Leaving on a jet plane – first trip abroad with my ostomy


So after months of waiting and excitement tomorrow is the big day. This time tomorrow

I am sooo excited - Just one cornetto

I am sooo excited – Just one cornetto

night me and Winnie, and, of course, my boyfriend Andy, will be sitting in a fancy restaurant drinking Italian wine and shovelling down plates full of spaghetti in Venice. I am so excited I can hardly think straight.

I’ve spent the last few hours panicking that I’ve forgotten to do something. I must have checked through my ostomy kit a million times and I still think I might be missing something vital. I have my doctors note for in case they refuse to let me on the plane, why they wouldn’t let me on I don’t know, but I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories, so I’ve decided it’s better safe than sorry. Especially as I’m flying home with Ryan Air, something which I’m dreading as everyone says they are the worse airline for dealing with people with medical conditions, especially ostomy and colostomy bags.

Perhaps they think I’m going to smuggle drugs inside my ostomy bag…best of luck to them if they want to check. Think if they ask to look I will down a can of coke as quickly as possible and eat beetroot, it won’t be a pretty sight either way.

All my supplies for the journey

All my supplies for the journey

Packing for the trip has been a bit of a nightmare. I think I might have gone a bit overboard with the amount of spare bags and products I have packed for Winnie, but I am terrified that she will leak every day and I will run out thousands of miles away from my supplies and out of reach of my delivery company. I did however manage to pack them in style. I went to Primark and bought a very cheap but pretty vanity case so that all my bags, sprays and wipes are now stored together in one place. It may take up a little extra room but it makes me feel so much happier to have them in a pretty case than thrown together in a plastic Tesco carrier bag along with my laundry and toiletries.

I’ve had a few problems with my travel insurance. My company down-right refused to renew my annual insurance or offer me an alternative policy because of my hospital admissions and my operation. This was like a slap in the face. I understand how they work but it is a kick in the teeth to have to go through so much pain all your life and then have to pay so much more than others who have lived without pain for all their lives. Anyway they let me take out a single insurance policy for the trip…looks like I’m going to have to win the lottery, or marry a millionaire if i want to keep going abroad.

Of course I am panicking about the journey. I love flying, but because of my Crohns/Colitis flying has never loved me. I hate the tiny loos and the idea that a frozen block of my bloody poop might kill a random sunbather as it falls out of the sky. I despise the fasten seatbelt sign, which always seems to come on just as I start to get the warning stabbing pains associated with a massively long toilet session. the same can be said for the ascent and descent, basically the times when no one can move are the worse…for an IBD sufferer it is hell.

I’m feeling apprehensive about the flight. I’m concerned about what I can and can’t take on with me. Luckily Charter UK (my delivery company) have provided me with a travel card which says – in multiple languages – that I have a medical condition and an ostomy bag and need to carry medical equipment. I have a feeling that this card might just save my life in these kinds of situations. My doctor has signed it and I have stored my sprays and water dispensers in a clear plastic bag along with my lip gloss..but just in case they are confiscated I’ve got a spare stash in my luggage.

Happy after a run in prep for our Italian holiday

Happy after a run in prep for our Italian holiday

It’s almost time to go. I’ve spent the last hour looking up restaurants in Venice, Florence and Rome (our three amazing destinations) which accommodate lactose intolerant diners. I can’t wait to tuck into some vegan ice cream in Rome…and scoff plates of spaghetti Bolognese. But more than that I can’t wait to do my first international stoma bag lady challenge – ride a gondola in Venice. It is meant to be very expensive, but I have always wanted to do it so it’s going to be really magical.

Me and Andy deserve a holiday. After everything that’s happened with my health, and the massively bumpy ride we’ve been on over the past year or so with my Colitis and my ileostomy operation, and even the stress of moving in the last few weeks, kicking back in Italy will be just what we need.

I couldn’t hope for a better boyfriend and I can’t wait to take him to the Ferrari museum to go on the F1 simulator. I also can’t wait to experience the romance of Italy and share it with Andy.

