Here’s to a healthy and happy 2014 – my New Year’s resolutions

Today on the first day of 2014 I’m suffering. But I can’t really complain as it’s mostly self-inflicted and the result of having far too much fun (if totally harmless) waving goodbye to one of the most chaotic and unpredictable year’s of my whole life. It’s safe to say that so far this year has been miserable, mostly due to the howling winds and non stop rain pounding against our flat’s windows, and the banging headache and dry throat from my hangover which is coming in peaks and troughs throughout the whole day and clinging to me like a small child.

Exhausted but happy before midnight

Exhausted but happy before midnight

Today is meant to be about turning a new leaf, getting fitter, healthier and leaving behind bad habits we’ve been unable to cast aside for the past year. I’m full of good intentions about improving myself this year, about becoming a more well-rounded, better educated, more generous, more adventurous person. I’m determined to stop eating sweets (I’m addicted), to keep in touch better with friends and to get back into running. So far that’s not happened, and I’ve spent the day gorging on anything I can get my hands on, in fact I’ve made it my mission to clear the house of sweets in time for tomorrow. After all everyone knows New Year’s Day doesn’t count towards New Year’s resolutions….I think that’s an unspoken law.

2014 is going to be my year. I know I must have more surgery to get rid of my bowel forever, and I know I will have to be admitted to hospital and live off dry tuna sandwiches and be nil by mouth (blah blah blah) all over again. But this time it’s going to be different, I can feel it. This time I’m ready and know what to expect. By the end of this year I’m determined to have Winnie (ostomy) as a permanent fixture in my life; I’m determined to be rid of my horrible fistula; and determined never to see blood in the toilet bowl ever again. I know it’s a lot of expectation but I feel after around 14 years I will really have made a massive leap forward by the end of this year – I know it because it has to happen, otherwise I don’t know if I can carry on.

Amazing friends

Amazing friends

Last night was an evening filled with love, laughter and good friends. I celebrated the end of one of the most emotional years ever with my best friend, her boyfriend, my adoring boyfriend Andy and a lot of other friends. I spent the evening surrounded by some of the most amazing people I know, playing games, chatting and generally catching up. At midnight we popped champagne on the balcony and hugged each other. Apart from too much alcohol the evening was perfect, and as per usual being only upstairs we managed to stumble home and to bed without even having to face the freezing cold – which has to be a bonus.

Anyway, enough rambling, here are my resolutions for 2014, let’s see how many I can stick to:

1) I will have my surgery – even if I have to fight tooth and nail I will have the rest of my colon removed. I refuse to be abandoned by my GI team and surgeon (which has happened) and be ignored despite the fact I am still very ill. I will have the surgery to feel fully better by the end of the year, and recover fully and be able to live my life fully without any interruptions from a horrible fistula or Ulcerative Colitis.

2) I will give up sweets and fizzy pop for the whole of January:
This is my equivalent to dry January. Believe me giving up Haribo and diet Coke is far harder than wine. I’ve done it before for months on end so it is possible, but I have to prove to myself I can do this without having to because I’m recovering from surgery or in hospital. I think I will be the grumpiest cow alive for the whole of this month, but my teeth and health will be jumping for joy after it – if I succeed.

3) go to the gym three times a week and swimming once a week:
This is it people. If my surgery goes ahead in March as I have requested I have three months to prepare, so that means getting über fit and healthy to give my body the best fighting chance. Last time I was fit but I was horrendously ill. This time I’m ill but in a more manageable way (if that makes sense), so I can really help myself. I’m determined to be able to swim 50 lengths in our gym pool (full-sized pool) non stop (no stopping whatsoever) by the time I have my surgery. I used to be an amazing swimmer, like a little fish, zipping through the water doing 120 in a much smaller pool in 40 minutes, now I’m still fast but nowhere near as determined or dedicated – that’s going to change.

4) get cracking with my challenges:
I’ve let my challenges slide a bit. I totally failed on my 6 month reading (read a book a week) challenge. I managed five months of doing it properly, but then started missing the deadline. I’m going to start this again. Starting this week I will read a book a week and let you know what I’m reading and what I think. I read dozens of amazing works of fiction and autobiographies last time, this time I can’t wait to get cracking again.
Tomorrow I’m going to restart my French which had been ‘in progress’ for the past five months…meaning I can say ‘the boy eats an egg’ etc. By the end of 2014 I will be able to complete a GCSE workbook, with the AIM of taking the exam in 2015… Tall ask I know, but that’s why these are challenges.
I will learn how to play my new guitar. So far I know two cords, E and E minor, by the end of this year I will be able to play a whole song.
Of course there are many more challenges and I hope to do many this year, including some of those incorporated into a massive trip to America, some stunning trips around the UK, and hopefully doing the Liverpool to Chester bike ride.

5) be committed to being a Ostomy and IBD advocate:
This year I want to spread the word about Crohns / Colitis and being an ostomate on an even larger scale. I want to resume my video blogs, write more articles, tell more people and set up a support network. I want to help others and raise awareness. And I want to create a website for this blog, where people can share hints, tips and ask questions.

6) be more organised and stay in touch with friends and family:
I have one incredibly organised friend, Laura. Without her I often think I wouldn’t leave the house. But I really don’t put in enough effort with my mates. Some I haven’t seen in months despite them living just down the road, and I’m fed up of making excuses. It’s time to become more organised and start making an effort. I need to start visiting some of my best mates from Uni who I promised to keep in touch with, organising nights out for my mates, and even planning a girls short break. These people have stuck by me through thick and thin and it’s time I made the effort, I’m well enough to really give it my all now.

7) spend more time, me and Andy, doing amazing adventures of a weekend:
We are getting better at making the most of the weekends. But sometimes they seem to be over in a flash without us even having done anything. This year at least one day every weekend will be special. Either by doing one of my challenges, visiting somewhere new, going somewhere special, visiting friends or going on a long walk in the country. I never want to go to work again and say ‘yeh we just watched tv and went to the supermarket’ again.


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 🙂

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…