Beating the January blues #dryjanuary after over indulging in Bruges

IMG_7145It’s official, I’ve made it through the first week of January without drinking and not had a nervous breakdown. Ok, so that makes me sound like an alcoholic, but team that with giving up sweets, Dr Pepper and Diet Coke (basically brown drinks) I’m surprised I’ve not killed someone!

In the run up to Christmas I really indulged. Naturally I stuffed myself with turkey, pigs in their fatty blankets and other yummy thigh boosting treats on the big day itself, but it was the drinking and general pigging out in the run up and post hangover indulgence post-Christmas that really did the damage to my health.

For my birthday my lovely partner surpassed himself with a romantic and totally surprise trip to Bruges. It was stunningly beautiful, and, after weeks of working around the clock and feeling unfestive, just what I needed to get me in the proper spirit. But while exploring the windy streets and pretty chocolate box houses and shops, I confess I may have tried a few too many beers, chocolates and well, lets just say anything I could eat I damn well put in my mouth – it would have been rude not to right?

If you’ve not been to Bruges, a few tips:

1) Go on the brewery tour – it’s really cheap and you get a massive beer, the guide is also incredibly knowledgeable and very entertaining!

2) Go to the proper bars, not the ones in the square, which are touristy and over priced

3) Visit the windmills

4) If there before Christmas, go to the ice sculpture festival – almost froze off my hands but well worth it

5) Don’t drink the wine, they have no idea about wine (the only wine bar we found only seemed to know white or red), stick to beer and spirits

6) The best chocolate shop is tucked behind the square – it’s tiny, I wish I could remember the name, but it is great and they select the chocolates for you – even Rick Stein gives it his seal of approval

7) Go to Lizzie’s Waffles – amazing ROSE hot chocolate (even does soya milk) – I was surprised how many places did soya – and Andy had a shockingly large waffle

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Luckily as a lactose intolerant person (meaning I’m the one in the office who always refuses the home-baked treats) I didn’t manage to put on too much weight. Being lactose intolerant in the capital of chocolate is not the best feeling, but did stop me from eating the front of every building in a manner similar to Hansel and Gretel. But I did manage to push my ostomy to the point of meltdown by drinking beer. Apparently, as someone who NEVER drinks beer and pulls that funny, repulsed face, looking like I’ve eaten very sour grapes every single time I’m forced to try it, my body HATES beer. I did like the fruit beer, but even that, despite tasting yummy and like cherries, is too much like beer for my ostomy and body as a whole to cope with. That teamed with numerous sausages from the German market, stews and mussels, made for a particularly revolting sight and smell every morning in the toilet bowl.

While in Bruges my ostomy went into meltdown. It basically hated me. But as per usual I was determined to enjoy myself, didn’t listen and carried on stuffing my face – when in Rome (well Brussels) and all that!

Anyway we had a lovely time, but just like when I came back from Germany my appetite is still ridiculous. I’m constantly craving meat and bread, and for someone who normally lives off spinach, rocket, avocado, porridge and fish (ok and sweets) this is a nightmare. I’ve carried on drinking and eating at a ridiculous pace, and I basically need to stop as I feel ill all the time – all out of my own doing!

So it’s 2015 and I’ve vowed for the whole of January to abstain from the dreaded booze. I’ve also cut out Diet Coke and Dr Pepper (basically all the fizzy pop I like) and the dreaded sweets. It’s only 30 days – it should be easy – during my life I’ve given up food for months on end and lived off disgusting shakes (Ensure) to give my bowel a rest, and I’ve given up alcohol for months on end in a bid to sort out my illness and to recover from surgery. But January is always hard, everyone seems to be beating themselves up at the moment, it’s hard to get out of bed, dark all the time, and everywhere looks empty without all the decorations – not to mention everyone is broke.

I’m proud that I’ve made it to day eight without being tempted. Last night we went to the cinema and I didn’t touch any pop despite Andy having a bottle of Coke next to me. I’m starting to feel better for it, something which didn’t happen straight away as I’ve had a number of unshakable viruses. I’ve got more energy and I’m sleeping better.

I even managed to force myself to go for a run today, something which I have a love hate relationship with. I love running but hate the first minute!

My other new years resolutions are:

To run a half marathon – aiming for one in around March, April time.

Run at least twice a week

Write this blog more regularly

Be more organised – especially with appointments

Get back in touch with old friends and be better at keeping in touch

Finally do that bloody reading challenge

Learn French properly

Get a new job

And, obviously, do as many challenges as I can and as much as I can to raise awareness of Crohn’s and Colitis and Stomas – if anyone has any ideas let me know!

I have a good feeling about 2015!


Climbing 275 steps – one giant leap on my road to recovery

I’m in a fair bit of pain as I write this. I can’t quite described what’s going on, or

A giant leap for Winnie

A giant leap for Winnie

comprehend what the problem is, all I know is that it is something to do with my fistula and that it is nothing like I have ever felt before. I’m not quite sure why it’s happening, or what’s happening, but I’m not feeling great. I’ll talk more about it tomorrow, but I thought I would mention it now as I’m drugged up to my eyeballs, so please forgive me if this post reads a bit like a druggie’s random train of thoughts…that would be the tramadol talking!

Ok, so it’s no Mount Everest but on Saturday I climbed 275 very steep and winding steps to the top of York Minster tower. Why? Because it is part of the 101 Visit England places to visit before you die…and because I have never done it. Over the years I have had the pleasure and honour of playing in the Minster a handful of times with a brass band I was a member of (have I failed to mention I am a band geek 🙂 yes I play the instrument which is about ten times to big for me and makes me look like a small child playing a giant’s trumpet), during an annual charity carol concert. Playing in the Minster was always an overwhelming and truly awe-inspiring moment; the music swells up into the rafters, filling every nook and cranny of the enormous building, rising up into the heaven’s, creating an ambience that seems to vibrate around your very soul. Something about hearing a brass band perform in a church is so humbling, and the sound, the pure, stripped-back sound of a single note echoing through the pews would send shivers through the soul’s of even the most cold-hearted person in the world. It’s times like these that I feel the most alive.

