An inspiration – former model shows ostomy bag to the world after surgery due to Crohn’s

Since she showed her slim figure off on her holiday I have been astonished by the bravery of Bethany Townsend. She is the young lady I tweeted about a few weeks ago when she shared her photos of her sunbathing in her bikini – I noticed her awesome tattoos before her colostomy bag!

I am delighted that my colleagues at The Mirror have run with this story, and have shown the world that having an ostomy bag is not disgusting but something that we should be able to show to the world without shame. I admire her spirit and courage.

She is a former model who gave it all up after being hit by Crohn’s and having to have surgery. I know how terrifying that can be – and I hope that she will become one of the first ostomate models  – because that would, well be bloody fantastic!

Thanks Bethany for showing the world how beautiful you are – next time I look at a bikini in envy I’m going to bite the bullet and buy one – what an inspiration! 

Here is the story – and for the gallery click here 

Brave woman’s holiday snaps baring her colostomy bags viewed by MILLIONS around the world

It was the first time Bethany Townsend, 23, who has Crohn’s disease, had dared to post pictures of herself in just a bikini

Sensation: Bethany is considering taking up modelling after her holiday snaps went viral

For three years, Bethany Townsend was too afraid to share bikini pictures, even with friends.

The stunning 23-year-old suffers from Crohn’s disease and in 2010 doctors had to fit two colostomy bags after she nearly died.

But meeting husband Ian gave her the confidence to post photos from their dream holiday in Mexico together online.

In a bid to inspire other Crohn’s sufferers, she sent them to the Crohn’s and Colitis UK Facebook page.


CatersBethany Townsend
Confidence: Bethany wanted to inspire other Chron’s sufferers to feel better about their appearance



Since then, the images have gone viral and been viewed more than ten MILLION times around the world.

Bethany, a make-up artist from Worcester, has been so overwhelmed she is considering taking up modelling – a career she gave up because of her disease.

“I didn’t expect this kind of reaction at all,” she said.

“The photo has been seen by millions of people and it’s had 190,000 likes and over 10,000 comments on Facebook – it’s just gone ballistic.

“I’m just so glad that it’s brought about more awareness of Crohn’s disease and it’s made me feel so much more confident about the colostomy bags.

“If I can inspire or help other people in my position to feel a little more comfortable in their own skin then I’m really happy.

“When I first had the bags fitted I was devastated – the reaction to this photo has really helped me accept them.”

Bethany was fitted with her colostomy bags after suffering from Crohn’s disease since the age of three.


CatersBethany Townsend
Battle: Since being diagnosed with Chron’s aged three, Bethany has had several operations




In extreme situations, like Bethany’s, it becomes necessary to remove the damaged section of the intestine and bring the healthy part out as a stoma – known as a colostomy.

After almost dying when her bowel ruptured in 2010, Bethany woke from a life saving operation to find she had been fitted with two colostomy bags.

Bethany said: “Growing up I’d had various surgeries to try and combat the Crohn’s.

“I’d go in and have sections of my intestine cut out, but I’d only be in remission for a couple of weeks before it came back again.

“Then, four years ago I woke up in the morning and couldn’t move because I was in so much agony.

“I had to break a glass on the floor to alert my mum who called on ambulance.

“When the paramedics came they lifted up my top to see that my surgery scar had split open.

“I was rushed to intensive care where they doctors told me family I would need more surgery as my intestines had become infected and inflamed again.

“I had no idea when I woke up that I would have the bags.

“When I first woke up and my mum told me about them I was just relieved as I’d thought I was going to die.”

“When I came out of hospital and everything finally sunk in, I remember going upstairs into my bedroom and just bursting into tears.

“I’d known a colostomy bag might have been an option but it was always something that I had wanted to avoid.

“I had a really good cry that day, and since then I haven’t shed another tear – I’ve just got on with it I suppose.”

It was only after Bethany met and married her husband, Ian, 33, and jetted off to Mexico last Christmas that she finally felt ready to embrace the colostomy bags.


CatersBethany Townsend
Love: Getting married to husband ian gave Bethany the confidence to pose in her bikini



Bethany said: “When I met Ian I showed him my bags straight away, but he didn’t bat an eye lid – I actually felt like I was over reacting.

“He taught me that there was more to me than the bags and would always encourage me to show off my figure.

“I wasn’t sure but in Mexico I finally realised he was right, and decided to wear my bikini.

