Six years ago today, I had my colon removed and my first ileostomy formed! And what a ride it has been since then!!
You can read that first update Timm made after the surgery here, it is weird to read back. We were both so naïve and knew so little compared to now!
What has changed? The 4th ileostomy!
So much has happened since then. I have had 7 more surgeries, a jpouch, a jpouch removed, multiple hernias, fatigue, joint pain, months in hospital, my butt removed and 3 more ileostomies!! I have also gained so much, I started working for Scope and presenting for the BBC. So Bad Ass reached well over 3 MILLION views and had many amazing opportunities. I have worked with Crohns and Colitis Uk on their campaigns. It was amazing to be named as one of the 100 most influential disabled people in the UK. I have spoken at events all over Europe and the UK and met some wonderful people!
Some things haven’t been great. I never knew that first surgery would set me off on a path to 7 more in 6 years. Sometimes, it has felt too much to bear and on more than one occasion I have wondered ‘why me?’ I have seen people I thought loved me leave me. I have felt more alone than ever in my life. Like the burden of my illness was too much for those around me.
Through it all though, the ileostomy bag really did give me a life back. It has given me back control and allowed me to travel the world and actually plan things in with my family. If I could do it again, would I? Well hindsight is a wonderful thing. Maybe if I knew the pain I would face over and over again, I would have been too afraid to go ahead with the surgery. But maybe the outcome would have been very different if I hadn’t had my colon removed. Maybe I wouldn’t still be here, or maybe I would be here but still sat on the toilet 20 times a day in tears?
What advice would you give yourself?
None of us have a crystal ball and we have to roll with the punches and do what feels right at the time. I’m sure I have made mistakes and could have done things differently but today I was thinking about what advice I would give myself back 6 years ago. So here it goes:
It’s ok to be scared/sad/angry. I think 6 years ago I felt like I had to feel grateful for just being alive and that any ‘negative’ feelings were me letting myself and others down. This is rubbish. All emotions are necessary and none should be shunned. You body and your life will be changing a lot and you need to process all these changes. Allow yourself the time to feel what you are feeling.
Speak up – talk to the people closest to you about what is going on physically and mentally. Tell them how you feel and what you need.
There is no right way to ‘cope’ – What works for one person won’t work for the next. Listen to your body, listen to your heart.
Don’t do too much too soon. I know how hard it is to rest up, but you have been through a HUGE surgery! You need to give your body so much time to heal. I have always done too much too soon and I have lived to regret it.
You are a warrior. You have come through a tough surgery and your body looks and feels very different, you have a hard path in front of you, but you are a warrior and you can do this!
Think positively. I know, I know, you just rolled your eyes!! But really, it is easy to slip into negative thinking. There will be positives in your life, no matter how small, and trying to find those silver linings in your day can help so much.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice back when you were diagnosed or to a point of your illness where it changed, what would it be? If you have an ileostomy, what advice would you have wanted to hear?