Thursday, October 04 2018
Trigger warning: Talks of mental health, vulnerability
You: How are you?
You: Ok. What's up for today?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I'm sure you would agree that this is, the normal greeting and conversation you would have with most people throughout your day. What purpose does it serve when it is offered by rote, and from both parties?
There are times when the question might be just a little different and if you stop to think about your response you can create change. Observe.
Y: How are you?
Y: Hmm... Do you want to talk?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Hi everyone this is Russell, the Ostomistic Husband.
Recently, I had a bit of a breakdown at work. I got there to work okay, but then things just got just a bit too much for me. Luckily, we were made aware that there is easy access to a counselling service available to staff, through our EAP, so I had to sort of bite down on my pride and ask for help.... finally!
This was hard, but the hardest part of the day came next.
Next, was the call to the counselling service which led to even more of a breakdown, so obviously there was more to it than just a momentary lapse in willpower. Just talking to them about why I was feeling so teary led to finding I was truly angry on the inside, and I realised it was about time that I started opening up for real and sharing these feelings with someone before they became more harmful…. If not only to myself but to others too, and its the least I want.
The tears were because I was really worried about Talya’s declining health; your best friend dying before your eyes, is enough to jerk a tear from even the most hardened macho jerk. I'd gotten to a point where I had to really start opening myself up to someone and letting them in.
That hurt me because Talya is the most supportive and talkative person I know, yet, I was not letting her in. I know she only wants to get inside my mind further and help me work through this, but I think that I can’t talk to her about how I feel because that would not be me being strong for her. I also know that Talya doesn’t tell me how much pain she’s in all the time because that’s her being strong for me.
I am so tired of us pushing against each other when we really should be pulling each other closer, so we can rely on each other‘s strength to be able to help us in our time of perceived weakness. The time is now.
The anger itself, was mostly a due to the fact that I can't control everything. I was finding that the more stressed I was getting the more time I'd have to take off work. Missing out on income didn’t help things, we would have to tighten the purse-strings at home for the following weeks as only small paychecks came in. That made things even more stressful so on spiralled everything down towards chaos and I thought, "Enough is enough! I have to man up. I have to deal with what’s going on inside, uncomfortable as it is I must move forward".
I have autism, so it’s hard for me to talk about feelings that I don't fully understand. But, I have to find a way of communicating my internal workings to someone so that they might be able to give me some additional tools to better deal with those feelings. I don’t generally feel emotions all the time, and when I do get them they are usually overwhelming and too powerful and it scares me.
Unlike most people, I didn't get to learn how to deal with those feelings, in their varying degrees, when I was younger. So when I get some hot emotion it’s just like a huge slap in the face and I don’t know what to do. Actually I do know what to do; I do what most people in my position do, and that is retreat.
So usually I retreat inside myself rather than looking for outside help. I think it best to stop talking, I just want to be alone, I just want to suppress those feelings and hope that in time they go away. I need to learn to recognise there are times that I can self heal and there are times that I require external forces to help me to heal.
What I'd been doing up to now was no longer working, so I had to make a change, it was only inevitable. I think that having this counselling service available to me is a lifeline that has been there for me for years, had I just opened my eyes and pride to the service. I know it is going to be a huge benefit to me. I may have the secrets of the universe poured into my open and receptive mind or I may only learn relaxation techniques to help deal with my grief, not just loss but the anticipatory grief too.
Either way I will be in a better place than before simply because I answered a question posed to me in simple conversation honestly, not automatically.
So basically my message here is if you need help ask for it. If you can’t ask the people that are closest to you then for the sake of your sanity and health ask somebody else.
Just do yourself a favour and talk to someone, even if you do all the talking and you realise what you need to do without them saying a word. The fact that they’re there means you are not alone and that you’ve opened up to them means you are able to start healing.
I just want all the blokes out there who are carers to someone who is chronically or terminally unwell, that I see you, that I am you and that you are not alone in this brother. We are the forgotten brotherhood in this story but if anything we should rely on each other.
Let’s remove the stigma that it isn’t the blokey thing to speak up about our feelings, but we shouldn’t feel ashamed for when we do cry, it is better than bottling it all in and an avalanche of problems emerging.
