined my chances and they don’t regret sending me.

I’ve worked too hard to flush my career down the drain, so from now on I’m flying clear headed. I have to put my health, life and career first and not destroy my reputation. I’m putting in the hours and graft but I feel I’m yet to really prove myself to a company which has treated me so well and given me so much, I can’t bare the idea of letting anyone down.

Next week will be better and I am determined to keep getting bylines and making an impact. I just want to feel proud of what I’ve achieved here, I’ve learned an awful lot but I feel I could do so much more. I’m new to this amazing world and I’ve got to appreciate that it might not be my time yet.

At the end of the day there have to be reporters who are tee total -surely!