An unbelievable evening watching The Lion King and a trip up the London Eye


After an eyeopening evening exploring London’s vibrant nightlife – experiencing everything from cosmopolitan bars filled with suits swigging champagne, groups of doctors huddled in toilets moaning about understaffed A&E departments, to pubs filled with legless women stumbling around downing pints of colliery band beer – on Friday morning I woke excited yet slightly worse for wear ready for my magical and much anticipated trip to see The Lion King.images

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so excited about anything. I honestly have no idea where I first heard about the stage version of the Disney film. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to go and see it, but have never found the time, money or the energy to go. Andy knew this, and so acting as only a devoted boyfriend would, decided to surprise me with tickets to see the show while we were in London.

In the hours to spare before the show we headed into the capital to enjoy sightseeing. It didn’t go as smoothly as planned. Finding something for me to eat that was a) healthy and b) lactose free appeared to remain a monumental challenge despite the fact we were in a city filled with the largest variety of different culerany delights imaginable. It was like trying to see the wood through the trees, we just couldn’t find anywhere, and because I was starving by this time that turned me into a raging bitch. It was totally unreasonable and unfair on Andy, but at these moments (and everyone has done it) I often realise I’ve taken it too far but by that time I’ve gone too far with my sulk to take it back and realise I’m at fault. In moments like that, where I’m standing on a packed high street refusing to move and waving my arms around at my poor boyfriend blaming him for everything from not having planned our day out fully to being unable to create world peace, I often feel like I’m floating on the outside of my body watching and shaking my head as I realise how ridiculous it all is – but once you reach a certain point you just have to go along with it or dissolve into hysterical laughter….those are the rules, never backdown.

London Eye

London Eye

After finally being fed and watered (obviously I maintained the sulk and refused to enjoy what I ate) we ventured towards The London Eye. As the sky grew gloomier and dark clouds loomed on the horizon I didn’t hide my worry that we would see bugger all but rain and mist when we got to the top, and as we were queuing the rain got worse and a thunder storm threatened in the distance. Despite my fears the London rain and grey skies would spoil the once-in-a-lifetime experience (this was my first venture up the Eye) the views were still spectacular. Of course I didn’t agree with Andy that London looked better in the rain, but I have to admit it seemed ironic that my first time on the Eye would be on a murky day, where rain dribbled down the glass, and we ended up peering into the grey mugginess to try and spot MI5 and Wembley which had been engulfed by the fog.

On reaching not-so-dry land we were greeted by a full blown thunderstorm,  we both got soaked as we dashed across the bridge towards the Houses of Parliament and I almost had my eye poked out by a rouge umbrella – I’m not exaggerating I was left with a nasty red mark just under my eye after the brolly took on a life of its own.

Arriving back at our Camden Hotel looking closer to drowned sewer rats than tourists, me and Andy headed to the pool to relax for an hour (and what a pool it was; illuminated with purple lights underneath and filled with buoyant salt water) before getting changed and heading into the city for our much awaited Lion king adventure.

Anyone who has met me will know that getting me to be silent for more than a couple

Ready for the most amazing adventure

Ready for the most amazing adventure

of minutes can be an almost impossible task. The Lion King stunned me into silence. I can honestly say I have never seen anything more remarkable or unbelievable in my life. For the entire show I was well and truly captivated, everything from the outfits to the way the actors moved around the stage left me astounded. My mouth hung open in misbelief for so long I must have swallowed a gallon of flies and I was aware that I probably looked ridiculous with a clown-like smile of glee frozen on my face throughout the entire performance. But the whole thing was like a dream – I’d heard it was good but I didn’t realise it was what dreams were made of.

What was my favourite part of the musical? Honestly it’s hard to say….probably the opening number The Circle of Life. Original I know, but that was the moment the genius of the animal costumes was revealed and, boy, was it spectacular.

When the final curtain finally descended I wanted to cry. For the entirety of the production I had felt like a child unwrapping mountains of presents at Christmas, but then it was suddenly over and the area under the tree was suddenly empty. But despite the fact all the costumes were gone and the rousing music had ended the colourful scenes were still with me, I still felt in awe of what had just been achieved. It was one of the best presents I have ever had. It was magic in action.

After theatre treat - Loch Fyne

After theatre treat – Loch Fyne

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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!!

 

 

A grand day out! Sweltering heat, massive hills, art & giant marshmallows


Despite the sweltering heat and glorious sunshine, on Friday me and my amazing

Exhausted, sweating like pigs, but happy

Exhausted, sweating like pigs, but happy

boyfriend Andy (and of course who can forget Winnie) jumped in the car and submitted ourselves to over three hours of swerving lunatic drivers, scar-tearingly bumpy roads, and squinting to see digital road maps due to the bright sunlight as we drove to Bristol – all in the name of street art, and, well so that I could do one of my challenges.

