Public toilet charges in Italy– I refuse to pay €1.50 to flush away my Crohns and empty my ostomy bag


During our trip toilets had become a real issue for me. In Venice, toilet1when you finally found a WC after following a muddle of signs which had blatantly been positioned to confuse desperate tourists and their nearly wetting their pants kids, you were faced with a €1.50 fee to have a pee. For me this was an absolute slap in the face, and I stubbornly refused to pay, scrap that, I absolutely refused to pay to empty my ostomy bag. I mean why should I have to pay to sort something out which is absolutely necessary. This led to some very sticky situations, where in the middle of a very lovely day we ended up rushing around with me clutching my rapidly filling ostomy bag, tempting fate for an explosion which would have left gondola drivers gaping and loosing their hats, trying to find somewhere for me to use the bathroom.

Because of this we became criminals on the run…I like to think of us as the toilet bandits. We would go into bars and either sneak in through the crowds to use the bathrooms, or Andy would sit and look at a menu while I went to deal with Winnie before running off down the street having done the toilet equivalent of the DINE AND DASH…I suppose you could call it a PEE AND FLEE or a FLUSH AND RUSH – the possibilities are endless.

Yes I did feel sorry for the waiters and waitresses as I defied their ‘toilets are for paying customers only’ signs etc. But at the end of the day why should anyone have to pay for something that our bodies have to do naturally. If I’d decided to empty my bag on a street corner that wouldn’t have been acceptable, but if I didn’t have €1.50 would I have had a choice? Before my operation using the toilets alone would have filled the whole budget of our trip – needing the loo every five minutes – we defiantly wouldn’t have gone on a gondola ride – you do the math.

In Florence the toilet situation slightly improved as there were more free museums and we discovered a department store called Coin where the toilets were freely accessible, but we still had moments. At one point Winnie was so close to bursting I was doubling over and after rowing and getting upset (I turn into a bitch when I need the loo – rightly so I believe) and blaming Andy who was trying and failing to find us somewhere to sneak into, I decided I had no option but to try the Opera House. At first the guard insisted I had to pay the €12 entrance fee to use the facilities, but as I said medical condition and he noticed me clutching my stomach he kindly let me in to use the fanciest toilets in the world under the strict instructions I did not go anywhere else – it was so kind and restored my faith in human nature, but I do think he thought I was pregnant.

In Rome things just get worse. The only times you can truly use a toilet are when you are eating or drinking, but be warned if you want to do a WEE and FLEE then you might get caught out by the coded doors which they even have in Burger King. We soon realised the key to this was simply to stand next to a door and wait for someone else to come out, but not until Andy had endured the most disgusting and expensive shot of coffee in the world.

The queue for the toilet at the Coliseum is massive, but only for the women (as per usual), so if you’re a man, well, good for you! But they are clean, so if you need it take advantage. Also be aware that throughout Italy most of the ice cream shops and some bars don’t have loos, keep that in mind if you’re going to walk miles to indulge in ice cream and your IBD kicks off or ostomy bag fills up. A tip to be aware of is that the easiest WEE AND FLEE we did was at the Irish Bar in Rome…I was doubled over in pain from a horrid build up of blood and mucus and could hardly move by the time we got there, but the place is so big they can’t tell that you’ve done the deed and run away.

Oh and if you are lucky enough to find a free toilet in Italy, the chances are it will leave a lot to be desired. You will be lucky, as a woman, if you get even the most basic of seats to sit on…it seems the Italians don’t believe in toilet seats, or lids. It’s most bizarre and it leads to that uncomfortable hovering manoeuvre, which is pretty much impossible when dealing with IBD pain or emptying an ostomy bag. And once you have done the deed trying to work the sink will leave you baffled…some have foot pumps..it really is a different world.

I know it sounds silly but the toilet situation very nearly ruined it for me. It was something that constantly played on my mind, and I found myself looking for potential pit stops everywhere. I guess its something I can’t help after 13 years of constant diarrhoea and vomiting. If it had been six months ago it would have made the holiday unbearable, but thanks to Winnie I just about managed to get by with few sticky situations.