We are away for nine days in total. I will try to blog, share pics, tips and experiences when I can, but if you don’t hear from me just know that I will be having a heck of a good time.

Going abroad with my ostomy is a massive leap in the dark. It is, in itself, a massive challenge. We will be flying, getting on trains, eating foreign foods and attempting to communicate my condition and allergies in a foreign language and environment.

Yes I’m nervous…but am I excited?

Hell yeh!!

 

 

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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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A grand day out! Sweltering heat, massive hills, art & giant marshmallows


Despite the sweltering heat and glorious sunshine, on Friday me and my amazing

Exhausted, sweating like pigs, but happy

Exhausted, sweating like pigs, but happy

boyfriend Andy (and of course who can forget Winnie) jumped in the car and submitted ourselves to over three hours of swerving lunatic drivers, scar-tearingly bumpy roads, and squinting to see digital road maps due to the bright sunlight as we drove to Bristol – all in the name of street art, and, well so that I could do one of my challenges.

The car journey, which as usual saw me scoff my own weight in haribo sweets (well, if you can’t do it on a car journey when can you?), was something of an achievement for me. After more than a decade of Crohns/Colitis, I am still getting used to the idea of not having to race to the toilet every five minutes doubled over in crippling pain. Of course, even though I now have Winnie I still have my moments, but compared to the urgency and, ahem, accidents, my toilet habits are a breezy walk in the park these days. Only 10-weeks-ago (before my surgery) the idea of even the shortest of car journeys sent me into a flurry of minor nervous breakdowns. For more than a decade of my life I would go to the loo at least five times before getting in the car, bob around on the doorstep impatiently telling people to “hurry up before I need the loo again”, and once in the car I lived in constant fear of traffic jams, as they meant it could be hours before the next service station and chance for me to go to the loo. Honestly my fear was so severe that break lights activating ahead on a busy motorway, or the word ‘diversion’, or even ‘next services in 30 miles’, sent my blood pressure through the roof…I would start sweating and, usually the moment such a delay occurred my evil disease would kick off and naturally I would need the toilet at the one time that there was no way I could go!!

Traffic lights used to send me into cold sweats, now I just sit back and enjoy the ride

Traffic lights used to send me into cold sweats, now I just sit back and enjoy the ride

So, understandably my relationship with travelling, especially in cars (don’t get me started on my humiliating experiences with public transport) is one that I associate with pain, fear and panic. So I was very surprised that despite the unprecedented heat, and the fact that Winnie was kicking off, and Oscar (remaining colon) was spitting mucus out of my stomach, we had an event free and rather pleasant car journey. In the three-hour journey we only stopped once, and that was more so I could empty my weak bladder than because Winnie was full – though I have to admit that, probably to the surprise of other nosey passengers staring in through the car window, I did keep checking Winnie for status updates every half an hour – better safe than sorry.

Ok, so what exactly had we driven all the way to Bristol for? 

As part of challenge #No33 I have to visit 30 things on the Visit England 101 things to see in England before you die, and search for Banksy’s art in Bristol is one of the 30 challenges I chose. So Andy very kindly booked us a hotel and agreed to drive us to Bristol for a weekend of traipsing around a city looking for art – something that isn’t really up his street (he’s more sport, I’m more culture – that’s the truth).

I have to say that I was over-the-topily excited about this trip. The night before I had spent hours looking on the computer at things we could do when we got to this city, which by the way sounded like a cultural Mecca. I can’t even begin to describe my excitement when I discovered that we would not only be able to search for the famous Banksy works, but scattered around the city were 80 giant Gromit statues, which had been decorated by famous designers, illustrators, musicians, and authors. Everyone from Michael Buble (yes I know, I have no idea how to get the accent over his name) to Quentin Blake, and the creator of Where’s Wally – I was like a little kid in a massive sweet shop, I even downloaded the special Gromit app (such a child #lol) – in the end we only saw about 10 but ah well c’est la vie!

