Thank you

I just wanted to say a massive thank you to Experience Barnsley, especially Jemma and May for inviting me to talk at International Women’s day yesterday, to Mel Dyke for her warmth and support, to everyone who came to support me and to my husband Timm who filmed the talk for me and is always my biggest cheerleader.

Thanks to the awesome Katie Edwards who was a fellow speaker, thanks for joining me in silliness and Obama selfies and your brilliant talk, Admen and Eve. It was great to meet you!

Thanks to Lorna Warren and Anne Fay for their interesting talks too.

I had an amazing day and despite my nerves, I LOVED it and can’t wait to do it again!

The film is being edited now and so I’ll get it up on the site ASAP!

sam cleasby blogger sheffield ulcerative colitis stoma body image

Love Sam xx

Keep Your Fork – Brand Booster – a review

Last year I went on a PR and Marketing course called Brand Booster run by marketing consultancy Keep Your Fork.  Run by the thoroughly charming, infectiously positive and wonderfully inspiring Faye Smith it was a six week course run once a week in Sheffield.  This is a review of the course, I have not been paid for this article and all opinions are my own.

I met Faye at a networking meeting, she is one of those people who walk in the room and bring with them such a massive personality and confidence that you are immediately drawn to them.  As I listened to her talk, I was drawn in by her and felt I wanted to talk to her more.  She later told me about her workshop on PR and marketing and I thought it would be great for our photography business The Picture Foundry.  It was £397 for the six week workshop and after careful consideration I decided to go ahead and book on.

keep your fork brand booster

I know this seems like an awful lot of money, but I compared it to paying for an advert in a good magazine and thought I could learn more and earn more from gaining this knowledge and skills.

It was held at a lovely pub on Ecclesall Road in Sheffield, on my first week I was terrified as I walked into the room, but I was warmly welcomed by Faye and immediately felt settled.  I had emailed Faye beforehand and told her about my Ulcerative Colitis, that I was having a flare up and explained what that meant.  I told her about how I may need to leave the room suddenly as I didn’t want it to be awkward on the day.  She emailed straight back and was so understanding and compassionate, saying anything I needed she would sort.  So when I walked in the room and realised just how narrow the route to the loo would be if I was at the end of the table I had a slight panic, but she had thought it through and had nonchalantly put her coat and bag over the chair nearest the toilet, she then said “Sam, why don’t you sit here!”

It sounds like a really small thing, but when you are in a flare, things like access to a toilet becomes vital.  It almost stopped me attending as I was terrified of being embarrassed by running to the toilet or even worse, having an accident in front of a room full of business people!!

Over six weeks Faye teaches you about the following topics; Creating your personal profile, Writing a press release and handling the media, creating a PR plan for press, radio and TV, developing a marketing plan, developing a sales plan and contact strategy and your person style, image and photos.

sam cleasby blogger writer self esteem body image womens health and happiness

You get an email each week with all the notes from the day along with a piece of homework to develop your skills.  Along with this you get Faye as your personal PR machine, sending you all her press requests and supporting you in finding journalistic opportunities for your business.

Its the sort of course where you have to work at it.  She isn’t a magician and isn’t going to make money just fall into your lap.  But what she does is inspire you, teach you and support you in learning everything you need to know about PR and marketing for your business.

Some of it is common sense.  But that sort of annoying common sense where you know you SHOULD know it and be following the rules but just don’t.  Other things are just a real insight into how to push your business PR ahead of your competitors.

There is a little business speak, but on the whole it is really easy to understand and clear.  If I didn’t understand anything I felt completely confident to raise my hand and ask a question without feeling silly.  It was just a really friendly yet professional course, not at ALL stuffy like some business workshops and conferences I have attended before.

So results? Within three months of the course I had got myself, my photography business and the arts group I work for into local and national press and even a 4 page spread in a national magazine.  In the eight months I have got both businesses on Radio Sheffield as well as other local radio stations.  It gave me real life skills of how to make the media work for me in a simple, easy to follow format.  I keep my notes and refer back to them all the time.

