Day one – red, green and other weird coloured poop #7daysofIBD #7daysofstoma

Seeing red in your ostomy bag is a frightening experience.

Spotting blood where it isn’t meant to be is horrifying for anyone (if you’ve not experienced it I hope you never do), but after 14 years of Ulcerative Colitis seeing red is enough to make my world crumble.

It is the tipping point, the moment I have to stop kidding myself that the agonising pain will vanish (even though i know it never will) and the horrible realisation that I will have to drag myself to hospital.

When I say spotting blood it is more like a massacre – not that I want to frighten any of you.

Anyway that’s beside the point. For the past year I’ve lived without red in my stools – well until I eat something like tomato soup, and then I nearly always forget I’ve eaten it and freak out.

Some foods do weird and wonderful things to my stoma output and turn it bizarre colours which would startle any right minded person and have you running to the doctors whispering “why is my poop bright purple? What exotic disease have I got?”

You probably wouldn’t stop to think you might have eaten beetroot – but there again most people don’t examine their poo for weird qualities like people with IBD have drummed in them to do.

Today I forgot I’d eaten tomato soup, hence I had a little heart jumping moment (like when I see a large spider lurking in the bathroom) when I saw the bright red colour of my stoma bag contents.

As a now slightly seasoned ostomate I’ve taken to taking a little moment to think while I’m sat on the loo – I stop and say ‘Rach what have you eaten that might have caused this…’, before I allow myself to properly freak out that my illness is back or has morphed into Crohn’s disease.

It’s a good job I did – the memory of the tomato soup came flooding back and I visibly relaxed.

The first time my output went green I went mental…what the hell, what did it mean, I hadn’t even eaten anything green!

Green is pretty normal for me: I adore spinach even if my stoma does not.

But for most green is a sign that what you are eating simply isn’t being absorbed – it means you’re having too much fibre, or your food is going through you. This happens to me a lot, as I insist on eating the foods my digestive system doesn’t like, such as: rocket, spinach, cucumbers – which do from time to time cause me a lot of pain through blockages.

I remember being totally freaked out though the day my output went bright green – I mean pretty much luminous – a consequence of some very horrible cocktails the night before.

Bad colourings in cocktails have also led to slightly purple output, bright red and a slightly blue tint – always a really horrendous experience when you’re hungover and confused enough without thinking your dying.

In other news I went to the gym, got drenched posting letters and almost got lifted off my feet on the way home – thanks lovely Cardiff weather.



Campaign for better hospital food in Wales begins – join the fight

Today my official campaign to stop the slop finally got off the ground.

As you all know I’ve been banging on and on and on about NHS food for years – until a few weeks ago, starved and delirious, I finally snapped.

My mission is simple but will need a lot of support.

I want the Welsh Government to look at the food the Welsh NHS feed their patients, investigate and see if it is up to scratch.

Then I want them to give staff the right support and facilities to feed people (including tailoring meals for people with certain conditons and allergies) what they need to help them get better – instead of banging their heads against a brick wall and taking away full plates of food.

I know I will come under fire over this campaign – I am brutally honest about my negative experiences – but if it sparks improvements people can hurl rubbish my way and I will happily duck.


This is not about undermining the hard work of the amazing doctors, nurses and catering staff in the NHS.

I admire them greatly; they’ve saved my life; held my hand; stayed with me when I am frightened and gone above and beyond their jobs to keep me alive and strong over my many years of chronic illness.

They brought me back to life as a baby, and also gave me back my life from the grip of Ulcerative Colitis after so many years – for all of this I will never ever be able to repay them.

I am literally in awe of the NHS and the staff that work for them – but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see improvements.

This campaign I hope will help them to do their jobs more easily and without having to endlessly deal with hungry, angry patients, who are not getting better because they are not eating properly.

My petition has appeared on the Welsh Assembly website and I need you all to sign it (if you want to of course).

Ludicrously I only need to get 10 signatures for it to be considered by the committee – which could mean I could ask get 10 people to agree AMs personally have to give free lollipops to donkeys (and if it is devolved) they would have to talk about it.

Please help me with my campaign, hopefully it can make just a little bit of difference for the greater good. I will not stop banging on about this until something is done – and I know you all would like me to shut up!

