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Happy Anniversary

Today is our 11th wedding anniversary!

We married in Las Vegas in 2004 and renewed our wedding vows last year and I couldn’t be happier.

Life isn’t always plain sailing and we have had our moments of struggle, but we came through everything stronger than before and that Cleasby bloke and I, when we are together, we are a force to be reckoned with.

Over the last 2 years of surgeries, recovery and change, Timm has been my rock. The one person I can tell it all to, the one to hold my hand, to make it all better and to love me harder than ever before. He became my carer for a while and did it with love, sensitivity and respect.

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People tell me I am strong. But I am only strong because Timm is my roots, he holds me tall and supports my growth.

When life is good, he walks by my side, both of us smiling into the sun. But sometimes life just gets so heavy, my shoulders aren’t broad enough to carry the weight, that is when he steps in and scoops me up. When I need him to, he will carry the weight of both of us and does so with a smile. Then as it gets easier, he sets me down and we carry on our path together.

 

 

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I just hope that when he needs me, I will carry him in the same way.

Happy anniversary to my favourite person in the whole world.

Sam x

2014 – what a year!

What a year! I started 2014 in Sydney with my sister and our families, we travelled up the coast and had an epic road trip.  It has also brought me a hernia, a house move, surgery to create my jpouch, a couple of weeks in hospital, a new life learning to live without my colon or ileostomy bag and one more hernia!

I have been on the radio a few times, done talks all over the UK, hit my 100K views on So Bad Ass (now up to 160K) and started a writing course.  I also visited my aunty and uncle in Spain and honeymooned in Lanzarote with Timm  I made a new friend who has a stoma… we made friends because we have no colons but stayed friends because we are awesome and he makes me laugh in a rather unladylike fashion and knows, like really knows…  I made new friends without stomas who I now feel like I have known forever and I hung out with so many old friends who made every tough part of my year easier and every lovely part of my year happier.

We bought a hot tub, I got a big tattoo, I met Chuck D and Flavor Flav, went on a nudist beach and my sister came over to the UK to visit with her family.

I renewed my wedding vows to the best husband in the whole world in the BEST WEDDING EVER surrounded by all my absolute favourite people and married by one of my best friends Violet.

2014 has had it’s ups and downs.  The wedding was amazing, it was just the most beautiful and perfect day and to get to marry my perfect bloke for the second time was the best thing ever and my total highlight of the year.

The surgery was tough, 10 days in hospital after a long, difficult surgery and now 7 months later I am still recovering and learning how to deal with my jpouch.  The past 18 months have been the toughest of my life.  Being so ill and having life changing surgeries have been at times almost too much to bear, there were times when I felt so low, so broken and in so much pain that I just didn’t know how I would cope.

I learnt that coping is the only option.  Every day, no matter how hard it is, you have to just keep plodding, just keep swimming, just keep going… Having fantastic people around you helps and I am lucky enough to have some of the best.  My amazing husband, family and friends make it all bearable in those dark moments and I can’t thank them enough.

This year has seen So Bad Ass turn from a small personal blog into something that is read all over the world and (hopefully) helps people.  All I ever wanted from this blog is to make a difference to other people, to use my pain and my journey to help other people with IBD, to use it to raise awareness, raise money for Crohns and Colitis UK and to help people everywhere to have better self esteem, body confidence and to love themselves.

You are all amazing and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for every read, every like, every tweet, every share, every kind word.  You are awesome!

Enjoy and I will see you in 2015!

 

xx

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ostomy photoshoot sexy ileostomy 50s pin up photo shoot so bad ass sam cleasby

 

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Thanks again for an amazing year, if you fancy doing something wonderful please go to my Just Giving page and give whatever you can to Crohns and Colitis UK.

 

Have an amazing christmas and a brilliant New Year!

 

See you in 2015

 

Sam xxx

A love letter to myself

Dear Sam,

This is a little awkward but here we go, this is a love letter to you because you need to hear this.  Society tells us that it is immodest to love yourself and the marketing people of the world don’t want you to love yourself but after a really shitty year, let’s just go for it.

You have been through so much and I am really proud of you, you battled so hard and I am amazed that you have come through this experience a stronger person.  Though at times you are frightened, angry and distressed, you have taken it all on board and made something amazing from a terrible situation.

I know you feel you have to always have a smile on your face, that you created this public face of positivity that sometimes makes it difficult to admit when you are struggling.  But you have had to learn let yourself be sad, let yourself cry, let yourself be angry.

I love that you love your friends, that you care about them and try to be there, your kindness has been repaid 100 times over during your recovery and you are lucky to have such wonderful mates around you.  I love that you want everyone to be happy but you know that sometimes you need to take some time for yourself.

You have learnt that you need to look after yourself, that your body is the only place you have to live, that means accepting it’s weaknesses and recognising when you need to stop and rest.  You realise how important you are, and that you can’t help others if you are broken yourself.