“At first I was nervous and worried that people would stare but it was fine.

“I realised that the colostomy bags didn’t control me or define who I am.

“The staff at the hotel asked me about the bags on the last day of the holiday, but rather than being offended I was glad because it meant I could talk to them about Crohn’s and tell them what it is.

“Ian’s always been my rock and supported me no matter what, we’ve had a tough few years but I know he’ll always be there for me.”

But it wasn’t until six months after their dream holiday in Mexico that Bethany finally felt ready to share her colostomy bags with the world.

Bethany said: “When you’re on holiday you’re in a bit of a bubble and it’s much different to when you’re back at home.

“I’d posted a few pictures to Instagram and Facebook but only my friends could see them.

“But after looking on the internet I saw a few other pictures of girls like me showing off their bags so I thought why not.

“I decided to get in touch with Crohn’s and Colitis UK Facebook group to see if they would let me post something on their page.

“I sent them the picture and my information, and it all blew up from there.”

Bethany still suffers with Crohn’s and hopes one day for a cure.




She said: “Doctors had hoped that the colostomy bags would put an end to the Crohn’s but four weeks later it was back.

“I then underwent a stem cell transplant but unfortunately I caught MRSA of the skin and the blood and it nearly killed me twice.

“Since then my Crohn’s has still been extremely active, I’ve lost more weight and now I’m waiting for the NHS to fund a drug that hasn’t really been in the UK.

“If this doesn’t work a bowel transplant is in talks as I can’t have anymore of my intestine out as I haven’t got much left.

“But I’m still really hopeful and after everything I’ve been through I know I’m a strong person.”

Bethany is now considering getting back into modelling – a career she gave up on after she was fitted with the bags.

Bethany said: “I feel confident enough now to put myself out there and pursue modelling again.

“I did a little bit of work here and there before I had the colostomy bags, but once I had them fitted I thought that was the end of the dream.

“I’m looking forward to chasing my goals, and I know now that nothing can hold me back.

“I won’t let the Crohn’s control me anymore.”

For the full story: 


A close call in court – the joys of court reporting with an ostomy and IBD

Before my operation my Crohn’s/Colitis made court reporting an almost impossibility.



I used to sit in agony in courtrooms wringing my hands together until they went white with pain under the press desk, jiggling my legs up and down to try to distract myself from the agonising need to go to the toilet – a need that never left me and always raised its ugly head at the most important moments of a case.

Covering the courts became both a joy and a punishment for me. The real challenge lay not in the reporting of the cases but the endless sitting and waiting, waiting, waiting for your case to come on. For most people the waiting would just be boring, for me it was agonising. While I was interested in the cases (if you have never sat in court and listened to mitigation and witnessed the general drama it is definitely a must – and is nothing like the telly) the constant need to race to the toilet every ten minutes made the waiting unbearable. I once dared to nip to the toilet after waiting through around three hours of driving offences, curfew amendments and restraining orders while feeling like my stomach was being ripped apart from the inside by a claw hammer. I remember racing out of the courtroom to the toilet – which is NEVER near enough to the courtroom you are in – thinking it will just be my luck if they finally hear my case now. I finally raced back to the courtroom five minutes later, still very much in the grip of the blood and pain, only to bump straight into the barristers for my case as they walked towards the Robing Room having heard the case – just typical.

Lesson learned – in the past two years I would rather have passed out than nipped to the toilet again!

Yes, I admit it the fear was always very real that I would pass out through the sheer effort of staying up right in my seat, and I am sure there were times that a jury member or even defendant has looked at me and thought ‘dear God that woman is about to collapse’. I lived in fear of an accident, and in even greater fear of someone making me move whenever a wave of pain flushed over me – when I was still I felt slightly more in control. And I am sure that all the press benches in the magistrates and crown courts that I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in have finger nail marks indented so far into the underside of the wood their imprints could almost be seen through the top.

So after years of covering court cases with the nightmare of my constantly flaring Crohn’s/Colitis, dealing with my ostomy while doing my job seemed like a reality walk in the park. Yes there was always the slight embarrassment of having my ostomy bag changing kit searched through by the security team, (and once or twice having to hand in my rounded cutting scissors at security as a ‘dangerous’ implement) but apart from that attending court was a relatively easy experience. So imagine my surprise when today my ostomy started acting up while I was sat in court patiently listening to each case and waiting for a jury to return. I won’t go into details but I could feel something was going on, and going on, and going on…and boy it just wasn’t holding back, in fact Winnie was going hell for leather. And for the life of me I couldn’t understand why.

