Oozing skin, vomiting and hundreds of tiny dragonflies for VisitEngland challenge


I’m really sorry at how rubbish I’ve been recently. Everything seems to be getting on top of me. Work has been hectic, holiday planning has taken hold of every waking moment outside the office, and I have been feeling generally, well, crap.IMG_0677

I haven’t posted any photos of my skin over the past few weeks because it would have made you all violently sick. Three weeks ago my skin was so painful I couldn’t walk – my legs were covered in puss-filled boils. At around the same time my skin blew up so did the skin around my stoma, it became bright red again, like it had been burnt. I also got itchy rashes around my eyes, and my eye condition came back.

All in all I have spent the last few weeks feeling like a scale covered snake, well, a hairy scale covered snake – if that’s at all possible. I’ve been unable to shave anything, unable to exercise and unable to look after myself. I’ve felt sick, unattractive and damn right sorry for myself – and mega stressed with my job and my holiday planning.

I went to the doctors in hope of a cure – what I got was infuriating. The doctor, who is apparently a skin specialist, was gleeful at my pain. He could not have been more pleased that I was in agony. He smiled and laughed and seemed joyful that I had such an ‘unusual’ aliment. He seemed to want it to stay put, so that he could study it and poke at it – it was so insensitive, and is something that has happened far too often in my weird and wonderful years of living with the joys of IBD.

Anyway, I eventually resorted (well was forced by my boyfriend) to go to the out of hours doctors. I have no idea why anyone bothers with their real GP after that. The woman was amazing, and really listened to me, prescribed me antibiotics, and was incredibly sympathetic. I wish I could have her all the time, and, in hindsight I should have found out her name and swapped surgeries!

The antibiotics worked but left me feeling rotten. I threw up constantly, and was even on them during Andy’s birthday party. I felt awful. The weekend after I started them me and Andy headed to Milton Keynes so he could do his Spy Day experience I bought him for his birthday last year. We went down the day before, so we headed even further afield to have a go at one of my Visit England challenges – a list of challenges which feels like a massive effort but has so far had many surprising rewards.

Wicken Fen nature reserve was stunning. It was wild and raw, with never ending stretches of long grass as far as the eye could see. I was far too excited to see a dragonfly, and started peering around, shushing Andy as I tried to spot one of the tiny insects. When I finally spotted one I was overwhelmed. I was like a little child. We must have stood for half an hour watching two MASSIVE dragonflies flit about – I guess I wouldn’t have bothered if I’d have know I would have seen dozens by the end of the day.

IMG_0702it was an amazing day. We saw some beautiful insects, and even a deer, it wasn’t the most sunny day so we didn’t see as many dragonflies as we could have , but that didn’t matter it was still a breathtaking experience, and one I would never have done if I didn’t have this bucket list.

The only problem was that we walked miles and I suddenly got very sick. The antibiotics started to churn stomach acid around and I couldn’t go anywhere. I felt dreadful. Luckily I made it back to the car, but when we got to tea I was violently sick – not pleasant for anyone.

Luckily my skin has started to clear up. Which is fantastic as we are heading to America in a week’s time, and I’m so stressed I can hardly breathe. I couldn’t be more excited for the trip, but there is still so much to sort out both for the holiday and at work. I’m also (this is one for the girls) trying to figure out what to do about my bikini line now I have my stoma – should I brave it and get a wax or try the cream?

And I won’t start about the swimsuit nightmare I’ve been having!IMG_0679

Anyway I will blog again tomorrow about my preparations for the big trip! Hope you are all well.

Do you want to join in with the Visit England Challenges and find out more about Wicken Fen visit http://www.visitengland.org

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A 22 mile bike ride – jelly legs & a bruised bum & hitting streets with Police


Until today the longest bike ride I had done since my ileostomy operation was around three miles. And that had been a struggle. Come to think about it, three miles was probably the furthest I had ridden anything in years, and that was far enough for my skinny little legs.

A quick and much needed break - no I didn't fall off

A quick and much needed break – no I didn’t fall off

So this morning me and Andy (my boyfriend) woke up to a lovely autumnal morning. It was a little cold but absolutely stunning. I woke up fairly exhausted after spending the night on reporting duty trekking around Chester City Centre with some lovely police officers as they tackled drink and drug related crime in the city in the aftermath of the last race of the season. I was with them most of the night running around, trying to keep up with their long strides, and, well trying to not get lost in the crowds of unbelievably drunk women swarming through the city’s streets.

It is a year since I did a very similar operation with the police in Chester. I remember how exciting it was, but how the whole time I was watching the drug dog sniff out wads of cocaine from revellers outside bars and clubs I was constantly panicking about needing the toilet. You see I may not have been in the peak of one of my IBD flares, but I still needed the bathroom around six times an hour, or I would be left gripping my stomach in agony and struggling not to curl up in a ball crying like a baby. I remember managing to throw the pain to the back of my mind until the break – which was after at least three hours – before getting back to the station and locking myself away in the cell-like toilet, and silently sobbing in pain as I tried to ‘let it all out’ before we hit the streets (without loo breaks) yet again. Ok, I hear you say, I should have said something, I’m sure they would have let me pay a pit stop, but I couldn’t and wouldn’t slow them down…I absolutely refused to stand in their way.

townhall_policeThis year was different. With my ostomy bag I hardly had to worry. In fact I made it from 7.30pm until I go home at 11.30pm without having to empty or change Winnie. Yes I did worry I would be caught out, and yes I did worry about needing the toilet – but I don’t think I will ever stop doing that – I’m a bit like Jason Bourne these days when it comes to rest rooms. I did panic when Winnie started going into overdrive at the custody suite while I was looking around the cells where some of the revellers would be sleeping off their booze that night. But she survived and to my relief I didn’t end up having to change Winnie in a cell with no basin and a metal loo!

Anyway, after groggily getting out of bed we made the decision to go for a bike ride. Yes we realised that the 20+ mile round trip was a big ask after hardly stepping foot on a bike since my operation, but after traipsing miles and miles around Rome that didn’t seem like such a leap into the dark for my legs. Oh, and there was a pub to be stopped at on the way…so that helped as an incentive.

I didn’t regret it one bit. The weather was beautiful and cycling along the canal was both exhilarating and peaceful. At first we were forced to weave around walkers, dogs and fellow cyclists as we battled along the canal, but then we finally found ourselves alone, apart from a few ducks and MASSIVE dogs and the scenery became simply something else. For a couple of miles we battled on despite the towpath teetering out altogether leaving me exhausted from the grassy mounds underfoot, or wheel. Then realising I was never going to make it back if we carried on, we finally went onto the road and cycled the rest of the way to the pub…a thousand times easier, apart from the fact Andy got a puncture and we had to stop every-so-often for him to pump up his withering tyre.

The pub itself, The Shady Oak, was quaint. Set on the side of the canal the views were

Waiting patiently for food - I'm screaming inside lol

Waiting patiently for food – I’m screaming inside lol

breathtaking. However the service left a lot to be desired and they didn’t take visas or any kind of cards whatsoever. It was an odd phenomenon going into a cash only pub. That’s when we realised we had cycled 10+ miles and probably could only afford a handful of chips between us!! Luckily we had a bit more and managed to share a buttie and chips – from a ridiculous menu I must add, and a ridiculously long wait of around an hour and a half!

Anyway a few other things happened, but all in all it was a magical day. Now sat on the sofa I feel proud. Ok, I’m no Sir Bradley Wiggins but I dug deep when I thought I had nothing left and managed to complete a 22 mile bike ride, which is amazing when you think six months ago I couldn’t walk up 10 steps without having to stop for breath. I feel healthy, but wobbly. In fact I can’t walk at all without my legs shaking, and my bum feels like it has been head butted by a bull. But it is a good healthy sort of pain, one that I am sure will make me walk like a cowboy for a few days, but one that I can be proud of…this is a pain that means my fitness is coming back…so, I guess I like it!