Me & one of the 80 Gromits

Me & one of the 80 Gromits

So after checking into the hotel (we got an excellent last-minute deal on the Doubletree – we’re not that posh!) and a quick change later, me, Andy and Winnie hit the streets of Bristol with one aim – to find something to eat. We quickly stumbled across our first Gromit, which was just outside the hotel, before heading down to the Quayside where the whole of Bristol appeared to have gathered for a drink. I won’t get into it, but after waiting for rather a long time outside a well-known chain Italian restaurant and being ignored, we decided to spread our wings and explore further afield, which with Winnie behaving herself was not so much of an issue, or so I thought until we climbed the steepest hill in the world to get to Cafe Rouge.

On the way we spotted our first Banksy – hurrah! So a couple of pictures later and we kept

The first one!! SHOCK and RELIEF!!

The first one!! SHOCK and RELIEF!!

climbing past the rows of nightclubs until we got to the restaurant, by which time we were both sweating buckets and gasping for a drink – you could say we had earned our dinner! (we went to Cafe Rouge because I had a voucher and all 101 of these adventures combined is not going to be cheap so best to scrimp and save where possible) It was a lovely – well the same as any other Cafe Rouge – restaurant, which had an amazing view of Bristol University, which we both mistakenly mistook for the Cathedral until we explored later that night. The only downside was the gang of over-excited and tipsy graduates who were squealing their heads off, singing old kid TV theme tunes, and kept shouting loudly in Spanish – which made me think they had been language students. By the time we left I had a very bad headache, but had enjoyed my first salad post surgery 🙂 and Andy had indulged in his  ‘never let him down’ dish of duck.

At the restaurant - we only had one drink each - i promise!

At the restaurant – we only had one drink each – i promise!

Even though both of us only had one drunk we were a little tipsy and exhausted and decided to call it a night (we’re WILD), but on the way back to the hotel we stumbled across a frozen yogurt take-out that was still open at 10PM WOW!! And it did lactose free frozen yogurt, we just couldn’t say no to that!!

Anyway the next day I might have had a little strop after not being able to find a Starbucks immediately to satisfy my morning coffee urges…and poor Andy had to put up with my having full-blown paddies as we traipsed up that bloody hill again to get a frapaccino in the now unbearable heat. I was a little happier when I’d got my coffee, I think the ice and the caffeine combined with a little bit of air conditioning really helped to cool my rapidly spiralling out of control totally over-the-top temper, so then we could get on with what we had come to see – the Banksy street art.

The only problem is, finding a Banksy in Bristol is like finding your keys when you’ve lost

Yep another one...nightmare to find

Yep another one…nightmare to find

them, you can’t find them when you want to, but you stumble across them unexpectedly when you’re no longer searching for them. We found that first one quite by chance, and the second one (the girl with the balloons) when we turned the corner after our meal. But after that it became much much more difficult. Traipsing through Bristol, up and down the steepest hills I have tried to tackle since my surgery in temperatures reaching 30c was not easy at all. We explored the roughest parts of the city, where drunk people gathered in the streets, and went up alleyways stinking of spray paint as Andy’s special Iphone ap directed us into possible drug dens in search of the best street art the city had to offer.

Three hours later, exhausted, sunburnt, dripping with sweat and feeling like I had just run a marathon with lead weights attached to the backs of my knees, I gave in and decided I simply couldn’t search any longer. My legs felt like they were going to give way from under me and I was sweating from places I didn’t know existed. As we collapsed in the park under the shade next to some teenagers who were smoking some very funky smelling weed, we took our shoes off and gulped down the water, before reflecting that despite the temperamental

WHOOP another Banksy

WHOOP another Banksy

iPhone ap we had done rather well (even if one of the Banksy’s had disappeared by the time we had trudged miles to get there (some idiot painted over it no doubt)), and had not only seen some of the most WOW street art in the UK but also ventured where few tourists had ever dared to venture before.

Winnie was surprisingly well-behaved the entire day. I think, like everything, in the heat she just gave up, decided there was no point and declared the day a stoma holiday! So we sat and had some free fruit in the park and enjoyed lapping in the Pride festival atmosphere. I had never been to Pride before and it was an incredible event to experience, with the hot weather and music blasting people where scattered all over the lawns and grassy embankments just kicking back, enjoying beer and basically enjoying life.

