Blood, poop and tears – and little me


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ABOVE – ME ASLEEP AFTER FAR TOO MUCH EXCITEMENT WITH WINNIE, AFTER A DAY OF EXPLOSIONS AND NON DIGESTED TABLETS – aren’t I an angel!!!

I will never forget the day that I decided to tell my mum about what was happening to me. I was just 13 years old, a geeky teenager who was in the midst of spots, boy worries and dealing with all the crazy body changes kids of that age go through – God know’s how we all got through it and came out even slightly sane 🙂 – well i’ll let you guys be the judge of that.

For a year I had coped with the growing symptoms of my illness. I say coped, really what I mean is struggled hopelessly to just get through each day without curling up in a corner and dying. The real fact was that my body was fighting, fighting with all its might and strength to stay alive.

I went to school every day with no energy whatsoever. I would go to every class, do my homework, in fact I never failed to submit an assignment and managed to excel, working around the clock – and who could forget that I was member of every single musical group in the school (hell I even played the pans in the flaming string concerto) – was the school council rep, a mentor and millions of other pointless extremely GEEKY extra-curricular roles that only gained you a shiny badge on your tie – the more you had the easier it was for the bullies to point you out in a crowd. 

Hell I was such a geek I even played in a brass band and I think boys thought I was a Yetti with my hairy legs and monobrow and obvious lack of makeup – I hated them at the time and probably shouted how they were many things under the sun, but now thank my parents for keeping me as a child and not letting me grow up so fast I would now have 17.1 mini brats in tow when I’m not even capable of looking after myself. 

Anyway, anyway, anyway. I remember how I would be racing to toilets around the school from my lessons, wanting to scream the pain was sooo bad, and people had to have noticed, I mean I literally needed to be excused around 50 times a day and once I was allowed to go, after almost levitating as I bounced up and down with my hand desperately waving for attention in the air, I would be gone for at least 15 minutes. 

And then, i won’t go into it, but there was the few months that the head removed all the loo roll in the toilets because idiots had been literally decorating the loos (Laurence Llewellyn Bowen eat your heart out) with the tracing paper rough sheets, and I had to race to the front office from where ever I was in the school to collect a key to get a roll – and then they locked the toilets as well. NIGHTMARE. One you can only possibly relate to if you have ever had food poisoning on holiday in Egypt…like trying to run a marathon while holding an Elephant in your arse.

I hardly ate the pain was so bad. I felt so tired, I mean desperately tired. I would get in from school and just collapse. But no one ever saw because I was home before my folks and would sleep on the bottom of my bunk bed for an hour surrounded by fluffy teddies, before somehow managing to wake up and get changed for brass band practice or homework just as my parents would arrive home.

Looking back I have no idea how I carried on. Before this started I wasn’t chubby, ok I had a little baby fat which as a teenage girl influenced by stick thin images of bone protruding models ( a look which I now know – due to the skinny little me that I am – is painful  – I mean being that thin means it literally hurts to be in your own skin – even lying on the softest bed hurts your bones) I dreamed of loosing. And I guess this is probably what brought this illness to the surface. I hate the word ‘triggered’ but I guess deciding I wasn’t going to eat anything out of a packet or wrapper or that had food colouring or a certain level of fat might have just helped the DEVILISH little minx of this illness scramble its way to the surface a little quicker. 

Looking back I am terrified of the way I hid my illness. I hate my 13 year old self and love her for the strength and resilience she showed (you go girly). How did I carry on? How did I  not just break down into a withering wreck as I have so often over the years? I me (pardon my French) I was literally shitting myself to death – parts of my bowel were coming out, there was so much blood and guts and pain, and I remember one time the pain was so great I passed out and fell off the toilet seat hitting my head on the door of the girls toilets (near the language classrooms) smashing my forehead against the adolescent graffiti I had come to know off by heart. 

After a few months and loosing shit loads of weight very quickly my poor parents must have been wondering what the hell was going on. All sorts must have been going through their minds – especially with the weight-loss and toilet visits – their brains must have been screaming OUR DAUGHTER HAS BULIMIA – I don’t blame them that they did, I guess I would have done .