I can’t wait to do it again. It’s happened, I’ve got the cycling bug!

The last stretch - oh and there is my bessie mate in the car next to me - small world lol

The last stretch – oh and there is my bessie mate in the car next to me – small world lol

Ostomy underwear – is it worth it?


Every woman has secrets in her underwear draw, but since my operation mine has been filled with the most hideous underwear known to mankind. Gone are the lacy shorts and girly panties from the days before Winnie, now my top drawer is filled with underwear that even Bridget Jones would be ashamed to be caught out in.

My comfizz underwear - amazing support but not sexy!!

My comfizz underwear – amazing support but not sexy!!

Ok, maybe I’m being a little unfair. The ostomy underwear has saved me from some extremely humiliating moments post surgery, where bus loads of pensioners, tourists and even crowds of rich race-goers have been saved from the sight of my full to bursting ostomy bag and red raw scar by my sturdy prescription pants after rouge gusts of wind whipped up my skirt around my waist Marilyn Munroe style while walking through Chester city centre.

But although they were saved from a flash of Winnie the onlookers did get a flash of most probably the most ugly knickers they have ever seen. You may disagree but all the underwear I have had to date which caters for women with a stoma either resembles washed out grannie pants or those magic knickers Gok Wan enjoys promoting so that all us girls can suck in layers of fat and miraculously loose inches off our waists to fit into that dress which is two sizes too small.

My ‘prescription’ knickers are exactly as they sound. Yes they might be a step up from the paper ones you get given at tanning salons (which I can never figure out which way to go on), and yes they may cover your modesty completely by being the size of a tent, but they definitely look like the sort of thing you would find in any NHS stock cupboard. They are in basic colours – white, black and navy blue – and have a little bow along the seam, where some thoughtful designer has added a little frilly trim in the attempt to add a tiny bit of femininity to the otherwise unflattering look the underwear gives. I class this underwear in the same bracket as my laundry day knickers, or the ones I used to wear as period pants as a teenager…I definatly wouldn’t go on a night out in them, and I even have a separate part of my draw reserved for them just so I don’t put them on by mistake (which I assure you wouldn’t be easily done).

I must sound hideously ungrateful. I know that these knickers are designed to help me feel more confident about life with an ostomy. I know that the little hidden pouch is meant to make me feel more safe and secure. I also know that millions of women probably adore this underwear and it has probably helped so many people to regain their femininity and adore their figures again. But this blog is all about me being honest, and I have to admit that when I am wearing the special underwear I feel far from special, and to be fair, I don’t think Winnie enjoys it too much either.

I have the whole range, white, black and navy blue. Why? Because when I had the operation I was given a pack by my stoma nurse which had leaflets in about all the products you could get that would make you feel more attractive with your ostomy. I have to say I was excited by this…I had been dreading life with a stoma and the idea of my boyfriend seeing my bag made me feel sick to the stomach, so I thought some sexy underwear would do the trick. Unfortunately what the nurses failed to tell me was just how shockingly expensive this specially made underwear would be for me to buy. For the price of one pair of the anywhere near nice knickers these brochures had to offer I could have bought at least one high quality sexy, lacy launderie set from a high street store.

Some of the stuff in the brochures was nice, and yes I think it would have made you feel much sexier. But it would seem feeling sexy with a stoma comes at a price, and it is not a price everyone can afford to pay.

I ordered as much as I could on prescription. And when it came I was excited, that was until I put it on. The knickers are plain (which is what I like), as high-waisted as Simon Cowell’s trousers, and extremely high legged. Ok, I’ve always had my bad Crohn’s day panties and I have to admit since I was a teenager I have always carried around a spare pair of panties in my bag in case of a IBD related accident, but these are really something else. Winnie and Oscar (my two bags) get squished together under a protective panel, which, in fairness to the designers does help control them and hide them from the world when wearing clothing, but makes the plastic opening to the bag dig into my groin in a really painful and uncomfortable way. And, I tend to find that the knickers can be counterproductive as you don’t notice your bag is full until you really are on the edge of a nuclear explosion!!

There are other designs available, but from the leaflets I have to say the leopard prints and garish colours just don’t look classy enough for me. If I didn’t have an ostomy and was forking out those kinds of astronomical prices I would be expecting silk and pretty designs, not bold floral patterns, and that goes without saying you will never find a bra to match them.

Ok, I have to admit I do wear them when I’m doing exercise or going on a long day out where having the extra support wouldn’t hurt. But the moment I get home I peel them off as quickly as possible in favour of my pre-op shorts and knickers. To date the only ones I have grown to even slightly like are my Comfizz knickers and vest, which help to keep my forever peeling away bags and dressings in place by sucking me in like someone has wrapped me in cellophane. Credit where it’s due, these vests and pants really do hide your bag, they smooth me down so much you wouldn’t know Winnie existed, but peeling them off at the end of the day, you will breathe a sigh of relief as your ostomy escapes the tightly gripped prison and gets a gasp of freedom for the first time in hours.

I just don’t understand why there can’t be more choice out there, and why there isn’t more tasteful underwear for younger women who just want to wear something that is comfortable and sexy. Since my bra shopping experience last week, where I felt the need to warn the poor lady (I don’t really know why) who measured me in M&S not to be alarmed as I’d had an operation (I think she expected to see blood and guts, not just a little rash and a clean ostomy bag), I’ve decided to wear whatever underwear I feel comfortable in.

Ok, I’ve not thrown it away, as it has its uses, and, well I’ve paid for it with my taxes anyway, but I’ve decided to go back to the land of no VPL, silk and french knickers (I know I’m sharing too much here). I just want to feel good. My new bras make me feel sexy and feminine and teaming them with NHS pants just doesn’t seem right.

Anyway I think Winnie likes the feeling of just being free.

N.t: If you disagree and have found some amazing ostomy underwear please share. I would love to find out where others have purchased from.

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Confessions of an ill person


If you looked at me you wouldn’t know I had an incurable disease. I look like everyone else. Ok, maybe not exactly, I’m a

You're ill?? You sure?

You’re ill?? You sure?

little (ok a lot) on the thin side, I’m often covered in bruises from millions of blood tests, and sometimes, if I’m lucky, you’ll spot me sporting a rather trendy hospital bracelet with my name on (in case I forget) and a gown that shows my bright red bum off to the whole world like I’m a baboon. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’m not in a wheelchair; I don’t have to walk with crutches; I have all my hair; I have all my limbs; I don’t look a weird colour, pale or sickly; and I don’t have any disfigurements…so to the naked eye and to the world I’m not ill and I’m most definitely not disabled, which you would think would be a good thing right?

Most of the time it is! I am so grateful everyday that I can walk, jump, run, swim, and that I have the freedom to do the things that I want to do without being confined to a wheelchair..and I have to add that I have all the respect in the world for those who aspire to amazing things despite the preconceived limitations of their disabilities (aka ParaOlympians). But just because you can’t see my aliment it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. As a Crohns/Colitis sufferer I don’t want anyone to treat me differently, but I don’t want to have to walk around waving a sign saying “I’m ill…honest!” just so that people will let me into the disabled toilet without shaking their heads and muttering “how disgraceful, how dare that young woman use the disabled loo…there’s nothing wrong with her”, or maybe let me sit down on the bus when I’m obviously about to collapse through the effort of trying to stand up.

So as a long-term sufferer of Crohns/Colitis (still don’t 100% know which one, they’re now leaning towards Colitis) here are my confessions:

Before the op smiling as ever, but seriously ill!!!

Before the op smiling as ever, but seriously ill!!!

I know I’m a positive person. It’s a skill I have moulded from years of crippling pain, disappointment, broken promises and self hate. For most of my life I have lived a lie that has been so bloody convincing that I don’t really know what’s real anymore. If you were to meet me you would see what everyone else sees – a confident, happy person, who never gives up and never lets anything get her down. No matter how much it hurts, no matter how much I want to scream in pain, no matter how bad your horrible judgements because of my skinny frame or endless toilet visits, no matter the blood, injections and fatigue, I still manage to plaster a smile across my face.