 

 

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Romance in Venice – boats, rivers, towers and my dream trip on a gondola


Arriving in Venice was a bit of a whirlwind. With both our phones

ARGH THE PLAGUE

ARGH THE PLAGUE

failing to get a signal (thanks Orange, or do I mean EE – great that you are an amazing service provider but not in Italy I guess) and us having no idea where our apartment was or where we needed to meet the woman who was renting to us, we were, in theory, officially stranded.So while the other thousands of couples who arrived in arguably the ‘most romantic’ city in the world we stood staring out our supposedly ‘smart’ phones, wondering why for all the technology stuffed into these little pieces of technology – all the fancy apps, music and weird voice recognition thing that asks me to yell instructions at it if I hold down the menu button too long – neither of our iPhones was able to perform the simplest of functions – simply to ring someone.

A real movie star moment

A real movie star moment

So as we stood on the taxi bus surrounding by Italians and tourists I hardly noticed the stunning scenery and film set esk scenes passing us by due to the sheer panic that we were most probably heading in totally the wrong direction. Luckily we were and Andy managed to get another tourist (who didn’t have such as rubbish service provider) to text the landlord who finally arrived after us both attempting to us the very confusing and ancient public phones, which for all our combined qualifications and intellect which just couldn’t seem to work out how to use – we did eventually, but obviously you can’t teach common sense! If I’m going to be honest I think the landlord knew exactly were we where but decided to let us stew for a while longer – which due to my very temperamental ostomy bag I was not very happy about whatsoever.

During the whole trip I didn’t really have many real problems with my ostomy, which was surprising, I did have issues with my fistula, but I will get into that during a later post, for now lets stick to Venice.

Winnie managed to survive the plane trip, boat trip and walk to the

Money saving home made butties in the most picturesque lunch spot

Money saving home made butties in the most picturesque lunch spot

apartment (which can only be described as a disappointment, dingy and rather shockingly covered in blood splatters which I mistakenly assumed were kids crayon marks until Andy splattered a mosquito and I realised the walls were covered in blood!), and we managed to get a quick change and make it out onto the winding and picturesque streets of Venice with few issues whatsoever.

Relaxing after finally making it to the apartment and Venice

Relaxing after finally making it to the apartment and Venice

If you haven’t visited Venice you really should do it in your lifetime. It is exactly how you imagine it. It really is a living film set, exactly the way you see it on films like James Bond (you know where the house collapses into the canal) and the Tourist where stunning Senior Depp jumps across rooftops into a marketplace (well that’s all I remember anyway). I honestly would say it is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited, and, weirdly enough the most eerily peaceful and quiet. I think you have to go there to understand what I mean, but one minute you feel like you’re about to pass out through the density of the crowds squishing you against the walls in the piazzas and tight alleyways, then suddenly, without any warning, you turn a corner and you are totally alone – it is both frightening and beautiful at the same time. In those moments I never knew wether to scream and run in fear that a mad axe mad might chase me through the maze-like alleyways (scary movie style) or stop and just breath in the moment. If it was Manchester you would have run for your life fearing you’d stumbled into Moss Side by mistake, but for some weird reason in this foreign country where everything was alien letting you’re guard down seemed a perfectly sensible thing to do. I lived for such moments, and what’s important is we made it back without loosing any limbs in an alleyway attack!

Anyway, most of our time in Venice was filled with us randomly exploring the maze of the alleyways trying to find the real side of Venice. And we must have seen a lot of things most tourists who stick to St mark’s Square and the other main sites never get to have a glimpse of. We wandered into traditional wine bars (one we loved was right near our apartment, and very cheap for a glass of gorgeous red), stuffed our faces with icecream, pizza and pasta. Oh yes and ran away from a restaurant without paying the service charge – spending the rest of the trip looking over our shoulders frightened the police were coming after us – such criminals, but I will not pay for rude service!

Going up the tower in St Mark’s Square was an experience. Looking

Up tower in St Mark's Square

Up tower in St Mark’s Square

back now it was a very mediocre one and not one I would do again after climbing up towers in Florence, Pisa and Rome which offered far more impressive views. You could only take the lift, something I always hate doing as it gets rid of the sense of accomplishment you get arriving at the top totally out of poof, and you really did struggle to get nearer the netting to admire the views due to the sheer amount of people trying to take pictures of every inch of the city from the top.