At the start, before I ran out of puff!

At the start, before I ran out of puff!

Anyway, despite having performed in the Minster I have never walked up the Tower. So after weeks of umming and ahhing about making the trip to York me and Andy finally jumped in the car and braved the trip on Saturday. It wasn’t the nicest day, drizzly and overcast to say the least, but that wasn’t going to stop us. I have to admit that this is one of the things I love about this blog and my 101 challenges, that I can’t just say ‘oh I can’t be bothered’ anymore, or ‘I feel to ill’..if we’d sacked the trip off on Saturday just because of a little bit of rain I would have felt that I’d not only let myself down but I would have let down you guys, and the rest of the IBD and ostomy community…ok, that might be a bit over the top but that’s how I feel, and it drives me to keep going even when I just feel like poo!

And that is the reason why me and Andy paid £15 each to get into the Minster and climb the tower. I know £15 EACH!! If it hadn’t been for the fact that I had to do it for my challenges I would have down right refused to go in, I would have turned around and walked out just for the shear principle that I will not pay that much to go into a place of worship. I mean I have travelled to some incredible places and seen some incredible churches including Notre Dame and the Sistine Chapel and I honestly don’t think I have ever paid that much to go into a church before…I know that it costs a lot to upkeep a church of that size, but seriously that is a disgusting amount of money to just walk around a building and climb a tower, which, I hasten to add was covered in graffiti the whole way up (how people have time to etch their names into stone while being herded up those steps really boggles my mind, they must take chisels and hammers!)

Anyway the walk up was horrific. Yes, I know that it has been months since my

At the top - upset about the netting, ruined the view

At the top – upset about the netting, ruined the view

ileostomy op but I am still not as fit as I was before my surgery, and the whole situation was made worse by the fact that there were around 50 other people staggering up the steps, so there was no time to pause and catch your breath. Seeing as I have a slight fear of confined spaces – I know it’s neurotic but I’m one of those people who burst out of a lift when it opens like its been on fire – it wasn’t an ideal scenario. I spent the whole climb up clinging to the railing and listening to the family in front rabbiting on and on at each other – I got the impression that someone was in big trouble! Winnie (my ostomy) was not having the best of days, but managed to stay calm enough not to have a leak as I tried to heave my tired legs up the hundreds of steps, very much aware that if I had a dizzy spell the rest of the people behind me would fall down like dominos back into the Minster. It wasn’t my favourite experience, but when I reached the top, exhausted and with legs shaking like jelly, the views where beautiful, (if not ruined by the barbed wire netting all over the place no doubt to stop jumpers) and I felt a massive sense of achievement that I’d climbed all those steps – ok, so it’s not that big an achievement but when you take into account that months ago I couldn’t walk to the toilet and back without someone holding on to me, it really is a giant leap in the right direction.

The sense of achievement and relief was short-lived when I realised I had to walk all the way back down, which is always harder than going up, and was made worse by the fact my muscles seemed to have locked and were frozen in the walking upstairs position. But at the end of it I might have felt a little tired and dizzy and my legs might have felt like jelly, but I looked a down sight better than a lot of the people who came red-faced and sweating down the steps, puffing and panting like they’d run a marathon – and I guess they didn’t have the excuse that they’d had major surgery just a few months ago.



After completing the challenge me and Andy treated ourselves to a cup of hot chocolate at a nearby chocolate cafe. I’ve been to York a fair few times but until this weekend I had no idea that York was most famous for its chocolate heritage. It seems that York is the birthplace of KitKat and other delicious treats that I unfortunately haven’t had the pleasure of eating in years BOO! I was so excited as this was the first time I had been able to have a hot chocolate in public since I was diagnosed with being lactose intolerant around four-years-ago. This cafe did dark chocolate and the option to have soya or rice milk instead of the normal dairy milk. It was an unexpected treat, and very rich and yummy…but as per usual Andy’s drink looked far tastier than mine and I have to admit that spoiled it a bit for me as the green-eyed monster raised her ugly head, and I spent the majority of the time in the cafe wishing I could have a sneaky taste of his very scrumptous looking white hot chocolate! – sometimes I despise being lactose intolerant.

We finished off the day walking through the Shambles, which despite the drizzle was a very enjoyable experience, ending up in a vegan cafe for a cake, as I wanted to have a little treat, which was an underwhelming and pricey experience. The pudding was mediocre and I didn’t like the very hippy atmosphere of the place (nothing against it, just not my cup of tea), Andy really didn’t like his coconut paradise cake…not really sure who decided paradise was the right word to describe it, more like bouncy sludge?

I really am tiny!

I really am tiny!

Anyway soon after that we were forced to give up and go home as my remaining colon started kicking off and my fistula started to cause me problems. Luckily that was at the end of a very full day, so the timing wasn’t too bad, although I obviously would rather it didn’t kick off at all.

My verdict? York is a beautiful place with stunning heritage, shops and scenery. Don’t visit the Minster unless you really have to see it, it is definitely a once in a life time experience. The views from the tower are beautiful, but they are nothing compared to other tall buildings across the world such as The Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building. But, although it was a lot of money, I don’t regret it. I feel like I have really achieved something in my road to recovery and in embracing my life with a stoma, and shown that you really can do anything and that having an ostomy shouldn’t stop you doing whatever the hell you want.

At the Minster

At the Minster

Oh, if you go reward yourself with a hot chocolate. You won’t regret it!