You could spend all day with me and never notice that I am holding myself together with a tiny string of energy that is fraying and threatening to snap at any moment. I spend every day as a different person, a determined person, a workaholic, the sort of person who would never let anyone down, who won’t quit until the job is done and who gives everything 110%. I’m like a whirlwind in the office, and I guess my pet hate is lazy people. I never stop, my energy to others seems unrelenting, and my positivity in the face of so many issues seems to be endless. But inside I’m screaming as my body eats itself alive. If you were to look closely maybe you would be able to see the pain in my eyes, perhaps behind my blue eyes everything is empty? Perhaps if you stopped and really looked at me, pushed aside my over-the-top laughter, thick make-up and endless chattering, you would be able to see me my hands twitching with pain from arthritis as I attempt to scribble down an interview, or the way my body twitches as pain rips through my bowel or the deadness in my eyes as I try to cope with the face every morsel of food I ate for the past year has just ended up in the toilet bowl again.

Smiling so much can hurt. Living a lie every day takes a lot of energy and being positive when so many things are quite frankly shit is just draining. I don’t let many people see the real me. I guess I’ve never liked her. To me the real Rachel is ill all the time, she is weak, she is sick and she is not worth bothering with. The real Rachel is the person who crawls into bed and gives in to the pain and the fatigue. She is the side of me who throws up food quicker than it’s cooked. She is the person who is afraid of social events where people will see how little she really eats. She is the person who lives in track suit bottoms and baggy t-shirts, is covered in bruises from endless blood tests. She is the person who knows that feeling well will never really last, that the treatments will never really work and that it’s just a matter of time that my illness will kick off again.

That Rachel is the one I become on the night’s I arrive home alone, she is who I become when I unscrew that positive grin and put it to bed on my nightstand every night.

You could say there are two versions of me. There’s the Rachel that people see in public and then there’s just me, bare, naked and exposed. That’s the person people see when they visit me in hospital covered in wires and trying to hold back the tears. So now you know why I always want you to call ahead if you’re visiting – it’s so I can transform into the better Rachel, you know, that positive person you all know and love. She’s not for me…no, she’s for you.

Well she used to be….now the lines blur. I’ve been living this lie so long I might just be starting to believe that I really am as determined, hopeful and positive as she is every day. 

Why am I confessing all this? I guess it’s because of what happened yesterday…

Yesterday I woke up full of hope, questions and enthusiasm, ready for my meeting with ‘Mr Miracle Hands’ my

TRENDY

TRENDY

life-changing (I may as well say life-saving) surgeon, whose amazing handy-work brought Winnie into the world and banished some of the evil disease that has tormented me for the past 13 years. I was almost excited to see this ‘wonderful’ man, who I hoped was going to be full of answers and solutions to some of the weird problems I have been experiencing since my Ileostomy operation nearly 12-weeks-ago. I guess I thought that he would be able to snap his fingers and every issue would just vanish in a puff of smoke, that he would smile sweetly, say “don’t worry it’s all over, you’ve suffered for long enough and that’s it.. you can live your life now. We will fix you and from this day on your only worries will be whether your bum looks big in an outfit or which weird combination of coffee, milk and syrups to order from Starbucks”. He said some things, but to my disappointment it was nothing along those lines.

I guess I should be grateful, since the operation I have felt better than I have ever felt – well, that is, ever since I can remember. The crippling pain that caused black-outs, screaming ‘kill me now’ in public bathrooms, and left me literally crawling up cubicle walls, is gone. But it has been replaced by something else…something so much further down the scale that most of the time I don’t even notice it, but it’s still more pain than most people could deal with on a daily basis. You see the complications, the infections and the scar bursting open following my life saving operation have left me with more problems than before. I was used to the old problems caused by UC/Crohn’s, but these are new, alien and confusing problems and pains that, honestly, I am finding bloody hard to figure out.

My hope had been the ‘miracle hands’ surgeon was going to have all the answers. My hope had been he was going to say “let’s take out that remaining bit of colon, I should never have left it in, it is far too diseased”. I hadn’t expected him to take it out there and then, but I had hoped it would be soon. When he cocked his head to one side like a sad puppy and said ‘at least six more months’ or ‘possibly never’ due to scar tissue, complications and risks,  I have to admit something inside me died. I think the little flame of hope of living a totally normal life flickered and gradually burnt out. Obviously, me being WELL ME, I didn’t burst into tears or throw the all mighty ‘it’s not fair’ tantrum (believe me I wanted to), I think I made a totally inappropriate joke or laughed. In fact I even carried on doing it when he peeled back my wound dressing to reveal a very sore and oozy patch of skin that was like a scene from Alien, and expressed his horror that I’d managed to put up with such pain in the sweltering heat! I even made a joke when he declared he would have to put a THIRD stoma bag on it to drain the never-ending stream of puss:

ME: (something along the lines of)  “ooh so your adding another tool to my tool belt!!!”  (I’m sure he saw through my little act, I know my mum does (she always has)…

My three bags and some very sore skin

My three bags and some very sore skin

Anyway I couldn’t believe it A THIRD BAG!! I didn’t sign up for this. I signed up for just the one, when I signed that consent form and allowed this man to hack away at me I was under the understanding that their would be no complications. he would simply whip out my bowel, fit me with an ileostomy and that would be that…BUT NO!!! I should have known, I really should, nothing I ever do runs to course…my body screams DRAMA QUEEN!! I even joke to my surgeon that I am the most dramatic patient he has ever had – unfortunately he agrees! I was so desperate not to get another bit of plastic bagging attached to my skin that I wholeheartedly agreed when he said the only other option was to stick a knife in the over-granulated scar tissue and drain out the puss! Anyone passing the room at that point would have thought he was offering me a package holiday by the OH YES, FANTASTIC, PLEASE that was excitedly coming out of my desperate mouth. unfortunately he refused to do that, and I found myself whisked to another room, nurses buzzing around me, sticking one bag after another to my skin in an attempt to find one that wouldn’t make me look like Michelin Man once I had my tshirt back on.

Anyway, back to the surgeon. I quizzed him on everything. Now that they had my large bowel did they finally know what I had..surely they did? The truth was, after looking at the results he still couldn’t tell me 100% if it was UC or Crohn’s. He confirmed the results ‘swayed’ towards UC, but that it looked like they wouldn’t 100% know until they removed the rest of my colon, then it would be a waiting game to see if the disease attacked my small bowel…if so, it was Crohn’s Disease. What a fun game 🙂 I can’t wait to play that one, maybe we should put bets on it!

Hmm hope all this isn't for forever

Hmm hope all this isn’t for forever

By the end of the appointment I had been called brave, tough and a ‘good coper’ – I didn’t feel any of those things. It must have shown as at the end of the appointment, as I was being whisked off to get my third bag plastered to my ever-growing tool belt, the surgeon grabbed me in a big bear hug and held onto me like I was being taken off to die. He told me how brave I was, how well I was looking, and how much I had been to stay so positive despite what I had been through. It was awkward but nice…despite everything that has gone wrong, the wonky epidural, the split-open scar, the infections, I would still, if I had to, trust this man with my life (even if he is a bit touchy-feely and holds my hand during appointments).

And after all this crap what did I do? I didn’t go home and cry did I NOOO!! I went off to the beach with my parents and pretended I was happy as larry about the whole thing…and because I did I had a really nice day. But today as I ring the specialists and surgeons for the 10th time and get “ring the other team” or an answer machine message, as I desperatly try to force them to put me on meds for my remaining colon, which is becoming more and more diseased and painful by the minute, I am feeling desperatly low and upset.

Me smiling at the beach

Me smiling at the beach

I guess I have figured out, finally, that I’m really bloody ill and a quick-fix operation is not going to cure me. I’m frightened. Frightened about what the future holds, about my health and the impact it will have on my life, about future surgery, about more time off work. The truth is that despite my happy face, quick wit and go get ’em attitude in life, underneath it all I am bloody terrified.