The car journey, which as usual saw me scoff my own weight in haribo sweets (well, if you can’t do it on a car journey when can you?), was something of an achievement for me. After more than a decade of Crohns/Colitis, I am still getting used to the idea of not having to race to the toilet every five minutes doubled over in crippling pain. Of course, even though I now have Winnie I still have my moments, but compared to the urgency and, ahem, accidents, my toilet habits are a breezy walk in the park these days. Only 10-weeks-ago (before my surgery) the idea of even the shortest of car journeys sent me into a flurry of minor nervous breakdowns. For more than a decade of my life I would go to the loo at least five times before getting in the car, bob around on the doorstep impatiently telling people to “hurry up before I need the loo again”, and once in the car I lived in constant fear of traffic jams, as they meant it could be hours before the next service station and chance for me to go to the loo. Honestly my fear was so severe that break lights activating ahead on a busy motorway, or the word ‘diversion’, or even ‘next services in 30 miles’, sent my blood pressure through the roof…I would start sweating and, usually the moment such a delay occurred my evil disease would kick off and naturally I would need the toilet at the one time that there was no way I could go!!

Traffic lights used to send me into cold sweats, now I just sit back and enjoy the ride

Traffic lights used to send me into cold sweats, now I just sit back and enjoy the ride

So, understandably my relationship with travelling, especially in cars (don’t get me started on my humiliating experiences with public transport) is one that I associate with pain, fear and panic. So I was very surprised that despite the unprecedented heat, and the fact that Winnie was kicking off, and Oscar (remaining colon) was spitting mucus out of my stomach, we had an event free and rather pleasant car journey. In the three-hour journey we only stopped once, and that was more so I could empty my weak bladder than because Winnie was full – though I have to admit that, probably to the surprise of other nosey passengers staring in through the car window, I did keep checking Winnie for status updates every half an hour – better safe than sorry.

Ok, so what exactly had we driven all the way to Bristol for? 

As part of challenge #No33 I have to visit 30 things on the Visit England 101 things to see in England before you die, and search for Banksy’s art in Bristol is one of the 30 challenges I chose. So Andy very kindly booked us a hotel and agreed to drive us to Bristol for a weekend of traipsing around a city looking for art – something that isn’t really up his street (he’s more sport, I’m more culture – that’s the truth).

I have to say that I was over-the-topily excited about this trip. The night before I had spent hours looking on the computer at things we could do when we got to this city, which by the way sounded like a cultural Mecca. I can’t even begin to describe my excitement when I discovered that we would not only be able to search for the famous Banksy works, but scattered around the city were 80 giant Gromit statues, which had been decorated by famous designers, illustrators, musicians, and authors. Everyone from Michael Buble (yes I know, I have no idea how to get the accent over his name) to Quentin Blake, and the creator of Where’s Wally – I was like a little kid in a massive sweet shop, I even downloaded the special Gromit app (such a child #lol) – in the end we only saw about 10 but ah well c’est la vie!

Me & one of the 80 Gromits

Me & one of the 80 Gromits

So after checking into the hotel (we got an excellent last-minute deal on the Doubletree – we’re not that posh!) and a quick change later, me, Andy and Winnie hit the streets of Bristol with one aim – to find something to eat. We quickly stumbled across our first Gromit, which was just outside the hotel, before heading down to the Quayside where the whole of Bristol appeared to have gathered for a drink. I won’t get into it, but after waiting for rather a long time outside a well-known chain Italian restaurant and being ignored, we decided to spread our wings and explore further afield, which with Winnie behaving herself was not so much of an issue, or so I thought until we climbed the steepest hill in the world to get to Cafe Rouge.

On the way we spotted our first Banksy – hurrah! So a couple of pictures later and we kept

The first one!! SHOCK and RELIEF!!

The first one!! SHOCK and RELIEF!!

climbing past the rows of nightclubs until we got to the restaurant, by which time we were both sweating buckets and gasping for a drink – you could say we had earned our dinner! (we went to Cafe Rouge because I had a voucher and all 101 of these adventures combined is not going to be cheap so best to scrimp and save where possible) It was a lovely – well the same as any other Cafe Rouge – restaurant, which had an amazing view of Bristol University, which we both mistakenly mistook for the Cathedral until we explored later that night. The only downside was the gang of over-excited and tipsy graduates who were squealing their heads off, singing old kid TV theme tunes, and kept shouting loudly in Spanish – which made me think they had been language students. By the time we left I had a very bad headache, but had enjoyed my first salad post surgery 🙂 and Andy had indulged in his  ‘never let him down’ dish of duck.