We didn’t do Dodge’s Tower, instead choosing to take a trip to the islands. If you go I really recommend you do this. It takes half a day and you see some of the picturesque areas, where literally a handful of people live and work. Just be careful not to stand up to quick on the boat, I did, and I think my head is still spinning from the sicking crack I gave it. The islands were stunning, especially the one, and I can’t remember its name, which seemed to offer the most idilic alternative to Venice to get married. The brides I saw were glowing with happiness, and I think that would be just what I wanted if and when the time comes for me to tie-the-knot – that is serenity, beauty and that happy glow.

so  peaceful

so peaceful

One of my favourite moments was finding an icecream shop (which did dairy free for me WHOOP) and sitting with our legs dangling into the canal watching the world, gondolas and speedboats go by while reading our books. While we were sat there a sting quartet and pianist started playing orchestral tunes, including Just One Cornetto. It couldn’t be more perfect, that was cheapest night and our last night in venice.

Anyway I know you are all longing to hear about it. Yes I did it…no I didn’t get engaged if that’s what you’re thinking, but I fulfilled a lifelong dream of going on a gondola through Venice. This was one of the stoma bag lady challenges I was looking forward to the most, and it didn’t disappoint.

Yes ok it is very expensive and you can’t barter to get the price

The most magical experience of my life - the gondola

The most magical experience of my life – the gondola

down. There is a city wide blanket fixed price of 80 euros for the 40 minute trip. This is for two people. Yes, you can get it half price if you share with another couple – but where’s the romance in that, knowing our look we would have got stuck with a screaming kid or a manic depressive trying to throw themselves in off the boat every five seconds. And if you go after 7pm the price soars up – so we, as savvy customers heading out for the ride at 6pm dressed up in our finest just so that the experience would be even more romantic – I mean a lot of couples were wearing shorts and T-shirts, some even had backpacks, what’s the point in spending all that money if you’re photos are not special??

The trip was everything I hoped and more. We carefully sourced our driver…which was important as we had seen rather horrendous sites of them smoking, chatting on mobile phones and other unimaginably unromantic things while taking poor couples down the Grand Canal on their ‘romantic’ trip. Ok he didn’t sing, but he gave us a very informative guided tour as he leisurely paddled us down the tight waterways even taking us down onto the main canal to see the Bridge of Sighs and the main bridge (I forget its name).

The canal didn’t smell contrary to popular belief. Chester smells worse on a sunny day. The ride was romantic and idilic and extremely peaceful. I felt safe and secure even as the gondolas came towards each other and the drivers calmly negotiated the tight corners to try and avoid crashes which would have sent many a half asleep couple flailing into the canal.

If I hadn’t had my surgery I wouldn’t have been able to sit still for that long, that’s how bad my Crohns/Colitis had been. Instead I leaned back and breathed in the sights and sounds of one of the most beautiful cities in the world in the arms of a man who I truely love more than anything in the world. And nothing bad happened. It was a dream come true, really it was. I couldn’t have hoped for more, I just wish it had lasted longer. It was one of those unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime moments, and it will always be with me no matter what happens next.

Flying with a stoma – travelling abroad with an ostomy and IBD


Standing in the security queue at Manchester Airport I felt like a bomb smuggler. I probably looked as shifty as one too as the moment I stepped up to the metal detector I was pulled aside by a female security guard. The alarm hadn’t even gone off, so there must have been something on my face that said ‘I’m hiding something’, or ‘I’m guilty as hell’. Or maybe they just spotted the growing bulge under my t-shirt. Either way the next thing I knew I was being pulled to one side and scanned, before being patted down by a very severe looking woman…who I wouldn’t have liked to have messed with let alone been found with drugs stuffed up my arse (on that note I literally did – not cocaine but a suppository for my Crohn’s/Colitis).

Anyway, the security guard was very disappointed. She didn’t manage to find a terrorist

MMM brekkie after getting through security

MMM brekkie after getting through security

or drug smuggler with a stomach filled with cocaine but a very worried young lady with a recently fitted ostomy bag. As her hands moved towards my abdomen my squeaky little voice spoke-up and warned her I had an ostomy bag and that she would be able to feel it under my shirt. She reacted sympathetically but I couldn’t help like feel like a criminal when I was dragged to one side, told to sit in a chair and remove my shoes so they could go through a special detector to check I wasn’t hiding I dunno knives or something in my shoe laces. I was then made to wait at the side while she deal with a few more people…I may as well as had a flashing sign over my head saying CRIMINAL..I could feel people looking at me thinking ‘what has she done, why is she sat at the side?’.

