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Getting out in nature to heal

If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen that the past two weekends, I have been off adventuring in my camper van with my husband Timm. And it has been joyous!

After a tough year, with surgery in Feb and a difficult recovery that ran straight into lockdown, I have felt incredible closed in. I had been to the supermarket and walked my dog in the park, but had barely been anywhere else since January. So when it was allowed to camp overnight, we headed straight out.

VW campervan in the Peak District

We have a 1968 VW campervan that we bought last year and I love it so much. For years, we had a caravan and used to camp every year with our kids and friends. But as the kids have got older, they are less thrilled about the idea of camping with us for a week! We have always wanted a VW Campervan and so last year, we treated ourselves and made the leap! We also bought a large bell tent style awning tent that attached to the van and is lovely and cosy, so if the kids do want to come with us, they still have that option. (Seriously, it has a log burner in it!!!)

Sam and Timm Cleasby, man, woman and Chihuahua sat on a log at Padley Gorge

So we have been out the past two weekends, exploring, setting off with only a vague idea of where we would head. Or a final destination with a random route. I have learnt to read a map! Something that I have never really taken much notice of because of Sat Navs and maps on your phone. But the thing with these things is that it gives you the fastest route to a place, not necessarily the most interesting.

For example, last weekend, we headed to the coast. But I navigated via a road map, this meant that I found interesting places along the way and we stopped off at a medieval village that I never knew even existed.

Man and woman in front of a brick building that has the sign saying wharram on it at wharram Percy medieval village

Getting out in the camper is just heaven to me. Just changing your scenery, especially after months of lockdown, is wonderful. I know, but sometimes forget, how much being out in nature positively effects me. Even if that is just a walk in my local park, the green, the fresh air, the exercise, it changes my mood almost instantly.

Mind have the following information about how being in nature can benefit you.

“Spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. For example, doing things like growing food or flowers, exercising outdoors or being around animals can have lots of positive effects. It can:

man and woman wild swimming

Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. For example, research into ecotherapy (a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. This might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature.

Being outside in natural light can also be helpful if you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of year. And people tell us that getting into nature has helped them with many other types of mental health problems.”

beach view at Cayton Bay Scarborough at sunset

Of course, it is easy for me to say this when I am feeling emotionally and mentally healthy. But for some people there can be many barriers to getting out. It could be that you are feeling low and unmotivated. I remember at my lowest that the thought of just getting out of bed was too much, let alone heading out into nature for a walk. My GP was wonderful and offered so much support, he actually “prescribed” me to get out of the house every day. He said even if I could just get outside my house and sit in the fresh air for 10 minutes, it would be beneficial. He told me to try and walk, with my phone off and my head up; to look around me and appreciate my surroundings. This way of pushing me really helped. I felt like it was a prescribed part of getting better. I would take my anti depressant, go to my talking therapy and get outside every day, even when I really didn’t want to.

It can also be tough if you have physical barriers, if you struggle with fatigue or pain. Or if you physically struggle to get out alone. Unfortunately a lot of places are still inaccessible to wheelchair users or people with mobility issues. I found this website, The Outdoor Guide, that has a list of wheelchair friendly walks around Britain. If there is nothing on here near you, you could ask friends or family for their suggestions or on social media or your local disability groups.

Man and woman smiling to camera

Some people struggle with socialising with others or they feel isolated and don’t have anyone to go out with. If you don’t do well in groups or crowds, perhaps you can find somewhere quiet in your local park. Just sitting under a tree or finding a less used space. And if you are looking for someone to get out and walk with, check out your local council to see if there are any groups near you that could offer support and connect you with others.

Obviously I am incredibly lucky to have the money to have a campervan and be able to get out and about in it. But financial constraints can be a barrier. Whether it is the money or the time if you are busy working. For me, even just sitting in my garden, or on my doorstep and taking a little time for myself to get away from computers and technology and breathe, helps so much. Look for the free spaces in your local area where you can get to quickly and for free.

Beach at Cayton Bay Scarborough

I just can’t explain how much good it has done me to get out. I was feeling like I had not made good progress since my last surgery. I was so poorly and my kidneys started to fail, I couldn’t eat or drink and was on TPN through a PICC line. I lost a lot of weight and muscle tone. My leg muscles pretty much faded away. I am still in a lot of pain and tire very quickly, so I choose options that are low impact and short bursts.

A few weeks ago, I stood on Burbage Edge, it was a few minutes walk from the carpark. But as I walked over the uneven ground, I remembered being unable to walk even a few metres to the toilet. I was looking at the ground as I walked and could almost see the hospital lino that I had struggled to walk across just a few months ago. It made me cry. I wept but not in sadness, they were tears of gratitude, of strength, of surprise in realising how far I have come.

Woman in grey hoodie stood in countryside smiling

Last week, I stood in the Peak District and I looked out across the most beautiful view, and despite my pain, despite the two corsets I was wearing and the slightly fuzzy head from painkillers, I felt like a queen. I felt like a champion. I felt strong and happy, my heart felt full and I couldn’t stop smiling.