I love that you have learnt to love your body, that you have accepted your new shape, your scars and your modified self with pride and joy.  It hasn’t been an easy path but your new found happiness has not only benefitted yourself but has become a role model for others.

I love that after a long time of feeling that your career path was lost in the woods, that you have cleared the trees and discovered these strengths that you didn’t know you had.  Your childhood dream of being a writer that you thought was a silly fantasy is coming true through your own hard work and you are carving your own career and making your own opportunities.

I love that you are silly. That you are ok with playing the fool and know that your laughter is far sexier than any pout.  I love that you did a ropy poly across a dance floor just to see the look on all the “beautiful people’s” faces.  I love that as you grow older and relax more, your humour grows without shame.

I love that you are learning that you can’t fix everyone and that sometimes, no matter how hard it feels, you need to cut people from your day to day life who don’t bring you anything positive.  I love that you are learning that you shouldn’t be a doormat and that ‘no’ is a full sentence.

I love your interests in penguins, dinosaurs, collecting found shopping lists, learning about obscure, random things, knitting, reading and whatever else takes your fancy.  I love that you like these things despite others mocking you for them.  You know your interests should make you happy, not anyone else.

I love that you adore your children.  That you accept that being a mother means constant adapting and learning, you know you aren’t a perfect mum but you try your best and know that is enough.  I love that your children haven’t been scarred by your illness but it has taught them to be more empathetic, caring and open.

I love that you have found a man who makes every part of your life better.  Though you have had really tough times over the last 16 years, the past year that would have broke some people has just brought you so much closer together.  You are a lucky woman to have a person in your life who sees through everything and loves your soul.

I love that you are learning that the hard shell you put up for years didn’t just keep out the hurtful words but it kept out some good people and so you have learnt to drop the shield.  Your path hasn’t always been easy and I know you have anger and hurt when you think of your youth but I love that you are learning to deal with that.  You have been rough on yourself but you are learning to be kinder.  I know you didn’t always feel like you had people to guide you towards making healthy decisions, but that has made you the person you are and I forgive you for all the mistakes you have made along the way.

Your decision to take the last difficult year of illness and recovery and make something positive of it is a real achievement.  This love letter is just one way that you are hoping to teach others to love themselves and I hope you continue and make a difference to the lives of other people.  I love that you blog your journey without shame or embarrassment in the hope that it will help others.

So here we come to the end of this awkward letter of self love, all I can finish with are the words of the great Dory.

Just keep swimming…

 

Love Sam xx

Wedding Video

As some regular readers may know, on 6th September 2014 Timm and I renewed our wedding vows after 10 years of marriage.  It was at the end of the toughest year of our lives, almost exactly a year before I had a subtotal colectomy and ileostomy and 4 months before I had another big surgery to create a jpouch.

This year was HARD and there were times that we really considered cancelling the renewal of our vows but we decided we would go with it, we wanted to celebrate together that our marriage was stronger than ever despite the enormous pressures we had faced and we really wanted to celebrate with our family and friends and have a day filled with joy, love and happiness.

We invited Helene from Cuckoo Films to document the day for us.  We wanted an overview of the wedding renewal and something that would show our personalities.  We are blown away with the result.  I cry EVERY time I watch it and just feel so blessed and happy.

Thank you tons to John Ashton of Little Gem for the amazing soundtrack.

 

Enjoy x

 

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The wedding renewal was last Saturday and was just perfect…

I will do a full blog post when I get my photos and video back but till then all I can say is that it was the best day of my life…

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You can see a sneak preview of just a few of our photographs by our very talented photographer Mark Tierney from Tierney Photography here.

 

Sam xxx

Say 'I love you' every day

Im an emotional person and Im vocal with my love for the people around me, every night I say to the kids ‘Night night, I love you‘, it is just automatic and part of our routine.  But do we tell the people around us that we love, appreciate and care about them enough? Is it enough to just think ‘they KNOW I care about them’?

Recently I went and stayed with my aunty and uncle in Spain, it was a last minute trip and it was wonderful to get away from the stresses of life here, to sit in the sun and have a week with wonderful family and friends and just not think about surgery, illness or hospitals.  I was welcomed so warmly and they really looked after me, I am so grateful.

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One thing struck me whilst I was there, my aunty told me every day, multiple times that she loved me.  She showered me in compliments and was so openly loving and caring.  She held my hands as we talked, hugged me, called me pet names and told me how much she cared about me.  I watched her do the same to her two adult sons, telling them how much she loved and adored them.  They rolled their eyes but you could see a small smile on their faces.  Because hearing that you are loved makes you feel amazing.

I had never thought about it before, I tell Timm and the kids I love them, but I don’t compliment them or gush with love as much as I could.  It is damn near impossible to be in a bad mood or feel sorry for yourself when you are being told how brilliant you are.  It is probably an ego thing, but it really went much deeper than that.

I felt warm and happy, my soul felt nurtured and my heart full.  It made me want to share that love and happiness, it made me feel open and accepting, contented and peaceful.

