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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting patiently for food - I'm screaming inside lol

Waiting patiently for food – I’m screaming inside lol

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

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

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

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

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

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Adventure holiday drama and a very unexpected birthday present


I’m back in one piece!! I know it’s a miracle but I have officially made it home from my

Caution squirrels me and Winnie are loose

Caution squirrels me and Winnie are loose

girly adventure holiday without any injuries, scrapes or even bumps. Even Winnie, despite threatening to kick off constantly, was extremely well-behaved and didn’t even kick off when I managed to swallow a few pieces of sweetcorn by mistake while trying to fish them all out of a very ill-chosen salad.

Ok, so maybe that’s not true…let’s just say that’s what I would have liked to have written at the start of this blog. What I’m missing out is that me and my friends raced back from our trip to Centre Parcs after two rather frightening metal looking hoops burst through the opening of my fistula, causing me to suffer a major breakdown and sway in and out of consciousness as I tried determine what weird and wonderful surgical piece of equipment the surgeons had left in my body was trying to break its way out by bursting out of my skin.

ME in A&E unhappily waiting to find out what is sticking out of fistula

ME in A&E unhappily waiting to find out what is sticking out of fistula

The trip – which had been filled with fun, laughter, adventure and gossip, and seen me sweating like a pig as I furiously pedaled up steep hills determined to get to the top despite my ostomy bag hitting my legs (my bike was a little too small) and shouting back at my mate who had given up and got off to walk “beaten by a post-op patient” (which I’ve just realised made me sound like I’d just had sex change surgery) – ended with me dressed in a rather trendy hospital gown, demanding IV paracetamol and shaking with fright and pain as I was systematically ignored by everyone in A&E despite the very real fear that whatever the ‘wires’ were could have perforated my remaining (and potentially healthy) bowel.

It actually took four hours for anyone to ask to look at my abdomen, and when they did they could see exactly what I had been trying to tell them for the past few hours (in between falling in and out of consciousness) – and they quickly admitted I did indeed have some sort of foreign object sticking out of my stomach. I felt like saying NEVER!!! In fact the nervous junior doctor who eventually plucked-up enough courage to ask me to lift up my gown (ohh la la) and take a look, struggled to see the metal glinting under my fistula bag, but when he did see it he seemed shocked, before admitting he “didn’t know what he was doing” (a worrying yet refreshingly honest attitude) and ambling off to get someone else who I trusted and recognised to have a good poke around.

So after four hours of stressing out, pain and worrying in A&E, the surgical nurse at last

EWH very red skin and you can just about see the loop at the bottom of the pic

EWH very red skin and you can just about see the loop at the bottom of the pic

took to my stomach with a pair of scissors and snipped away at the loops (which had got even bigger in the time I had been waiting). This was uncomfortable, but by no means painful, but I am ashamed to admit that I caused a bit of a fuss, firstly, rather childishly telling him NOT TO TOUCH ME, but then, after a reassuring explanation that he wasn’t about to pull meters of this stuff out of my body, I gave in , screwed up my eyes and let him get to work trimming my wires! It took him the whole of five seconds, and when they were taken out I took a look at what he had removed, and they were really long pieces of plastic – no wonder I had been in so much pain.

Anyway to get the record straight I had it explained to me that this was not a surgical error, I was not seeing bits of plastic the surgeons had absent-mindedly left in my body following the operation as they rushed to get to the pub on time. These were stitches which had been used to pin down my remaining colon (or rectal stump) which broke away months ago as my colon went crashing through my stomach wall (creating Oscar) and had been trying to work their way out of my body for God knows how long. The stitches were meant to dissolve naturally but, well, had been being stubborn and had decided not to! Instead, my body’s typically dramatic fashion, they decided to burst out of stomach, causing me to dissolve into a blithering wreck of panic as my mind tried to comprehend the possibility of further surgery.

She's got wires coming out of her skin

Well it seems this is all fairly normal following a massive operation like this, but how was I to know that? No one had warned me this might happen. Just like no one warned me that my stitches might burst sending mucus gushing out of my stomach. No one warned me, so when I woke up that morning and spotted the very sturdy and alien loops protruding out of my fistula I thought something had gone massively wrong and that I was going to die! So it was panic stations all round….all I can say is it is a good job we were leaving Centre Parcs that day and this ridiculous complication didn’t cut our girly holiday short.