It did one other thing.  Faye inspired me to start this blog and really push it forward.  She told me that everyone has a story, something unique and interesting about them that the world wants to hear about.  I had never thought about using my illness and my experience in this way before.  Since starting this blog I have had well over 30,000 views, hundreds of emails and messages of support.  I have been featured on other blogs and I was invited onto BBC radio Sheffield to talk about my International Women’s Day talk.

international womens day 2014

I wouldn’t say its all down to Faye and the course, like I said it isn’t magic.  What I have achieved is down to my hard work, innovation and stubbornness but the skills I learnt have been invaluable.  I now know how to contact journalists, how to write my press releases and I have a solid marketing, PR and sales plan.  I left the course feeling confident and inspired and ran with the ideas, skills and support given to me.  It has changed the way I do business for the better, and things are really going from strength to strength for me.

Just so you know, the amount of free advertising we have had through the skills I learnt on the course outweigh the cost of the course many, many times over.  But you have to be prepared to work at it, if you need some guidance on PR and marketing for your business I would wholly recommend Keep Your Fork and the Brand Booster, but you have to take what is given and make it your own, then work your arse off at it!

Ill give you one example, Faye talked about tying an event to an ‘international day’, she gave us a link to a website with all the weird and wonderful days on it (, we talked about different ways to use this to your business’ advantage.  I took a look and realised that a couple of weeks later was Yorkshire Day and started plotting.  With the confidence and skills I had learnt along with a shed load of initiative and probably a couple of loose screws I decided I wanted to do an event on Filey Beach for Yorkshire Day with the arts group Responsible Fishing.  I got on to councils, leapt through hoops and skipped with the red tape and pulled off an event that they said was just too short noticed.  I then got on to local newspapers and radio and got the event covered by several newspapers, three different radio stations and got local councillors to come down to support the event.  You can have a look at the day here.

responsible fishing yorkshire day sand art

responsible fishing yorkshire day sand art

responsible fishing yorkshire day sand art

From this, the group got a huge boost to their audience, Facebook and twitter followers increased and traffic to the site was up.  I was happy with this, we hadn’t been paid for the day, but had managed to get free accommodation from the lovely Filey Brigg campsite.  Then we got a message from somebody who’d seen the day and commissioned the group to do a big paid piece of land art on another beach.  This one event sparked from an idea from Faye has grown into a lot of well paid work and a TON of free advertising.

I think this is a great example of the results of the course.  Like I said, nothing is handed to you on a plate, but it is what you make of the advice given.

For more information on Brand Booster and Keep Your Fork, see the website.

If you would like me to review your product or event get in touch now for details or see the Writing page.

Sam xx

Interview on BBC Sheffield – International Women's Day

I was thrilled to be asked to go on to BBC Radio Sheffield to talk about my part in International Women’s Day with Experience Barnsley.  It was on the fabulous Paulette Edwards show and I had a great time.  It was totally nerve wracking but Im so glad I did it and can’t wait to go on again!

bbc radio sheffield

sam cleasby so bad ass

bbc radio sheffield

sam cleasby so bad ass

It was my first ever time in a radio studio and I think you can really hear the nerves for the first half of the interview but I relaxed into it and had a fantastic time.  Thanks so much to Paulette!

You can listen to the interview below.

Love Sam xx

Why EVERYONE should be a feminist

Ahead of my talk at International Women’s Day on Saturday I got thinking about what the day stands for.  Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements.  It’s a celebration of women.  A  day when we can all come out and blow our vuvuzellas, join together in strength, feel good, celebrate being women, a day of recognition of women and solidarity.  A day of feminism.

But are we all feminists?

“Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and socialrights for women.  This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.”

this is what a feminist looks like

Yet feminism is sometimes seen as a dirty word, there comes a sly snigger and talk of hairy armpits and lesbians when conversation turns to feminism.  People fearing to identity themselves with the word lest is taints them, makes them seem aggressive, political or in some way trouble.

Here are some (quite astonishing) quotes from celebrity women regarding feminism.

Geri Halliwell, she of “girl power” said this

“It’s about labelling. For me feminism is bra-burning lesbianism. It’s very unglamorous. I’d like to see it rebranded. We need to see a celebration of our femininity and softness.”

When Bjork was asked if she were a feminist, she replied

“No, because I think it would isolate me. I think it’s important to do positive stuff. It’s more important to be asking than complaining.”

Lady Gaga

“I’m not a feminist – I hail men, I love men. I celebrate American male culture, and beer, and bars and muscle cars….”


“I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist.”

Let’s go back to that definition – “A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women”

So what makes Madonna et al so afraid of being a proud, badge wearing, card carrying feminist? Are the negative connotations so strong that the word stokes fear into the heart of some of the most famous women in the world?

