There’s been a lot of talk of poop and stomas in the media and this has made me think a lot about my own life saving stoma friend.
We have had the positive where Chrohn’s and Colitis campaigner ‘So Bad Ass’ Sam Cleasby has publicly hit out at her shamers for making her feel embarrassed about her debilitating illness. She reminded us that not all disabilities are visible; you might be able to walk to that disabled toilet but doesn’t mean that you’re not entitled to use it.
Sam’s open letter to ‘the lady that tutted at her for using a disabled toilet’ really resonated with me. I too was once that person that was tutted at for using a disabled toilet. I could feel my face burn as the evil eye muttered at me for possibly ‘holding up a disabled person’. The thing is I don’t really have much option. To change my colostomy, I need access to a sink and a toilet at the same time and space to get out all the equipment I need to use to do this. That icy stare affected me. If I can, I’ll wait until I get home to do the change, If I can’t then I feel that I need to make the change at break neck speed to free up the toilet to avoid ‘holding anybody up’.
Sam’s blog highlights the journey she has been on from her battle with UC, living with a stoma and hopefully the final stage of her recovery, learning to live with a J Pouch. Sam has inspired me not to hide away my colostomy, that it is a part of the fight that I’m going through and it plays it’s part in saving my life. I can’t thank her enough for making me feel more understood.
Now onto the bad media. TLC’s new show ‘Too Ugly For Love’ has featured not just one ostomate on their show but TWO! Seriously TLC, do you want to cast your net a bit wider and pick on some other ‘freaks’ who don’t crap into a bag. It does not make you feel good about yourself to sit and watch a show where apparently, the person is so horrendously ugly by having this bag that there is a possibility that nobody would want them.
It has got me thinking though, does having a colostomy really alter how attractive I am? Ok, I wear a bag on the outside of my body which now collects my waste and because it’s poop that makes me really dirty right? Maybe a little education on day-to-day life with an ostomy is what is needed so I’m going to tell you a little about mine.
I have an end colostomy, which is 95% likely to a permanent fixture in my life. I had surgery to cut my large bowel above where the tumour is located and sew the healthy piece of bowel onto my abdomen to create an opening where waste can leave my body. This piece of bowel is what is known as a stoma. It looks like a small red/pink mound of crinkly circular flesh with a hole in the middle.
Onto my stoma, I can choose from a dizzying selection of pouches and products designed to make living with a colostomy as clean and sweet-smelling as possible. One of the major concerns I had about having a colostomy was ‘will I smell?’ Occasionally, I’ll still have this panic but the fact is that no I don’t. In fact, how many of you can let a sneaky one go and claim it doesn’t smell? Well, that would be me over here looking all smug with my expensive filters.
And for me, that’s all there is to it. I’ve been really lucky so far in that I’ve never experienced a leak or any problems with my stoma or bags. I get up in the morning, let my stoma do it’s thing, shower and change my bag. Ignore it for the best part of the day unless it decides to embarrassingly talk to people and then do another bag change in the evening. The bag changes aren’t my favourite part of the day but now I’ve incorporated it into my routine, it’s not really any different to cleaning up after going to the toilet normally – just requires a few more products.
So am I really too ugly for love? Well I don’t think so and I’m lucky that I have people that also don’t think so. I look the same, act the same, feel better than I have done in a long time – the only difference is this one little bag.
I’m not ashamed of my stoma, it’s made me a better person. It’s made me both physically and mentally stronger. I just needed a little reminder not to shy away or feel embarrassed by my illness and be defiant to those who seemingly guard the disabled toilet door.
I think it’s a message that we can all learn though. Let’s not be shamers and make others feel embarrassed by their ’embarrassing’ conditions. In the words of So Bad Ass #stoppoobeingtaboo.
For those of you who haven’t seen Sam’s open letter, here’s the link http://sobadass.me/2015/02/17/to-the-woman-who-tutted-at-me-using-the-disabled-toilets/