I had really wanted to watch blast-from-the-past boy band Blue, but as we joined the

Another Banksy - squee!

Another Banksy – squee!

packed crowds I realised not only was I not going to be able to see them but Winnie was likely to get crushed in the process. Now I like Blue’s music but not enough to end up with a dented stoma! Anyway my decision not to see them perform was sealed by the band not coming on stage at the correct time, we waited 20 minutes and then with the onset of heat exhaustion decided not to ruin an amazing day by ending up in a&e and decided to call it a day.

We made it back home to Andy’s country home at around 8.30pm after stopping for supplies, once home we grabbed showers, tucked into a

AMAZING ART

AMAZING ART

yummy tea, and passed out. I woke the next day to my muscles screaming like they had been put through one of those Iron-man challenges and spent the rest of the day walking like a Cowboy (people must have thought I had had far too much fun!). So due to my exhaustion we spent most of the day sunning ourselves in the garden, Winnie had a few moments, but after being well-behaved the day before I forgave her. I even treated her to giant toasted American marshmallows on the BBQ later that night – MMM the best medication EVER!!!

So if you’re looking for a good weekend of exploring and you love art, head to Bristol. It was nothing like what I expected…it was a fusion of the old with the new, the traditional with the modern, obscure and at times terrible and verging on vandalism graffiti. It was one of the best and most random weekend’s me and Andy have had, and the best me and Winnie have spent together. So give it a go – a word of advice though, don’t go during a heat wave and expect to get much done!

The giant marshmallows - such a treat MMMM

The giant marshmallows – such a treat MMMM

the giant marshmallow have made me soooo happy

the giant marshmallow have made me soooo happy

If you didn’t see it on yesterday’s post below is the slide show of pics of the trip to Bristol. ENJOY!!

 

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!!

Counting horses to get to sleep…Balding tickles Winnie and into the Frying pan with Mr Fry


Another finished just seconds before midnight – HURRAH

I love reading so when I first drew up the list for my 101 challenges the idea of reading a book a week seemed like the most simple feat in the world for my little brain to conquer.I thought that with all this time off work following my operation that I would be devouring whole shelves of books, gobbling up the great world of literature so fast that I would soon be knocking on my favourite author’s doors begging for them to pen me a new novel just to satisfy my insatiable appetite. Well, that might be a tad over the top. But, lets say, I thought that I would be reading at least two books a week… I mean a couple of hundred pages a week, surely that’s easy for someone who as a kid won the council’s Acorn Book Club  Award for reviewing hundreds of library books after pretty much living in the dusty bookcases of my under-threat local library pouring over ketchup-stained (and God knows what else stained ) novels and picture books well into the night. I don’t talk about it, but that literary feat earned me a humiliating picture in the local press – the photographer scarred me for life by getting me to pose in my school library next to a pile of books my height, grinning like a demented maniac and looking like I was about to attack everyone in my path. Honestly there have been less scary pictures on Most Wanted and Crime Watch, the story’s headline may as well been ‘Crazy schoolgirl kills for books’ – lock away your bookcases and first editions people ,schoolgirl book murdered is on the loose.

Anyway I know I’m going off track, but despite that being one of the most humiliating experiences of my life,(many more where to follow with the birth of Facebook and camera phones and me basically being me) as back in those good old days when penny sweets cost 1p and you rang or called on your mates rather than tweeting or nudging them everyone bought the local rag called The Free Press and quite rightly pictures of my insane looking smile were waved around in front of my face everywhere I went…Everyone from the lollipop lady to my headteacher had a copy. And, to make matters even worse, being insanely proud parents my folks bought every picture of me and my sister that appeared in the local paper (which was surprisingly a lot, I think we were in it every week), and created a wall of fame that greeted every visitor, milkman, delivery driver and builder who had the misfortune to call into our house. I swear that one time I came down the stairs years later to find my poor local milkman (who I had a massive crush on – he was a part-time fireman) peering up at the wall of dreadful school pictures and looking to my horror at the book photo – this is one of the few moments of my life that I have literally turned the colour of the Ribena berry and hidden away in shame and disgust.