And you know what???? That’s ok, I’m allowed my bad days.

Here’s Winnie – meet my temperamental stoma


Yesterday me and Winnie celebrated our 10-week anniversary. But, because all I remember about the day the surgeons ripped my once flat stoma open and tore my poor and battle worn colon out, is being dopey and drugged up and feeling the sort of pain and soreness that you would expect a person to feel when a major organ has been ripped out of their body, I tend to think of the day after the op as the first real day me and Winnie spent together.

So true!!!

So true!!!

A lot has happened since I woke up groggy from the massive dose of anesthetic and realised that my worst fear had finally come true – my once flat stomach had been torn apart and a giant pink stoma was now erupting from the surface. Me and Winnie have been on a lot of adventures together, faced horrible challenges, snuggled up in sweat pants with hot coco when we’ve not been feeling well, and have had some God awful ‘I hate you so much’ fallings out.

I’ve struggled to accept her need to constantly make embarrassing farmyard noises in totally inappropriate situations, while she has put up with my inability to stay away from foods that make her sick (I promise you not matter how much you hate it, I will always eat loads of spinach, even though you spit it out whole). I’ve put up with her non-stop attention seeking and ability to fill-up faster than the speed of life, while she has struggled to keep up with my stubbornness and inability to put my feet up and just rest.

We go together like Brie and Bacon

We go together like Brie and Bacon

We have had our highs and lows. Ok, more lows than highs at the moment, but just like any long-lasting relationship at first you have to learn to put up with each other. After living for 25-years with my colon, I now have had to get used to life without one of my major organs and accept Winnie as an alternative to using my arse to go to the loo 🙂 it has been a major learning curve, but one I have got used to and accepted a lot quicker than I ever thought I would.

Now that 10 weeks have passed I thought it was about time that I showed you Winnie. I mean I’ve been telling you all about her, praising her and bitching about her for the past two months, and I, very rudely, have never introduced you to her. Now to everyone who said they wouldn’t read my blog if there was anything gross in it, I apologise, but even though she sometimes (well a lot of the time) does gross things, Winnie is NOT gross…she is totally natural, and I would still be seriously ill without her. So here she is. My surgeon and stoma nurse say she is perfectly formed, and she is 🙂 n.t I’m sorry about all the scars and how yucky they look, but if I wait for them to heal without showing you Winnie we could be waiting for years!

So here you can see Winne, Oscar (who is poking out of my stomach and causing me all sorts of problems at the moment) is the one who looks a little like a second belly button or  thumb print, and Felicity the fistula. You can also see my very itchy scar from the operation, surrounding my almost non-existent belly button, which has been swamped by the itchy rashes caused by plasters, adhesives and dressings. I thought I would always hate this scar, and at the moment I do, but I know that I will grow to accept it in the end – well hopefully.

Winnie the very temperamental stoma, released for good behaviour for a minute or two

Winnie the very temperamental stoma, released for good behaviour for a minute or two

Winnie is pink, problematic, has a split personality disorder, and is 25mm big (which is a hell of a lot smaller than she was when she first came into this world). We have days where we hate each other, but you know what she has saved my life, and she is a small price to pay for a life without the crippling pain of Crohn’s Disease.

I didn’t show you Winnie before because I was scared to. It sounds silly now but I have been dreading this post, and even though I wouldn’t want to admit it I was putting it off. But now I have show you her I can’t understand why I was making such a big ho ha about it. So, say hi to Winnie world!

As you all know, before I was forced to have my emergency ileostomy op I was scared, well shitless, about the idea of having anyone go near me with a sharp knife to slit open my poor skin – I won’t go into how terrified I was about the idea of having a stoma, or we could be here all night! I guess I never thought I would be sat here showing the whole world a picture of her, I didn’t think I would even be able to look at her. 

And here she is looking very sore from the hot weather :( I'm sorry Winnie - not her best look

And here she is looking very sore from the hot weather 😦 I’m sorry Winnie – not her best look

Despite the fact I had narrowly avoided having the surgery many times before, in the days before my operation 10-weeks-ago I may have accepted the idea of having an ileostomy bag but, I have to admit, I was still bloody terrified about having a stoma. After drawing those little x-marks-the-spot marks on my then flat and untouched stomach, and chatting to me about sizes of bags, accessories and all the other fun things that as a fashion mad lady I would usually love to hear and chat about (not in this situation tho), my lovely stoma nurse Maria gave me a pre-ostomy reading and prep pack.

This was just two days before the surgery, so there was no backing out. The slot was booked, the surgeons prepped, and my bowel was rapidly disintigrating…so, really there was no backing out of it. So I opened the pre-op pack and started devouring the literature in an attempt to get myself ready for my new arrival. All the shiny coated booklets where filled with images of happy smily people drinking coffee and taking bike rides in the sun and they were eating all the time! I mean, what’s with all the eating? Nearly every page was filled with images of either shiny-grey-haired pensioners laughing over orange juice and croissants, or smiling families tucking into picnics on sunny lawns…all the booklets seemed to be telling me is YOU CAN EAT ANYTHING WITH AN ILEOSTOMY!! And that really wasn’t the reassuring message I needed….it all seemed really over-glossy and fake, I needed something real, a picture of someone who was just, well like me.

My stomach the night before my operation - wish i had never taken this it makes me feel sad to look at

My stomach the night before my operation – wish i had never taken this it makes me feel sad to look at

What I needed was maybe an extract from someone’s blog, the real truth about how someone my age would feel after such a major operation, you know WHARTS AND ALL! I think if I could have read something honest, someone who said they had also felt really frightened, and that it hadn’t been all plain sailing with their ostomy but that it had been worth it in the end, that would have been a great help… so if you’re reading this and you’re from one of the pharmaceutical companies please, please, please think about putting in some honest stories from young people, instead of just filling those brochures with fake, plastered on smiles which wouldn’t look out-of-place in a pension or life insurance commercial.

Me with all my gadgets - my utility belt :)

Me with all my gadgets – my utility belt 🙂

Anyway, anyway, anyway, inside this pack there was a fake stoma and a bag, so that you could basically give-it-a-go, sort of try it on before you buy kind of thing. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience but I attached the fake squigy foam stoma to my marker x, filled up the bag with water from the communal tap on the ward, and attached it to my stomach. Then, according to the booklet, I was meant to walk around with the bag attached to me for a couple of hours to get used to the feeling of wearing it all the time, but it was just too heavy and uncomfortable, and the first time I emptied it, it made me feel so emotional that I started to cry as the water gushed from my stomach. So I took it off…I just didn’t want to have to deal with it until after the operation, when I guess I wouldn’t have a choice.

Cutting all my new manuka honey bags :) thanks Charter :)

Cutting all my new manuka honey bags 🙂 thanks Charter 🙂

What was worse than that was I had realised that I didn’t think I would be able to deal with touching and changing my stoma myself. I was really worried that I wouldn’t be capable of it, that for the rest of my life a nurse or a friend would have to deal with her. This was because when I was reading the literature I couldn’t look at the picture of the stoma…to me it looked pink, gross and slimy. A bit like a willy or worm sticking grossly out of someone’s stomach..and this one was a perfectly formed, no stitches, no poop, no blood stoma, so how was I going to be able to deal with mine post surgery? I did, but that is a different story, for now I want to tell you that I put my hand over that horrible picture and wouldn’t look at it even when my nurses tried to get me to.

I even took a picture (see above) of my stomach the night before the operation. I guess it was a souvenir picture so that I could always remember what my stomach looked like before the scars and the stoma. You know, something to show the grandkids and all that. I wish I had never taken it, and have deleted it off my phone, as I was spending too much time looking at it and feeling sad.

But now, as I show you this picture I know that I am 100% fine about having a stoma. I feel fine about the idea of having Winnie for the rest of my life. I mean, if that means a life without the crippling pain of Crohns, the constant toilet visits and the inability to follow my dreams, or even nip to the shops for fear of having an accident, having a little pink lump on my stomach that occasionally farts in public is a small price to pay.

