I started this year with two hopes, no surgeries and no house moves. I did both! Two massive ops and one house move! I thought it only right to have a look back at how 2016 treated me, to be honest, it wasn’t great, there were some extremely dark and sad times, but there were also moments of pure joy. So here we go…
I started 2016 in a bad way, I had had chronic pouchitis on and off for over a year and I was so drained and fed up, I talked about it in my post about what chronic illness is really like. That was all to change quite suddenly though when it was decided to remove my pouch and create a permanent ileostomy on 4th January. I had my jpouch, rectum and anus removed and my new stoma formed, it was a TOUGH surgery and I came round feeling battered, bruised and done in.
Then just weeks afterwards came the shock death of my grandfather. The whole family was devastated and I had to deal with the funeral and mourning period whilst being in a very difficult recovery. All in all, January was shit.
February was all about recovery, and celebrating that The Plug nightclub in Sheffield raised lots of money for Crohns and Colitis UK in my name! I went shopping for clothes that fit with my ostomy and felt a bit down around my difficult recovery and also had phantom rectum!
In March, I wrote a letter to my babies that still makes me cry, it was about how proud I was of how they had dealt with my illness and surgeries. It was an emotional month and I think all the stress on my mind and body were stirring up a lot of old feelings, I decided to write about a time in my childhood when I was groomed and faced sexual assault. It was scary to write about but I was really proud to speak out, I went on BBC radio and was in Red magazine and I got so many brave and beautiful messages afterwards from women thanking me for talking about it.
April was an exciting month, my sister, brother in law and nice visited us from Australia and I couldn’t have been happier!
I also reviewed the Riksack which ended in me going on This Morning and sitting on the sofa with Phil and Holly! An absolute highlight of my career!!!
I wrote a really popular post about why I show off my ostomy bag after reading some negative comments about people who choose to show photos of themselves online with the ostomy bag on show and Timm and I attended the Get Your Belly Out ball which was amazing!!
I took part in the GirlGang photography project #SeeMySelfie which was lots of fun. I also found out that I had not one, but TWO hernias and would have to face yet more surgery, I was absolutely devastated.
I shared the videos that I had been in for Opus Healthcare about ostomy care, and reviewed the brilliant Vanilla Blush ostomy underwear. I went on Sheffield Live TV again and went on BBC Sheffield sharing My Life So Far with Rony Robinson.
In June, the past 6 months of surgeries, loss, recovery, hernias and tough times caught up with me and I finally spoke honestly about how I was feeling and my mental health. I had been having anxiety attacks and very low moods for months and I was finally ready to speak out about it.
June also saw my birthday, I have always wanted a surprise party, and Timm has always said that I would never have one because I always ask for it! But this year, he got me! It was wonderful fun and really lifted my spirits in what otherwise was a dark month.
I didn’t blog in July, I wasn’t great mentally and decided to put my time into family and friends. I spent a lot of time in the allotment, went to a few gigs that my son’s band Goathead played and also enjoyed Tramlines.
I worked away with Responsible Fishing doing their Camp Cardboard project and generally tried my best to just get through each day. It wasn’t a great time but I tried to make the most of it.
I went on holiday to Cheddar with Timm and the kids in August and had a great week camping. It was the summer holidays, so I spent lots of time with the kids and Timm, going for walks, picnics, days out and more and after weeks off, I returned to blogging.
Lots more time in the allotment, I found it really therapeutic to be outdoors, working in the ground and growing lots of amazing fruits and veggies, I was struggling mentally and this helped me a lot. I was also struggling with my hernias that were getting larger, more painful and a lot more difficult to cope with.
In September, I celebrated my 3 year no coloniversary! Three years since I had my colon removed and my first ostomy formed. It was also my son’s 16th birthday which was brilliant!
I went and did some work for Good Morning Britain which was super exciting! I went around the London underground with a Transport for London badge for people with invisible disabilities to see if people would offer me a seat whilst they did some secret filming! Lots of fun!!
Then at the end of September after weeks of terrible pain and struggles to cope, I ended up in A&E with my hernias. I suddenly got agonising pain in the stomach and my hernia in my belly button got stuck through my tummy. After 2 days in hospital, I was taken in for a 5 1/2 hour surgery that opened me up and reconstructed the walls of my stomach, moved muscles and added pig skin mesh and medical mesh to fix the holes and damage to my abdomen. I was devastated to have more surgery and the recovery was extremely painful and difficult. But I was going to have to cope as October was meant to be the month of our big trip to India!