Petition: Food in Welsh hospitals

In the meantime please share your experiences, pictures of your Welsh hospital food, and anything which might help to build up evidence in this campaign.

Please send to @thestomabaglady or visit my facebook page to share your story.






Ostomy on the run – and a wealth of injuries on the way #cardiff10k


IMG_0979In just a few hours I will be running the Cardiff 10k.

While my fitness has shot through the roof since I moved to Wales, having become obsessed with weights at the gym, I’m getting the feeling I’m going to be hobbling over the finish line.

Over the past three weeks I’ve been blighted with twinges in my abdomen, and earlier last week (horrifyingly) I had a few hours where I couldn’t seem to sit down without feeling stabs of pain.

Ironically for all the ridiculous weighted sit ups I’ve been putting my body through it was a run that caused it (well I think it was).

It all started after a 14k run – the longest on my own – where I felt 100% fine and got an amazing time (well for me anyway) making me feel all so proud.

Well, until I was suddenly in agony!

Shortly after I arrived home I started getting stabbing pains in my pelvis or lower abdomen, for days after it felt like pressure was building up in my abdomen and pelvis….all very uncomfortable and very, very odd.

So I signed up for the Cardiff Half Marathon – and then thought that wasn’t enough let’s do the Cardiff 10K too.

Horrific mistake.

My body has tried everything to collapse under me since I took up this new challenge, it seems to want to try and throw my training out of the window.

But right now I seem to be ok (famous last words)….

Thankfully, following some antibiotics, the pains seem to have subsided and I am back in action.

This week I managed to knock 25 seconds off my best 10k, and I’m on track to do the 10k tomorrow in under 59 minutes – if nothing goes wrong of course.

I’ve always had a love hate relationship with running.

I have days where I’m in the zone, motivated and nothing can stop me on my mission towards my half marathon goal, on other days my legs feel like jelly, my stomach twinges around my stoma, and everything from ducklings, my mobile phone, hair, and the thought of a glass of wine tempts me to stop sooner than I should.

I often think I look pretty hot while running, with my bright pink kit, but I think the couples dining in the Bay would say I look frankly gross (I often do my sprint finish right in front of people enjoying romantic meals, sorry!)

To say I’m not a sexy runner would be an understatement. I often totally forget people can see me: I mouth random words to songs, sweat profusely, get hair in my mouth, and well seem to always get a fly in my eye.

But there again if you look good you can’t be doing it property, right?


Anyway tomorrow will be my second ‘race’ since my ileostomy operation. A few months ago I did the back to the stadium 10k which finished in the Olympic Stadium.

It was an unbelieveable experience, but backbreakingly hot. I finished the race in 1hr 1min and something, which was gutting as I had been doing 10k in under an hour.

Anyway tomorrow’s race – which I’ve combined with the half to raise cash for Crohn’s and Colitis UK – will kick start my real training in the run up to the half.

I’m determined to get a good time next month, the last time I ran a half marathon was the Great North Run at the height of a Colitis flare. I was so tiny, exhausted, and my training had been sporadic due to illness and hospitalisation.

I only managed to stumble round due to the support of kind strangers who were also running for Crohn’s and Colitis and ran alongside me, pushing me on, encouraging me and sharing their loved ones’ stories.

This time I am the fittest I’ve ever been, happy and motivated, and I’m getting a little bit addicted to smashing personal bests.

I want (have) to prove what I can do without this illness. I want to show my own body that anything is possible and that with my ostomy I can make it all the way round the course without going to the loo – a miracle.


Meanwhile my sister (who is a self confessed non runner) will be taking on the GNR to raise money for Crohn’s and Colitis UK. I’m beyond proud of her, and hope she gets round in one piece and with a big smile on her face.

Anyway, good luck to everyone running the GNR or Cardiff 10k, especially if you’re doing it for Crohn’s or any Ostomy charities….I’ll be rooting for you!

If you want to follow my training I will be putting a new section on my blog for you to follow my progress, and as per usual if anyone has any tips on exercising/ running with an ostomy please share.

And, just in case you are feeling generous, here is my Justgiving page.




Happy World IBD Day – Ignore the ignorant and mean and keep fighting for awareness

It’s hard to say this, but for years I wanted to die.