Since I have been home I make a point of complimenting the people around me and telling them I love them, especially the kids.  At first it felt slightly uncomfortable, they eyed me suspiciously when out of nowhere I told them how proud I was of them, that they were so talented, kind, beautiful and awesome, that I loved them so, so much.  This made me sad and made me want to tell them these things more often.  It isn’t enough to say ‘they know I love them’ and I certainly don’t want them growing up thinking “My mum rarely told me she loved me” I want them to be rolling their eyes and saying “Enough mum!!!” whilst secretly loving the fact they grew up KNOWING that I adore them.

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It goes further though, I make sure I tell the people around me that I love them, even if it is in a card, or a telephone sign off.  When I believe my friends are courageous and wonderful I tell them, yes I sometimes worry Ill sound corny but Id rather feel like a cheese ball and them know I adore them than silently think it and them not know.

Think about it now, when was the last time you complimented your partner? A real heartfelt, honest, love filled phrase.  I saw my sister in law say on Facebook that she didn’t care if it were corny, but that she adored her husband and he was the best man in the world.  He replied with an equally loving statement and it was lovely.  They are two people who are so open with their adoration for each other that you can’t help but feel a bit smiley and coy when you are around them.  Its really beautiful!

Since being more open with my compliments and saying ‘I love you’ every day I can honestly say that I feel better, Im happier and I find that the more love you put out there, the more you get back.

My kids have stopped assuming that I am going to ask them to mow the lawn and have started telling me that they love me back.  Even the 13 year old lad and that is saying something!  We hug more, we laugh more and we love more.  All from those three little words…

Sam xxx

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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

Bride with an ileostomy bag

I have been married to my awesome husband Timm for ten years in May 2014, we married in Las Vegas with Elvis in gold lame, an amazing experience that was so fun and just right for us at the time.  We had two small kids and the pressures of planning a big white wedding got to us and so we packed up and eloped to have the most ridiculous, fantastic wedding we could think of!

viva las vegas wedding

viva las vegas wedding

We had an absolute ball and it was just right for us, but it was marred with sadness that some people who really mattered to us couldn’t make it.  So for our tenth wedding anniversary we decided to renew our vows, that is happening this September in a ceremony and reception that we can invite all our nearest and dearest to.

I am currently in the midst of planning the whole shebang, I am spending more time than is healthy on pinterest and just trying to plan the perfect wedding for us now, ten years older and wiser.  Im looking at beautiful venues, Ive asked my (NINE) bridesmaids if they will be part of our day, we are looking at food and music, themes and Im spending a LOT of time reading Rock n Roll Bride.

But Im also feeling worried.  Im thinking about how this will be a day where Timm and I are centre of attention and crazy scared about being a bride with an ileostomy bag.  I brazen it out most of the time and if you read my blog you know Im not against showing my bag off, it helps me to think Im helping raise awareness when I talk about my experiences with a stoma but sometimes it hits me hard.

As I look through hundreds of beautiful wedding dresses I look at the fronts to see if my ileostomy bag would be on show, I think about where waist bands will sit and whether they will cut across my bag, I wonder whether my forced cheer will hold out on me wearing a big white dress.  I think about the horrific consequences of a bag leak in a wedding frock!!!

I see all this gorgeous, silky, lacy wedding underwear and laugh wryly wondering if they do anything to fit around a stoma, then I get scared that I won’t be a ‘proper’ bride whilst sporting an ileostomy under my gown.  I wailed at Timm this morning that Im going to be a bride that smells of poo… He laughed his head off and reminded me that I never smell of poo and gave me a cuddle.

Im finding it hard to put into words how I feel about being a bride with a bag, of course I know it doesn’t make a difference, but I can’t help feeling a bit sad that I won’t be a ‘perfect’ bride.  Id love to be able to take the stoma off for a day, to have one day where Im not thinking about medical things.  I want my bridal handbag to be filled with pretty things and perhaps a drop of dutch courage, not stoma adhesive and barrier creams.  I don’t want to have to worry that if I drink champagne that my bag will get gassy and Id rather my wedding night didn’t involve a big plastic bag stuck to my stomach!

I sometimes worry that Timm shouldn’t have to deal with all this, that he should  have a wife who doesn’t carry bodily waste around with her.  And I suppose those feelings are coming to a head whilst planning our renewal.  I DO know that all these things are in my head, that in reality Im a super lucky woman who has a husband who loves her.  I also know that our wedding renewal is about love.  Its a celebration of our relationship, our joy, our devotion to one another.  Its nothing to do with being perfect, anyone who has been together fifteen years knows their partner isn’t perfect, because we are all deliciously and uniquely flawed, its what makes us who we are.

Timm said to me this morning “I think you are beautiful at your very worst, at your best you have me in tears”

And thats why Im marrying him.  Again.

Love Sam xx

Stoma Art

I found this artwork called ‘The Lovers’ – its the first stoma art I have seen and I love it!

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I can’t find who it is by though, so if this is yours then please let me know and Ill add a credit.

 

Love Sam x