I had no idea if I would be well enough to travel to India, we had booked everything and the thought of cancelling and losing so much money was scary, but more upsetting was that the trip was to celebrate the life of my Grandpa and to spread his ashes. I decided that I would do everything I could to go.
So THREE WEEKS after surgery, I went to India.
Even now, I can’t believe I did it. I was in lots of pain for the whole trip, had to use a wheelchair for the first two weeks and struggled with my new ostomy in the heat. It was probably the hardest three weeks I have faced for a long time, feeling absolutely terrible but also having the enormous pressure of wanting Timm, my mum and the kids to have a great time. I desperately didn’t want to spoil it for anyone else.
Even though it was so hard, it was also an amazing time and I am glad we went. Brave or stupid? I am still not entirely sure, but I know that being at the memorial football match for my grandpa with 24 family members and seeing his ashes being spread on the football pitch he had played on 60 years ago was a beautiful and special moment that I am so glad I made it to.
I also enjoyed the absolute honour of becoming a Community Champion for Crohns and Colitis UK, they say:
“We are honoured to recognise several dedicated supporters as Community Champions, because of their dedication, passion and exceptional efforts. Community Champions do incredible work across the UK, they are campaigning to raise awareness in the media, striving to resolve stigma associated with bowel conditions, raising money that funds research, support lines and much more as well as volunteering to support their local community.”
We were in India till mid November travelling to Delhi, Goa and Mizoram and we had the most wonderful time, it really was a trip of a lifetime! I struggled with my health but we managed to muddle through. In Goa, my stoma retracted right back into my body and so my bags wouldn’t stick properly, this was a nightmare as it meant I was leaking everywhere and my skin became so raw and painful. One afternoon, Timm made a bed for me on the balcony, I was really sad to be stuck in bed and struggling with bags and so I asked him to help me get settled outside so I would at least have an amazing view…
We came home from India to even more exciting news, I had applied for a job with Scope and I was thrilled to get it! I was a little worried about how I would cope with work and recovery but so far, though it is tough, I am doing well!
I look after the online community for Scope and I am absolutely LOVING it, it is such a great opportunity to offer support to disabled people and their families all over the UK. I love the work I do with my blog and I just feel that my job at Scope is an extension of this. It is tough, I am still recovering from the surgeries and I do struggle with fatigue from my illness, I take a lot of medication still and there are times when it is really quite tough to get through the days. I have to have a nap during my lunch breaks but I think you just do what you need to, to get through your days when you have a chronic illness. But so far, I love my job and feel so lucky to have this opportunity and to be able to work from home.
In December, I have been working hard, dealing with recovery and enjoying family time. Christmas has been a lovely and quiet time, just the five of us.
Over on my Facebook page, I asked people to share what they would pack to go into hospital for ostomy surgery to help others who are in that position and then shared the results on the blog. It got such a brilliant response and I am so proud to have such a wonderful bunch of readers and followers!
I also decided to create a 360 photography project about IBD called #MyDailyIBD where I take a photo a day to create a diary of my life with IBD. I have encouraged others to take part and I hope it will be a lovely way for us all to raise awareness of IBD.
December also was tinged with sadness, a few years ago, I met a man online called Darrell Henry on a jpouch support group and instantly connected with him. He had cancer and was hilarious, strong willed, inspiring and an all round awesome fella. We started messaging and became friends through our shared lack of a colon and dark sense of humour and though we never met, he was a big part of my life and taught me so much.
Darrell passed away in December and so I have to dedicate this whole post to him. Rest in Peace my handsome pal!
So there we go! My 2016 in brief… I had to pick just a few things from each month and so I know I have missed so much out but I hope you enjoyed reading through my year.
It has been a shitty year all round really, so many well known faces passing away, Brexit, Trump and personally, it was a really difficult year with two huge surgeries and the subsequent recovery. I have been in pain pretty much all year, I haven’t had a full night’s sleep for as long as I can remember, I have struggled with my mental health, lost my grandfather, had family problems, lost a friend and generally had a pretty shit time. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.
But I have to stay positive and think of the great things that have happened this year too, our holidays, a new home, a new job, brilliantly funny and wonderful nights out with friends, the opportunities I have had to be on TV and radio and so many moments of quiet happiness, little things like date nights with my husband, hugs with the kids, walks with the dogs, my allotment and many more.
So my hopes for 2017? I don’t want to make any resolutions but I am hoping that for the first year in the past 3, that I won’t have to have any surgeries!!
I really hope that the coming year will bring me recovery and health. And despite everything, hope is one thing that I must keep strong.
Happy New Year bad asses, I hope you have a good one!