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Why I’m a proud flasher

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.

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

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.

stoma ileostomy femininity black and white photography creative shoot #stomaselfie sam cleasby

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!

sam cleasby blogger ostomy ibd woman with a colostomy ileostomy bag stoma

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.

ileostomy bag and fashion swimwear

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.

sam cleasby chicken keeping allotments kiveton sheffield

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.

Sam Cleasby blogger ostomy ileostomy colostomy stoma

I am a flasher and proud!

 

Love Sam xx

Why I show off my ostomy bag 

I’d like this post to just say ‘BECAUSE FUCK YOU!”
but I’m going to try and be a little more level headed. Which is difficult when I’ve just read a post on mumsnet by a charming person called Frikkadilla…

I should probably pop a warning in here to say this post is ever so sweary! If you’re offended by f-bombs, you should probably step away now.

Still here? Then let the rant commence.
Ohhhh FrikkaDilla… How I’d like to really show you my bag. Close up. Rammed in your face.
Let’s go through the points.
“Those Facebook photos with Stoma pictures. Am I wrong to really not want to see this?” 
Well, no. We have a choice in what we view on social media. If you don’t want to see these images, turn off your fucking computer.
In life, unless you wish to walk around with a bag over your head, then you will see people with disabilities, people who have medical devices that are part of their lives, people who are different to you. If you don’t wish to see people with medical problems, I’d suggest you fuck off and live in a cave.

sam cleasby body positive plus size ostomy
I have family and a friend who needs this piece of medical help however I keep being surprised (no…shocked) when I see people posting photos of themselves showing their bag off.
‘I’m not racist because I have this one black pal…’ Oh sorry! I thought we were all giving ourselves shitty excuses to say terrible things!
I’m sure your family member and friend must feel so supported by you and your desire to get people with an ostomy to hide away!
Your “surprise” and “shock” make me howl, you have the whole of the Internet at your fingertips and a photo of a woman in a bikini with an ostomy bag have affected you this much? Blimey! Let me send you a few links to some really shocking stuff. There’s this one video, at band camp…

stoma ileostomy bag woman junk food ulcerative colitis crowns ibd
I’ve even seen a woman on the beach in a bikini showing one off (Facebook photo)
How very fucking dare she? A woman went on holiday and wore a bikini??? No way!
You get that we can’t take the ostomy bag off right? That it’s something worn all day every day, it’s not a fashion statement, it’s a health device that allows us to still be alive!
People with an ostomy are like anyone else, they go on holiday, they wear human clothes, they own cameras and they are allowed on Facebook…

ileostomy bag bikini swimwear beachwear holiday

I just don’t understand this need to show it off. Why are they doing it?
Firstly, it’s none of your god damned business what other people choose to do.
Secondly, people are ‘showing it off’ because it is a part of their body, a device that can’t be removed and so most people are just trying to live their lives without embarrassment or fear of nasty, small minded bigots like you. They are sharing a photo of them, in their full glory.
Would you like all people with a disability to hide away? What about those attention grabbing amputees showing off with their missing limbs? They need to wipe their Facebook photo albums, right? Or even worse, those drama queens in wheelchairs!! All their photos are just chair, chair, chair!!!!
That was all sarcasm, in case you didn’t get it. As you don’t seem to get much do you Frikkadilla.

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

Those of us who do show off our bags, and I’m talking about myself here do it for many reasons. I can’t speak for others but I’ll share just a few of mine.
• I want to raise awareness of something that affects over 100,000 people in the UK alone.
• Any illness to do with poo tends to be seen as embarrassing and taboo. This makes sufferers feel ashamed, isolated and depressed. I want to help end this taboo.
• I find it helps my recovery to share my story including photos of myself. I feel like I’m regaining control of my life after 13 years of illness, medication and surgeries.
• I am proud of my body and myself. I’ve been through hell and I refuse to let people like you body shame me.
• I want to show my kids that whatever humans look like, they are awesome. That I’m not ashamed of my imperfect body, because it’s perfect to me and they should love themselves no matter what society tells them.
• I make a difference to people’s lives by doing what I do. I get 50,000 views a month on this website! And I get hundreds of messages every month of people telling me that I am helping them through their journey. Who have you helped today Frikkadilla?
• Because I look fucking amazing! My size 16, scarred body with an ostomy may not to be your liking, but I think I look shit hot! (No pun intended!)
• I own my body, I don’t have to live by anyone else’s rules. I have full ownership and if I wish to share photos of it, I will without shame, bullying or fear.
• Because fuck you.