Anyway back to the challenge. So far reading a book a week has proved a lot harder than I thought it would. I have already told you how at the start of the challenge I struggled with the ramblings, non-stop bitching and, quite frankly, tedious parliamentary squabbles of Lord Mandelson, in his autobiography The Third Man. Since then I have not been as bored or frustrated with an autobiography or novel that I have wanted to throw it out of the window, most probably killing an unsuspecting builder or old lady tottering to the local pub for her daily Gin and Tonic, but I have been struggling to finish the books every week. It is not always the author’s fault, it is just that I never seem to dedicate as much time to my reading as I intend to these days.

Every Monday I start the week by picking a new book out of the massive pile of novels, short story collections and autobiographies, that I have borrowed from the library or bought at a ridiculously cheap price from supermarkets, charity shops or even borrowed from friends. I started the pile when I decided to start reading a book a week and that I needed to widen my knowledge of all things in the world by reading 50 autobiographies for this challenge. Each time I pick up a book at a store or randomly from the dusty shelf at the local library I always have every intention of starting the book that day…or at least that week, but now the pile is almost as high as my bed, and although I am determinedly plowing my way through them I can’t seem to stop myself from buying or borrowing any book that catches my eye making the pile seem like a never-ending challenge.  For every book I read and take to a charity shop or send back to the lonely library shelves, where it may remain gathering dust, unloved and unread for 100s of years, I seem to pick up two more – can’t help it, in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if at the end of this challenge I need to have the firemen air lift me out of this apartment after becoming a super hoarder, living in a flat piled so high with books that there is no room to move apart from a small path through the hardbacks winding its way to the toilet, fridge and microwave. So on that faithful Monday I chose the new book from the pile or, if I’m feeling a little more down with the kids, I flick through my Kindle to select a lucky book as my ‘chosen one’ for the week, then happy with my choice I settle down under the covers and begin to read.

Mind numbing EEEK

Mind numbing EEEK

Ever since I was young I have always had a very stubborn self-discipline attitude when it comes to reading. It doesn’t matter how boring, tedious, disgusting, so badly written it makes your eyes bleed or smelly a book is, once I have flicked open that cover and read the first sentence I have to carry on reading until the bitter end. Even if it takes me a year to read the book, which is what  happened with Tony Blair’s autobiography (which I am forcing myself to read in a week for this challenge – argh gouge my eyes out), I have to finish it. You see, as crazy as it sounds, I have made a commitment to the book, and, essentially, the book has made a commitment to me. Reading a book is like a marriage (ok, not quite as serious or important a commitment as that) you have to put up with the bad, forgive the unforgivable, and eventually you will be rewarded with the most amazing of surprises and treats, unless of course you are reading Dan Brown!!! (sorry Brown fans but they are all the same!!) Of course there will always be the moments when you finish a book and instead of thinking wow I’m glad I stuck with that, and feeling both elated you have finished and upset that it is over and you will have to find another that lives up to its standards, there are those books which leave you feeling like you have just wasted precious nights and hours of your life reading a literary turd that should have been shredded and burnt instead of being bound in a misleading eye-catching cover and unleashed on the world to make stubborn readers suffer.

My problem is that I start off with the best of intentions. I pick up the book, which is usually 400-600 pages long, and get cracking straight away, usually devouring three to four chapters in the first few hours. But then, for my sins (I would like to apologise to all books and authors for this) I get distracted by the shinyness of my laptop, lure of the tellybox or basically fall asleep through the sheer exhausting nature of looking after Winnie 24-7 🙂 Oh, and sometimes I pretty much pass out through just how boring the book actually is!! This usually means that despite the fact that I never have a full night’s sleep and so end up sat up most of the night with my tired eyes pegged open reading books, I still end up waking up on the Sunday and realising I have hundreds of pages left of a tedious autobiography or novel left to read before midnight or I will fail the challenge and have to start again from the very beginning. You see I am no cheat. If I say I will read a book a week I will, and if one week I don’t finish said book within the 7 day limit I will, in my sportsmanly food nature, start again, even if that means five months of non-stop dedicated reading is thrown out of the window and I have to start from scratch demoralised and broken.

