Covered in blood – when black tie goes wrong with a fistula


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What happened on Friday night will remain etched on my mind forever as one of the worse moments of my life so far with an ostomy. It was also the moment I realised I had to have the operation to make my ileostomy permanent or I would live the rest of my life in fear of humiliation, pain and discomfort.

It was probably the final straw in a very long and painful journey, and perhaps exactly what I needed during these final days before my big op.

This entire week (well last few months really) has been a battle. I’ve been living in a constant flare for so long I can hardly remember what it feels like to be well (how I felt in the weeks after my op). I have no idea how such a tiny bit of bowel can cause so many problems, it must be ulcerated beyond belief to be causing so much pain. But the last few months my colitis has starkly reminded me of what life was like before my operation and the horrific pain simply being alive every day entailed. The impact that tiny bit of inflamed bowel has had has been astonishing, and I no longer know how I coped for 13 years with the constant pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. I was either very stubborn or a saint to put up with the torment for so long, and it is something I can no longer comprehend.

Over the past few weeks my health had gone rapidly downhill. My nose is so stuffed with impetigo – it bleeds and cracks when I dare to sniff or crinkle it, and my eyes have gone bright red and tender. This morning I woke up and one of my eyelids was glued together – something that not only hurts like hell but makes you feel like your tearing your lids apart as you prise them slowly open with hot water. My joints pull and crack as I move and it hurts to lie down. My fistula constantly pulls and tugs, making me nauseous, and is producing around two pints of blood and mucus a day. And despite my bowel not actually being connected to my digestive system, I still, for reasons beyond comprehension need the loo with upmost urgency five or six times a day – but I am unable to fart (cruel beyond words).

I guess the result is I feel like a withdrawing crack addict – the reality is my ulcerative colitis is saying goodbye in style.

Anyway, on Friday, with just days to go until the dreaded op and with doubt still hanging over me like a dark shadow of doom, I pushed away my pain and fears and headed out to a black tie event with my boyfriend. All day my fistula had been playing up; it pulsed in a sickening manner all the way through a law refresher at the Liverpool Echo offices, almost leaked through its bag as I was talking to shocked shoppers outside an alleged knife attack in an Ellesmere Port supermarket, and had general paddies all day. Despite this I dared to put on one of my favourite dresses and head to an evening for my boyfriend’s work.

The evening was filled with the elite from the engineering world, the local MP was there and it was a generally fancy and elegant affair. I was enjoying myself chatting with Andy’s work colleagues and eating some decently edible food, but in never stooped being aware my colitis was not going to be cut away from me without a fight. Safe to say I couldn’t fully relax through fear of my ostomy exploding or fistula leaking, and kept nipping to the loo to check everything was fine. It always was.

What happened was worse than I could ever have expected.

We had just finished eating and I noticed a small mark on my blue dress. I looked down and noticed the mark was a little bigger, then I slowly noticed my dress was damp. My first thought was that I’d spilt water over myself, my second was that my ostomy had leaked. As I stood up I realised the situation was far worse, my dress was saturated. Luckily the room was dark so no one could see the full damage, but I knew right then something had gone badly wrong and this was not a slight leak or, as I’d wrongly thought, a slight water spillage on the front my beautiful dress.

My dress was so wet I could hardly walk as I staggered to the bathroom. As I inspected the damage I almost burst into tears. I’ve experienced some of the most horrific and darkest moments of my life in toilet cubicles (passing out, doubling over, sobbing, sleeping on the floor, screaming out for mercy and help) but this was one of the most panic stricken and desperate of all. It took everything in my power not to breakdown.

The under layer of my thin dress was so soaked in blood I thought I’d been stabbed. As I inspected the damage I started to think I’d started my period or badly cut my abdomen. My knickers were so soaked in sticky mucus and blood I actually, I’m ashamed to say, took them off and thew them in the sanitary towel bin. The blood – which I quickly realised had been caused as my fistula spurted out mucus with such force it pushed off my fistula bag (baby Stoma bag) and shot out all over me instead – and horrific smelling mucus was all over me…it even trailed down my leg…I even had it on my foot.