stoma ileostomy femininity black and white photography creative shoot

Thanks to everyone else on that mumsnet thread (that admin decided to pull because it was so shitty) who told Frikkadilla alllllllll the reasons why she was wrong/stupid/ablist/a cotton headed ninny muggins.

I read the post and was fuming but the responses reminded me that most people are awesome and just a few in this world who are dicks.
Sam xx

Ostomy photoshoot – 50s pin up

There is a lot of negativity when it comes to ostomies, I have heard many a time things like “Id rather die than wear a colostomy/ileostomy bag” “I don’t want to look like a freak” “Im not normal if I have a bag” etc etc

It is absolutely gutting to hear comments like this being made in public, the fact is that these bags save lives, we aren’t choosing to have them as a fashion accessory, they are there because the people who have them have been so sick and battled so hard that they now have to live with an ostomy.

As you may know I have done a couple of photoshoots before in order to demystify the whole process, to show how small a part of me my bag is.

I decided to do one last shoot before my pouch surgery next week and the theme was 50s pin up.  I wanted to show that people living with an ostomy can be sexy, fun and cheeky… That this little bag doesn’t define who I am, it is just a small add on to my body that allows me to function in a way I have been unable to for 10 years.

Im a bit nervous at putting these up so please be kind, I do this because I want to make a difference, I want to show people what an ileostomy bag is like, and that it doesn’t stop my femininity, sexuality or sense of humour because when I had my surgery I was so terrified that I would lose those things.

Enjoy x

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Please like, comment and share these images with anyone you think they could make a difference with.
Thanks so much for looking

Remember that you can make a difference, to donate to Crohns and Colitis UK you can text CCUK14 and your donation amount to 70070
e.g. If you wanted to donate £5 you would text: CCUK14 £5 and send it to 70070.

Or online through Just Giving

 

Thank you so much to my husband Timm for The Picture Foundry for photographing me for this shoot.

 

Sam xxx

First ever vlog! How to change your ileostomy bag video

I have been threatening to do this video for months and never got round to it, so here it is.  My first ever vlog, a how to video on how to change your ileostomy bag.

Enjoy!

 

Love Sam xx

Fashion tips for women with ileostomy or colostomy bags

One of the questions I get asked a lot is how do you choose clothes to wear with your ileostomy bag, and so I thought Id do a little post on the question…

Its a funny one because my first reaction is ‘Wear whatever the hell you want to” and that is my general rule.  But there are a few things I wear for comfort and ease…

1. Maternity trousers

I know, I know, wearing maternity trousers when you aren’t pregnant seems awful, but they are FANTASTIC.  You can get a ton of different styles these days from most high street stores and they are really affordable.

I went for maternity jeans because from the crotch down they look like any other pair of trousers, but that soft stretchy band above makes them super comfortable and holds your bag snugly against your stomach so it just feels so safe.  Wearing these means I happily wear jeans and a vest and don’t even think about my bag.

2. Don’t feel that you have to hide it

The fact is that sometimes you will be able to make out the shape of your bag under your clothes, but seriously who cares?  What is the absolute worse that will happen? Someone will ask you what it is, you tell them.  The End.  Wear what make you feel good, if you can see the bag, own it and make it awesome…

ileostomy bag and fashion

I love this tshirt and didn’t want to go bigger and get a baggy top, I know you can see the shape of my bag through and so what!

ileostomy bag and fashion

I bought this is Australia and its totally see through… I think Im rocking it!