Fellas, we need to be the best parts of ourselves so we can be the champions our women need us to be so lets make a pact that we will not go through this alone anymore. Yes, it isn’t us who are sick but we are the ones who are here holding their hand when they are crying, comforting them in their times of need, but we keep neglecting that this is all taking a toll on us too.
The pain at the thought of losing my beautiful wife is all to hard and real but I know I am not the only partner or husband out there who is feeling this anger and loss.
How about I start up a group called "The Ostomistic Husband brotherhood", where it is a fb group you’re welcome to join and share in the times you are struggling and need a little clarity or just need someone who gets it to know you aren’t alone, I won't be available to offer advice or act as a counsellor but should you need somehwere to ask for questions or need a safe space to open up, this will be it.
If you would find this group valuable comment yes under this blog. It is a safe space, men or partners or carers of someone ill or terminal.
I know there isn’t much support for the men and the carers but lets be in that change tonight.
It is only one day at a time that is given, but lets use that day to try and be the change we wish to see in the world.
Please don’t forget you’re not alone, I am you, I see you, I feel you.
About the Author:
Russell, a husband in his mid 30's, is a computer salesman by day and a unicorn husband by night*. He enjoys long walks on the beach, playing Pokemon Go, he loves lamp, and he loves all things nerdy! He hopes through his writing and sharing of his experiences of having a young and terminally ill wife, might help other men to understand what not to say (to avoid getting yelled at) or how they can better support their loved one. If you want to connect with Russ (or send him topics/questions or areas of concern you have) send him an email via russell @ feelingostomistic.com.au.
Sunday, June 17 2018
Calling all young females (u/55) living on the Mid North Coast or Coffs Coast with a stoma, check out this exciting and new FREE event happening in August!
My stoma nurse has been excitedly organising this event and I was honoured to have been asked to design the flyer, but I was even more honoured to be asked to speak on the night as one of the speakers.
☞ The event is FREE and is open to all women with a stoma and under 55 from the area, if you're willing to travel you can come along, just make sure you RSVP.
☞ If you have any dietry requirements aside from the stoma, let the stoma nurses know and call 0266567804, that way everyone is catered to.
☞ The night is going to be a fun night with the chance to get to meet other young ostomates under 55's and the hopes of connecting each other to form friendships as ostomy life can be rather lonely for some.
☞ There will be a fun activity for all to join in and will also have reps from different ostomy companies there with samples or to speak more. Guest speakers will include Allied health professionals as well as myself.
☞ This event wouldn't be at all possible without the fundraising done by the Coffs Coast Crafty Crew (scrapbookers) in April 2016, as well as the hard work from the organising team of stoma nurses.
I am really looking forward to the night, and looking forward to meeting others from the area. Whether you're from Port, Grafton or in between this event is open to anyone who would like to come, has a stoma and is under 55 and a female.
Did I mention it is FREE and catered?
Can't wait and I will see you there!
Friday, June 15 2018
Today has been a massive day, I have been running around from appointment to appointment between the cancer centre getting my port flushed and bloods checked to getting my long overdue hearing check done. As part of my promise to spend time this year doing things for self care and prioritising me, this appointment was on the list.
I felt rather relieved to have finally had the appointment, moreso for what came next.....
I knew I had hearing loss in my left ear and knew it for a while, part of putting off the appointment to getting them was out of fear for the cost. Ever since I was 18 (2009) when I had the cysts on my brain I noticed hearing loss then, something to do with the pressure in my head, which has only gotten worse over time. Then when I had chemo I noticed with most things about my health, that it deteriorated more, so I feel for my neighbours as the TV is always so loud but I also feel for those I have hurt because they felt I ignored them or the conversation or that I was rude because I sat in silence.
But today I went and had my test and found out that I was eligible for free government subsidised hearing aids that I needed to pay $45 a year for batteries and servicing.
So today I got fitted and chose the colour and style, then in a fortnight I will get them as they have to be ordered - they will be fitted and I will be shown how to do it myself and then I have them for a fortnight to test run and make sure they will do what I need them to do.
If after a fortnight I am happy with them I accept them and they are mine.
It was a little overwhelming being told that I am eligible for hearing aids, not from a vanity perspective or worried for my looks, but because I can finally hear again and not miss out on conversations or pretend I understand and can follow along.