For a moment I just sat and gawped in total shock. I couldn’t understand how I hadn’t felt it happen. How did I not notice this disgusting smelly substance leaking all over me? Then I realised this was going to ruin my evening and stop my partner spending time with his colleges, and stupidly thought that by moping everything up with tissue I could get away with it. But I soon realised no amount of toilet roll was going to shift this, I was simply caked in it.

By the time we got home I was in tears. As I got in the shower I stared at my body, at my fistula, and i wanted to rip it from my body, I wanted to scream and scream how much I hated the hand I had been dealt. And as I changed the blood soaked bags I took pleasure in knowing it would be one of the final times I would have to deal with this horrid second bag, which leaks and drips every couple of days and leaves my skin blistered and weeping.

By the time my tears were dry and dress was in the wash I realised that this was exactly the sort of humiliating, painful and exhausting moment I needed to realise I was making the right decision. People may not be able to tell I have a ostomy bag (I often forget) but they/I sure as hell know that troublesome fistula is there. Especially when it leaks repulsive smelling grunge everywhere.

And you know what everyone, especially me, could live without that forever.
In the words of the Lion King – it’s time!

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A half pint of blood and mucus – my fistula’s final hurrah


Sorry I haven’t written for a while, the last couple of days have been a little chaotic both in and out of work. It has also been a tough week for my health, which always suffers at a time of stress and leaving dos – with late nights, long working hours and general stubbornness and excitement causing chaos with my colitis.

This week I’ve been in a considerable amount of pain. My fistula seems to know it’s only got a month left to torment me, so it is unleashing hell, in what can only be described as a ‘final hurrah’. I’m often surprised by how much mucus my tiny rectal stump can generate in a short space of time. On Thursday I was in agony at my desk as it pumped and squeezed. When I went to the loo to assess the damage, I understood why – in just ten minutes my tiny inflamed section of colon had produced around half a pint of blood and, well, horrible smelling goo.

Every time this happens I wonder how it manages to produce quite so much. Even now I still pass blood through my bottom end four or five times a day, and with my fistula bag (a baby ostomy bag) needing emptying at least three times, that is a heck of a lot of mucus my colitis is creating.

I can’t bear to remember how I coped when I had meters of the bloody thing! There’s no wonder I was going to the loo 20-30 plus times a day, when you look at it like that.

Right now I’m exhausted. I’ve given up on my health with the happy prospect that in a month I might, fingers crossed, never have to deal with any of this crap ever again. My eyes are bright red again (a sign of my inflammation markers shooting through the roof), my mascara has gone in the bin and my makeup brushes have been declared a “toxic zone” until I attack them with a bottle of baby shampoo later today. Yesterday I resumed the agonising eyelid hygiene treatment in a bid to get rid of the crust forming around my bright red eyes. This involves cleaning them with water as hot as you can cope with (without burning yourself), and then cleaning them again with cooled water with bicarbonate of soda in. It hurts and leaves you feeling raw – but it works.

Before my surgery when I was ill I looked ill. I would look drawn, tired, and as if I was being held up by an invisible string that might snap at any movement. Now, knowing I’ve had my surgery, I apparently look “well” most of the time. Well, that’s what people insist on telling me. It is nice to hear, but when you feel like your going to puke, your stomach is pumping out blood and your brain is yelling for you to go home and get into your pyjamas with a hot water bottle and wait for it all to be over, someone smiling and saying “you look so well”, can be hard to deal with. My response is always that I’m not 100 percent there yet but I’m a million times better than I used to be – what I want to say is “thanks, but I don’t feel well”.

It sounds silly and selfish and I’d rather someone told me I look good than “anorexic”, “skinny”, “pale” and “bloody awful” – all things I have been referred to as time and time again – but sometimes you just don’t want to hear it. In fact at a work do on Thursday a former member of staff said “your not right are you, I can see it in your face” moments after another told me I looked fantastic. Ok, she has Crohn’s too, so she knows the warning signs, but I think I appreciated her honesty and her concern more than any of the compliments I’ve had over the past six months since my op.