So the next two hours were quite frankly hell. I quickly realised that Winnie was going to have to be emptied or we could end up with a pretty crazy situation in the courtroom. Basically Winnie was a ticking time bomb, and I sat sitting nervously trying to concentrate on my shorthand and what the counsel were saying to try to distract myself from the imminent explosion that was building up inside me. The pressure was unbelievable…but I was determined not to leave the old fears about missing things while on the toilet returned and after grimacing through some of the worse pain of my life, there was not a chance in hell that I was going to miss the verdict because of my ostomy – yes, that is how stubborn I am.

Ok, the situation was made worse by my remaining colon continuing to contain active Colitis and me feeling the need to go all the time. The whole thing was unpleasant to say the least, and I just knew I needed to rehydrated and possibly stuff my face with marshmallows to stop this onslaught from Winnie or I would be in a whole new world of trouble soon.

The moment the judge broke for lunch was a blessed relief. I think I actually sighed audibly. As I stood up the weight of Winnie was horrendous and I had to hobble like I had bricks in my pants down the stairs, round the corner to the loo. Court toilets are never an extremely pleasant experience, but I won’t bore you with that.

By the time the day was over I had avoided several natural disasters and learnt a real lesson. While I was in agony with my IBD and the urgency and pain often led to accidents, I could often cope even though it meant me almost passing out with pain until I had a chance to reach a bathroom – with my ostomy this is not the case. There is no grin and bear it. Yes the pain is considerably less, yes the blood is there but it isn’t by the bucketload, but no I can’t stop the flow or ease the pressure when its started…if I wait, sooner or later she will fill up and then, eventually….BOOM! (now that would be a story)!

I will have to learn to cope with it. I love court reporting and I love my job, but I have to keep a close eye on things and remember I’m no superwoman, I’m still human…and, well, Winnie is just a stoma bag she’s not a miracle worker.

A very problematic fistula

After a couple of days of really bad pain, tenderness and a few pretty disgusting leaks, I

OUCH!!! My mucus fistula looking very angry without its bag on

OUCH!!! My mucus fistula looking very angry without its bag on

finally gave in yesterday and rang the stoma nurse about my fistula. I guess I just couldn’t take it anymore. The trigger was when I went to the toilet at work and I noticed that the blood had come back…it took everything for me not to just breakdown there and then.

So according to the registrar, a very bemused looking doctor the stoma nurse dragged kicking a screaming into the clinic to look at my very temperamental fistula, I am “on the verge of something big”! Sounds exciting right? Well what he meant is that the horrific symptoms are starting to return, only this time as I only have a tiny bit of colon the agonising and crippling pain from before is more like a dull throb and twinges like someone is pulling at my bowel with a pair of tweezers. He means that I am in all probability on the very edge of a major flare of my Crohn’s/UC…and that it is time to nip it in the bud before it spirals out of control and I end up flat on my back squirming around in agony again.

This is all because they didn’t take my whole bowel out last time I was on the operating table. There are a lot of reasons for this, none of which i can really explain, but the long and short of it is that I have a mucus fistula, and that combined with my remaining colon (still full of Crohn’s/colitis) is what could send me hurtling back into my illness again…all this would have been solved if he had just whipped it all out at once..typical man!

My mucus fistula formed after my supposedly ‘perfectly healing scar’ exploded one night on the hospital ward sending what appeared to be the entire contents of my stomach pouring onto the floor. I have been through a lot of scary stuff in my life due to my illness, but I have to say that my stomach tearing open has to be one of the most horrifying moments so far – I would put it up there with the first time I blacked out and hit my head against a sink as the entire contents of my body appeared to drop into the bottom of the toilet one afternoon. I remember just standing in the bathroom screaming as this luke warm brown liquid cascaded from my stomach, reaching out in shock to press the emergency call button, screaming my stomach is falling out in a wild panic while the nurses swarmed around me trying to calm me town, telling me ‘it’s perfectly normal dear, you’ll be ok’….in what world is your stomach splitting open normal??? Oh yes, in the world of IBD and abdominal surgery, that’s right!