I don’t quiet understand why when I was made to go to counselling for anorexia – yes the thing people still tell me I have (and to them I say “you closed minded people, I like cake as much as anyone else but my silly digestive system doesn’t”) – I didn’t pipe up and say “I am shitting blood and guts, I’m tired and emotional and don’t even have the strength to get out of my bunk bed in the morning – I’m not sticking my finger down my troat, I just don’t understand what’s happening to me”. 

But I didn’t say a word….I put my family through hell and back, and it was all because I was really frightened and really embarrassed. I mean that level of scared that leaves you paralyzed, you feel numb with the pressure and the pain…as a 13 year old girl I thought I was turning into some sort of circus freak. How could I talk about poo and blood and mucus to my friends, family or teachers – it was not acceptable – I guess Crohn’s and Colitis are what we would now call embarressing illnesses, you know the kind people now go on a live tv show and wave around on a pod cast to the entire millions of viewers around the world instead of seeing a GP in private about. I was ashamed of who I was and what was happening to me, and that secret shame very nearly (more nearly than I like to admit) killed me. 

Until one day something happened, well something scared the big Jesus out of me and I told the only person a girl can tell about anything monumental – My Mum. 

I remember the moment so clearly. That morning I couldn’t lift my body out of bed. my weight had plummeted to below 6 stone and my body hurt against my soft pillows. I couldn’t lift my legs and dragging myself down the bunk bed stairs took about half an hour. I can’t remember where we were going that day, I remember my parents and sister watching as I ate my cereal (scrutinising my every spoonful as if watching a monkey paint the Sistine Chapel), before we got in the car to go somewhere.

At some point we stopped at a motorway services – not any service we only stopped at the good ones, you know the ones with the duck ponds and picnic areas and Marks and Spencer local shops) – and I raced to the loo. As I was sat there on my THRONE, dealing with the mind numbing pain – which if you don’t have Crohns can only be described as having a gremilin armed with a knife and chain saw trying to slice its way out from inside you abdomen – I saw a notice on the back of the toilet door. This is what it read:

ARE YOU EXPERIENCING : Severe abdominal pain; seeing blood in your poo; suffering from lack of appetite; feeling tired all the time; going to the toilet more often than before???? (well probably more elequantly put and in better font)

You could have BOWEL CANCER!!!

I don’t know what the look on my face was at that moment, but it must have looked like a cross between seeing a ghost and a look of dreadful realisation. I was sure at that minute that I had cancer, and that small sign made me finally tell my parents what was happening to me. I told them in the car, and I don’t remember really how they reacted, I expect it was mixture of anger, frustration, fear and relief.

I don’t know why I am telling you all this…It’s all rather depressing, I am crying while I write this and look like an exhausted panda with black mascara all down my face. This is meant to be a happy, funny, look how silly she is blog, which will change the world, but I guess now you (whoever you are) now know something intimate about me – not like when I wrote about my Crohn’s for the Newcastle Chronicle during my MA and opened the paper one day to find a massive full page pic of me with the headline “my secret shame” plastered over the front of the health section – ekkkkk!!!!! Didn’t do much for my street cred guys!

I guess I want other people not to handle it the way I did. If I had just said something to someone it could have been stopped – well I don’t think this illness would ever stop its like a flaming rampant rabbit – but at least I won’t have been alone and frightened and I won’t have almost died!

Don’t handle it on your own guys…no matter what it is. Depression, sexuality confusion, health scares, even whether you should kiss the spotty guy or the floppy haired guy – talk to someone, get advice – but don’t read the internet horror stories or you will believe you are about to grow a horn on your head an turn into a spotty unicorn with wings.

What would I tell my 13 year old self now? I guess, I can’t believe you managed it! I can’t believe how stubborn and determined and what a little madam you where. I would tell her to tell someone…to not be afraid.

I bet she wouldn’t listen – but then again would I be the person I am today if she did? 

p.s – I promise the next post will be happier 🙂 and about the challenge

 

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Here we go – wish me (and Winnie) luck..


After more than a decade of avoiding the surgeon’s knife they finally managed to pin me down – well more like force – and try to give me a life without the pain and disruption of constant Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.