It gets so exhausting if I go to a family function or a social outing, even just a dinner date with Russ, if there is too much noise I can't hear and it gets tiring trying to focus as well as focus on not being in pain, and I tend to just sit there not saying much and can be labelled as rude, but it is just so so hard.
So I almost cried when I learned that I could be hearing in a matter of a fortnight.
I am hopeful and excited, I have needed this for so long.
I am not upset or worried, I am just grateful for our health system and that there is subsidised hearing aids that don't do fancy things but do just what I need and that is okay, would have loved to have gotten purple but Russ found a colour that would blend in with my ear and hair so won't stand out too much.
So I am okay, I am just grateful for all the new possibilities coming my way.
I learned years ago to never take hearing for granted and have been grateful I still had hearing but was just hard to hear in one ear.
So if ever you felt I was ignoring you or being rude, I most likely just couldn't hear you.
Saturday, April 21 2018
Disclaimer: This blog post contains spoiler alerts for Irreplacable You and discusses themes around Anticipatory Grief and cancer.
I spend a lot of my time watching TV shows or movies online via netflix, that it is often the only way I can try to escape my surroundings or my reality faced. Sometimes you come across a doozy of a show that has you wondering how you could get back those wasted 90 minutes of your life; other times you stumble across the goods.... but then there are times where you start to really get into a show only to learn that it is actually about cancer, and when you're trying to escape your cancer riddled reality, often these shows just aren't what the Doctor ordered when he said to "Netflix and chill".
Sometimes it could be handy if a show came with a disclaimer/warning, similar to that of the warnings put in place in Australian media when warning that there may be footage/images/voice recordings of deceased Indigenous Australians which may cause distress for viewers:
With this in mind, there should be something similar to be considered when it comes to TV shows or movies that involve cancer, especially to the point that it may cause distress to viewers with The Australian Cancer Research Foundation stating that "most Australian's will be exposed to cancer at some stage in their life either personally or through family or friends" as sourced from "Cancer in Australia in 2017". When you consider that the Australian Cancer Council state that "1 in 2 Australian Men or Women will be diagnosed with cancer in their life before they are 85", that is a HUGE portion of the population that are exposed to cancer either inadvertly or advertly.....
So surely a duress warning is warranted after all, due to the amount of population exposed?
When a show ends up revolving around cancer or the premise of dying, it can be rather emotional watching it and if you're in a bad headspace mentally like I have been lately, you just end up bawling for hours on end and can sometimes lead to feeling in a funk for days if not weeks and can even unravel how well you are indeed coping with life.
Very rarely however, I can find myself actually learning something from one of these movies or shows; which is rather surprising and unexpected when it does happens. I recently and surprisingly learned that how I have been feeling in regards to my prognosis, actually had a name!
Anticipatory Grief: The grief you experience without realising there's a name for it!
I recently stumbled upon a Netflix Original Rom-Com (romantic comedy, how it is a comedy is beyond me) called Irreplacable You, which introduced to me the term Anticipatory grief. Once I heard it, that this phrase actually had a name for it, I felt somewhat calmer about all the shit I had going on in my mind and started to get some clarity within myself. Choosing to read on may contain in spoilers of the movie, so spoiler alert friends.
But knowing about anticipatory grief made me feel normal in what I have been spending so long trying to process.
Anticipatory Grief, as presented in the movie, was in the way that Abbi (the lead, the protagonist of the story) was so caught up on being worried about how her partner (and fiance) Sam would cope after her death, that she created an online dating profile with the aim of seeking out "the right woman" whom she could ensure would have Sam's best interest at heart and that he would be okay and taken care of. Abbi was so focussed on making sure that everything was ready and prepared for that she had hoped this would make her anticipated death easier on herself and those around her.
It had the reverse effect as it made Abbi so focussed on life of her loved one's after she was gone that she lost sight of the living and the being present in the now. She alienated herself and by pushing Sam into another woman's arms, she lost him too. They did eventually rekindle their relationship and the day their wedding was planned for, it became her funeral, as she had died in the days prior.
But it really made me look long and hard at my own life.
I didn't know that there was such a term as anticipatory grief, and I hadn't realised that I had been living and navigating through it.
