What a Year...

What a Year...

It is New Year's Eve and I thought I would reflect on 2017 and what it has brought me...

It is hard to put into words how much happier I have been compared to last year. 2016 was extremely difficult both mentally and physically and involved 7 months of the year as an inpatient in Bournemouth Hospital. Last year I roughly had 6 refashion surgeries (8 in a year and a half) for my prolapsed ileostomy that resulted in complications every time. I had sepsis numerous times as well with one time involving a cardiac arrest which added to my time in the hospital.

For years I had a dream to start a blog, but the time always seemed wrong with all my admissions and then the fear would hold me back. However, I took the plunge and my blog went live on January 3rd this year. This is when my world changed...

Before this time I did not even know there was an ostomy community online on Facebook. I just did not even think to try (naive I know) it wasn’t until my blog and my story got published in BBC Wales online and the Daily Mail at the end of January did I first hear about the groups. A great guy who is an admin for the Urostomy Awareness Group on Facebook messaged me and added me to the group. That then pushed me to find other ostomy groups and suddenly I found this community that I never knew existed which was so supportive. For the first time since my stomas, I found a place where I was accepted and people understood without explaining the ins and outs. I always hoped my blog could help others but I never realised or imagined how much it would help me with my own journey of acceptance around my stomas and my health. From the moment the blog went live opportunity after opportunity has arisen and from that amazing friends along the way.

One of those opportunities was being asked by Louise Potter aka Crohn's Fighting to be a co-host on  'The IBD and Ostomy Support Show" every Thursday at 8 pm back in February alongside Colitis to Ostomy and The Spoonie Mummy Since doing this show my confidence has grown and I learnt to share my story including the tough times because being honest with my dark times could help somebody else struggling. These girls taught me a lot on how to blog and encouraged me to keep going when at times I questioned my writing.

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Also, I cannot forget another co-host and that is Steve Cartmail aka Bagdaddy who was a guest host for a while and then became a resident host. I was in a difficult and unhealthy relationship which came to a head in July. I wasn’t looking for anybody else and wanted to be on my own for a while but over time Steve and I got close and it just happened and we fell for each other. Sometimes life’s synchronicities never cease to amaze me and events happen where you think nothing good can come out of and then ‘poof’ something better comes alone. So together we are now rocking3stomas lol.

This year I have also written a lot of articles for people and have ended up in a few magazines. I am always honoured when somebody asks me to write something for them about my story or subject close to my heart. Before this year I don’t think I have ever written so much. One subject very close to my heart is urostomy awareness and I believe there have been some changes this year on that front with companies mentioning urostomates more and including us in surveys. As well as advocates hashtagging urostomies and spreading this awareness. My aim would be to try and implement this awareness in hospitals and with all the staff over time. I have also helped the Urostomy Association this year and attended their member's event which I learnt a lot.

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Another event I went to this year that needs a mention is the Purple Wings Charity ball. Never in a million years could I have imagined what this event would unleash. Let me explain...for 5 years I have hardly left Bournemouth and have been afraid to travel due to my regular hospital admissions but I was encouraged by the girls from the show and Lauren to come to the event. I was so nervous, travelling on my own (through the tube) but I felt such a sense of accomplishment. I believe this is where I got my wings actually meeting ostomates I had spoke to for months in real life and hearing some amazing stories. Due to this I have travelled a lot since July going to Cardiff, Birmingham multiple times and even London! I would never have done this before. I think at least one person should experience the ball because it is such an empowering feeling knowing that the majority of people in the room have a stoma! Due to this, Purple Wings has a very special place in my heart and I am eternally grateful.

Also, another proud moment was starting up a Facebook group called 'Double Baggers Ostomy Support Group' for anybody who has more than 2 stomas, awaiting a second ostomy or is a family member of a double ostomate. We now have 203 members which are far more than I ever expected, last year I thought I was the only Duble Bagger and had never met anybody with 2 stomas before. A big thank you goes to my admin and good friends Louise Pearce, Vicky Palmer and of course Canadian Shannon Elizebeth :)

With all the amazing experiences I have had there have also been some tough times. My health has been a bit up and down involving  being admitted 6 times this year but to be honest this is so much less than last year (so I am winning :p) I keep getting recurring sepsis which we still do not know the source and my kidney function is not brilliant. However, my hospital stays have been fairly short. Also I find I can be a bit of an ostrich and bury my head in the sand at times regarding my health and this is something that I will be working on in 2018.

The biggest change I think this year has been internally! I am truly happy and content with myself and I have learnt to love myself warts and all. I will never be perfect but I try to do what is right and I may not get it correct all the time but  I try to Iearn from my mistakes. I still need to say ‘No’ a bit more and try to have breaks from my phone but I like where I am in life at the moment.

Again a big thank you to all my readers who have helped make this year great and to my friends and family, putting up with my obsessions. Thank you for always being there and supporting me through everything.

My stoma bags have given me so much and they have not just saved my life but have given me so much more. I can now support and help ostomates struggling or new ostomates not feel so alone. This is the biggest reward since starting my blog and is at the heart of what I do.

Much love and a Happy New Year

Rachel xx

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Written by : Rachel Jury

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