Almost a month has passed since they tore out my large bowel and left me with Winnie* my Poo Bag! And after a couple of weeks of feeling depressed, sorry for myself and down right disgusting, don’t forget out of my mind stir-crazy bored, I have decided to embrace my bag of well crap and leap into life filled with adventure and new experiences.

I suppose I am a medical marvel. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s/ UC (they have never quite decided which one as I have so many weird and wonderful symptoms) when I was 13-years-old after almost driving myself to an early grave by living with enormous blood loss and crippling diarrhoea for over a year simply because I was too embarrassed to tell anyone or get help. People simply assumed I had an eating disorder – and that is one of those horrible stigmas that has followed me around ever since due to closed-minded people’s disgusting judgements!

Twelve years later – and millions of needles, pills of every colour under the rainbow, scans and x-rays, tubes being shoved where the sun doesn’t shine, and hospital admissions that leave you black and blue and so thin you are almost see through – I have had my bowel removed after deciding, if possible, I never want to feel the pain associated with Crohn’s/ UC ever again; stay in a hospital ward / have a toilet as my best friend and second home / or have a rather embarrassing accident while stranded away from a toilet in town.

So far it hasn’t been plain sailing…but despite going crazy because I’m not at work (I’m a workaholic local newspaper reporter) and feeling pretty damn unhappy about my once flat stomach being covered in scars and bags, this is the best I have ever felt and it is, if I’m going to be honest with myself, pretty bloody fantastic 🙂

Now as my legs turn from quivering jelly and regain some of my tiny childlike muscles to allow me to walk to the coffee shop and local supermarket, and I have finally taken off my trakkies and pjs and stopped living like a permanent member of a sleepover club, I have decided to embrace my new life and try to do everything I have every wanted to do before but not managed because of my illness which (as much as I always said it didn’t) ruled my life.

So here it is the list of all the things me and my new fr-enemy Winnie have to do in the next five years. WHY five years you ask – because I will be 30 and 30 is the stereotypical movie / trashy book landmark for any wish list and I don’t want this to be a morbid “do before I die” bucket list.

And why am I doing this you may ask? The simple answer is WHY THE HELL NOT!!

I am sure that many of the things in this 101 challenge are simply impossible to achieve but I am going to give them all a really good shot, and who knows, like some (not naming any names) celeb bloggers I might even get a book contract/silly TV show out of this.

And on a less selfish note – I truly want to show others facing surgery or who have had it that you are not alone and that just because you have a Winnie (or an Oscar or Priscilla) or whatever silly name you give your bag, that your life isn’t over – in fact embrace it and you might realise that you are finally living for the first time!

As my friend said “it’s just a bag of shit, that’s all”…and that’s exactly what it is, my literally attached to me “friend” Winnie is a big bag of poo! I have realised f I don’t see the funny side when it farts and makes weird noises at the most embarrassing and intimate moments I will spend the rest of my life disgusted with myself.

SO HERE IS THE CHALLENGE – starting today Wednesday, May 29, exactly four weeks since my surgery I will try to complete these 101 challenges before I reach my 30th birthday in five years time ! So wish me luck 🙂

THE BIG STOMA BUCKET LIST

101 adventures of a bag lady 

SKILLS/ JOB

  1. Learn to speak (and write) French fluently
  2. Run a small business
  3. Write a poem and read it at an open mic night
  4. Take a night class in something random
  5. Learn to play the guitar
  6. Get nominated for an award and go to the ceremony in a show stopping dress
  7. Work for the BBC
  8. Get 1,000 Twitter followers
  9. Learn to say hello in 10 very different languages
  10. Write a column
  11. Learn to parallel park and do it on a main road (thanks Andy!)
  12. Live and work abroad
  13. Host a radio show
  14. Learn to draw a tree properly
  15. Write and illustrate a children’s book
  16. Learn about the economy and stock market
  17. Write a blog with worldwide followers
  18. Work for a national newspaper
  19. Have a novel/ short story published