But once I knew that there was a name for a lot of what I have been trying to do, for the sole reason that I had died, such as:
There have been other moments I experienced Anticipatory Grief without realising it:
I remember breaking down crying at my mum's wedding February 2017, like I mean full on hysterical tears. Everyone (all my siblings) were dancing and my mum came and sat with me and hugged me. She asked what was wrong: that was when the tears started and they wouldn't stop. I felt so guilty that I was ruining her special night with my sadness and grief, I was just so sad at the thought of all future family events and milestones I was going to miss, such as the wedding's of my siblings, and it all just got too much for me. I apologised afterwards and the following day, mum said it was okay and she acknowledged that it must be hard.
★But I didn't know then that it was anticipatory grief, it also wasn't the only occasion that has thrown me for six either:
There are so many other times too, poor Russ has had to deal with me and the various stages of my grief for so long. He sees it all and knows this stage is hard for me.... it is hard knowing that life will go on and that I will miss out on things, but I am also worried my life would have meant nothing or I would be easily forgotten, so I am trying to do memorable stuff and make a difference as I don't want to be forgotten... which is another form of anticipatory grief.
I often break down at the thought that Russ and I won't get to live out our dream of sitting on our back verandahs in our matching rocking chairs just laughing and chatting together, or we often find ourselves talking about our 10 year plan and what we will be doing without thinking and then it hits us and one of us is crying. I get upset at the thought of missing out on having a career, missing the wedding of my best friend and siblings too. I was fortunate to live to see one friend get married last November, a day I didn't think I would live to see, and we both hugged and cried so much that day she just kept saying how happy it made her that I could be there and the feeling was mutual, gah - I am crying now just remembering that powerful and emotional moment.
I must admit the thought of Russ moving on and finding love after I've gone has been on my mind a lot, but not to the extent (yet?) that I would actively seek out my replacement and set him up before I had died (like Abbi, in Irreplacable You); I know I tend to do things a little pre-emptively, but that (seeking out my own replacement) for me is a little too much. I had considered writing a letter to whomever came after me, but trying to put that pen to paper was just far too difficult everytime I have tried. What do I say or how do I begin, "so you're banging my husband and could give him a life I couldn't because my body was too stupid go ahead and have fun kids"... nah, it is too much. I want him to be happy and hope he isn't alone but at the same time I often cry at the thought that he will have a life I won't be a part of and I won't be here and it hurts thinking of him having a family and having a relationship with someone who is normal and can do normal things like walk or shower without assistance, and who isn't such a burden. I do worry about him though, if someone takes advantage of him when he is vulnerable (such as take our house from him) or his next partner doesn't understand Autism, how his mind works and just how patient you need to be at times; he says he probably won't try dating again.
Noticing anticipatory grief in those around me:
Now that I know that it (anticipatory grief) exists and it has a name, I have been noticing it more and more in my own everyday life and pracitices. I have also been noticing the anticipatory grief that others have in their interactions or behaviours towards me.
Ways or some examples have been:
Time for change, let's talk about Anticipatory Grief to Normalise it:
For so long I have felt guilty or ashamed for feeling grief or grieving over the loss of something due to being terminal, such as: the loss of friendships or social relationships; loss of my independence and being so reliant on Russ; loss of my ability to do normal everyday tasks such as dressing myself, showering, even walking; I know I felt grief over the loss of my bowel; grieving the loss of my connectedness to my community and feeling like I don't offer a valuable contribution to society; loss of career prospects; loss of being able to have a family and fertility.
I wished I knew then that anticipatory grief was normal and that it was what I have been feeling for all this time, it might have made accepting and acknowledging these feelings easier, rather than bottling them up because I felt like something was wrong with me for feeling how I did and feeling like it was all trivial, not realising this is a totally normal process and grief to experience.
Perhaps if people read more about anticipatory grief, they might then know to speak with a mental health professional to help work through their issues, like I currently am.
But most importantly there is nothing to feel ashamed of for feeling this grief or for grieving the life you're going to lose, it is only natural, but finding the right counsellor to help you through your issues is key. If you don't feel they are a right fit, try and search for someone who is.
Know you aren't alone and what you're feeling is completley valid, important and worthy of being acknowledged.
