At the age of 23 I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
This is an autoimmune disease which attacked my colon and rectum causing me to have bloody diarrhoea, urgency and a lot of pain. Over the following 30 plus years, I struggled with maintaining a normal active life in between periods of being bedridden and having to be hospitalized.
My colitis was treated medically with immune suppressants and anti-inflammatory drugs which took their toll on my immune system. I eventually I stopped responding to medication.
2016 on my 56th birthday, I had the colonoscope at hospital having been hospitalized for several weeks on bedrest. The consultant decided that it was time for me to have surgery and I ended up electing for a subtotal colectomy. I have had three major surgeries over the last 4 years to remove my colon and rectal stump and to untwist my small bowl and remove a hernia. I can honestly say I am out the other side now and fit and well. For the first time in years, I am able to lead a full and active life now.
The thing that made a huge difference after my surgery was discovering support wear that would hold my bag in place and make me feel secure. This gave me a huge lift in confidence. In addition, I was able to return to the gym and exercise by wearing support underwear and a support belt.
I have a permanent stoma and have a very happy and active life. I am a full-time student and have returned to college to study an Art Foundation course. I also work part-time as a doctor's receptionist. I am very open about having a stoma and I'm happy for colleagues and friends to ask any questions. People are always surprised by my confidence, but I think that comes from within. It is important that I have trust in the stoma products that I use and underwear garments that hold me and support me while I carry on with my active life.
I have also recently joined Stoma Heroes a support group for people and their families who have stomas or who may have to have a stoma in the future. We have had several events and meetings; my very favourite being a swim class with pole exercise in the water. It was great fun and hilarious to watch people of all ages swinging around pole dancing poles and having a laugh.
I have met some good friends in the stoma community and you'll be surprised if you do start talking how many people know someone who has a stoma.