I had such a moment with the Stephen Fry autobiography. On the final day (Sunday) I had left to finish the book I was left with 200 pages, YES 200, to read before

Fed up late at night battling through self-obsessed ramblings (fair comment)

Fed up late at night battling through self-obsessed ramblings (fair comment)

the midnight cutoff point. It had been a busy week and I had become completely mesmerised with my new-found friend YOUTUBE 🙂 and had spent many a day pouring over videos, reading blogs, listening to podcasts and basically doing anything that wasn’t reading the book. Despite sitting up every night plowing my way through the self-obsessed ramblings of this thespian and overly intelligent man, I was nowhere near finishing it. I was busy that day too and it was a battle against time, I just about managed it, and thank the lord that I did, as I don’t think I would have forgiven myself or Mr Fry if it had been his self-indulgent work that had spoilt my challenge. You see I chose to read Fry’s autobiography because I thought it would tell me more about his life, about why he is the way he is, and might just help me see past the pompous theatrical character who lord’s over everyone in QI and makes us all feel hideously stupid and lower class with oh so intelligent and snobby facts and figures. I hate judging people, but sometimes when you are pretty much forced to watch someone for years, I have to admit it is hard not to. To me Fry is a self-obsessed know it all, and I hoped that his biography would give him more depth, make him more human and basically destroy the image I had in my head of him lording it over the rest of us mere minions and laughing at the downright stupidity of us common folk.

Parts of his autobiography shook the foundations of my image of Fry…I sympathised with his childhood, his addiction to all things sweet, and with his struggles with trying to fit in. Parts of the book I found funny…but the moment that he headed off to his elitist university he totally lost me and i struggled to see past the self-indulgent nature of his storytelling and the fact he often referred to his struggles but said they were in a previous book 😦 I wanted to scream, but Steven I haven’t read your previous book…this is an autobiography, why would I expect to have to read a series of other memoirs before this??? Surely not??

Anyway as you can probably tell I managed to finish the Fry’s memoir by the skin of my teeth. In fact I think I finished the final sentence and shut the book with a sigh of relief on the stroke of midnight. It was a momentous moment that was quickly followed by me falling fast asleep with the book resting on my chest, making me wake-up in agony feeling like an elephant had slept on my breasts.

The morning after – trying to finish this really dreadful book (Fry’s that is comment comment comment) only a couple of hours left PANIC

Since the start of this challenge I have staggered the autobiographies with the works of fiction, mainly so that if the autobiogs get too hard going, they are, at least not coming one after the other, as this challenge is meant to be fun, not to turn into some mind numbing task that I will regret ever starting. So listed below are the books I have both indulged in and slaved over during the past few weeks (as you can see some weeks I have gobbled down multiple books and on others have struggled to swallow even one measly volume):

  • Peter Mandelson – The Third Man  (eye-opening sometimes in a good way, but also mind-numbingly boring) BIOGRAPHY 1
  • You Had Me AT Hello – Mhairi McFarlane ( a little too similar to my life, funny and easy to read) FICTION
  • The Wish List – Jane Costello (inspired my trip to Leaf tea room in Liverpool) FICTION
  • Dear Fatty – Dawn French (best autobiography to date, almost split my stitches)  BIOGRAPHY 2
  • The Law Clerk – Stan R Gregory (terrible for the book club) FICTION
  • My Life In Black and White – Kim Izzo (surprisingly good read picked randomly from library shelf) FICTION
  • The Fry Chronicles – Stephen Fry (self obsessed but at times enlightening and entertaining )BIOGRAPHY 3
  • The Gurkhas Daughter – Prajwal Parajuly (amazing collection of short stories about Nepalese people’s plights) FICTION
  • My Family and Other Animals – Clare Balding (delightful read, new found respect for amazing woman) BIOGRAPHY 4
LOVED IT...I want to ride a pony I DO I REALLY DO