Wednesday, April 18 2018
Stoma Nurses are the heroes of the ostomy community, well I know I wouldn't have made the last 5 years without my wonderful nurse by my side. So it was why it was an absolute honour for me to have been asked by the WOCN society to contribute to a tribute video they were collating for WOCN week, to say thanks for our nurses.
It was even more of an honour as it was to mark 50 years of WOCN contribution, and I felt in someway that it was a way for me to leave a mark in the world to say thanks to my Nurse and all the nurses out there. I am big on saying thanks and ensuring that I say thanks for those I love or those who have made an impact on my life.
This week 15th-21st April, is the WOCN appreciation week. WOCN stands for Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing, in Australia this is a Stoma Nurse who is also a Stoma and Continence Nurse.
If you wanted to see the tribute video, here it is. If it doesn't load below the link is here.
Thank you to all of the nurses for all that they do to help ostomates navigate life with an ostomy more smoothly. Most importantly, thank you for having our backs.
Congratulations to the WOCN society on celebrating 50 years of service! And thank you for everything!
Sunday, February 25 2018
Did you know: there is an International Day for just about everything!
Feb 20 was International Love your pet day, but that is just about everyday amiright?? It is made easier when your pet is beautiful, funny, compassionate, photogenic and clever.
Dusty is my (well, I should say OUR) beautiful little ragdoll kitten who will be 2 later this year! He came to live with us when he was just a wee kitten and it was a matter of love at first sight, Russ and I fell in love with him straight away. He was just so, so tiny and adorable!
Dusty was so tiny he refused to go anywhere without me and often demanded I carry him or he slept on my chest, of a night he refused to sleep unless he was snuggled up to me in my bed and he has snuggled up to me every night since. He is like a soft, plush teddy bear but he helps to make you calm when he purrs.
We have been gushing over him ever since he came into our lives and will show off pictures and talk about him every chance we get and to anyone who'd listen... yes, we are THOSE type of fur-parents.
Russ and Dusty have their own special bond and routines, just as I have with Dusty.
I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that Dusty saved me and has made my life significantly better!
Life BD (before Dusty) was fairly lonely and boring, to be honest the days were long!
But since, it has been filled with: love, friendship, so many cuddles to count, laughs and companionship. He senses when I am sad and forces me to cuddle him, he is incredibly emotive and he has the most beautiful big blue eyes that just melt your heart.
Russ leaves for work at 8am and I am no longer alone while he is gone for the day, Dusty looks in on me when I am sleeping and often is close by. He can even sense when I am in pain and unwell and is extra affectionate! Dusty also makes me laugh a lot and makes me feel so very loved.
Did I mention he is so clever too? He plays fetch with me everyday! I throw his toy and he fetches it and brings it back for me to throw all over again.
I never realised I could love my kitten as much as I could, I always never understood people when they said their cat is not JUST a cat and is a member of the family... that was until Dusty came into our lives!
Dusty is our child, he is our furbaby and he has helped to make our house a home. He greets everyone who enters with excitement and love and he tries to protect our home too, he also seems to know everything that is going on within our house often you'll find him at the door or window being a stickybeak. But his most important job is excitedly greeting Russ when he walks through the door after a long and hard day at work.
Dusty is famous:
So when OstomyConnection shared their "15 ostomates who love their pets more than anything" I was so honoured to see that not only did Dusty and I make the list, BUT we were number 1 too!
I have been sharing Dusty's shenanigans on Instagram and Facebook, he gives me so many reasons to smile and he has become a reason for many others too, often I am emailed and they make mention of how they love Dusty or when I run into someone down the street they say he makes them smile too.
He has THE BEST facial expressions!
You can find more of Dusty on my Instagram/facebook account under @feelingostomistic, he also has his own page @fabmewlous_Dusty on Insta and facebook.
I am grateful to the joy and love Dusty has given me and I am sure it is one of the major factors in me still being here. He helped improve my spirits and my outlook on life.
The best advice people gave me when I got sick was that I should get a pet as they are the best therapy, I am just glad I listened! Maybe a pet will help you too!
Monday, February 12 2018
Please Note: All views in this blog are my own (and I don't claim to speak for or on behalf of anyone other than myself)... also, spoiler alert if you haven't yet watched episode 14 of the Good Doctor. I am just sharing my dismay at how something that saved my life was shown so negatively inflicting a stigma that so many fight to erase.