3.  In there like swimwear

I looked at a few ileostomy swimming costumes and never found one I liked and so I just wear what I already have! On the beach or sunbathing I am happy to wear a bikini and just let is all hang out…

ileostomy bag and fashion swimwear ileostomy bag and fashion having fun swimwear ostomy stoma

If I want to cover up on the beach, or at the local swimming pool I wear a one piece, if you are bothered about people seeing it, go for a large pattern.

ileostomy bag and fashion swimwear

4. Tight fitting clothes.

You had your bowel removed, you did not become a nun.  If you liked wearing tight fitting clothes before there is no reason you can’t still wear them.  It comes down to confidence and self esteem – your bag has probably saved your life, its not something to be ashamed of, wear what makes you feel amazing.

ileostomy bag and fashion

5. Loose women

If you want to go baggy then do it, but do it because you love the dress, not because you want to cover everything up.

ileostomy bag and fashion

6. In the bedroom

I don’t usually talk about ‘bedroom stuff’ just because it isn’t really something I want my mum or kids to read, but regarding clothes Ill talk a bit.  There are some specialist lingerie sets for ostomates, I have had a look and to be honest they aren’t for me.  There are specialist wraps but in a way I find them a little bit offensive, its like saying I need to cover up my bag for my partner to find me sexually attractive.

I tend to wear a vest in bed because I feel more comfortable when my bag is close against my skin, but honestly, with the right partner, you really don’t need to worry about what you are wearing in the bedroom.  I think sex is about trust and respect, if my partner didn’t want to see my bag during sex, he probably wouldn’t be the right partner for me.

7. Underwear

I tend to wear big panties, you know the high waisted ones, I do this because I prefer to have the cotton between my skin and the bag.  Its total personal preference, you can buy specialist underwear that has a pouch in it for your bag.  I haven’t bothered with these so far as Im comfortable in what I have.

8. Wear what makes you feel amazing…

This is the main point.  Clothes are such a personal choice, there is little reason for you to change your style because of your bag.  There are a few things I avoid nowadays because of the position of my stoma, waistbands need to go above or below my stoma to feel comfortable.  I’d never stop wearing something that I loved unless it was ridiculously impractical or uncomfortable.

ileostomy bag and fashion

Wear what makes you feel awesome and amazing, you deserve it xxx

Love Sam xxx

Ileostomy swimwear

I was a little nervous after my op about what sort of swimwear would suit me. I looked at a few specialist stoma swim wear places but couldn’t find anything I liked and so I have just stuck with my old stuff.

This dark swimming costume with large print totally disguises the shape of my bag and makes it feel secure against my body.

This was me on Christmas Day on the beach, it was a bit rainy and grey but I wasn’t letting that stop me jumping in the waves. My sister was another story though…

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For bikinis I’m going for a fuller bottom, either little shorts or high waisted bottoms.

Having my bag and scar out does cause a few stares but I’m mostly ok with that, it’s usually from curiousity than anything malicious.

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Today I was sat on a beautiful Australian beach in a bikini, I got a few looks but as I people watched, it got me thinking about just how many different shapes and sizes we all are. Some of us a skinny, some bigger, some busty, some flat chested, some of us have scars or even bags stuck to our stomachs. But the most beautiful people around are those who are confident, smiling and having fun.

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So when people stare whether it is openly or surreptitiously, my first instinct is to feel upset, embarrassed or angry. I swallow it down and just smile.

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Most people are good, I have to believe that and so I take their stares as folk being curious about something different that they probably haven’t seen before.

I hold my head up and be proud of how awesome it is that my body has healed me and my bag is making my quality of life better.

Sam xx

Living with my ileostomy bag – Photo shoot

I know I have been a little quiet of late but the honest reason is that life is all going quite smoothly at the minute.  My stoma and ileostomy bag are behaving and life is getting back to normal… Actually better than how I was before as I no longer have any symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis.  No pain, no meds and no constant running to the loo!

Living with a photographer has its benefits, one of which is having him on hand to photograph me when I ask!  This shoot was kind of unplanned and was just around the grounds of our studio at The Picture Foundry.  Our chickens are limelight whores and decided to jump into a few of the shots.

I think the shoot shows that Im in a good place at the minute, I feel relaxed, happy and kind of proud of my little bag.

Enjoy xx

 

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

 

 

 

Love Sam xx