Don’t worry, I don’t have a mac and follow people around at night flashing my boobies. But I am a very proud flasher of my osteomy bag and here’s why…
I have had many comments about the images I share of my ileostomy bag, most of them are positive but I get the occasional one that says ‘why are you doing this? We don’t want to see it! Is nothing private any more? Won’t somebody think of the children?!!!’
OK, I may have made the last one up! But the point is that people do seem offended by the fact that I happily flash my bag, and these comments always seem to come from a person in the position of priviledge who have never had to face the scary event of surgery to remove your bowel and being fitted with a colostomy or ileostomy bag.
So why do I do it?
I remember sitting in a hospital bed, having just been told that I had to have surgery and they were going to remove my entire large intestine and I would have a stoma, they were going to give me an ileostomy bag and I was in tears. I was terrified, I couldn’t imagine how my life would be afterwards and though I was in part relieved to see an end to the severe and excrutiating pain, diarrhoea, accidents and misery of ulcerative colitis, I was also devastated.
I thought my life would be over, how would I ever feel beautiful or sexy again? What would my husband think of my new body? Would I ever wear a bikini again? Would my new body inspire disgust from others? Would I be able to love myself? I sat in bed weeping and I felt so lonely.
I googled ostomy bags and it came up with frightening, medical images of sick, old people in bed wearing huge bags on their stomachs looking sad and frail. And I felt numb. Was this the end of life as I knew it? This was in 2013 and there were no UK bloggers talking about this, no one sharing their images of a happy life, no positive, joyful photos, just misery and illness.
And that is why I started this blog. And that is why I am proud to flash my bag.
You see, though life can still be tough now, my ostomy bag changed my life for the better in so many ways, it gave me back a sense of control over my body, it made me feel well again, it stopped the pain and the isolation that 9 years of ulcerative colitis had caused. And once I had the surgery, I realised that rather than fear and sadness, when I looked at my bag and my body I felt pride! I felt strong and powerful, I felt like I had dealt with a huge surgery and my body was still standing.
I realised that I never wanted another person to sit alone, frightened and crying in a hospital bed, wondering what their life would hold for them with a stoma. I wanted to be the image that came up when they googled that showed them happiness, a fresh start, a normal life, damn it an EXTRAORDINARY life!
I wanted to be a small ray of light in an otherwise frightening time that could show someone that life with an ostomy bag is a positive and wonderful thing. That they could be what they wanted to be with their bag, that it wasn’t something to be feared or disgusted by, but to be proud of.
I wanted to show the world that my ostomy bag saved my life and that I am proud of it and myself.
I wanted to show that I can feel beautiful, sexy, strong, powerful and like ME.
I will never stop flashing my bag because every time I do, I get messages from people thanking me, saying that it helps to see others with a bag, that it inspires them to be proud of their bodies, that even if they don’t want to show their own bag, that they share my images to explain to their friends and family what they have.
Should everyone flash their bag?
No, of course not! It is a totally private and personal decision, I am happy to flash my bag but that doesn’t mean that everyone should. I hope that showing my bag off will help those people who want to wear a bikini on a beach to do it with pride, to show them not to be scared of being themselves. But some people are very private and don’t want to have their ostomy bag on show and their privacy is as important as my desire to flash mine.
The stigma around talking about poo is part of day to day life, generally if we talk about toilet habits, it is done by making fun about it. We find it hard to have an honest and open conversation about our bowels and that needs to change. This fear of talking bums stops people from accessing medical help when they have bowel issues, it stops them from asking for help and that can have a hugely negative effect on our health.
The aim of my blog has always been to help others, to stop poo being taboo and to raise awareness of IBD, Crohns, Colitis, Ostomy bags and invisible impairments as a whole. If I have to continue flashing this scarred body of mine and showing off my ostomy bag to keep the conversation going then I will do this till the day I die.
I am a flasher and proud!
Love Sam xx