I have finally got around to catching up on the most recent episode of The Good Doctor, which I was rather enjoying up until this week.
Let me start by sharing (an ironic) quote from the episode:
The irony is that they could have shown more compassion surrounding how they approached the idea and livelihood with an ostomy.
Just an idea?
Myself and so many in the community work tirelessly to try and help people understand a life isn’t over with an Ostomy and comments on tonight’s show sets our work back 10 steps... arrogance isn’t helping anyone.
Here are what other ostomates and advocates said about the episode too:
No You Cantcer @NoYouCantcer
Here are some ostomates who inspire me and others:
But then there are other ostomates who have regained their lives and done things they never would have imagined, because of their ostomy and because they had the surgery, that in their cases were life-changing as much as it were life-saving.
I will introduce you to Zoey Wright, Laura Zapulla aka @stoma_licious, Sam Abarca aka @Aussie_Ostomate, Gaylyn Henderson aka @Gutlessandglamorous, Blake Beckford and Dana Marie. You may have heard of these guys before or seen them on instagram, you may remember Laura and Sam from my 20 Aussie Ostomates on Instagram post.
While these are just 6 ostomates, there are so many others out there showing life with an ostomy can still be lived and loved, but also that this can be a second chance many didn't have.
I am sharing these 6 ostomates because they have inspired me and I know they will inspire you too!
✰Introducing Zoey Wright @zoeywrightx - Pro Fitness Model:
✰Introducing Laura Zapulla @stomalicious - Ostomy travel blogger:
✰Introducing Sam Abarca @aussie_ostomate - RN with an ostomy and training to be a STN too:
✰Introducing Gaylyn Henderson founder of @gutlessandglamorous - helping to inspire the beauty in all of us:
"Anything that has the power to save a life can be nothing but beautiful!"
For over a decade Gaylyn adapted her life around her pain, her health issues caused from her IBD and struggling to find normalcy. It affected her emotional health too. It was then when she had her total colectomy and became an ostomate that she regained her love of life again. She often has spoken out about the stigma attached to having an ostomy that was the reason she held off for so long. Determined to change this for others, she founded the Gutless and Glamorous foundation with aims at helping to inspire and improve the lives of people with chronic illness and pays special attention to those with an ostomy or need to undergo life altering surgeries. She said (in an interview with BlackDoctor) her ostomy "saved my life and I want to highlight that those living with one can be both #GutlessandGlamorous. It is my goal to help erase the stigma." I think she has done an incredible job and believe she deserves a huge applause for all her tireless work from advocacy, support, education and fundraising for a cure. The world is a better place because of people like Gaylyn. Find her on: Instagram Facebook Twitter Blog
✰Introducing Blake Beckford @Blake_Beckford - Model, Body Builder and advocate:
✰Introducing Dana Marie Arnold @lovedanamarie - country music singer/songwriter, recently married:
I have talked before about how my ostomy gave me my life back and how it saved my life, my ostomy is the reason I get to cherish the gift of each day I wake up, my ostomy isn't perfect and is complicated but it gives me life and that is precious. In the future I hope that there is more acceptance for life-altering and life-saving surgeries like an ostomy and that it is more accepted.
This is why I started my blog 5 years ago, so that I can share life with an ostomy and hope to inspire others to live their best lives. I am so grateful now that there are so many wonderful ostomy advocates and bloggers on social media.
My wish is that in 10 years there won't be a stigma for ostomy life, that ostomy life will be accepted and not made to feel embarrassed for pooping different... I have seen how much the landscape has changed in 5 years and it gives me hope for future ostomates and the next generation of ostomates that they will feel love and acceptance and never have to feel ashamed for something out of their control anyway.
As I say all the time, I'd rather an ostomy in tow than a tag on my toe, ostomy life has been a rollercoaster ride for me, but it has also gifted me the joy of living too - so I will always be grateful for that.
Friday, February 09 2018
I have had the pleasure of connecting with some incredible ostomates over the years, even had the chance to interview and chat with them for my magazine, which is always a great privilege. Some have even become great friends too.