In the end I was led behind a curtain for my ‘private’ inspection, which involved me lifting up my shirt, undoing my pants and whipping out my ostomy and fistula bags, which chose at that very moment to fill up with gas, mucus and crap! The security guard and her extremely nosey friend ran a swab over both the bags before saying I was ‘ok’ and could go. I guess the swab was to make sure that Winnie wasn’t lined with cocaine or bags of cannabis for me to smuggle into Italy…which I guess it could have been but it wouldn’t have been the pleasantest thing to put up your nose or smoke afterwards.

Anyway, despite the fact I had been terrified of going through security with my ostomy supplies in my handbag and with my bag bulging under my shirt, it ended up being less scary than I thought. Ok, I hated being made to feel like a criminal, but by telling the security guard about my ostomy bag before she felt Winnie and thought I had something hidden under my top, I avoided a lot of embarrassment and a possibly problematic situation. My supplies in my handbag had no problems, they passed through the security fine, and I ended up not needing the doctor’s note or pass supplied by my delivery company, basically explaining they had to let me on the plane with my condition and bag changes.

We made it to Venice with no ostomy issues - hooray!

We made it to Venice with no ostomy issues – hooray!

The plane – we flew out with Monarch – ended up being ok. After all the horror stories I had read online, nothing bad happened. I avoided fizzy pop so that my bag didn’t bulge with air, and drank water to stay hydrated during the flight. I emptied my bag once in the two hour flight, and enjoyed slowly eating a wrap I ate at home. I managed to avoid any leaks at all during the journey and the journey back went just as smoothly – despite the fact we flew back with Ryan Air, an airline that has more horror stories than the average when it comes to travelling with IBD and medical conditions.

So if you want to go abroad and you have an ostomy go for it…what’s stopping you? If it’s fear or apprehension then stop it right now! I was terrified of getting on the plane for the first time, but after 13 years of living with Crohn’s/Colitis I realised that I always managed to fly before the operation – yes it was difficult and at times embarrassing, awkward and painful, but I coped even on longer haul flights – which I haven’t tried in a long time due to going to the loo 100’s of times a day. But if you are still worried I have put some tips below which will hopefully put your mind at ease.

Whatever you do remember that your ostomy is your ticket to freedom, it shouldn’t hold you back from anything. For the past 13-years I have let my IBD rule my life, I always thought I didn’t, but I now know that I did let it stop me doing things I wanted to do or should have experienced. That’s not happening anymore. I have finally had the surgery I dreaded, and yes I’m still getting used to living with my ostomy. Yes my health isn’t perfect still – in fact it’s pretty bloody awful at the moment – but it’s still the best I’ve ever been. So why should I be forced to stay in one country due to fear? I’ve heard of people who have waited years to bite the bullet and journey abroad with their bag…but now I’ve taken the plunge I want to carry on, to go further than any ostomate has ever gone before…how cool would that be, space with an ostomy!!!

Go for it!!! And share your experiences, snaps and adventures with us all…let’s start an ostomy world-wide revolution!

Tips:

  • separate your spare ostomy bags and other supplies between your hand luggage and cabin bag
  • pack far more supplies than you need – 2 bags a day if you are worried about leaks and at least two sprays
  • if you carry an adhesive remover spray in your carry on bag put it in a see through plastic bag, with all other sprays perfumes and lotions to go through security – might be a good idea to take wipes as well or instead
  • put any bag cutting scissors in your hold case – they won’t get through security
  • get a note from your GP or consultant explaining your medical condition saying that you need to carry medical condition on the plane – this is free and will get you through security or on the flight if there are any problems
  • change your bag before you get on the plane so that you don’t worry about it – and use the secure tabs to add extra protection just in case
  • get a special travel card from your ostomy suppliers – they will send it to you and it is in several different languages – Charter do a great one that you get your GP to sign and it will help you get on the plane
  • be honest at security – if you get pulled aside tell them discretly but up front that you have a bag – it will be ok, trust me
  • finally relax! enjoy the flight and don’t drink any fizzy pop until after the flight.