Anyway, since my surgery I have had a few hiccups with my hole in my stomach. It’s no bigger than a thumb print, but boy can it cause havoc when it wants to. According to my surgeon it formed when the stitches holding my remaining rectal stump (the remaining bit of colon they left in when they removed the majority of my large bowel) came undone and, not wanting to feel left out, the remaining bowel squirmed its way to the surface so it could form another stoma. I like to think of it as my second stoma, and although it is a pain and not a pretty sight if it hadn’t burst through the surface, like a little worm peeking out of the soil, the mucus in my bowel would have discharge into my body causing a world of problems and making me incredibly ill.

So I guess it’s the lesser of two evils.

But I hate my mucus fistula. Having it means I have a second stoma bag. Ok, its only a baby sized one, but I really didn’t sign up for having two bags, one has been hard enough to accept. I have embraced Winnie, and, although I wouldn’t say I love her, I’m never disgusted or angry about having my ileostomy. Winnie is simply part of me and without her I would still be incredibly ill and in a heck of a lot of pain. But no one ever warned me that I might end up with two bags, and, and this has been the hardest thing to stomach, that I could have to put up with it for the rest of my life if I don’t have a second lot of surgery.

Anyway I’m stuck with it for another six months when I will finally be fully colonless. For now I’m putting up with my mucus fistula, the only problem is it’s not making life easy. Over the last few weeks all the side effects that seemed to miraculous vanish the morning after the operation have started to slowly return, and my fistula has started generating more and more mucus filling the little bag in record time and causing some rather horrific leaks that have ruined more than a couple of pairs of my favourite PJs. The stuff it generates is pretty horrible, its like a sicky brown colour, I suppose a bit like baby puke…NICE! And the smell, urgh, it’s so pungent. The worse thing is it comes out both ends, which is something very surprising when you’ve had your bowel removed, it may sound silly but you would think you wouldn’t be able to poop anymore, but this stuff just won’t stay in, there’s no control, it just kinda floods out.

The worse thing is the pain as the stuff shoots out of the tiny hole in my fistula. It literally spits it and the pain, if I happen to be walking, stops me in my tracks. It feels like I’ve been kicked in the stomach and leaves me breathless. It also incredibly tender and even if the ID card I wear at word lightly touches it I want to scream in frustration…seat belts are an especially horrible experience. But compared to before it is like a minor headache, like a tiny mosquito bite when an elephant is bouncing on your stomach, I can cope with it, but not if it means getting ill again.

I refuse to get ill again…I’ve been ill for as long as I can remember, and for the first time in my life I was starting to get used to not waking up and going to bed in pain. That can’t return, and even though that means I’m going to have to spend the next 6 months shooting all sorts of things up my sore backside I’ll do it if it means I never have to feel that pain again.


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!



First run with my ostomy – my love of exercise

Talking about exercising with a stoma after putting on my running shoes for the first time since my ileostomy operation. I may have only managed 1 mile but it’s a start eh?

Also talking about how exercise helped me battle my Crohn’s/Colitis. I’m not saying its a cure, but it was therapeutic and helped me to relax and feel good about myself while my body was dealing with so much crap and basically battling to survive.

I’ll be back running half marathons and raising thousands of pounds for charities in no time right?

Bend and stretch :)

Bend and stretch 🙂

Night out with my ostomy – tricky leaks, revolting loos and challenge number 30

It’s official…I just can’t party like I used to. I just don’t bounce back anymore. The days where I used to stay up all night bouncing around clubs, swigging back cocktails and playing drinking games before heading to lectures at 9am after a couple of hours kip then heading back out for another late-night session, are well and truly behind me.

First night out with the girls since op!

First night out with the girls since It’s official I’m getting old.

More than 48 hours have passed since I dragged myself into bed with tired eyes, tired feet and an even heavier head than usual after getting in from an awesome yet crazy night out with the girls, and I still feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. I just don’t seem to recover the way I used to, which would be fine, but I really didn’t drink nearly enough to warrant this kind of three-day hangover. And to make matters even worse Winnie (my stoma) has decided that she officially hates me (I think it has to do with all the dancing, sugar and possibly lifting my mates off the slippy dance floor) so much that she keeps having sneaky leaks totally ruining any clothing, bedding or flooring that is unfortunate enough to be close by at the time.