Luckily there are many who will proudly speak out.


I am a feminist, my husband is a feminist, my three children are feminists.  I would go as far as to say that I really wouldn’t want to talk to anyone who doesn’t identify themselves as feminists.

If you are questioning now whether you are a feminist or not, luckily there is a online quiz for that, take the test and come back to me…

Clear now? Good.

I read this quote from an article by Laurie Penny in the Guardian and it really struck a chord with me.

“The stereotype of the ugly, unfuckable feminist exists for a reason – because it’s still the last, best line of defence against any woman who is a little too loud, a little too political. Just tell her that if she goes on as she is, nobody will love her.”

I am a strong, bold woman.  Im a married mother of three. I am many things and one of them is a feminist.  I have no fear in saying that loud and proud.  What about you?

People who shout down feminists, who mock, berate or fear them need to realise that feminism isn’t about that stereotype, its about your daughter, your sister, your mother, your female friends.  It is about every person in this world having equal opportunities whatever their gender.  If you honestly do not believe that women deserve equal rights to men then you are, well, I can’t even think of the words.  Ill just suggest you go and educate yourself.  Or perhaps go and explain your beliefs to your mother or daughter, that you don’t believe they are worth as much as a man…

If you DO believe in equality for women then identify yourself as a feminist.  Be proud that you are a good and decent person and don’t be afraid to speak out.

We’ll end this sermon with a picture of pretty much my favourite celebrity fella, Patrick Stewart

Patrick-Stewart feminist

Love Sam x

Fashion tips for women with ileostomy or colostomy bags

One of the questions I get asked a lot is how do you choose clothes to wear with your ileostomy bag, and so I thought Id do a little post on the question…

Its a funny one because my first reaction is ‘Wear whatever the hell you want to” and that is my general rule.  But there are a few things I wear for comfort and ease…

1. Maternity trousers

I know, I know, wearing maternity trousers when you aren’t pregnant seems awful, but they are FANTASTIC.  You can get a ton of different styles these days from most high street stores and they are really affordable.

I went for maternity jeans because from the crotch down they look like any other pair of trousers, but that soft stretchy band above makes them super comfortable and holds your bag snugly against your stomach so it just feels so safe.  Wearing these means I happily wear jeans and a vest and don’t even think about my bag.

2. Don’t feel that you have to hide it

The fact is that sometimes you will be able to make out the shape of your bag under your clothes, but seriously who cares?  What is the absolute worse that will happen? Someone will ask you what it is, you tell them.  The End.  Wear what make you feel good, if you can see the bag, own it and make it awesome…

ileostomy bag and fashion

I love this tshirt and didn’t want to go bigger and get a baggy top, I know you can see the shape of my bag through and so what!

ileostomy bag and fashion

I bought this is Australia and its totally see through… I think Im rocking it!

3.  In there like swimwear

I looked at a few ileostomy swimming costumes and never found one I liked and so I just wear what I already have! On the beach or sunbathing I am happy to wear a bikini and just let is all hang out…

ileostomy bag and fashion swimwear ileostomy bag and fashion having fun swimwear ostomy stoma

If I want to cover up on the beach, or at the local swimming pool I wear a one piece, if you are bothered about people seeing it, go for a large pattern.

ileostomy bag and fashion swimwear

4. Tight fitting clothes.

You had your bowel removed, you did not become a nun.  If you liked wearing tight fitting clothes before there is no reason you can’t still wear them.  It comes down to confidence and self esteem – your bag has probably saved your life, its not something to be ashamed of, wear what makes you feel amazing.

ileostomy bag and fashion

5. Loose women

If you want to go baggy then do it, but do it because you love the dress, not because you want to cover everything up.

ileostomy bag and fashion

6. In the bedroom

I don’t usually talk about ‘bedroom stuff’ just because it isn’t really something I want my mum or kids to read, but regarding clothes Ill talk a bit.  There are some specialist lingerie sets for ostomates, I have had a look and to be honest they aren’t for me.  There are specialist wraps but in a way I find them a little bit offensive, its like saying I need to cover up my bag for my partner to find me sexually attractive.

I tend to wear a vest in bed because I feel more comfortable when my bag is close against my skin, but honestly, with the right partner, you really don’t need to worry about what you are wearing in the bedroom.  I think sex is about trust and respect, if my partner didn’t want to see my bag during sex, he probably wouldn’t be the right partner for me.