You probably wouldn’t have noticed as I was a determined little sod. I kept my tears (mostly) behind the toilet door and slapped a slightly grumpy smile on my face as I threw myself into work like I was bashing out my frustrations on a career and homework punch bag.

Secretly I was begging for the pain – which left me doubled over writhing and crawling up toilet walls –  to end, and I simply didn’t care how.


Happy and (fairly) healthy these days

I was desperate, fatigued, living in chronic pain, battered bruised and exhausted. I never considered suicide but when the pain had me screaming I would simply want it all to be over.

As a teenager I was often too tired to climb up my bunk bed ladders, at University I often slept in the toilet, and at work I filed copy from my phone while sat on the toilet at crown court, rushing to get the story written while balancing my notes on my knee.

Now I can hardly imagine how I coped, but for 14 years I did and so did everyone who tried to deal with ill Rachel day in day out.

For 14 years ill Rachel was totally unpredictable; one day bubbling with energy, the next unable to get out of bed, falling over to get to the bathroom and crying alone in desperate tiredness.

You see since I was a teenager I have lived with a totally invisible illness. To the naked eye I didn’t look sick – well sometimes bloated from steroids others just a skeleton – but inside my body a fierce battle was raging.

I had Ulcerative Colitis, for years they thought it was Crohn’s but having taken out my entire bowel they are now almost sure (well they better bloody be) that it’s Colitis.

To call people with IBD brave is an understatement – stubborn is probably a better word.

IBD is a cruel condition, it comes and goes but never truly leaves us. It flares, or more like springs up, sometimes without rhyme or reason, and ruins everything, leaving you clinging on to life by your fingertips.

Just after second op

Just after second op

The Crohn's Walk

The Crohn’s Walk

During my 14 year battle – now finally (hopefully) at an end thanks to a miracle surgeon and a temperamental ostomy bag – I learnt that a hard lesson. Pain hurts but ignorance is far more damaging.

Shops ignoring my can’t wait card so I literally pooed myself; bitchy comments about my lollipop round face (due to steroids); the needle marks on my arms; my skeleton frame; colleagues moaning about me being on the toilet too long; stares; food tips; comments about my eating; the rude tuts from old people as you use the disabled toilet; and the comparison with cancer – were just some of the things that slapped me in the face during my flares.

Today is World IBD day, and today I have something to say to everyone who has ever used my illness to say something nasty when I felt like I was hanging on by the skin of my teeth, and made me feel a little bit more shit.

To everyone who ever said “well you don’t look ill”, called me anorexic, suggested I eat something, or said “well at least it isn’t cancer’, or in the worst dig of all tried to make out I had got somewhere in life because people felt sorry for me because i was ill.

I want to say to you that I made it, despite your ignorance, and if I can so will many other people.

Words hurt sometimes more than spasms and projectile vomiting, and well staples in the bum.

And I say that knowing that I have said horrible things to people far too many times in my 27 years on this planet.

Back after my first operation – so skinny it hurts

But in the end, for all the haters and mean people in the world (and those who don’t mean it but don’t understand), there are millions of kind people and hundreds of thousands who are going through just what you are going through.

When I first started this blog a number of people said it was a bad idea, that I would open myself up to ridicule and trolls and all the other nasty stuff the internet can bring – they were wrong.

They were also wrong when I posted my first picture of my stoma on Twitter, and I got all the acceptance I had needed for years from so many people with not a single negative remark.

These days I can’t poop or fart the way normal people do, and if someone says something I try to laugh it off. But back when I was a teen it would have mortified me – i would literally have rather died.

Every half an hour someone in the UK is diagnosed with IBD – and that means one other person sitting on a toilet somewhere is seeing their world fall out of their arse and might just be begging to die like I was just two years ago.

It also means that one day I might have to see my child (if I can have them) live through the same thing, a thought that honestly horrifies me.

IMG_7957 IMG_7958So I want to say to the millions of people out there who have Crohn’s or Colitis, you are not alone.

The world is a different place these days – don’t hide in the toilet embarrassed and alone, there are literally thousands of people with IBD who are out there waiting to talk and help and be your friend.

Speak to people, your best friend, neighbour, teacher, partner, parents, you might be surprised but they are probably worried sick about you.