LOVED IT…I want to ride a pony I DO I REALLY DO

I want to thank Clare Balding here for writing a humourous, honest and moving account of her childhood and young adult years, which kept me from poking my eyes out during the last few sleepless nights where my broken body felt like it was being eaten alive by this post operation itchiness that makes me feel like millions of little creatures are running around all over my body. I have never disliked Clare Balding, but, if I’m being honest (and what’s the point in this blog if I’m going to lie to you all), I have never really liked her. It is not so much because of her, it is the world that she represents that i just don’t understand. I belong to a world of hard news, bargain hunting in Primark, left overs in the fridge and a childhood playing with invisible pets and a punctured football, while in my judgemental mind she grew up riding award-winning horses and eating caviar from a spoon plated with rubies and gold #LOL!!! Her book made me realise that although she had a privileged upbringing, surrounded by race horses and even embarrassing herself in front of the Queen when Her Royal Highness dropped in during breakfast time, Clare Balding had not just an amazing childhood but a tough one too. She was just a kid but she managed such amazing and wonderful things, and changed my perception of the world of racing so much that I even wanted to ride a horse by the end of the biography, even though I am utterly terrified of even the tiniest pony!!! It is an irrational fear that they will kick me, well maybe not so irrational as my gran (who looked like the Queen bless her heart) was once kicked by a horse – in fairness to the poor animal she was invading his personal space.

One night, very soon after I first started her book Andy decided to stay over. Which is always a lovely treat as he is like an oven to lie next to and I can rest my freezing feet against his toasty legs – I recommend a warm-blooded boyfriend over a hot water bottle or electric blanket any day 🙂 Anyway, it was around 2am and I had woken up AGAIN covered in sweat as my body fought to digest what ever morsel of food i had managed to eat that day, and not been able to fall back asleep after emptying Winnie and taking my painkillers. Andy was sleeping soundly beside me as I delved into Balding’s book. I was reading happily away when she decided to share with me the time that her dad decided to try to make her a mug of hot chocolate by filling the kettle with milk…my silent laughter must have sounded like I was sobbing and I shook the bed so hard that I woke up poor Andy, who looked at me with the saddest sleepy eyes ever and rolled over and fell back asleep instantly. From then on when i was reading Balding’s book I put a cushion on my scar to stop it splitting from the laughter and a teddy between me and the slumbering boy…well one of us has to sleep.

If you are reading this Clare I loved your book. I should never have judged you, and you should never have to justify yourself to anyone, but I am sure with all your years trying to prove yourself to your dad, bitchy shoplifting schoolgirls and the entire British public that sort of thing doesn’t bother you any more. After reading your book I have to say that I truly admire your strength, determination and unfailing sense of humour 🙂 Thank you for writing such an honest book and for helping me through those endless moonlit hours filled with unrelenting pain and fatigue. You have a true admirer in me 🙂 Oh, and thank you for choosing a cover that lived up to its expectations and wasn’t a lie – there are too many alluring covers designed to lure readers into picking up utter codswallop with their stunning graphics and interesting titles. And thank you for tweeting me back 🙂 I love you for that….

Anyway next is the 100 Year Old Man Who Jumped Out of the Window – this has been on my kindle for yonks and I now have an excuse to read it for the book club…so, the rest of my books will have to be renewed, yet again (sorry Chester readers if you are waiting for one) at the library, while I go back to the digital modern world again.

If anyone has any suggestions for MUST READS or any more AUTOBIOGRAPHIES please leave a comment 🙂

OH AND BEFORE I FORGET – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE BID ON THE EBAY ITEMS – ANY PROCEEDS WILL GO TO CROHNS AND COLITIS UK  – PLEASE 🙂

IF I DON”T SELL THEM I WILL FAIL ONE OF MY CHALLENGES 😦

Seller number 1115518 

http://myworld.ebay.co.uk/1115518?_trksid=p2047675.l2559

DSINEY parade books

DISNEY parade books

Bronze brass player

Bronze brass player

IMG_0799

SOOO PRETTY!!!

SOOO PRETTY!!!