I am sat here on a windy, wet Saturday (22nd September) in my quirky flat reminiscing on the last 2 weeks! It has been absolutely incredible and a rollercoaster of emotions! I knew September was going to be full on but I didn’t anticipate just how busy it would be and I am super proud that my body managed to get through the taxing schedule.
So, this is what I have been up to…
Presenting at the Association of Stoma care Nurses (ASCN) Conference in Birmingham
This was the first event of September and started on the 9th and lasted 3 days! This was my first time attending ASCN and it was extremely interesting. Coloplast invited me because I wear Coloplast products and have been involved with advocating their products this year and I was also presenting some preliminary research in the main theatre on the Monday. The first surprise was seeing both myself and Steve’s picture at the entrance of the International Conference Centre and other pictures dotted around inside!
It was great getting the chance to speak to lots of stoma care nurses, the companies, charities and other advocates that attended. I particularly enjoyed the presentations that were very interesting around the theme ‘Breaking barriers and enhancing relationships’. There were many interesting talks regarding sex and intimacy with a stoma, bridging the dementia gap in stoma care and many other topics.
On Monday the 9th September I was very honoured to be able to present to many stoma care nurses ‘The Urostomy – The Poor Relation?’ regarding preliminary research highlighting a knowledge gap amongst other healthcare professionals in different wards, departments and primary care (GP’s). To say I was nervous is probably an understatement I think the 8-minute presentation took over my life the week before but I knew I had something important to say. This meant a lot to me and standing up there I felt like it wasn’t just me but the urostomy community as a whole highlighting this much-needed subject that impacts us every time we go into hospital. I am very lucky to have amazing friends with me who helped calm me down and I am very grateful to all of them. I really enjoyed delivering the presentation and I was blown away by the amazing feedback. It was a chance to also highlight that this preliminary research will now be taken on as an official study which is a big win for the urostomy and urinary diversion (mitrofanoff and neobladder) community. Richard a researcher from Colostomy UK helped me with this and when I saw him and Libby afterwards there were a few tears of gratitude.
When the conference closed on Tuesday 11th I was planning to go straight to The Academy of Fab Stuff event called Super at Six in Birmingham sharing best practice in the NHS. However, I was very tired and decided it was probably best to go home and sleep.
National Diversity Awards Ceremony in Liverpool
I had a few days rest until Friday 14th September where I travelled to Liverpool (what an amazing city) to attend The National Diversity Awards in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. I was shortlisted for the category ‘Positive Role Model for Disability’ and was asked to attend the event alongside 7 other awesome shortlisted nominees. To be honest, I was in complete shock I was nominated let alone to get shortlisted so, I felt like a winner just by being there and speaking to some incredible people.
The venue was out of this world and it just felt really magical! When Warwick Davies won ‘Celebrity of the Year Award category’ he began his speech by saying “Welcome to Hogwarts…” which was very fitting!
My mum was my plus one and was really looking forward to attending. Due to Steve’s operation being cancelled he was also able to attend which meant a lot. All 3 of us got dressed up and were looking forward to the evening. It truly was magical and the food was another level! When they got to the presenting I felt a bit nervous but to be honest, I seriously didn’t think I would win and I was really enjoying the atmosphere and energy.
Then it was my category and I listened while all our names got read out! I felt super proud listening to the bio about me and mentioned ostomy awareness but also the work I do regarding urostomy awareness campaigning amongst the general public and healthcare professionals. As the names got read out, I looked to the other table who I thought may have won ready to clap and suddenly they announce my name ‘Rachel Jury’…
Well…the shock on my face must have been a picture! I started making my way to the front shaking and just completely bewildered. While this was happening 3 videos from Steve, Stephie and Louise got shown which were really lovely and what they said about me. While that was going on I was introduced to the presenters of the award Ash Palmisciano and a guy representing the sponsor of that award Blackberry. Brian Dowling commented on my shaking and I also got meet him and Ana Matronic (from Scissor Sisters). A picture was taken and then I went to the stand. The picture below was when I was looking out in complete shock and astonishment where I put a hand on my forehead in disbelief.
Once the videos had stopped it was my turn to speak. Well, the tears started and I announced that I was in shock, that I had no speech prepared and instead spoke from the heart. I thanking my family, Steve, my friends and said how this is a win for the ostomy community as a whole and shows that you can live life to the fullest with 1 or 2 stoma bags. Short and sweet but I think it came across well. I then had to do an interview and some more photos where I clocked my mum hysterically crying in pure happiness and we had this picture taken of us.
I have nearly died many times and my family have been through so much but to show I have now turned it around and mum attending with me meant the world.
We watched all the other category winners and managed to speak to lots of people after. I met some awesome people on my table iichild and the incredible work they do, some lovely ladies from Safe Haven and an awesome lady up for lifetime achiever award called Anne Ross. There was an after party which was brilliant meeting many other people and catching up with Simon again.
The next day I met up with another ostomate, Sue who I very much look up to regarding the work she does with physicians and research. The night before I was talking to Sammy Davies (Warwick’s wife to get a spare pouch signed for somebody) but unfortunately I had missed them but we messaged and met up on the Saturday. It was lovely meeting Warwick but for me, it was all about Sammy. She had recently had sepsis and we had a huge connection and that will stay with me forever!
Steve and I travelled back to Birmingham and my mum back to South Wales. I was still in shock but I felt proud thinking of the broken, lost girl I was to the award I have just won being a ‘role model’.
Talking at the ‘Capital Market Days’ in Copenhagen
I had a day’s rest before I was due to fly to Copenhagen early Monday morning. Originally, Steve got asked to do this but had to decline due to his surgery date (however this did get pushed back in the end) I was due to fly to Copenhagen and I have never flown on my own before. I was nervous but I knew this would be another personal accomplishment. A blog post will follow about this soon.
I arrived in Copenhagen, rehearsed the interview with the Director of Communications for Coloplast and that night had a lovely meal with Anne-Marie.
On Tuesday I had the lovely Thalia Skye looking after me and keeping me company. The room was full of bankers, analysts and journalists mainly for a side of the business I had not previously have thought about. The interview on stage went really well and the questions although different were very interesting and thought-provoking. This was the first time a product user had been on stage at this kind of event. I spoke to many people and then eventually had to say my goodbyes to Thalia not before I gave her some British tea and made my way to the airport.
I flew back through the storm last week and I wasn’t too bad. I have ticked another personal goal off and have proven I can fly on my own!
Back in Bournemouth
I arrived back here last Friday and have been busy with a sigmoidoscopy and some more speaking events this week.
However, I feel this weekend I really need a break and will be switching my social media off tonight and just stop. I feel a bit overwhelmed and I think need a moment to ground myself do the hobbies I enjoy (chess, reading and some art) so I can come back stronger next week.
Thank you for reading and for all your continued support.