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Happy International Women's Day 2015

Hope you have all had a fantastic Women’s Day 2015.  I have had a weekend with friends and family and LOVED seeing my Facebook and Twitter feeds filled with wonderful stories of inspiring women and feminism.

I thought I would share my talk from last year’s International Women’s Day in Barnsley where I spoke about living with my ileostomy and how I overcame the massive changes that surgery brought me and how it affected my self esteem and body image.

 

Much love

 

Sam x

IWD talk at Barnsley Town Hall – Body Image and Self Esteem

On Saturday 8th March I was invited to talk at Barnsley Town Hall as part of International Women’s Day by Experience Barnsley.  My talk was about my journey of ten years of chronic illness, surgery and living with a stoma.  I talked about Ulcerative Colitis and how my colectomy and ileostomy affected my life.

It was about raising awareness, trying to stop poo being taboo and relating my story to the average woman.  It was about body image, self esteem, confidence and positivity and how we need to both learn how to love ourselves as women and how to pass these things onto the young women of future generations.

Have a watch and please feel free to leave me a comment telling what you think.

Thanks for watching!

Sam xx

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

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….”

Madonna

“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.

kate-nash-quote-feminism

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…

http://www.amiafuckingfeminist.com/

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

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

Ulcerative Colitis – a gift?

Anyone who has seen or heard me writhing in agony, weeping with embarrassment or slumping in an exhausted heap may read this post with a wry smile on their face, but I wanted to write about how despite all its tough times, Ulcerative Colitis has also been a gift.

When I was first diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis back in 2003 I went through a whole grieving process; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.  Once you have accepted the disease and the path it will lead you down, you realise that without it, you wouldn’t be the person you are today.  You realise that this disease has changed you, and on the whole, it has changed you for the better, you may be physically weaker, but the strength you have to find to deal with a chronic illness makes you a fuller, kinder and more open person.

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to romanticise Ulcerative Colitis or Crohns, it is a heavy cross to bear, there have been many times that I have cried till I had no tears left, that I took my anger out on those around me and that I shouted the immortal words of “WHY ME?! ITS NOT FAIR!!!!!”

But along with the hard times, the medication, the pain, the hospitalisation, the surgeries and the emotional war that rages within you during a flare up, having Ulcerative Colitis has also given me so much.  It has shown me that I am braver than I think I am, tough as an ox and that I have it in me to inspire others.

When I was a mother of three by the time I was 23 with no qualifications and then given what at the time felt like a life sentence of blood and shit, I never thought I would be at a point where my words were being read by thousands, that I would receive messages of support and cries for help from all over the world.  I never believed I would be asked to speak at International Women’s Day, little old me? Im just a girl from Sheffield who doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up!

ibd warrior inner strength confidence ostomy ileostomy bag

Ulcerative Colitis has lead me down a path of meeting people like me, who deal with this disease every day, who I can talk about the things that would turn most peoples stomachs and just make us laugh.

It has shown me that I am surrounded by the love and support of my family and friends.  When I was in hospital for surgery last year and in the months since, I have been completely overwhelmed by the compassion, kindness, humour, love and help of those around me.

It has made sure Im damn straight on the fact that life is precious.  You never know what you will face and my Ulcerative Colitis reminds me that you are here once and not for very long.  Live hard, live with love and follow your dreams.  Don’t waste time on the shit that means nothing, concentrate on what you want and how you can get there.  Hold your loved ones close and enjoy life.

It has made me take stock of what is important to me.  My husband, my children, my family, my friends, my self esteem, my morals.  It made me look at where I wanted to be and made me make it happen.  My husband and I sold up and moved to a big rented mill in the countryside to expand our photography business, The Picture Foundry, it was scary (still is!!) and hard work but making the move has improved our lives and brought us closer together, our business is thriving and moving forward all the time.  Ulcerative Colitis really moulded me into a person who is brave enough to make the changes I want in life.

It has stopped me being afraid.  Or at least made me work on my fears.  After having major surgery to have your bowel removed it makes you feel like you have faced the toughest times and so those things that frightened you before are no where NEAR as big or bad as the disease you live with.

It has taught me to respect and love my body.  Its the only one I have and despite its faults I need to look after it.  After all it has been through I think it is pretty amazing! Yes, it has a stoma and scars but I have learnt to embrace the changes and not be embarrassed of them.  Through weight gain from steroids, epic diarrhoea, being pumped full of drugs and being cut open, my body has stayed resilient and kept me going through it all.  I love my battered and scarred body.

sunbathing with an ileostomy stoma ostomy travel holidays bikini swimwear

Finally Ulcerative Colitis gave me the opportunity to slow down and release control.  When I am ill, when I had surgery, I needed to release the reins and allow myself to be weak, to be cared for and to let others in.  It made me realise that my husband is amazing, he cares for me in such a tender, honest and funny way.  He never judges, never wavers in his love or attraction for me and makes everything better.

Its good to be a strong person, to have self esteem and confidence, but now and then it is good to relax, to be cared for and treasured.  Im lucky to have such amazing people around me.

woman with stoma ileostomy ostomy stoma images

Im lucky to have had Ulcerative Colitis.

Sam x

International Women's day 2014

I was absolutely thrilled and blown away to be invited to be a speaker at Experience Barnsley’s International Women’s Day event on 8th March this year at Barnsley Town Hall.  It is £2.50 a ticket so if anyone fancies coming to hear me talk about bowels, shit and self esteem I would greatly appreciate the support!

international womens day 2014

 

Along with three other amazing speakers I will be doing a talk about my journey with IBD and how this and my ileostomy affect self esteem and body image.

Dr Lorna Warren is a lecturer at the University of Sheffield and is doing a talk on a project called Look at Me which has worked with women in Sheffield to explore representations of women and ageing in the media and to produce new images to challenge existing stereotypes.  An amazing project that you can see more about here.

Anne Fay is the head of education at Wallace Collection and her talk on The Beau Monde sounds fantastic.

Author and Lecturer Katie Edwards talk on religion and feminism is one Im really looking forward to.

It is an honour to share a stage with these women and though Im frankly terrified I am hoping to deliver a speech that will explain both the physical, emotional and mental affects of illness and surgery on female body image.  Ill be discussing how I dealt with the last ten years of ulcerative colitis and then my operation and how positivity has played a huge role in dealing with the emotional side of living with a stoma.

I talk about poo A LOT on this blog and the thought of talking shit to a room full of people is both amusing and scary.  In September when I lay in HDU at the Northern General in Sheffield covered in tubes, with my arms full of canulas and feeling so weak that I couldn’t lift my head, I never dreamed that six months later I would be standing in Barnsley Town Hall being a speaker for Yorkshire women.

Thanks so much for the support of all you people who regularly read my blog, Facebook and twitter.  Being part of International Women’s Day is an absolute dream come true and I just hope I do you all proud.

Thanks

 

Sam x