Just a shame it had to happen on one of my best friend’s birthdays.

Picture this…you’re having a lovely lie in on the morning of your birthday. So far you have had a fun but exhausting weekend, raft building, cycling and playing board games. And last night you spent playing shrades and opening presents from your friends in the chalet in the middle of the forest, before tumbling into bed in the early hours of the morning. Next thing you know a crazy-haired person dressed in a towel shakes you from your sleep, tears pouring down her face, saying “something’s wrong, something’s wrong”. Before proceeding to flash her boobs at you, while showing you a red raw surgery scar and a fistula, making you peer into the gooey mess to confirm there is indeed part of a builders work yard sticking out of her stomach, and that she isn’t going insane – NOT THE BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT I’VE EVER GIVEN SOMEONE.

Hats off to my friend, she stayed incredibly calm. She even managed to calm me down

Measuring myself at Centre Parcs

Measuring myself at Centre Parcs

enough to ring everyone that needed ringing (hospital, boyfriend, parents etc) and get the whole chalet packed up and ready to go. Before I told her I remember standing in the bathroom on the verge of a complete emotional breakdown trying to figure out what to do. I needed help, but who to ask. I didn’t want to wake her as it was her birthday, but the other person I thought of telling was all the way upstairs and I didn’t know her as well as I did my best friend. I honestly considered not saying anything, until I mistakenly knocked the wires as I pulled up the towel sending shooting pain through my abdomen and almost knocking myself to the ground as pain and nausea took over.

The journey home was a mishmash of memories, laughter and trying not to fall asleep. I was, and I think the people in the car were too, totally petrified that this could be something serious. I was honestly thanking my lucky stars that I had enjoyed myself, cycling, gossiping and even drinking a few glasses of wine, before I would be imprisoned back in the hospital. During the car journey back I had to stop myself from blubbering and shouting as the very real possibility that I would once again be back under the surgeon’s knife and confined to a hospital bed for another month or so flashed into my mind. I tried not to let it show (but I think it was totally obvious) that I was totally petrified.

Today I feel exhausted yet happy. Home from A&E and unpacked from my trip all I can think is how lucky I was to have someone so calm to help me in my moment of need. Just the day before one of our other friends had managed to miss a step in the apartment and sprain her ankle – this was after avoiding any injury whatsoever whilst swimming through a lake filled with waist-high weeds while trying to beat a family to build and race the best raft – and she, once again, was a picture of calm amongst chaos and confusion.

I just hope I didn’t ruin her birthday, but, I guess, it’s not one she’s ever likely to forget.

The girls raft building

The girls raft building

The holiday itself was just what I needed. Ok, it was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me, seeing me squealing with excitement as we got nearer the holiday resort in the car, then sobbing in the supermarket as the pain and fatigue from the car journey kicked-in, then excitedly racing around the forest on my bike before having a nervous break-down in the bathroom of a restaurant as my crab salad reappeared in the toilet bowl, appearing to multiply in the process. I’m not entirely sure why I felt so happy one minute and then so gutted and down-in-the-dumps the next. I think I found it hard to stand and watch while the others swam, went on water slides and raced around building rafts while I sat at the side holding keys and inhalers and proudly taking photos like a mum waiting for her kids at Alton Towers. I think it upset me that I couldn’t fully join in with the activities due to my never-ending open wound and fistula, which I was told by the surgeon that I mustn’t submerge in water. I think I was envious of the swimming costumes and bikinis and the never-ending bottom-less stomachs of my mates, who seemed to be able to eat and eat and eat, unlike myself who was sick the moment I ate more than two marshmallows after tea.

First day...drying feet after not going in the pool!!!

First day…drying feet after not going in the pool!!!

I’m painting a negative image of this aren’t I…I’m just trying to be honest. But these moments where fleeting compared to how happy I felt for the majority of the trip. I loved the feeling of total freedom as I free wheeled down steep hills ringing my bell to get pedestrians to move out-of-the-way, dressing in our onsies and playing board games into the early hours of the morning, and simply being around other people and having a truly amazing time while not feeling like ‘the ill person’ all the time.

I do think, however, that I need to go back to work pretty sharpish. At the moment all I have to talk about is me and Winnie… which I’m sure is fine for a little while, but no doubt it has to get boring pretty quickly.