I spent far too much of that night talking about my condition. I chatted about Sir Steve Redgrave, Darren Fletcher and my horrific experiences in the hospital, until I didn’t want to talk about it any more. It’s not that I’m not open (totally the opposite actually, I’d tell a stranger on a bus about my condition if Winnie started farting), sometimes I like to try to forget I don’t have it and just pretend I am a normal healthy person.

I’ve stopped sleeping properly really since my pre op assessment. I’m having weird fragmented dreams and waking up at random times again to my fistula pulsing and twinging. I’m tired of it, but I know worse is to come in the next few weeks.

I’m excited and apprehensive about my upcoming stint at The Mirror and my time staying in Canary Wharf. I’m just hoping my colitis doesn’t get worse, my eyes lose their monster crust and my skin stops bleeding and breaking for long enough for me to enjoy it.

Post festive blues – an over zealous fistula, too much pudding and impetigo


It might be three days after Christmas and most of us are finishing off our turkey and drowning in the reality of eating far too much sugar, fat and general stodge, but I’m determined not to let Christmas go. I don’t care if it’s days after the real event, I just can’t seem to accept that Christmas is over. It was over far too quickly for my liking. There wasn’t any snow, just rain and wind, and there wasn’t even slightly enough carol singing to satisfy my never ending need to sing loudly and off-key while jumping around like a teenager.

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This year I want to make up for all those years that Christmas has just been another meal to try and sit through while my IBD kicks off. I want to get back the Boxing Day spent in a gastro ward with prisoners (literally) keeping me awake while bagging their handcuffs against their hospital beds and feeling like curling up in a ball and dying as a Scrooge-Esk nurse places a nil by mouth sign over my bed (I swear with a naughty twinkle in her eye, as if saying no more turkey for you) before racing off to tuck into the giant mountains of chocolates at the nurses station! Post Christmas has always meant two things – regret that I didn’t squirrel away more food for my enforced fast and an insane longing to be left very much alone.

Right now we are smack bang in the middle of that period where I never have any idea what to do with myself. It’s that bizarre period in between Christmas and New Year where all you can really do is: a) eat yourself into a new dress size; b) join all the other manic people and hit the shops. Today we tried to hit the shops. I won’t be doing it again. Firstly I seem to have caught a cough that makes me sound like I smoke 100 fags a day, my impetigo is back in my nose making me feel like I’ve tried to stuff burning coals up my nostrils, and my fistula is going mental. I just couldn’t cope in the crowds, I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. Indeed I felt the normal hot waves and flushes of panic I get when my Crohn’s/Colitis is about to have an incident. I tried looking around the shops, fighting the old woman hogging the Warehouse rail filled with dressed far too tight and young for her age, but ended up tensing my butt cheeks so hard to stop an unexpected escape of bloody mucus I must of looked like I was trying to crack a nut. I was determined not to loose sight of the dress I wanted to grab and not miss it by racing to the loo. I would have won the dress with my constipated elf impression too, if I hadn’t felt like I was going to pass out, and, due to my butt squeezing exercise, the hot mucus started to squirt out through my fistula causing me to almost double over in pain….hobbling out of the store I must have looked like id been punched in the stomach and kicked in the shins during a bargain bust up.

I think it’s safe to say I won’t be joining the throngs again. I arrived back home with two pairs of high-waisted jeans for a bargain price, but was so exhausted I collapsed onto the sofa. It seems so chaotic following the amazing magic and tranquility of the past few days enjoying Christmas and watching War Horse with my family…I’m going to do the rest of my sales shopping from the comfort of my home within metres of the loo to avoid anymore mucus moments.