Saturday night was Rhian’s 30th birthday bash. And what a bash it was. Chips and champers at my old house (Ri and me lived together) before getting into a massive limo, which just needed P Diddy dressed in a fur coat to make it into pimp my ride, and heading for a night out in Liverpool. This was my first big night out since my op, and I was excited and I have to admit rather frightened by the prospect of subjecting Winnie (who has been leaking a lot recently) to heaving crowds of drunks, dirty toilets in clubs and my insane style of dancing. As we climbed into the limo I fell back into clutching my stomach protectively, as if trying to shield Winnie from any dangers the outside world might present, because you never know when someone’s going to charge at you or punch you in the stomach right?


PIMP MY RIDE!! I don't always travel in this much style btw

PIMP MY RIDE!! I don’t always travel in this much style btw

At start of evening I couldn’t keep my hand away from Winnie. As the crowds got bigger and the people around me got drunker and drunker, with crowds of girls tottering in their sky-high heels, I became more and more anxious about Winnie getting hurt. I could just imagine me flat-out on the floor, with some drunkard sprawled across me, legs flailing everywhere, with all their weight squashing Winnie into the dance floor. I could also imagine the inevitable trip to Liverpool’s A&E department, and I have to say I was determined not to add it to my list of A&E’s I have visited.

I'll have a water, waiting for the limo

I’ll have a water, waiting for the limo

Having had some champers in the house and limo when we got to Liverpool I decided to grab my second glass of water for the evening. The bar tender looked at me like I’d walked into his club, squatted down and done a number 2 on the floor when I asked him for the free shot we had been promised by the scouts outside with a glass of water. He looked revolted. How dare someone ask for H2O – I honestly thought he was going to jump on the bar and start shouting H20 HELL NO again and again Cayote Ugly style. He responded by telling me that you had to buy a drink to get the shot, but something about the look on my face must have shushed him into submission, and he handed me a tap of the worst tasting tap water I have ever drunk.

While the others drank and danced I weaved my way through packed crowds shielding Winnie with my hand of steel in search of the toilets so that I could check that she was behaving herself. It was only about 10.30pm and the scene in the toilets could only be described as carnage. The toilets were so poorly lit it was like trying to check my bag in a power cut. But even the bad lighting couldn’t disguise how revolting the place was. I don’t know what had been going on in those toilets, but it was like a chimp had gone mental throwing toilet roll all over the place, leaving used tampons, tissues and god knows what else strewn all over the floor. The result of this disgusting childishness was that although Winnie was full there was NO toilet roll in site, so despite the slight leakage and the impending explosion there was no way I could change her, and even if there had been, with the piss on the floor and disgustingness all around me there was NOT A CHANCE IN HELL I was about to play around with an open wound and a protruding organ in this loo…that was unless I wanted to end up in hospital on a drip for the rest of my Summer. Instead I fumbled around in the dark, using parts of a spare wound dressing to secure the edge of my bag, while drunk women banged on the door and shouted for me to hurry up…ARGH!! (I felt a little bit like a Blue Peter presenter making Tracy Island out of sticky back tape and toilet rolls, but under a lot more pressure).

Some of the night's shenanigans

Some of the night’s shenanigans

I have to say that I was amazed that after that hasty patch-up job my bag survived the night, but it did. And the toilet situation improved. Luckily the rest of the club’s had those women in who try to sell you lollipops and squirts of perfume. Yes, they annoyingly shout unintelligible things like market stall traders while your on the loo, making me jump while I was trying to empty my ostomy bag, but at least they keep the toilets clean and make sure there is an endless supply of loo roll – so I worship them!

The rest of the evening saw me advance from tentative shuffling to full on dancing the night away. Ok I restrained myself from doing any ‘how low can you go’ or the bumping and grinding some of the people in the club were doing for fear of having a massive hernia, but I got involved. I also spent a lot of the time searching for members of our party who just didn’t want to stay in the club, and picking my mates up off the dance floor, which quickly became a health and safety hazard…think skid pan covered in alcohol verses six-inch high heels.

I didn’t get in until around 4.30am after standing in the roughest taxi queues in the world in Chester. I know Chester. I’ve stood in some rough queues but this was dreadful, I find it hard to entertain extremely drunk people most of the time, but when it’s 4am and you’re stone cold sober and your bones hurt you’re so tired…let’s just say I was a little irritable, and that there was no better feeling than kicking off my high-heels and crawling into my trusty bed – that was until my feet cramped up into claws!!