Europe with an ostomy and IBD – first trip abroad after surgery


We made it! After nine days, millions of bowls of pasta, slices of pizza and mountains of dripping gelato later we are finally home from our exciting and action packed mini tour of Italy.

Well I say mini. During those nine days we visited a Venice, Florence, Pisa, and last but by no means least, Rome. Oh and a few small islands surrounding Venice along

About a stone heavier - poor ostomy coped with a lot of carbs

About a stone heavier – poor ostomy coped with a lot of carbs

the way. So perhaps not that miniature at all really! Ok, so I know they are all extremely magical and special destinations, filled with romance, glamour and fancy hotels, but the experience was really quite rustic and back to basics for me and my boyfriend Andy. We organised the trip off our own backs, joined the students on cheap trains and travelled cross country with our suitcases across miles of rolling countryside, vineyards and quaint cottages before lugging our bags to the next hotel or apartment. It was the closest I have ever come to a backpacking holiday, and made me realise all the fun that I would have had doing backpacking around Europe or Australia during an unrealised gap year – something I never even really let myself dream about because of the never ending ugly rearing head of my Crohn’s/Colitis.

So besides my extreamly sore legs, deep muscle fatigue and bulging blisters on my big toes (my fault for wearing silly shoes to traipse around the whole of Italy) I feel extremely happy. Ok, at the moment I am just happy to be home and in my own bed and having my own personal things around me. The biggest relief is coming home to somewhere where my ostomy supplies are all organised and to hand. Thankfully I packed far more supplies for the trip that I needed, but after a couple of leaks and mishaps, which I think were exasperated by the heat and the exertion I put on my body walking so many miles, I was almost down to my last few bags as we boarded the plane back to Manchester. It was a close call. Especially for my fistula which appears to have herniated and gone a weird blacky green colour… a little worrying…it caused me a world of problems and an extraordinary amount of pain, which at times left me doubled over and hobbling down the street hunched up in agony like an old lady. As nice as it was to be exploring, to be in the sunshine, to see extraordinary places, it is so nice to know that I can visit my stoma nurse if I need to and get more supplies by just calling my delivery company. It’s also so nice to be able to get to free toilets…something that proved to be problematic in Italy – I absolutely refused to pay a euro 50 cents to empty my ostomy bag.

Boiling heat in the sunshine at the coliseum

Boiling heat in the sunshine at the coliseum

I’m sorry I didn’t post as I travelled. Both me and Andy made a rookie mistake and didn’t update EE (formerly Orange) of our trip, meaning that when we arrived in Italy neither of us could contact anyone. Meaning we were stranded in a strange city with no way of contacting our families, friends or anyone, least of all the people we were renting the apartment from!! Nightmare! I did manage to get a little internet access eventually, but only for short periods of time.

So as I don’t wont to write one post that’s 17,000 words about the trip I thought I would divide it up into a series of posts over the next few days. Sharing both the sites and experiences of the holiday and any tips and tricks for going away with IBD and an ostomy. Sharing the silly things that happened, what I would do if I went traveling again and also the things anyone should be aware of if flying, travelling, or even thinking about their first adventure abroad after being diagnosed with IBD or having their abdominal operation.

One thing is for sure, it was not as scary as I thought it would be. Life was a lot easier than before my operation. Yes I had a few close calls, and a lot of panics about the lack of free public toilets, but most of this was due to the constant flaring of my Crohn’s/Colitis in my remaining large bowel, which made my fistula extremely unmanageable. But compared to before it was a walk in the park. I got to enjoy everything for the first time without really worrying. Ok, to say I didn’t always look for the toilet constantly, and I didn’t have a few hairy moments along the way would be a downright lie, but I didn’t spend the majority of the trip staring at the back of a toilet cubicle was quite frankly a miracle.

The most magical experience of my life - the gondola

The most magical experience of my life – the gondola

So I hope you enjoy the pictures and ramblings about me Andy and Winnie’s Italian adventure. And I hope you will share your experiences of your first trip post surgery for others to enjoy and gain tips from too.

Leaving on a jet plane – first trip abroad with my ostomy


So after months of waiting and excitement tomorrow is the big day. This time tomorrow

I am sooo excited - Just one cornetto

I am sooo excited – Just one cornetto

night me and Winnie, and, of course, my boyfriend Andy, will be sitting in a fancy restaurant drinking Italian wine and shovelling down plates full of spaghetti in Venice. I am so excited I can hardly think straight.