At the restaurant - we only had one drink each - i promise!

At the restaurant – we only had one drink each – i promise!

Even though both of us only had one drunk we were a little tipsy and exhausted and decided to call it a night (we’re WILD), but on the way back to the hotel we stumbled across a frozen yogurt take-out that was still open at 10PM WOW!! And it did lactose free frozen yogurt, we just couldn’t say no to that!!

Anyway the next day I might have had a little strop after not being able to find a Starbucks immediately to satisfy my morning coffee urges…and poor Andy had to put up with my having full-blown paddies as we traipsed up that bloody hill again to get a frapaccino in the now unbearable heat. I was a little happier when I’d got my coffee, I think the ice and the caffeine combined with a little bit of air conditioning really helped to cool my rapidly spiralling out of control totally over-the-top temper, so then we could get on with what we had come to see – the Banksy street art.

The only problem is, finding a Banksy in Bristol is like finding your keys when you’ve lost

Yep another one...nightmare to find

Yep another one…nightmare to find

them, you can’t find them when you want to, but you stumble across them unexpectedly when you’re no longer searching for them. We found that first one quite by chance, and the second one (the girl with the balloons) when we turned the corner after our meal. But after that it became much much more difficult. Traipsing through Bristol, up and down the steepest hills I have tried to tackle since my surgery in temperatures reaching 30c was not easy at all. We explored the roughest parts of the city, where drunk people gathered in the streets, and went up alleyways stinking of spray paint as Andy’s special Iphone ap directed us into possible drug dens in search of the best street art the city had to offer.

Three hours later, exhausted, sunburnt, dripping with sweat and feeling like I had just run a marathon with lead weights attached to the backs of my knees, I gave in and decided I simply couldn’t search any longer. My legs felt like they were going to give way from under me and I was sweating from places I didn’t know existed. As we collapsed in the park under the shade next to some teenagers who were smoking some very funky smelling weed, we took our shoes off and gulped down the water, before reflecting that despite the temperamental

WHOOP another Banksy

WHOOP another Banksy

iPhone ap we had done rather well (even if one of the Banksy’s had disappeared by the time we had trudged miles to get there (some idiot painted over it no doubt)), and had not only seen some of the most WOW street art in the UK but also ventured where few tourists had ever dared to venture before.

Winnie was surprisingly well-behaved the entire day. I think, like everything, in the heat she just gave up, decided there was no point and declared the day a stoma holiday! So we sat and had some free fruit in the park and enjoyed lapping in the Pride festival atmosphere. I had never been to Pride before and it was an incredible event to experience, with the hot weather and music blasting people where scattered all over the lawns and grassy embankments just kicking back, enjoying beer and basically enjoying life.

I had really wanted to watch blast-from-the-past boy band Blue, but as we joined the

Another Banksy - squee!

Another Banksy – squee!

packed crowds I realised not only was I not going to be able to see them but Winnie was likely to get crushed in the process. Now I like Blue’s music but not enough to end up with a dented stoma! Anyway my decision not to see them perform was sealed by the band not coming on stage at the correct time, we waited 20 minutes and then with the onset of heat exhaustion decided not to ruin an amazing day by ending up in a&e and decided to call it a day.

We made it back home to Andy’s country home at around 8.30pm after stopping for supplies, once home we grabbed showers, tucked into a

AMAZING ART

AMAZING ART

yummy tea, and passed out. I woke the next day to my muscles screaming like they had been put through one of those Iron-man challenges and spent the rest of the day walking like a Cowboy (people must have thought I had had far too much fun!). So due to my exhaustion we spent most of the day sunning ourselves in the garden, Winnie had a few moments, but after being well-behaved the day before I forgave her. I even treated her to giant toasted American marshmallows on the BBQ later that night – MMM the best medication EVER!!!

So if you’re looking for a good weekend of exploring and you love art, head to Bristol. It was nothing like what I expected…it was a fusion of the old with the new, the traditional with the modern, obscure and at times terrible and verging on vandalism graffiti. It was one of the best and most random weekend’s me and Andy have had, and the best me and Winnie have spent together. So give it a go – a word of advice though, don’t go during a heat wave and expect to get much done!

The giant marshmallows - such a treat MMMM

The giant marshmallows – such a treat MMMM

the giant marshmallow have made me soooo happy

the giant marshmallow have made me soooo happy

If you didn’t see it on yesterday’s post below is the slide show of pics of the trip to Bristol. ENJOY!!