The morning after the night before - urgh

The morning after the night before – urgh

I had a heck of a good time, and it was amazing to spend time with one of my bestest mates in the whole world, who has helped me through so much with this god awful illness over the years…but I am paying for it. Two days after the night out my stomach still feels like its been butted by a bull, which might have something to do with the dancing, but I think is mostly from the effort of picking people up off the floor. Winnie is in overdrive, and because I’ve only got small bags she keeps catching me by surprise and very sneakily destroying any underwear, bedding, flooring that might be near her when she decided to have a minor explosion. I don’t know why it’s happening, but she is really not very happy at all, and in turn it is making my skin and me fairly unhappy.

So I have no energy, an overproductive ostomy, and feet like claws. But was it worth it? Hell YEH!!!

Apology to all bag wearers

Following on from my blog post last week when I flew into a terrifying rage after members of a very naive US police department declared to the entire world that having an ostomy or colostomy was pretty much a ‘fate worse than death’, and that teenaged boys who wore bags (for any reason at all) would never get girlfriends as the bag made then untouchable and disgusting. (Click here for previous post), Cincinnati Police have rightly apologised for their ill-thought-out campaign.

The campaign sparked outrage amongst the ostomy community. Many felt betrayed and let down. I know I did.  While the idea behind the campaign was good (to try to protect youngsters from gun crime) it painted the very idea of having an ostomy bag as a thing of revulsion, something that made the wearer an outcast and an unattractive person in the eyes of society. Many people felt the same way that I did, that this campaign was re-enforcing young people’s prejudices and fears about life with an ostomy bag…and that young boys already found it hard enough to accept living with a bag without their city’s police telling their community that their life saving operation now made them the least dateable teenager in America.

I want to say thank you to everyone who wrote in to this police department and made them aware of the upset they had caused. I accept, and I hope others do to, that they were blind to the fact that they would be causing so much offence and pain among a community of people who, quite frankly, have already been through enough pain and worry in their lives.

This apology marks a victory for all of us, whether you have a bag or are facing possible surgery in the future. Through reactions to this campaign and the media coverage that surrounded it we have shown the world that having an ostomy is not  ‘a fate worse than death’, it is something that changes your life for the better. The word ostomy shouldn’t be associated with revulsion, disgust or fear, but with hope, happiness and most of all FREEDOM.

Thank you to the Police Chief for issuing this very public apology and for realising his force’s mistake. We all understood the idea behind the campaign and the very noble thing they were trying to achieve. What still frightens me is that this made it to the press at all. That this sort of campaign was ever signed off, having made it past dozens if not hundreds of different departments before being handed to the media is nothing short of concerning.

Thank you for the apology CPD, but I fear that the damage may have already been done.

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To the Ostomy Community:

 Like many American cities, Cincinnati has seen an increase in the number of juveniles involved in violent crime.  Many of these juveniles become victims and suffer traumatic injuries as a result.  In developing a strategy we contacted a local hospital trauma center which has a presentation that illustrates some life changing consequences of gun violence.  Unfortunately, one of the examples used was of a gunshot victim who was now required to utilize a colostomy bag; and the news chose to highlight a poorly chosen comment by a Police Lieutenant when airing the story.  To use the example of an ostomy bag in this way was a mistake.  Although there was no ill will intended, the results were hurtful to some in the ostomy community and this will not be repeated.

 I realize the way the news story was presented has offended many in the ostomy community, and for this I am truly sorry.  As a result of the numerous contacts I received, I have taken steps to ensure this does not happen again.  I have spoken to the Lieutenant involved in the story and his commander.  Both are extremely troubled that such a well-meaning attempt to reduce the number of juveniles involved in gun violence offended so many.  I addressed this with my command staff and Public Information Office to ensure we are all educated on the issue and to prevent any future occurrences.  I also contacted Mr. Jeff Brogan, General Manager of WCPO regarding this issue. 

 I have attempted to individually answer emails, but I wanted to send a clearer message to everyone in the ostomy community.  I am very sorry this happened and will work to ensure it does not happen in the future.  I assure you this was a mistake on the part of well-meaning individuals and not a deliberate attempt to offend anyone. 

 I hope you will accept this apology on behalf of the Cincinnati Police Department.


Paul H. Humphries
Interim Police Chief
Cincinnati Police Department