Me & Winnie talk to USA, spurt crap all over the place and rant about hospitals


Over the past few days I have been finding it really hard to stay awake. I honestly can’t seem to keep my eyes open for longer than around an hour at a time. While I am finding this frustrating, and, if I have to be totally honest, a little worrying (this was what was happening before I went into hospital for surgery), it has undoubtably led to some rather amusing situations which even I can’t help but laugh about.

Oooh pretty flowers

Oooh pretty flowers

I have fallen asleep in packed hospital/doctor’s waiting rooms; on toilet seats; while watching TV; in coffee shops; while on the phone; in cars and, most embarrassing of all, when people are talking to me! I have even fallen asleep mid-sentence and woken-up half-an-hour later thinking Where Was I?? – I know…you couldn’t make it up!

In fact on Wednesday I became so concerned about my unpredictable slumbers that I decided it was high time that I gave in and went to the doctors to find out what the hell was going on with my worn-out body. I mean, I am obviously either dehydrated or lacking in some sort of vitamin or mineral which helps make it possible for normal people to not fall asleep every 10 seconds…imagine a world like that, trains would crash, bank robbers would be found leaning against safes with dribble pouring down their faces and bags stuffed with cash having a little snooze, and the Prime Minister would be found sat at the desk in No 1o with his slippers on, cuddling a cute teddy bear called Maggie and snoring into a mountain of red boxes while chaos erupted on the streets below. I mean nothing would ever get done, would it?

Trying to watch the tennis but drifting off

Trying to watch the tennis but drifting off

While sitting in the waiting room, which was packed with screaming kids with snotty noses and old ladies with bad hips, I started to feel that awful tiredness coming over me like a wave. Feeling my eyes starting to drop, I pulled my Kindle out of my handbag and tried desperately to read this week’s book, fighting with every tiny ounce of energy in my tired body to focus my vision and stop the words blurring, bouncing and leaping across the screen. I must have read the same sentence twice before my head dropped and I fell fast asleep, probably snoring and making slight purring or snorting noises similar to those you would normally hear in a farmyard or coming from a pigsty, and undoubtably dribbling and pulling some sort of horrendously embarrassing face (hope those pics don’t turn up on the internet). I woke-up around 20 minutes later after, much to my surprise, a sheep (I don’t know why a sheep) in my dream started calling my name! Even though I was dreaming I knew that something wasn’t right about this as; a) this sheep didn’t have a starring role in the dream; b) sheep do not talk; c) my name sounded like it was being called from another world, it had an echoey shouting underwater quality to it, which just didn’t sound like it was coming from inside my pleasant slumber world. I woke up with a jerk, pulling my dribble stained hand away from my cheek, to find the not-so bad-looking doctor (it had to be him right #typical) leaning over me calling my name, with a strange expression on his face, which I could only interpret as somewhere between amusement and disgust!! I wouldn’t say I have never been so embarrassed, as that would be a lie – I have had tubes shoved where the sun doesn’t shine by doctors who resembled Brad Pitt ( not the ideal first impression for any girl to make) and been stopped in the street by crushes and butter wouldn’t melt almost Calvin Cline underwear models for directions or an annoyingly long conversation, knowing that any minute I’m going to have a poop related incident – but I have to say that I must have looked shocked and humiliated as I staggered towards his office, no doubt with my hair stuck to my face by drool and a tell-tale red hand-shaped-mark imprinted into the side of my face. THE SHAME!!!

According to Doc I wasn’t dehydrated as my tongue didn’t look dry (don’t ask how he

Ohhh another smelly pressie for Winnie

Ohhh another smelly pressie for Winnie

came to that conclusion), he didn’t think I was lacking in anything serious as I didn’t look ill and my blood pressure was ok (saying that it was its normal abnormally low self) and I had an average temperature. He put the whole thing down to exhaustion and my body trying to heal itself following the loss of my bowel…which, he at last enlightened me, had been all torn out apart from the tiny and problematic rectal stump. But just to be on the safe side, and because he is a rather thorough doctor, he had a feel of my poor tummy, and prodded at a protesting Winnie, who at that moment, in what I decided was an OY! HOW DARE YOU TOUCH ME!! protest, decided to gurgle and erupt some fresh, warm poop into her freshly changed bag, before letting out a series of hideously loud and obnoxious farts – thank God he hadn’t taken the bag off!!!

I then had to sit in an uncomfortable state of silence and intolerable embarrassment for the rest of the appointment while he rang the hospital to arrange a blood-test and tried to get hold of the IBD nurse to change my medication, so that poor Winnie would no longer have to spit out the giant horse-tablets whole every day.

All I can say is that I was relieved to get out of that tiny room…and, I am 100% sure he was glad to see the back of us both.

Up set and drenched in town meeting a friend

Up set and drenched in town meeting a friend after doctors humiliation

I have had to tell Winnie off multiple times this week. She has spent the whole week thoroughly disagreeing with everything I eat, drink and so much as look at or think about putting in my mouth. I’m honestly starting to think that she enjoys testing me, and is trying to see how far she can push me before I race to the hospital screaming TAKE HER BACK, I’VE CHANGED MY MIND, GIVE ME A DIFFERENT MODEL. And, before you say it, I know that having a stoma is not like owning a car, and that I can’t take her back and exchange her for a soft top if I don’t like her after 21 days, but did I have to get stuck with such a madam?? I’m honestly sure that most people don’t have this much trouble with their new friends 😦 but mine is a total character, she doesn’t seem to know if she is coming or going, happy or sad, fussy or not fussy, working or refusing to in protest for some totally unknown cause.

Take for example yesterday, which was Winnie’s annual changing day (she get’s changed

Winnie, Oscar and Felicity post nuclear explosion in bathroom

Winnie, Oscar and Felicity post nuclear explosion in bathroom

every other day, so she is always clean and fresh and looking her best). I was halfway through changing her, I had cleaned and dried around her bottom and had smothered her with special barrier protecting cream so she didn’t get red and sore from the adhesive Flange (horrid word YUCK), and had decided, just for a second, to take my attention off her and move onto cleaning my wound and washing out Oscar (my remaining colon poking through my stomach #nice!), when she decided to have a totally paddy to really p**s me off and get my attention. Without warning she started convulsing, her entire pink, plump body started moving in and out like it had a life of its own, and then suddenly she erupted everywhere, spurting fountains of fresh, smelly poop all down my leg and all over the bathroom floor. PANIC STATIONS. I grabbed layers of tissue, and, basically anything else I could find and desperately tried to plug the leak, but nothing wanted to stop her, she was on a roll and was determined to teach me a lesson for ignoring her!! It was total bedlam, and when it was over, and she allowed me the few seconds of ceasefire to clean her like a little baby and nestle her bag in her bag – well, I pretty much stuffed her in, in an attempt to teach her a lesson – I collapsed in a heap on the bathroom floor before finishing the job by putting on my dressings and having a much-needed wash and clean-up of the crime scene.

A slightly steady moment at the castle..felt like a princess

A slightly steady moment at the castle..felt like a princess

She also had a major paddy on our day out with the folks to Cholmondeley Castle on Thursday. The plan was to go out to the castle’s grounds for the day to look at the pretty flowers and enjoy a scrummy picnic on the manicured lawns. And that’s exactly what we did, but not without Winnie and my exhausted body trying to add some much UN-NEEDED drama to the occasion. We arrived at the castle after I had fallen asleep mid-sentence while talking to my Mum and Dad in the car…I think I had been telling them about a lovely offer I have had from an amazingly generous person to pay for one of my more expensive challenges, when, totally out of the blue I fell fast asleep half way through a sentence. It was something like “I just can’t believe he would do such a….zzzzz”!! My poor parents must have been totally bemused and confused as to whether to wake me up, let me sleep, or drive me straight to the A&E department and have me admitted for weird sleeping patterns and inability to stay away even when talking.