I’m starting to think about next year and what I want from it. This year has been a mixed bag both health wise, emotionally and career wise. I’ve been through more pain than I could have ever imagined, I’ve been to hell and back, I’ve wished for death and I’ve come out of the other end. At the same time I’ve made some incredible friends, been on some stunning holidays, eaten like a King, swum, ran and jumped like an idiot. My weight has plummeted and then slowly built back up. I’ve been off work for half a year and then come back to two awards and recognition for a job well done. I’ve loved, cried, howled and giggled my way through 2013… but now it’s time to shake it all off and look forward to 2014.

Next year I will finally wave goodbye to my mucus fistula (fingers crossed) and the pain in the arse which is my rectal stump. And, if all goes well, I will finally slam the door in the face of the illness which has so far tormented me like a little snotty gremlin hiding under my bed for my entire life. When this happens the world will be my oyster, there will be nothing except myself holding me back. I will be able to go as far as I want and achieve whatever I want to achieve. But to do that I know I have another bout of horrendous surgery, another lengthy period off work and another painstaking recovery to go through.

Perhaps that’s why I feel so down. But I think it’s more likely to be the festive blues. Time to get my guitar out and trying to strum away those dark skies with some tuneless random cords I think 🙂

After all Christmas isn’t over yet…. As a friend said “we’re only on four turtle doves in our office”.

Just how well am I allowed to expect to be? Never 100% it seems – it’s time to say ostomy or not I need help


I’ve just about had enough, life just isn’t what it was straight after my operation. Over the past week I’ve just simply not felt like Imagetalking about anything fun, happy or colourful. I’ve continued to put on a brave face and smile, but the truth is I don’t really feel like smiling. It could be because of the cold dark nights, it could be going into work while its still dark and arriving home in the depths of blackness, living like a vampire and never seeing the sun, it could be a whole number of things – but it isn’t I’ve just had enough of getting the rough end of the deal.

This week and last I haven’t been feeling happy with the straw I’ve drawn. After 13 years I’ve served my sentence and now I’ve had enough. I’m not happy with my health since my operation. It’s not the miracle cure for my Crohn’s/Colitis that I’d hoped, it was for a few months like living a brand new life, but now it’s not.

Ok, so maybe this has something to do with spending the last week in the most unbearable pain since my operation after developing a very freakishly large abscess in a very unfortunate place (I don’t think I need to elaborate). After the amazing weekend in Newcastle falling back in love with swimming all over again and feeling back to my old self – less the agonising pain – I suddenly (in the space of hours) developed this lump, which grotesquely gained a life of its own and grew and grew to the size of a golf ball. The result was that come Monday night I was in unbearable pain…unable to walk, sit down or lie down without emitting a squeak like a dying mouse caught in a trap. And by Tuesday I struggled to sit at work perched on the end of my seat waiting for 3 o’clock for an emergency appointment with the IBD nurse who took one look at it and went “oh Rachel that’s painful to look at” declared it was probably only curable by operation before getting a doctor to poke at it till my eyes streamed and prescribed my with very powerful antibiotics (you know the type you are so forbidden to drink with they even write it on the outside of the package).

Anyway it drained bucket loads of bloody stuff and I spent three days in bed sleeping like there was no tomorrow. Oh and throwing up – great, thanks Crohns/Colitis.

At the follow-up appointment a doctor I’ve never met had another good poke – I wished at that point I’d had a bikini wax, strange what goes through your head at these moments – I often think of the oven being on, etc. Anyway she decided I’m officially ill. FINALLY. She also decided that I should have my operation as soon as possible to remove the rest of my bowel  something although I wouldn’t like to admit it almost reduced me to tears at the prospect of missing my Mirror placement, awards ceremony, Christmas parties and playing hopefully in snow – also the idea of being stuck at home for another four months just makes me want to die…haven’t I had enough for now?? Isn’t it time to live for a bit, to enjoy life?

But don’t I want to have it removed and be well, I mean truly well?

I never wanted this rubbish illness (I mean who does?) but since the operation it seems just mean that I’m still having many days where my life is ruled by bathrooms, blood, guts and pain. I keep hearing myself say to people “well i’m loads better than I was, I’ve never been more well in my life”, I keep hearing myself say to doctors, surgeons nurses  “I don’t want to complain I don’t feel great – but, I still feel loads better than I was”.