Surround yourself with people who care, and who love you and who you know you would look after if the tables were turned, like my amazing friends, family, boyfriend who have helped me through everything over the years and who leave me totally speechless. 1004908_411240882339946_1764660566_n

Anyone who is nasty, educate them, and if they still won’t listen they simply aren’t worth your energy – in the end it is precious.

Before I break into a Taylor Swift song I’m going to go – but don’t whatever you do in life let more poop get you down it’s a battle enough.


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!

So long 2014 – a year of surgery, loss of my backside, freedom from IBD and amazing adventures

What a Year!!!

What a Year!!!

Happy New Year. I know it’s incredibly late to be saying this (internet issues at my place), but what the hell, welcome to 2015.

As I look back on the roller coaster of the last 12 months I can’t help but wonder what craziness this year will bring. Over the last 365 days I’ve been cut open, stitched up, injected, drained, screamed, cried and laughed. I’ve seen disgusting things, met amazing people, sobbed and almost burst my stitches with laughter. I’ve come face to face with criminals, seen incredible bravery and felt humbled to the core by some of the unbelievable things everyday people do for complete strangers and those in need.

It’s been a heck of a year. Some of the most important moments of my life happened in 2014, namely me and Winnie (my stoma) became attached for life – I will never be rid of her. I had my second bag removed in a year complicated operation, bum stitched together, and finally (hopefully) waved goodbye to my Ulcerative Colitis/Crohn’s for good!

Looking back, I can’t believe we ( me and Andy) managed to pack so much in. With so many adventures (some of which I’ve still not had time to write about – I’m sorry I’ve not blogged I’ve been snowed under and I know I’ve been frankly crap lately), I’m often surprised I managed to have time to have the rest of my bowel removed.

Last year we headed to the USA on an incredible trip where my dreams of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, going to see a Broadway Show (indeed the longest running one – Phantom of the Opera) and enjoying magical sunsets from a beach filled with golden sand, finally came true.

I appeared on BBC Breakfast to talk about life with IBD (Crohn’s/ Colitis – whichever the bloody hell it eventually was) and that it is not caused by junk food. I worked at a national newspaper, where I met amazing people and spread the word about IBD while having the time of my life.

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I also finally read Pride and Prejudice (while tucked up in bed suffering from flu), sat on Murray Mound eating strawberries (without the cream) after queuing for Wimbledon, watched Boyzone live in a forest with one of my best friends in the world, said goodbye and welcome home to one of my best friends, seen some amazing sights as we explored the UK for my challenges, hiked, swam and cycled.

I’ve read hundreds of books while trying and failing to complete my reading challenges – which I have restarted for the new year and am determined to finish – struggled with learning French and utterly failed to learn a single audible cord on the guitar.

I’ve thrown freezing cold water over my head, raced through the streets of York sweating to death in a monkey onesie and worn stupid jumpers all in the name of charity. I’ve stayed in stunning cottages, drunk too much beer and eaten too much meat in Bruges (will blog about this soon) and travelled all over the place seeing remarkable things with Andy, who has somehow managed to get the strength to drive me all over the place (I’m a nightmare in the car!).

My boyfriend, incredible friends and my family have made my year magical and have stuck through me through thick and thin. I’ve also been overwhelmed by the bravery of inspirational women with IBD and stomas, including Bethany Townsend whose pictures captured the nation and seemed to open people’s eyes to the fact that not all people with ostomy bags are old. I take my hats off to some of the campaigns including Get Your Belly Out for raising awareness and changing perceptions.

It’s been a magical year, but it has not all been plain sailing. This year I felt pain (not just from IBD and surgery), had horrible infections, skin problems and finished the year with a possibility of heart issues (and not the romantic ones). Through it all my boyfriend, family and incredible friends have been there. To be honest I don’t know where I would be right now without them – probably still with two ostomy bags.

Anyway I’m rambling….here’s to a healthy, happy, adventure-filled and inspirational 2015! I can’t wait!