TRAVEL 

  1. (20) Eat snails in Paris
  2. (21) Go to Disney Land and wave a wand in Hogwarts
  3. (22) Visit Prague and see a concert
  4. (23) Walk on the Great Wall of China
  5. (24) Pose for a picture in Times Square
  6. (25) Drink a whole pint (yes a whole one) of Guinness in Dublin
  7. (26) Go to Wales hiking and rent a cottage with hot tub and roaring fire
  8. (27) Get on a random plane to a random place at the airport
  9. (28) Climb the millenium Dome
  10. (29) Take a trip on a gondola in Venice and sing Just One Cornetto
  11. (30) Have a night out in Birmingham/Liverpool/Edinburgh/ Manchester
  12. (31) Go to an outdoor cinema
  13. (32) Camp at a festival
  14. (33) Complete 30 Visit England 101 things to do before you die (can’t be in this list)
  15. (34) Go on a really scary roller coaster

CRAFTS

  1. (35) Design your own clothes/ accessories and make them
  2. (36) make a funky and a sexy stoma bag cover
  3. (37) take a life drawing class
  4. (38) sell a piece of art
  5. (39) make a Christmas present – which is a quality gift
  6. (40) take a professional photograph
  7. (41) learn to cook – take a cookery class

FOOD

  1. (42) make a perfect cake (three tiers)
  2. (43) eat at a Michelin starred restaurant
  3. (44) throw a themed dinner party
  4. (45) make the perfect souffle
  5. (46) host a fondue and cocktail party
  6. (47) go strawberry picking and make jam

SPORT and GAMES

  1. (48) Sit on Murray Mound eating strawberries and drinking Pimms
  2. (49) Go to a basketball match and eat a pretzel
  3. (50) Ride a horse
  4. (51) Play a round of golf
  5. (52) Complete an army assault course
  6. (53) Run the Santa Dash
  7. (54) Learn the perfect serve
  8. (55) Cimb the three Peaks
  9. (56) Learn how to play chess
  10. (57) Play a full set of tennis
  11. (58) Learn how to skip
  12. (59) Shoot a gun
  13. (60) Drive a classic car
  14. (61) Learn how to play poker
  15. (62) Walk the Sandstone Trail
  16. (63) Compete in the Chester to Liverpool Bike Ride
  17. (64) Go Fishing
  18. (65) Learn the off side rule
  19. (66) Go cheese rolling

CHALLENGES

  1. (67) Volunteer for charity
  2. (68) Raise £1,000 for NACC
  3. (69) Sell something on Ebay (I know lame that I have never done this)
  4. (70) Read a book every week for six months
  5. (71) Do something just for the hell of it (more outrageous the better)
  6. (72) Go skinny dipping
  7. (73) Get a tattoo
  8. (74) Take part in a protest
  9. (75) Blag your way into a VIP section
  10. (76) Be an extra in a tv show or film
  11. (77) Sunbathe topless on a beach
  12. (78) Wear false eyelashes (I know pathetic but my lashes are falsy virgins)
  13. (79) Bounce down a road on a space hopper
  14. (80) Sleep under the stars
  15. (81) Live off £10 for a whole week (no cheating)

EXPERIENCES

  1. (82) Be part of a TV audience
  2. (83) Sit in the Commons for a debate
  3. (84) See Michael Buble (I know needs accent) live
  4. (85) Buy a designer handbag or shoes
  5. (86) Wear a stunningly expensive piece of jewellery
  6. (87) Stand for election
  7. (88) Rent a must-have designer handbag
  8. (89) Join a book club
  9. (90) Drink a whole cup of tea (how I go through 25 years without doing this?)
  10. (91) Milk a cow
  11. (92) Read Pride and prejudice (I never have!!)
  12. (92) Have a 24hr movie marathon
  13.  (93) Wear a onsie in front of others!
  14. (94) See a Broadway show (I know should be in travel)
  15. (95) Jump out of a plane (arrghhh obviously with a parachute)
  16. (96) Ride the London Eye (probably should be in travel)
  17. (97) Get a pen pal – write for a year and then meet up somewhere really cool
  18. (98) Read 50 autobiographies in a year
  19. (99) Campaign for something that matters – and win
  20. (100) Do something that scares the shit (sorry mum) out of you!
  21. (101) And FINALLY this one has been left open to you guys – think of something cool – not too dangerous please 🙂

Sorry for how horrendously long and tedious that was

Anyway…here we go the challenge has officially begun – WISH ME LUCK!!!