Why do I keep doing that? There’s really no wonder there doing nothing about my rapidly declining health when I keep saying I feel “loads better” but a little ill…I’m making it sound like I’ve got a common cold not an incurable illness. They’re probably thing that I put up with it before for a whole 13 years, so if I’m better than ever I can no doubt put up with a little NIGGLE for a little while longer – and no doubt I can if forced to – but how long is a little longer? A month? A year – A LIFETIME I’m guessing!

Anyway after 13 years of this hell and finally going under the knife why should I not expect to feel awesome, I mean like jumping out of an aeroplane awesome, running through a field wind in my hair awesome? I had a few blessed months of feeling weak but incredible, then I made a load of energetic plans but now I’m struggling to even imagine doing anything but the reading challenges.

I’m not happy with how my body is at the moment – there I said it (that wasn’t that hard). That’s the truth and it’s got nothing to do with my ostomy bag, in fact if it was just Winnie I would go running through the streets flashing her shouting SUPER WINNIE (no I wouldn’t for fear of all sorts of consequences, one of which would be a passing pigeon pecking at her) and showing her off as the most amazing piece of medical genius ever invented. No it’s all the other things that are currently going wrong:

A lovely day at the end of a very miserable week - I live for moments like this

A lovely day at the end of a very miserable week – I live for moments like this

1) my mucus fistula which seems to be getting bigger and even more like a second stoma every day. Honestly its a massive pain in the gut (metaphorically and literally). Felicity is both painful in her spur of the moment movements and dramatic. Basically like a messy child when my fistula erupts she never stays contained, she hardly ever aims into the bag, but more around it causing insane damage to my poor still not fully healed skin and creating a considerable and inconvenient mess.

It’s as if she knows that I don’t want her there. You see unlike Winnie I never wanted her, she was a horrible and unexpected consequence I never expected, like those bloody annoying people who unexpectedly turn up for tea when you don’t have enough food and never told you they had allergies and expect to be fed. My fistula basically came to the party without any beer and drank a whole crate.

2) the never-ending need to use the loo – I remember straight after my op when I went to the toilet for the first time I thought “what the hell my bowel isn’t connected to anything, how can I still do this?” – an excellent question I must say. Now it’s six months later and the urgency is still there and I still find myself having accidents and racing around to find the nearest M&S to use the loos – hmm not what I signed up for.

3) the unexpected abscess – urgh comes hand in hand with my illness it seems.

4) feeling depressed – comes hand in hand with my illness it seems.

5) my joints – the cold weather drawing in is playing havoc and some days holding a pen/ putting on my coat with my hands and shoulders seems a true challenge. Nothing seems to be getting rid of this agonising problem – and I don’t think anything will, but never mind it’s a small problem in a large goldfish at the moment.

I just want to be ok, is that too much to ask? it would seem with IBD it is, and I’m guess I’m used to that and I can put up with that. It’s moments like tonight when really looking forward to swimming and suddenly realising as I remove my tights that fistula has soaked me though with blood…God knows how long I was like that for too. So I had a break-down and got re-dressed and ran out. Bloody drama Queen!

A little moment of calm - no leak!!!

A little moment of calm – no leak!!!

I had been feeling a little better too after a stunning Autumn walk in Lymm on Sunday with Andy, kicking the fallen leaves and dancing around in my new furry hat and running away from crazy muddy dogs determined to leave their print on my new cream coat. But that swimming moment has brought me crashing down into a world of negative feeling sorry for my self yet again.

I only wanted to feel like me again. Which, I’m sure once these antibiotics are gone and the docs have stopped shoving tubes up and down various places aliens would probe I will.

I just need some help getting back to that place….help!

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 euphonium..an 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 ÂŁ15 each to get into the Minster and climb the tower. I know ÂŁ15 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.

MMM CHOCOLATE

MMM CHOCOLATE

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!