7. Underwear

I tend to wear big panties, you know the high waisted ones, I do this because I prefer to have the cotton between my skin and the bag.  Its total personal preference, you can buy specialist underwear that has a pouch in it for your bag.  I haven’t bothered with these so far as Im comfortable in what I have.

8. Wear what makes you feel amazing…

This is the main point.  Clothes are such a personal choice, there is little reason for you to change your style because of your bag.  There are a few things I avoid nowadays because of the position of my stoma, waistbands need to go above or below my stoma to feel comfortable.  I’d never stop wearing something that I loved unless it was ridiculously impractical or uncomfortable.

ileostomy bag and fashion

Wear what makes you feel awesome and amazing, you deserve it xxx

Love Sam xxx

MAD awards 2014

This blog has been a life saver for me in the last year, it has been cathartic for me to share my experiences and I have been so overwhelmed by the response I have had from an ever growing audience.  The emails I get daily mean the world to me and I can’t tell you how important it is for me to know that I am helping others.

The MAD awards 2014 are currently open for nominations.  If you would like to take a few minutes to go and nominate me I would be chuffed to bits.

MAD Blog Awards

I have been told Ive been nominated for Best new blog, Blog of the year and Best writer.

If this blog has helped you at all this year and you feel Im worthy I would be so grateful for your nomination.

Whilst you are there be sure to nominate your other favourite blogs.  Time is short as nominations are only open for another week or so.

Love Sam xx

What to do when bad things happen

When bad things happen it is so easy to get into a spiral of feeling down, whether its something big like illness, relationship troubles or a relatively minor thing like your car won’t start or your best top gets boil washed and comes out small enough for a Barbie…

Feelings of sorrow, sadness, anger and frustration are normal but are they helpful?  Focusing on the things that are going wrong in your life feeds the negativity.  Try to focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want.

Here are 10 things to do when bad things happen.  Will they make everything better? Probably not, but will they make YOU feel better in that moment, I hope so.

1. Remember that you aren’t alone

Whatever your issue, you are not alone.  The internet is a big place and there will always be someone else going through or come through what you are.  I blog about my illness so much because when I was sick it helped me to read other peoples experiences.  It gave me practical tips and ideas on how I could manage but it stopped me feeling quite so alone.

Talk to family and friends if you can, but if not there is a whole world of support waiting for you online if you just look.  Asking for help is not failing, it is being sensible and accepting when you need a hand.

My one caveat to this is that forums can be depressing… people like to write about the bad times but are less likely to write about positive experiences, so if you feel that reading a forum is not helping just switch that shit off!

2 Take a deep breath

I would have titled this ‘Meditate’ or ‘Practice Mindfulness’ but those words turn off some people, they thing its hippyish or a bit silly.  The reality is that focusing solely on your breathing clears your mind.  Close your eyes and think about your in breath and your out breath.  Are you breathing through your nose or mouth? Control your breathing, inhaling slowly and the gently release that breath…

This simple act WILL calm you down.  I try to do this a couple of times a day, I find it really focuses my thoughts and makes my day calmer.

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

3 Knowledge is Power

I really believe that knowledge is power, it gives you control and allows to to make informed choices and rational decisions. If you feel out of control, everything seems worse.  Google it.  Go to the library.  Ask someone.  But learn about what it is you are going through.

4. Be kind to yourself

When life slaps you in the face you need to be kind to yourself.  What makes you feel better? Is it a night out with the girls or a movie in with the kids? Do the thing that relaxes you and makes you feel good, whether that is cooking an amazing meal for yourself, going to the library and hiding there reading all afternoon, a deep bath with oils and bubbles or a pamper of painting your nails or having a facial.

I don’t know what makes you feel better, you do, so do it.

5. Hide away

Its ok to feel you need to hide away, as long as its only temporary.  When things are bad I like to make myself a nest of cushions and duvets, I bring a picnic of foods to the nest that are easy to eat and need no cooking.  I climb into my nest with a remote and watch films or tv series… I love Netflix (my friends laugh at me, because I talk about it a lot!) My hideaway means slobbing in a corner and allowing myself to switch off.

6. Things will get better

I saw this quote that said “Everything is ok in the end, if its not ok, then its not the end”  Perhaps things won’t get better in the way you think they should but even the darkest night has a sunrise.  Be open to new experiences, be positive and grateful for the things you have and things will get better.