Anyway, anyway, anyway. We arrived at the castle – well they arrived and I sort of dozed

A very windy picnic with the Flints

A very windy picnic with the Flints

into the land of the living as we approached the massive estate – got out of the car and started to walk around the stunning gardens. As we got just about far enough away from the car, in the middle of exploring some gorgeous rose beds, with me trying to take professional style photos of various multi-coloured roses with my not so professional and rather knackered camera phone, I suddenly realised my legs didn’t want to behave themselves anymore. My poor legs appeared to have acquired a life of their own (Micheal Jackson stylie), and were suddenly refusing to take my body in; a) the right direction; b) anywhere that required them standing. They appeared to be buckling under the simple pressure and decided to trip me up and make me stumble all over the place, almost sending me tumbling into thorny rose bushes and making me look like an overgrown toddler trying to advance from crawling a week or so too soon. My poor reliable Dad seemed to spot my problem almost from the word go and hastily rescued me from landing facedown among the rose bushes, hooking his arm under mine and sticking by the side for the rest of the day, in an attempt to stop me costing millions of pounds of damage to Lord and Lady Cholmondeley’s extravagant flowerbeds. I will be eternally grateful.

Me and the pretty flowers

Me and the pretty flowers

If it wasn’t bad enough that I appeared to have lost control of my limbs and was walking around the grounds in a zombie style trance, barely managing to keep my heavy eyes open, Winnie decided that she had been ignored for long enough and decided to have an almighty paddy in the grounds public toilets. After years of suffering from Crohns I have a massive dislike for public toilets, but I am also always eternally grateful that they exist to help save me in my frequent moments of desperation. I hate how dirty and unkept they are, and that there is always the risk that you could be attacked by a random drunk/drug dealer hiding in one of the unlit cubicles, and that entering a cubicle is like playing chicken or guess who…you never know what will be behind the door or under the toilet lid SURPRISE!!! (yucky, ewh, I feel sick even thinking about the revolting things I have seen, why do women do that in toilets?) Anyway I ventured inside these outdoor toilets, which were not really that bad as far as public loos go..they had toilet roll which wasn’t strewn all over the place, and there was nothing nasty floating in the bowl (puke!!). I went to empty Winnie to find, horror of horrors, that the loo roll was in one of those health and safety round containers, and for the life of me I couldn’t find the end of it to pull down! So I stood there holding Winnie’s end with one hand and frantically searching for the end of the roll with the other..it was frustrating and by the time I had thankfully found it, I will leave it to your imagination, but it took a hell of a lot longer to clean her up than it would have done had that flaming protective cover not have been there!!!!

Yes, I know that wasn’t Winnie’s fault and it’s unfair to blame her, but for the rest of the

in the garden enjoying a few rare rays of sunshine yesterday before Murray mania

in the garden enjoying a few rare rays of sunshine yesterday before Murray mania

afternoon she threatened to kick-off whenever we ventured more than a metre away from the only loos in the hundreds of acres of grounds. She did it during the picnic, and I continued trying to eat my tea and grab bits of food and cutlery that kept being blown away in the wind, while feeling her swelling into a gas-filled balloon under my jacket. While we were looking at the weird and wonderful petting zoo animals, and even on the way back in the car where I thankfully fell asleep two seconds into the journey so didn’t notice her constant tantrums or the horrible bumpy Cheshire roads.

When I got home I raced straight to bed and slept for a lovely few hours 🙂 it was bliss, until Winnie woke me and insisted upon being changed again following her first slight leak, which was caused by the bag lifting up slightly in the heat I think. Which I handled much better and more calmly than I thought actually. I then had to dress her in the first bag I have ever cut for her, having run out of the ones the Stoma Nurse had cut…this was a nerve-wracking experience..lets just say I didn’t have much confidence in my own cutting abilities and accuracy and spent the entire sleepless night checking her for any sign of leakage or damage caused by her collar being just too tight.

Oh and before I forget, I spent the other evening, after lots of messing around not being able to find each other (first time I had used Skype) talking to a lovely lady across the pound about my life with Crohns for a book she is writing. It took forever and there were a few awkward moments, and hilarious moments where I think we just didn’t understand each other…she even called my accent lovely 🙂 HMMM!! Anyway when we eventually finished at midnight (there had been some confusion over time differences), I sat in bed unable to sleep worrying about exactly how much of my life I had spilled to her during the interview. And faced the horrible reality that this is how it must feel to be on the other side of the journalist’s notebook…a rather worrying feeling of hmm should I have said that. But, hey ho, if it helps others to come to terms with their disease I don’t care if they hear about my shameful poop accidents!

Moving on to my first BIG Bowl of cereal...before today eating out of tiny bowls for kids

Moving on to my first BIG Bowl of cereal…before today eating out of tiny bowls for kids

Anyway, that’s enough moaning and rambling for one day. I will be gutted when Wimbledon finishes this weekend, as despite the fact that I have been falling asleep at the worst possible moments (tie-breaks and match points) during Murray’s matches I have throughly enjoying screaming at the telly and watching my boyfriend transform into a madman, screaming and calling the poor tennis player all sorts of horrible unnamable things as he throws himself around the court in an attempt to make us all proud. He really can be a twat when we are watching sport (sorry babe), but it is funny to watch 🙂 I’m sure it’s just being passionate about the game, well that’s what he tells me.

So now I’m going to go back to writing my complaint to the hospital regarding my recent stay, where they tried to poison me by constantly trying to feed me lactose, cripple me with a badly placed epidural and basically left me wasting away, depressed, in pain and confused. As I don’t want to bore you so I have done a mind-numbing video about it which you can watch below.

Where’s Winnie at the races, at the seaside and doing ten rounds with Mike Tyson


Before I share any of the crazy adventures me and Winnie (the poo bag) got up to at the weekend, and

Please bid on these stunningly illustrated Disney books :)

Please bid on these stunningly illustrated Disney books 🙂

spill all my inner most thoughts and secrets, I must first ask you a massive favour….PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE bid on the eBay items which we (me and Andy) are flogging following our Bargain Hunt style adventure a couple of weekends ago. If no one bids, not only will I be horrendously out-of-pocket (despite how über glamorous I always look I’m not rolling in cash, mostly because I am a lowly reporter, and I’m addicted to nail varnish and expensive coffee) and lumbered with even more (luxurious) yet pointless items cluttering up my already stuffed to the brim flat, but I will have FAILED, YES FAILED, one of my challenges. Surely you guys (my dedicated readers :)) can’t let that happen 😦 And, if what I fear will happen does indeed come true, I will not even break even let alone raise mountains of cash for Crohns and Colitis UK to help them in their fight to help people understand the true pain of this evil, evil illness and possibly even find a cure!!!

WHY would you not want an amazing MANDY ANNUAL???

WHY would you not want an amazing MANDY ANNUAL???

I am not trying to emotionally blackmail you all (perhaps I am a little) but imagine the SHAME of me failing to sell an item on eBay. It was meant to be one of my simplest challenges, but the fact that no one has bid on the items which I battled exhaustion, hunger and a very hyperactive stoma to source out for you lovely people to buy, is making this challenge the hardest and most demoralising one I have faced so far….So please PLEASE PLEASE put a smile back on my face and bid on my lovely items…trust me you won’t regret it 🙂 Just remember a lot of determination, sweat and (almost) tears went into finding these goodies from those 400+ stalls…you would be raising money for a very good cause, saving me the humiliation of having to post on here that I have failed and sending a giant cheque with the figure £0.00 to an amazing charity…and make a little, very tired and sleep-deprived young lady and schizophrenic stoma bag very happy indeed, and stop her looking like this (pic of me in black and white looking very miserable):

If you don't bid, me, Andy and Winnie will be soo blue and never smile again!!

If you don’t bid, me, Andy and Winnie will be soo blue and never smile again!!