I know it can be incredibly tough, and know that I don’t believe getting out in nature is some sort of magic cure. But for me it has helped so much and maybe it could help you too?

Peace and love

Sam xx

Healing an old stoma site from the inside out!

Just a word of warning, this post has lots of graphic and medical images of my old stoma site healing and may not be suitable for everyone.

So after the last surgery where they resited my stoma, the old site was left open. I was gobsmacked when I first saw it as I’d never seen an open wound like this before.

They explained that they heal better if they’re not sewn up and they want it to heal from the inside out and so it was packed with dressing and I saw a district nurse every day for just over a month till it healed up.

I had a big cry when I first saw it, it was 3.5cm deep and looked like a gunshot wound, they said it would take around 4-6 weeks to heal and I couldn’t believe that could be true!

So I took photos of the healing process as I found it intriguing and I thought it might help others going through the same situation.

What follows are the images of it healing, as previously warned, they may be upsetting to some so don’t scroll down if you don’t want to look!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we go…

Open stoma wound healing

12th June – 5 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

21st June – 14 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

27th June – 20 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

29th June – 22 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

1st July – 24 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

2nd July – 25 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

5th July – 28 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

11th July – 34 days post op

15th July – 38 days post op

18th July – 41 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

11th August – 65 days post op

So there we go! Isn’t the body brilliant!!!

I hope this helps anyone who is facing this sort of healing process to know that it does get better.

 

Loce Sam xx

Tired, emotional, guilty

I’m so tired. And the tiredness leads to anger, hurt, guilt.

I have no idea whether fatigue is something I just need to accept? Whenever I mention it to the doctors they look at me like I’m daft. “You’ve been through a lot” they say, “give your self a break”, “it all takes time”. Perhaps I expect too much of myself, but I really just wish I could be normal.

Every night, I get up once or twice to empty my jpouch, several times a night I wake thinking about whether I need to go to the loo. Since surgery I tend to have these vivid dreams, you know the ones where you feel like you’ve had a workout when you wake up? I also sometimes have stomach pains, butt burn and accidents.

So when morning comes, I just can’t open my eyes. I just don’t hear the alarm and Timm gets up with the kids. Every day. And the guilt builds… I wake up feeling so drained and exhausted that I can barely function. My limbs are like dead weights, my head fuzzy, my brain screams at me to go back to sleep. I feel lazy and guilty.

Timm leaves me to sleep as long as I need to. He never mentions it apart from asking if I had a bad night. But the guilt inside me is enormous, I feel I’m letting them all down. I feel like everyone thinks I am lazy.

I usually get up at 9am, a full two hours after I should get up. Some days I manage to get straight down into the office, some days I work from my bed. By midday I feel more energised and I try and get as much as I can done, but by 4pm I am flagging massively and could quite easily nap. Evenings are better for me, I feel more awake and often try and get housework done in this time. Then I’m usually in bed by 11pm (sometimes way earlier).

I don’t know whether it’s my routine that isn’t helping? Some nights, despite being completely exhausted I just can’t get to sleep and lay awake for hours.

Or I wonder whether it’s my diet? I have found I am now really intolerant to most vegetables and so my diet is quite restricted. The lack of vitamins and minerals worries me. I’m waiting for an appointment with the hospital dietician and have thought about asking to have my b12 levels checked. (People missing certain parts of the colon will have difficulty absorbing vitamin b12 and some need regular injections).

Sometimes I realise I don’t remember what normal is. My normal is so far away from other people’s that I wonder if my comparing myself to them is stupid?

When I say I’m tired, others talk of their tiredness too, and I think maybe I’m just not as tough as most people! Then I remember that my body has been through so bloody much in the past 18 months. That I’m missing an organ, that I’m learning how to use my pouch, that my body fights against me eating most healthy foods, that my immune system is knackered.

The thing I need to deal with the most though is the guilt. I feel like I need to apologise to Timm for how rubbish I am in the mornings. I feel like a bad mum and a rubbish wife.

I feel I need to explain to everyone that often I have a big front on. And that front is the mirage to tell you “I’m fine!” “I’m not weak” “I’m as good as you” “I don’t need anyone’s help”.

So when I’m seen on Facebook or instagram in the pub or walking the dog, know that it takes a big effort to do that, and I do it because I want to have the same abilities as others, I don’t want to be sick.

Know that every journey or trip requires planning to know where toilets are, a packing of wipes and underwear, a knowledge that using public toilets is an embarrassing experience because of the noise, that I’m using up valuable spoons to do that thing and will suffer for it later.

Please just have a little understanding that despite my brash, shouty, activist exterior I am still healing, still learning how to accept and use my new body and still dealing with the emotional trauma that the past 18 months have thrown at me.

Sam ✌️&❤️