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

7 Look for the love and kindness around you

No matter what the Daily Fail wants you to think, people are generally good.  Of course there are arseholes in this life but most people have a heart filled with love and kindness if you just look for it.

Give out love and kindness to others and you will receive it back.

8 Get moving

I know its a cliche, but thats because it works.  When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the body.  It is proven to reduce stress, ward off anxiety, boost self esteem and improve sleep.  You don’t have to go to the gym or run a marathon, but a long walk in the woods with my dog always makes me feel a bit better about the world.

walking dog exercise for when things go wrong

9 Get organised – gain control

You might not be able to control what has happened, but you can control how you react and deal with it. Making lists or having a clear out is a physical way to help your mind feel organised.  I know that control is a big thing for me, if I feel out of control I get frustrated, angry and like Im in free fall.  Organise your space, use pinterest, get a note book, anything that helps you feel organised is going to help.

10 Know that you always have a choice.

No matter what happens, you do have a choice in how you react. Accept responsibility of your own actions, educate yourself, take a deep breath and know that you can face the worst things in the world, your reaction to them is your own doing.

EE Cummings said “remember one thing only; that it’s you – nobody else – who determines your destiny and decides your fate.  Nobody else can be alive for you; nor can you be alive for anybody else”

Sam xxx

Ulcerative Colitis and Stoma poetry


There was a pain inside me, it couldn’t be cured or healed

It ate away at the person I was, taking my time and my energy

It pulled me into the smallest room in the house and held me prisoner

The pills to fix were a poison, they give with one hand but take with the other

When even the soldiers no longer fight for you

The time comes, they will take the pain away

Remove the offending item, halt the bleeding, stop the war

My life changed at the hands of another

Suddenly there is light, there is a glimmer of joy

a feeling warms slowly, a hesitant smile plays on my lips

the battle is over, though there is still work that needs to be done

the person I thought had gone, was only hiding

She returns.


Sam Cleasby

IWD – Inspiring Women

Over on Team Honk for International Women’s Day they are celebrating Inspiring Women and asking others to share which woman inspires them.  They chose Davina McCall who I think is a great choice, but I would like to talk about the women who inspire me, and they are my two oldest friends Tania and Hannah.

best friends inspiring women iwd

Im so lucky that I had to think long and hard about who to choose, I have so many awesome women in my life and could blog forever if I had to list them all.

I met Tania and Hannah when we were all 11, it was year 7 of secondary school and I sat alone in my classroom and saw these two girls giggling.  They were total opposites, Tania is Chilean and dark haired and Hannah is pale with red hair and freckles.  I didn’t know it at that point, but they were to become my closest friends.

best friends inspiring women iwd

Can you spot us?

21 years later these women inspire me, they support me, lift my spirits and are just there.  Always there, even when they physically aren’t.  It doesn’t matter how long it is between the times we see each other, its just easy.  The amazing thing about women who have been friends for so long is that we know each other inside and out, these girls have supported me at my worst and celebrated with me at my best.

best friends inspiring women iwd

Tania is a real enigma, if you met her briefly you would say she is confident, beautiful, loud, the boss… But she has so many layers to her, 21 years and she still has the ability to surprise me.  She is so intelligent, spiritual and has such a kind heart.  She comes up with these crazy ideas and has the ability to get anyone on board, one minute we will be having dinner, the next she will have orchestrated a photo opportunity with us taking on the roles of the 12 disciples.

best friends inspiring women iwd

Hannah is the strongest woman I know.  She is this petite, quiet woman but man this girl kicks ass.  She is hard working, tough, brave and a truly wonderful mother.  She is also loving, caring, thoughtful, hilarious and flipping stunning!

Both of them are amazing and I love them more than I can say, when the shit hits the fan, they are two people who I need, not even want.  I need their guidance, their love and their uniquely, wonderfully bizarre friendship in my life.

best friends inspiring women iwd

When I am low I think of them, of Hannah who works 13 hour shifts as a nurse then cares for her two children whilst her husband is working away, all with a smile on her face.  Of Tania who astounds me with her drive and passion, her love of her family is unrivalled.  Of both of them and their ability to make me howl with laughter and bare my soul within the space of an hour…

best friends inspiring women iwd

My inspiring women are my friends.  Tania and Hannah.  Here’s to friendship, nurture your relationships with the people who matter, celebrate the amazing women in your life and tell them often how much they matter to you.

Inspiring Women Blogging Prompt

Love Sam xx