Oh, and did I mention I wore a ONSIE in front of everyone!!! So that’s another challenge done and dusted!!! It was the comfiest thing ever, however a warning to everyone, DO NOT FALL ASLEEP IN ONE, you will boil to death!!!

In our onsies - challenge complete

In our onsies – challenge complete

Exercise with a stoma – me & Winnie and the joys of moving and shaking


It’s official, me and Winnie (my temperamental stoma bag) are back in the saddle.

Me and a very naughty petting pony in Chester

Me and a very naughty petting pony in Chester

Ok, so before you go shielding your children’s innocent eyes from my blog post and blocking this site using parent protection, I have to make it clear that this post is not about my sex life…I’m afraid it’s much more boring than that (sorry guys), today I’m going to talk about getting on my bike and exercising despite my temperamental stoma.

So if you read my last post about my appointment at the surgeons you’ll know that I have been feeling a bit down in the dumps over the past few days. Well, if I’m going to be completely honest, that’s a bit of an understatement. The way I’ve been feeling is totally down-and-out depressed. I’ve been feeling totally confused about my body, about my disease and about my future. I’ve been feeling like everything is working against me to stop me healing and being able to embrace the normal, amazing and pain-free life, where I wouldn’t clock the toilets the moment I walked into a building, which I was promised I would have after my operation. Basically, I have still been feeling better and weller (I know still not a word) than I did before the birth of Winnie, but recently I’ve pictured myself standing in an open square, throwing my arms out and screaming “I’ve had 13 years of the godforsaken disease, pain and vomiting, give me A BREAK!!!”

Last time something stopped me running/ swimming

Last time something stopped me running/ swimming

Anyway, anyway, anyway, despite feeling like an emotional yo-yo and forcing my friends and extremely understanding boyfriend to tip-toe around me like I’m a ticking-time bomb, a few days ago I decided it was time for me to try to start to build up my muscles again and get exercising! Ok, so it’s not like for the past 12 weeks I have sat in sweat pants and stuffed my face with takeaway and chocolates (I wish), so please don’t get the impression that my longing to start exercising was triggered by some sort of lose weight fast or crazy body image issue where I see myself in the mirror as a giant whale – I have to make it clear here that I KNOW I AM TINIE TINY!! The idea to start trying to exercise again was not brought about by vanity or self-loathing, but by the itching to start moving again and the longing to feel that satisfying burn that tears through your muscles after a really tough workout is over.

Ok, so maybe I am lying a little bit about the vanity thing!

If I’m going to be honest with you (and if I’m not, what’s the point in this blog? seriously?), 70% of my idea to exercise was health related – to help get my muscles, body and bones (due to my osteoporosis) stronger, and transform my twig-like legs back to their stronger, half-marathon selves – and 30%, I have to admit, was more to do with pride.

Ok, so I know that sounds ridiculous, so let me explain. This weekend me and a group of my girlfriends are heading to Centre Parks for a couple of days of girly fun and laughter without the prying eyes of the male species (well I am sure there will be boys in the vicinity, otherwise that would be weird). This will be my first ever weekend away with my friends – EVER! I know, I’m so sad, I never went mad and took part in one of those mental booze-fuelled rampages to Ibiza in my youth. I never felt the need to get bladdered abroad, drinking out of funnels and having shots off naked bodies – I totally missed out on that one, I don’t think i was in that sort of crowd, and to be fair I don’t think my IBD would have let me go even if I’d wanted to. Instead I stuck with the family caravan trips, where we visited every historic monument in Britain, got flooded out of camp site, ate biscuits in bed and even dressed-up in bin bags in public. My childhood holiday memories are made up of me leaving my sister to drown as the tent filled with water, waking to find sheep carrying us down a very steep hill, and many many paddies that I can’t remember exactly why I threw!! Ah memories!! (At the time I didn’t appreciate those holidays enough, now I wish I had)

Anyway, where was I? The Centre Parks trip was booked months before I realised that my surgery (that I knew was going to happen) was imminent. When we booked the trip I was seriously ill but still incredibly active. Despite the crippling pain and exhausting fatigue which filled my bones I still loved nothing more than to exercise. I have always been that way. No matter how ill I get I still find the energy to get my bum off the sofa and do a bit of jumping about. In fact I find it helps my illness. Exercise makes me feel happy…it makes me feel in control when everything else is spiralling downhill at an incredibly fast rate. When I’m at my worst getting motivated can be hard, but the hardest step is getting out of the front door in between the toilet visits, once I’ve passed that hurdle and started running/swimming/cycling, I can run/swim/cycle for forever (well not forever) without letting my Crohns/Colitis cross my mind. You could say that exercising is the only time when I feel free, that I feel my illness comes second and I come first.

