I would never have imagined three years ago that I would be writing this post explaining why I am grateful for my stomas. Gratitude for my stomas has not come naturally, and I have had to work at it, but now I truely feel it in my core.
One word pops into my mind when I think of this time, and that is…horrific. Before my ileostomy in 2012, I weighed seven stone my bladder and bowel failed to function, and I was a shell of who I am now. I went years being constipated where no intervention worked, including Peristeen Irrigation. In the end, my specialist nurse spoke to my surgeon, and it was decided that I needed an ileostomy…I was 25 and even though I had seen stomas when I was working as a Therapy Radiographer treating cancer patients with radiation, I did not want to know anything about the surgery. This shocked me how I reacted, and I have to say it was tough at first. I started feeling better, but I felt alone and even though I was putting on weight which was great I also mentally struggled with this aspect. Six months after surgery my stoma prolapsed and that was tough. During that time I also had a Supra-pubic catheter but in 2015 biopsy results revealed the cells had mutated and my bladder had to be removed and a urostomy formed within 2 weeks. For me, life with an SPC was difficult I had terrible bladder spasms, and I hardly left the flat. I was not living just existing.
As soon as I got my urostomy, I instantly noticed the difference. Gone were the bladder spasms and traumatic SPC changes every 5 weeks. I started to see glimmers of hope even with my 3-month stay post surgery. Life felt better I could wear dresses again without a leg bag and even becoming a double bagger I was seeing the positives.
So when did it all change for me?
I have to say it was this blog! Through this blog, I found out there was a Facebook community that I had no idea existed. I then met other ostomates who are now great friends. I no longer felt alone and found IDENTIFICATION. I started to push myself out of my comfort zones and slowly began to have some respect for what my body had been through. After my urostomy surgery, I made a gratitude list every night before I was about to sleep I listed three things I was grateful for that day. This allowed me to change my thinking and soon my stomas kept cropping up on the list. As opportunities were coming my way, I started realising that all these experiences would never have happened without my stomas. Also that without them I wouldn't be here and actually enjoy life like I do now.
Yes, I still have complications with repeat sepsis (now 10 times) and a prolapsed ileostomy that can no longer be fixed by surgery. However despite these things right now…I am still grateful for my stomas.
I never expected when I grew up that I wouldn’t be able to have children or continue with the career I worked hard for in Radiotherapy and Oncology but ill health hit me, and this was not to be my path. However, I am a big believer in everything happens for a reason and I honestly think I wouldn’t have reached this deep level of understanding within myself if I hadn't got ill. Facing death can do that, and many times in intensive care I have, but it helps put life into perspective and help shine a light on what you truly want and what’s important.
I cannot imagine now what it would be like not to have my two stomas, they have become my friends, companions for life and reframing how I felt about them helped. They haven’t just given me back my life, but they have helped me meet amazing friends, belong to a community, have a career now in something I love and I am passionate about, work with Consultants and nurses and the most surprising help me find a man! I could even say that my body image now post-stomas is far better than before I had them. I wrote a post here which explains how much I disliked my healthy body and now looking back I wish I could have embraced my ‘healthy’ body more.
As I have explained gratitude for my stomas has not come easy, but over time this has occurred. I have worked hard reframing how I felt towards my stomas, and now this is authentic.
If anybody is struggling to accept your stomas, this does take time, but you are welcome to email me at info@rocking2stomas or comment on this post.