If you want to bid on the amazing items – a vintage Man United book; Stunning 20th C Japanese miniature cup and saucer; Knightrider collector’s item; Winnie the Pooh Book; Disney education and tales album set; Classic Mandy Annual; Sooty Book and a Bronze ornament of a brass player – please click on the links above (the words underlined DOH!!) or the picture (to right) which will take you to the seller’s page!

Anyway, now that the emotional blackmailing is over and done with, I can tell you about Me and Winnie and our rather exciting, exhausting and windswept weekend. Basically what follows is the story of a weekend where Winnie’s non-stop teenage tantrums finally pushed me into the dark world of gambling; Winnie suffered her first panic attack (or it may well have been stage fright) and I learnt a key rule to life with a temperamental stoma – never wear a jumpsuit!!!

So after months of waiting the girly day at the Races finally arrived. On Saturday morning I woke up after another typically restless night feeling exhausted and suffering from such crippling fatigue that I could hardly muster the energy to walk to the bathroom let alone spend a whole day screaming at horses and standing around in six-inch stilettos. All I had wanted, prayed for, begged for, was one decent night’s sleep, so that I wouldn’t wake up looking like a zombie crawling out of a grave with massive bags under my eyes and my hair stuck up like Sonic the Hedgehog…but, alas God obviously had other plans for me, and typically the night before the Races saw me sat bolt up right in bed with my normal skin crawling itchiness, and my poor broken body screaming to sleep while my brain ticked away over every problem, flaw and tiny hang-up, wittering on and on about how Winnie would leak and all the thousands of unnaturally good-looking punters were going to see crap dripping down my dress (pardon my French). I know that seems ridiculous, and the chances of that actually happening where, quite frankly, next to none, but I couldn’t get the image out of my head that I was going to have an accident in a very public place, and that, when it happened I would be stood in a pool of crap directly in front of a large gang of heavily made-up girls who would all laugh and point and shout “Ewh she’s got s**t dripping down her leg…”she is, isn’t she, she’s sh***ing herself” !! or some other horrible comment, involving me and a pile of excrement. All night I sat awake trying to distract myself by reading Clare Bolding’s autobiography, but nothing could shake the image of Winnie deciding to have her first proper paddy in the middle of Chester Racecourse and me, red-faced and humiliated, being escorted out of the paddocks by burly security guards and manhandled into the back of a police car for ‘defecating in a public place’.

Me and my beautiful girlies at Chester Races

Me and my beautiful girlies at Chester Races

On the day I needn’t have worried at all, because Winnie, out of fright or in an attempt to prove that I had seriously misjudged her, decided that she would simply stop working. She pretty much went on strike for the afternoon, and didn’t let a single morsel of food, gas or anything else that could have caused some sort of unpleasant surprise pass through her pink gates. You would think I would have been relived that I wasn’t having to run to the bathroom and back to sort out the growing bulge under my extremely pretty dress – if you haven’t met Winnie yet, you’re in for a treat.. she performs an amazing but humiliating magic trick, transforming me from a very slender size six into a beached whale, which is eight months pregnant with obese triplets…and most amazingly of all she does this magical trick in a blink of an eyelid – I wasn’t at all relieved. In fact, you could say that I was terrified by her new stunt. This was the first time that Winnie had gone on strike and it was pretty damn worrying. From the moment we walked into the racecourse Winnie just decided.. ‘nope, I am not playing this game, I am not going to work, I am going to block-up’, and she did – very effectively I might add. So while my friends sipped horrendously expensive champagne and shouted at their chosen horse to get its butt into gear (ok, not their exact words), I worried and worried about Winnie, constantly prodded her through my dress and, well pretty much spent the whole day panicking about whether there was something seriously (like rush to A&E and slit me open) wrong with her, and through attachment to my body, seriously wrong with me!!

The result of all this worrying is that I must have had a rather quizzical and bemused look on my face for the entire day, something that I blamed on not understanding the betting system, (which is true, I still don’t understand the odds, ranking or returns) and, to all of the thousands of people who saw my grumpy and concerned features, I must have come across as a right moody cow and a proper party pooper.

So anyway, anyway, anyway, back to the morning events. For months I have seriously pined for this amazing perfume which is well out of my measly trainee reporter’s salary price range. Let’s just say that if I wanted to buy it I would have to live off fresh air and baked beans for a couple of weeks – but then again the perfume would cancel out the horrible smelling gas from the student-esk diet!! #lol!! In fact I love the perfume so much that every day since the lovely lady in Debenhams squirted the yummy scent on my wrist I have dragged my exhaus

Awh my amazing gift from my amazing bf

Awh my amazing gift from my amazing bf

ted and broken body all the way to Browns in Chester to spray on Victor &Rolf’s Flowerbomb, just so that I don’t have to fork out the £70 to buy it. I have been doing this daily trip for almost six weeks now. I like to think of it as the  cheapest way to own a perfume….but in the past week or so I have been forced to try other perfumes. You see the staff are not stupid and have started to cotton on to what I am doing, and are now really rather annoyingly hanging around the Victor&Rolf stand and asking me if I need any help with my purchase, forcing me to make up elaborate stories about birthday lists, wedding presents and anniversaries – It was seriously getting to the point where I was going to be shamed into buying the product or be arrested for stealing hundreds of pounds worth of free perfume!! Anyway after waking from his angelic slumber and turning to face the Creature From The Black Lagoon, my lovely boyfriend walked me into town and bought, yes bought me the biggest bottle of Flowerbomb he could find. It was the singular most lovely and romantic gesture, which was totally ruined by the satisfied and knowing look of the saleswoman, whose eyes screamed “Thief Thief Thief” as she scanned the hideously expensive gift through the till. And, as a final act of disdain, she even refused to give me the pretty pink gift bag, instead thrusting the box into a clearance plastic carrier bag, which made us look like we had just been shopping at Poundland, not spent the equivalent of a week’s wages (ok, I’m over-egging this, but you get my point) on a bottle of perfume.

Anyway, after returning back to the flat happy as a Spring chicken with my first ever bottle of ‘real’ perfume – when I say ‘real’ I mean not mixed with water or bought for £10 from an Avon catalogue. Well, I was happy until I realised I had less than two hours to get ready, then I turned into a ranging maniac, racing around the place and basically stressing at my poor boyfriend (bear in mind that he had just spent a horrendous amount of cash on me just to see me smile) and unceremoniously shoving him out of the door so I could jump in the shower and scrub away any morsel of dirt, sweat or anything else minging in an attempt to transform myself from the crazy, sleep deprived madwoman in the mirror into a stunning Princess. It seemed like ‘Mission Impossible’, and it really was. Time raced past as I attempted to tame my wild hair, which I luckily had had cut and coloured the day before so only needed re-blowdrying and straightening, and slather myself with layers of makeup. I lost valuable minutes when Winnie decided to start working while I was changing her, spitting out yesterday’s dinner on my bath matt as I searched frantically for kitchen-towel and realised I had no idea where the dressings for Oscar where. Eventually, after days of consideration I had settled on the black dress, which was, and still is a big deal. I’m not sure if I have already told you (if I have I’m going to tell you all again anyway GROAN) but

Ready for the Races - THE DRESS

Ready for the Races – THE DRESS

I bought THE DRESS at Warehouse (my favourite shop, but can only afford, well justify, buying things in the sale) before I knew I was going to have my operation. At the time buying the dress was a big risk as: a) I committed the cardinal sin of not trying it on; b) it was basically backless so I wouldn’t be able to wear a bra; and c) it was long, and before my op I never, literally never wore dresses past my knee. THE DRESS is daring and well totally glamourous….I bought it because I loved it, and when, on the painful afternoon following my operation I bit the bullet and bagged up all the clothes I knew I would never be able to wear again due to the birth of Winnie, it almost ended up in the charity shop bag, but was saved only because I decided to keep it in the hope that one very special day I would be daring enough to at least try it on in the comfort of my own home. So imagine my surprise on Saturday when I put on THE DRESS and it fitted perfectly, in fact if you have to be picky you could say that it was a tad on the big size for my tinie post surgery frame. I was ecstatic and decided straight away that if I didn’t wear this dress to the races I would not only regret it, but I would most probably never find another moment to wear it again in my whole life. I owed it to the dress 🙂 I looked fabulous, in fact you couldn’t see Winnie at all! I was amazed…you would have to look really really close to spot the tell-tale creases of the over-lapping bags, but really you couldn’t see her at all 🙂 RESULT!!! One thing I had totally forgotten in a typical me way was that although it was getting rather warm outside it might get nippy later, and, with the open back and all I wouldn’t be wearing a bra…yes, you’ve guessed it, I forgot to get the nipple covers. WHOOPS!! So after all that trying to disguise Winnie I undoubtably drew attention to myself by having rock hard nipples sticking out through my stunningly shear dress as the wind picked up during the last race!! EEK!!