Happy #WorldToiletDay to all the loos that I’ve spent the best years of my life sat on #Crohns #wecantwait

Nothing has felt like it has saved my life more times than a toilet. I’ve cried, screamed and had panic attacks looking for a restroom in stadiums, nightclubs, court rooms and shopping centres. I’ve slept in them, passed out in them, read massive planning documents in them, begged to die in them and vomited in them – I’ve even considered installing a computer and TV in mine I spend so much time in it.

As I was growing up I spent so much time on the toilet in my parents’ house that the loo was referred to as ‘Rachel’s throne’. Due to my Crohn’s (now confirmed as Ulcerative Colitis) you could say I have spent more time with my toilet than the average Joe on the streets. My porcelain bowl has become a friend and an enemy, at times a welcome relief and at others the site of excruciating pain, which leaves me wanting to tear my insides out.

Even now that I no longer have my ulcerated and disease filled bowel, I still rely heavily on loos. I still rush to them, and panic when I can’t find them. My ostomy bag can fill up extremely quickly, and I guess after 14 years of living with the constant pain of IBD I will never stop clocking the nearest loo wherever I go!

Anyway, today (November 19) is World Toilet Day and I couldn’t let it pass without paying tribute to all the toilets which, at times, have felt like they have saved my life.

We’re all used to the more bizarre ‘Talk like a Pirate Day’, “National Pie Day’ etc, but a day to celebrate loos and bogs? It may sound funny but there is a really serious message behind the calendar date, founded in 2001 by the World Toilet Organisation – I didn’t know they existed either!

They even have a MR TOILET, a remarkable man who has been on a mission to make people stand up and notice the sanitation issue, and THE URGENT RUN, a charity dash to raise awareness, and a comedy competition for the funniest toilet joke, the trailer of which I have put at the top of this post.

On its website the organisation says the day was met with “amusement, ridicule, laughter” but despite all this it continues, in a bid to remind people how lucky they are to have access to clean sanitation, while 1 billion people around the world still openly defecate due to poor sanitation and 2.5 billion people still live without adequate sanitation.

While toilets have shaped my life and having one close by and filled with toilet roll have meant more to me than food and water for years, they are taken for granted by many people on a daily basis. I can’t imagine how my life would have been during my illness and now if I didn’t have a toilet – I guess, despite everything, I’ve really been very lucky. I would probably be dead.

Here’s something exciting for anyone who is heavily reliant on toilets like me! The Great British Toilet Map has been founded, it let’s you know where the nearest public toilets are and which businesses have signed up to the Council’s Community Toilet Scheme – it’s about time!!!!

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You see my chronic illness could strike at any time – sat in a murder trial, eating breakfast, queuing for my shopping, partying with friends, sleeping, on an aeroplane – leaving me crippled with pain and with just seconds to find a toilet. I would flush bright red, my heart would start beating ten to the dozen and I would feel like my whole body was going to burst open if I didn’t find a bathroom. Sometimes, naturally, I just wouldn’t make it, and at times I would try to ignore it – mostly when I needed to go for the 10th time in the same number of minutes.

I hesitate to think about how many hundreds of hours of my life I have spent counting tiles, making pictures out of carpets, and trying to make shapes out of wallpaper, in order to try to distract myself from the pain. I’ve sat on some of the most disgusting toilets in the world (the kind you wouldn’t go into unless you are absolutely desperate), tucked my feet up in public loos so I won’t be murdered by drug dealers, and listened to women gossiping about unwanted pregnancies, and awkwardly, about me!

On too many occasions I’ve had to shout out for toilet roll. I’m sure anyone with IBD will have had that horrific moment that you put your hand into the dispenser, and find, well nothing! It is a panic-stricken moment, filled with horror. I always carry spare for that reason, but more than once I’ve run between loos (after checking no one else is in) with my trousers around my knees in search for toilet roll – luckily I always found some.

I’ve used weird, bizarre and lavish toilets on my trips around Europe and the world, including Thailand, France, Italy, Australia, and Singapore. I’ve even used Moaning Myrtle’s toilet – where she shouts and splashes about – in Hogsmeade in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter recently.

Of course there is a lot of humour attached to the day, I don’t take offence at that. Sometimes laughter can be the best way of raising awareness, with games like this Usvsth3M quiz and the Youtube comedy competition by Water Aid. But we must not forget the serious message behind this – it’s not all about fart jokes and whoopee cushions but real people with real suffering.

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