I’ve spent the last few hours panicking that I’ve forgotten to do something. I must have checked through my ostomy kit a million times and I still think I might be missing something vital. I have my doctors note for in case they refuse to let me on the plane, why they wouldn’t let me on I don’t know, but I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories, so I’ve decided it’s better safe than sorry. Especially as I’m flying home with Ryan Air, something which I’m dreading as everyone says they are the worse airline for dealing with people with medical conditions, especially ostomy and colostomy bags.

Perhaps they think I’m going to smuggle drugs inside my ostomy bag…best of luck to them if they want to check. Think if they ask to look I will down a can of coke as quickly as possible and eat beetroot, it won’t be a pretty sight either way.

All my supplies for the journey

All my supplies for the journey

Packing for the trip has been a bit of a nightmare. I think I might have gone a bit overboard with the amount of spare bags and products I have packed for Winnie, but I am terrified that she will leak every day and I will run out thousands of miles away from my supplies and out of reach of my delivery company. I did however manage to pack them in style. I went to Primark and bought a very cheap but pretty vanity case so that all my bags, sprays and wipes are now stored together in one place. It may take up a little extra room but it makes me feel so much happier to have them in a pretty case than thrown together in a plastic Tesco carrier bag along with my laundry and toiletries.

I’ve had a few problems with my travel insurance. My company down-right refused to renew my annual insurance or offer me an alternative policy because of my hospital admissions and my operation. This was like a slap in the face. I understand how they work but it is a kick in the teeth to have to go through so much pain all your life and then have to pay so much more than others who have lived without pain for all their lives. Anyway they let me take out a single insurance policy for the trip…looks like I’m going to have to win the lottery, or marry a millionaire if i want to keep going abroad.

Of course I am panicking about the journey. I love flying, but because of my Crohns/Colitis flying has never loved me. I hate the tiny loos and the idea that a frozen block of my bloody poop might kill a random sunbather as it falls out of the sky. I despise the fasten seatbelt sign, which always seems to come on just as I start to get the warning stabbing pains associated with a massively long toilet session. the same can be said for the ascent and descent, basically the times when no one can move are the worse…for an IBD sufferer it is hell.

I’m feeling apprehensive about the flight. I’m concerned about what I can and can’t take on with me. Luckily Charter UK (my delivery company) have provided me with a travel card which says – in multiple languages – that I have a medical condition and an ostomy bag and need to carry medical equipment. I have a feeling that this card might just save my life in these kinds of situations. My doctor has signed it and I have stored my sprays and water dispensers in a clear plastic bag along with my lip gloss..but just in case they are confiscated I’ve got a spare stash in my luggage.

Happy after a run in prep for our Italian holiday

Happy after a run in prep for our Italian holiday

It’s almost time to go. I’ve spent the last hour looking up restaurants in Venice, Florence and Rome (our three amazing destinations) which accommodate lactose intolerant diners. I can’t wait to tuck into some vegan ice cream in Rome…and scoff plates of spaghetti Bolognese. But more than that I can’t wait to do my first international stoma bag lady challenge – ride a gondola in Venice. It is meant to be very expensive, but I have always wanted to do it so it’s going to be really magical.

Me and Andy deserve a holiday. After everything that’s happened with my health, and the massively bumpy ride we’ve been on over the past year or so with my Colitis and my ileostomy operation, and even the stress of moving in the last few weeks, kicking back in Italy will be just what we need.

I couldn’t hope for a better boyfriend and I can’t wait to take him to the Ferrari museum to go on the F1 simulator. I also can’t wait to experience the romance of Italy and share it with Andy.

We are away for nine days in total. I will try to blog, share pics, tips and experiences when I can, but if you don’t hear from me just know that I will be having a heck of a good time.

Going abroad with my ostomy is a massive leap in the dark. It is, in itself, a massive challenge. We will be flying, getting on trains, eating foreign foods and attempting to communicate my condition and allergies in a foreign language and environment.

Yes I’m nervous…but am I excited?

Hell yeh!!

 

 

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 £15 each to get into the Minster and climb the tower. I know £15 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!