Dreaming of winning big!!

Dreaming of winning big!!

Anyway the day was gloriously hot, and despite ending up with a rather odd suntan due to the criss-cross style of my dress 🙂 it was a perfect day to join the flocks of punters tottering in their ridiculously high high-heels to Chester Racecourse. Despite Winnie’s protest I had a fantastic time, I didn’t win, but there again I didn’t bet anything that in theory I couldn’t afford to lose, so I would have never won big. I had a few frustrating moments, such as when I was determined to bet on one horse but changed my mind at the very last-minute, and, you guessed it folks, that horse won, while mine may aswell have had two legs as it came tripping over the finishing line what felt like a year after all the others were back tucked in the stables. Well I suppose I did win twice, but that was when me and two of my mates decided to club together £2 each (ooh last of the big spenders) to put a bet on three of the horses, and as there were only four in the race we won….well I say we won, we got our £2 each back and an extra £4 on both occasions – which meant my total winnings for a hard day at the Races equated to a grand £2.60 – not even enough for a glass of water!!!

After the races my feet felt like they were literally going to fall off. Having not really walked in high-heels since before my operation a whole day standing in the baking heat wearing extremely pretty, but very uncomfortable glittery shoes, had left my feet screaming for my peppermint cream and the safety and snugness of my pink fluffy slippers. And I wasn’t the only one who felt like my feet were going to snap in two. So, head hung in disappointment I staggered back home, totally gutted that I for once felt well (well not really, but better than normal) enough to hit the town and experience my first Races drink in the city, but was being let down by my stupid and treacherous feet. All I had wanted to do since the start of the day

Me and my friend with the backs of our dresses

Me and my friend with the backs of our dresses

was to go to a new bar in Chester called The Church – basically an old derelict church which had been transformed into a luxury bar and restaurant but still had all the original features – and drink a glass of champagne, to basically say, I DID IT…I MADE IT THROUGH ALL THIS HELLISH CRAP!!! But it seems no one else really wanted to do that, and around half an hour later I found myself back at the flat wearing my trusty nightie and attempting to wipe the layers of makeup off my face. I was gutted, I had been made to do the sensible thing, and it was a total anticlimax…I felt cheated of my celebratory return to the night-life scene and like I was being forced to admit I was still to sick to be my fun, sexy, 20-something-self!

And if that wasn’t unfair enough, the moment I peeled off my dress Winnie decided she was abandoning her strike. In fact she did it with such gusto that I spent the rest of the evening racing backwards and forwards to the toilet – and to make sure I was reminded he was there Oscar threw in a few paddies just for good measure! Despite only having two small, and horrendously expensive glasses of wine, (oh and a glass of race’s champagne kindly donated to my experience by my friend, SSSSH don’t tell), I spent the entire evening feeling like I had been hit, and then reversed over by a bus carrying horrendously obese people to fat camp. I mean it really was unfair!! It was a night filled with endless nausea, sweating, and gurgling and groaning from places I didn’t know existed, and to top it all off all the other hardcore Racegoers where partying hard into the early hours of the morning almost right outside my door, not helping the unrelenting insomnia by rubbing it in my face that they were having an amazing time while sensible me was curled up in a ball of agony wishing I would die.

Home and upset

Home and upset

The next morning I woke up looking like hell, a common occurence these days (as you can see), and feeling like I had done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson in the few hours of sleep I had managed to grab. It literally felt like an elephant had walked into my room and sat on my chest in the middle of the night. I could hardly stand up straight as I raced to the bathroom to empty Winnie who was, as per usual, so full she was on the brink of causing a nuclear poop explosion in my pretty bedroom. As I was trying to sort myself out and make myself look slightly human, changing Winnie after Oscar bizarrely managed to fill up with soapy water while I was having a shower PANIC STATIONS PEOPLE!!! when Andy arrived to take me to his house for a relaxing day reading and starting to learn Francias (which I hope is French for French #lol). Now at this point, taking into account that Winnie was obviously in a foul mood so I would undoubtably be needing to pop to the loo every 5 minutes to empty her, I have literally no idea why I thought “ooh, today would be a good day to wear my new jumpsuit”. Yes people a jumpsuit, you know the outfit that you have to literally spend half-an-hour undoing to have a pee. It is the straightjacket of the fashion world – even Houdini himself would struggle to get out of a jumpsuit in a bathroom related emergency.

Me sooo fashionable...sooo the wrong choice

Me sooo fashionable…sooo the wrong choice

To make matters worse, when we got out to the car we decided (yes, for argument’s sake I’m going to say it was a joint decision) that we weren’t going to spend the day lazing around the house in a hung over style state, scoffing our faces and watching re-runs of The Vicar of Dibley etc…instead we were going to drive around 2 hours to the seaside in Wales. This idea was put forward by Andy, and because I couldn’t think of anything better to do, and the weather seemed glorious in Chester and I assumed it would be the same in Wales, I agreed. BIG MISTAKE!! Firstly, we all know how I feel about car journeys, and how the state of Britain’s roads make me feel like I have just ridden a camel over a rocky mountain range, so while the two-hour car journey offered up some breathtaking views of the Welsh countryside as we passed through Snowdonia, I spent the majority of it curled up in a ball almost crying through pain and getting increasingly angry that the silly mountain ranges were making my phone signal die and I could no longer Tweet my pain to everyone in the world. And, secondly, I could not have been more wrong about the weather. We turned up at the quaint seaside village dressed in summer clothes, with not a jacket, or waterproof between us, to find we had left the Summer weather behind in Cheshire and here we were faced with a typical British summer day, with nippy winds that tore through my thin playsuit and left Winnie shaking to  the core. I must have looked  right idiot as most people were quite rightly dressed for an autumnal day, wearing parkas and jackets, while I was wearing floral jumpsuit and a demin jacket, and to top it off I was wearing my rock star shades – which ended up not being a ridiculous as they looked as they saved my eyes from being filled with the sand which sandblasted us whenever we dared to walk too close to the sand.

Anyway we managed to find a restaurant, where we had the normal issues of waiters and chefs struggling with my diet and I ended up making up my own odd sounding meal which was surprisingly ok. I battled with my playsuit again and again as Winnie filled-up faster than I was able to cope with!! In fact I am almost sure that she was doing it in the hope that someone would walk in on me in the tiny, fly infested toilet, with my playsuit round my ankles exposing my bare breasts to the world, as yes, because of my painful scar I wasn’t wearing a bra!!

Very windy and sandblasted

Very windy and sandblasted

It was a lovely little town and we had a lovely time, but due to the weather and my terrible fashion blunder we must have started the drive back just under 2 hours after we arrived! Poor Andy, driving two hours with me whining the whole way, to enjoy a mediocre meal and getting sandblasted and then being forced to drive another 2 hours back home…luckily for him I slept the whole way back and woke up with a stiff neck and feeling grumpy and disoriented.

So what have I learnt from this experience…NEVER WEAR A ONSIE OR PLAYSUIT WHEN STOMA IS ACTING UP, AND ALWAYS TAKE A JACKET!!