So, I’d been really looking forward to this trip until we had a meeting to discuss activities a few weeks ago. This is when the realisation that this was not the average relaxing holiday lounging around drinking wine or exploring monuments finally hit home. I really don’t know what I had been expecting or what I thought Centre Parks was, but I really didn’t expect that we would be spending our few days of blissful girliness zip wiring, jumping off cliffs and racing around a forest. Everyone else was really enthusiastic as my friend read out the activities, but I kept saying “oh that sounds energetic” or “not for me”…and you know what, I hated myself for it! Usually

A daring but very painful experience in the month before surgery - extremely ill but determined to enjoy myself

A daring but very painful experience in the month before surgery – extremely ill but determined to enjoy myself

I would be the first one to jump onboard with the craziness and fling myself off a rock face or something equally energetic (as long as it was certified as safe), and I hated hearing my little wining voice winging about how little I could do because of my op. Even the cycling seemed out of the question with my open wound, stoma and fistula…I left the meeting without putting my name down for any of the activities, in fact I wasn’t even sure how I was going to get around as I didn’t even know if I would be able to cycle! I went back to my flat devastated with an image of me sitting in the villa alone all day while my friends did fun-filled activities, waiting for them to get back before asking how their days had been…STUPID OPERATION!!!

But I was determined this wasn’t going to happen, I was going to have fun even if I couldn’t throw myself off a cliff or zip to my death down a ridiculously high wire. So I broached the subject with my surgeon (who I adore) and to my amazement he said I could do light exercise, just as long as I didn’t forget I had had major surgery. I mean, like I’m going to forget, I’ve got a flaming stoma bag to remind me every second of every day. I heard my heart-break into a million pieces when he said I wouldn’t be able to swim because of my open scar…I knew it was no good pleading so I just sat looking dewy-eyed and upset, hoping it would at least make him feel like the most evil person in the world. You see swimming is my most favourite thing in the entire world, I find that no matter how much stress or how much pain I’m in all my troubles float away when I get in the water and I can swim for hours on end at an absurdly rapid pace with the only thought bobbing through my mind being did I do 26 or 27 lengths…if I don’t concentrate on counting I quickly forget and have to go back to the lowest number.

swimming in the ocean - happy days pre surgery

swimming in the ocean – happy days pre surgery

But he did say I would be able to cycle. But I didn’t want to find out I couldn’t mount the damn thing in front of all my friends or get on and wobble around and fall off with my bum in the air exposing Winnie to the world. Basically I didn’t want to be humiliated. So on Monday I got on my bike for the first time in, well, forever. I have to say I was excited and petrified! The last time I got on my bike I was on a busy main road (I don’t know why we started out there DOH) and I was wobbling around all over the place. This time we went to an abandoned (well not quite abandoned sorry guy who owned Landrover I almost hit, I wasn’t sure if the look was pity or annoyance you gave me from behind the wheel), to get me used to the motion and to see if I could even get on the seat with all my bags dangling off my utility belt! I had this weird image of me getting Winnie stuck on the handlebars or her falling off as I whipped along the bumpy tarmac – obviously that didn’t happen.

Anyway, I have to say it was the most fun I have had in ages. I raced around in my little helmet and luminous jacket (yes I know it was broad daylight) like the happiest little kid in the world. In fact I think the man whose car I avoided crashing in to thought I was a child because of the massive grin on my face (if you watch vid you’ll see what I mean). It was exhausting and exhilarating, and because I enjoyed it so much we did it all again yesterday, but instead of a short ride in a derelict car park we took to the canal tow path and successfully avoided dogs, pedestrians, children and cyclists for a three-mile ride which left me shattered and feeling like I’d been sat on a sharp rock for the rest of the evening (ouch) – I didn’t however feel half as bad as Andy who ran alongside me.

Next step…light jogging, but I’m going to give it time and invest in some mega supportive underwear!!!

If you have a stoma or Crohns/Colitis and exercise and have any tips please comment below…