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 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.



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!




Challenge #33 – 100 NUDE MEN, Winnie and a very windswept me


I’m very tired today after a hectic BIG DAY OF ADVENTURE in Liverpool 🙂 – yes I know it’s not far away but we had a lot to do and I was basically frog marched around the city and the surrounding areas clutching my tummy and giggling with excitement 🙂

Actually I was so tired that I slept for the longest uninterrupted period for months and months – possible six months – five hours straight. And, because I usually wake up and then can’t get to sleep for a couple of hours in which time I empty Winnie (my stoma bag if you are a new reader) several times of gas and undigested spinach and tablets, I woke to my bag so full it was almost bursting. Honestly two seconds more in bed or if I had rolled over onto my stomach I am sure my bag would have exploded and transformed my room into a scene from a horror movie – well one on a farm anyway!!!

Thank god I woke up in time!! Anyway, anyway, anyway – oh before we begin on the challenge have to tell you that I tried Charter and Coloplast’s Ostomiss yesterday for the first time. If you don’t know what that is (and why wouldn’t you – get with it guys) its a spray or drop that you put in your bag to make it smell lovely and not like pooey eggs – I will add that normal people have these two but many don’t use them – there called airfresheners people 🙂

Andy ‘the boy’ spots John Barnes in Liverpool one – there is me and Winnie puzzled in background – NO IDEA WHO HE IS

So we had a funny moment in Starbucks in Liverpool at the Beatles Experience. I went to the loo after joking about posing with my darling Paul (McCartney) feeling gutted that we didn’t make it on the Beatles tour because I had forgotten to book – scatter brains DOH – to empty Winnie who was trying with all her might to ruin my outfit, figure and my day – when she is full she adds 100lbs to my tiny size 6 and age 11-12yrs figure (sickening I know)!!

Anyway, anyway, anyway. As I emptied her the smell of oranges filled the cubicle….safe to say I was shocked, and horrified. I had completely forgotten that I had put two drops of tangerine scented ostomist into Winnie this morning so I wasn’t paranoid about smelling like poo!

a little insight here into my life with Crohns/ UC – I always feel and felt like I smelt of poo, I didn’t (well I hope not guys) and whenever I passed a sewer, walked past dog poo or down Sealand road where raw sewage may aswell be lying in the street on a hot day, I always thought it was me!!!


I was totally puzzled 🙂 I stood there wondering what I had eaten. You can imagine my thought process…I haven’t had any oranges, orange juice…nope…sweets…nope. Then I realised and thought WOW this stuff really works, why don’t they do Armarni Code and Hugo Boss and all perfumes – but I guess that would cost a fortune like diamond encrusted stomas. So I left the toilet and a Starbucks worker was waiting to come in. All I can say is the smile she gave me as I popped out of the loo – probably cas she thought I was a man – i have to stand up and turn towards the bowl to empty Winnie looking like I have a willy –quickly changed to a quizical look 🙂 She probably thought WHAT THE F**K HAS SHE BEEN EATING??? – she probs thought I had scoffed a load of oranges in the loo and eaten all the peel – or had a really weird problem (which to some closed minded people I do)!!!

RIGHT enough of this rambling – its time to talk about the trip.


me with a giant metal man – im like Thumbelena

The idea was to do one of my stoma challenges in Liverpool yesterday 🙂 Challenge #No 33 is to do 30 of Visit Englands’ things to do before you die. There are 101 things on this list but me and Andy (my poor, understanding, and beaten down boyfriend – affectionately known as “the boy”) decided I would do 30 because of the challenge having to be finished by the time I’m 30 (clever I know!!).

Below are our choices – I think this blog and challenge will end up costing me a fortune, one should be WIN THE LOTTERY 🙂


1 Taste oysters in Whitstable, Kent.

2 Have a pint in England’s oldest pub, Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, in Nottingham, dating back to 1189.

6 Mix martinis at Dukes Bar, in St James’s, London, spiritual home of James Bond

9 Tour the Black Friars gin distillery, in Plymouth, Devon.

15 Head to the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, in the Lake District 

17 Tour an English vineyard, in Surrey, such as Denbies Wine Estate, the biggest in the country.

Lost in Liverpool!!!! Searching for Leaf cafe – I’m sure it’s not fictional!!!


25 Gawp at the Gothic splendour of Lincoln Cathedral, tallest building in the world for 200 years.

27 Ride the Settle-Carlisle steam train, across the Pennines and Ribblehead Viaduct, which appeared in the Harry Potter movies

38 Marvel at St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, a tidal island crowned with a superb castle.

40 Climb the 275 steps of the tower at York Minster.


48 See Blackpool illuminations.

50 Gaze out at Anthony Gormley’s sea statues at Crosby, Merseyside.

52 Take a Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour in Liverpool.

53 Admire Banksy graffiti in Bristol.

55 Get in fancy dress for Bestival on the Isle of Wight.

58 Discover William Shakespeare’s Stratford

Me and Winnie with Liverpool’s wildlife

61 Head by boat to Farne Islands nature reserve in Northumberland.

62 Strip off at Holkham Beach, Norfolk – it’s a naturist beach.

64 See thousands of the world’s plant species at The Eden Project in Cornwall.

66 Look for dolphins and basking sharks off the Scilly Isles.

71 Spot dragonflies at Wicken Fen nature reserve, Cambridgeshire.

72 Join a bat patrol at Cheddar Gorge, Somerset.

77 Look out for snowdrops at Fountains Abbey, North Yorks.


82 Scale England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike in the Lake District.

87 Pony trek in The New Forest.

91 Canoe along the Wye Valley in Herefordshire.

92 Try swimming in Grassington, Yorkshire Dales National Park.

97 Learn the art of mountain biking, in the Lake District

101 Have a go at the annual Cheese Rolling at Cooper’s Hill, Gloucs.

If you want to do it too visit

Me at Leaf tearooms in Liverpool – Amazing!! Inspired to go by The Wish List by jane Costello

Anyway the idea was to do #NO 50 and #52 in Liverpool – but it didn’t really go to plan. Watch the video below to see what happened and to hear about the challenge…Winnie played up all day but didn’t leak (I’m still holding my breath for that to happen – I’ve been far too lucky so far). We saw a tinie little scottie dog chase a swan into a lake!!! You know a swan can break your arm…imagine what it would do to this dog 🙂 but it was ballsy and had more guts than me even when the swan snarled and hissed and the owners kept yelling Tracy Tracy come back, No Tracey – I know weird name for a dog!!!

OH NOOOO – Me and Winnie don’t get to do the Mystery Beatles Tour – poor Paul

Also had trouble with the roads…Cheshire’s and merseyside’s are bloody awful!! There are holes, followed by grids, followed by speed bumps, followed by crossings everywhere!! it’s like a flaming rollercoaster ride…except not at all fun!! I was almost sobbing in pain, gripping the door handle so tight my knuckles were white and wanting to shout are we almost there yet – again and again like a little child. In fact by the time we were halfway there my stitches felt like they would split open and I wanted to go home and die….but I have never let my illness stop me doing anything before AND HELL IT WAS NOT GOING TO STOP ME NOW!!!! I was seeing those naked men if it killed me!!!

But it was worth it, I can’t believe that I have lived in Chester for three years and been to Liverpool god knows how many times and never seen the statues!!! (MENTAL) The beach was beautiful but scattered with used tampons, needles and other rubbish (people are disgusting and they judge our toilet habbits – oh the irony!!) and ruined by the great big windturbines in the background.

So 1 down 29 of those challenges to go!!! EEK!!