Last year I was honoured when Krystal Miller, who is an Aussie ostomate/advocate/IBD warrior and blogger more famously and belovedly known as Bag Lady Mama online, allowed me to interview her for my magazine. She was the cover ostomate for issue 2 and allowed me to get down and deep with my readers, and had a no filter no question off limits type interview.
Ostomyconnection.com reached out after the issue went live and asked us if we wouldn't mind if the interview was republished and edited to suit the readership and the site.
So last month I opened up my inbox to see the latest interview went live on their site. I was so excited to see how many were sharing the article around social media and how many loved the interview.
As a writer, or maybe it is just me, I tend to doubt myself A LOT - I mean constantly - so I always worry that people won't like what I have written or that it wouldn't be read/enjoyed.
I saw within a couple of days there'd been something like 888 shares, this gave me this huge smile and sense of "maybe I am doing something right after all" but to know so many liked it really made me so proud. I think I used the term 'proud as punch' on twitter, but I honestly am.
Of course I know my interview wouldn't have been what it was if it weren't for my wonderful interviewee, Krystal.
If you want to read the interview on OstomyConnection the link is here.
5 years ago I took a chance on myself and started writing about life with an ostomy, and I am just so grateful to the opportunities and people I have met along the way.
P.S I have another interview/article on another Aussie ostomate, Laura Zapulla who blogs at stomalicious, talking about how she has inspired and shown ostomates that you can have bag will travel and that having an ostomy doesn't stop you from living the life you are able to. She recently moved abroad which is a lifelong dream. So I am excited to share that interview soon. Laura has shared articles for me in my magazine about travel with an ostomy too.
Sunday, February 04 2018
If you could see me right now, you'd see that I have THE biggest grin on my face. Imagine a Cheshire cat style grin....
Yes, it's that huge!
I recently got home after a short stint in hospital where on Australia Day I almost died, it has been a rather upsetting and hard fortnight but I am home now and recovering (and catching up on everything).
I am so grateful and acknowledge my own privilege in that I could come home this time, but also that I continue to live for another day.
I was so scared on that Friday as I wasn't ready to die, I had so much I still was yet to achieve and do and finalise. I was scared that I felt things weren't ready and my anxiety since has been sky high, understandably so, worried about when or how close the end actually is - which is looming everyday closer, it is terrifying.
I know I have so much I wanted to achieve and goals I had set both personally and for my blog, which brings us to today's post.
Back when I started my blog 5 years ago I said to myself:
So I remember a couple of weeks ago - before I suddenly got sick and went to hospital - I had looked at my site stats as I was updating my media kit for January. It was when I noticed that my blog views were sitting 15k shy of half a mill.
I said to Russ:
I am not writing this as an intended brag post or anything, and I know for some blogs 500k views is their monthly or yearly visit, but I am sharing this as I am feeling incredibly proud as punch right now.
5 years ago I was told I had early stage bowel cancer and was about to undergo surgery to remove my entire large bowel and live the rest of my life with a permanent ileostomy for the rest of my life.
I was scared
I was alone
But I took a leap of faith and courageously started my blog.
I was worried that people would not be kind or respectful, or that people would be judgemental and rude. I also worried that maybe what I am trying to share wouldn't be read by anyone and wouldn't be providing value or meaning.
I was full of self doubt.
It is quite vulnerable when you put yourself out there and you don't know how this all would work out and how well your blog would be received. Especially given that it is a difficult and personal experience that I was putting myself out there during what is a private time of mine and my husband's life, but I knew that if I shared this openly and what I learned along the way that it could actually be helping someone somewhere. I know it helped me immensely to share this, gave me a sense of purpose.
Back then there weren't many ostomy bloggers, social media (instagram more so) wasn't as huge nor were those publicly sharing life with an ostomy, and ostomy life and living with a bag was such a taboo subject. It felt rather lonely and isolating, felt kind of like it was a dirty little secret and I wanted to try and change that and help the next generation of young ostomates to embrace their lives and stoma.
I had hoped that I could be part of the movement of helping to normalise life with an ostomy and raise awareness of that life as a young person with a stoma is still able and that life won't end.
So with hesitation I hit publish on that first post and was surprised by what followed.
I was thanked for what I wrote, I found people who respected my writing and it has led to some amazing friendships and I found my tribe and community.
I felt valued, I found self worth and I found that there was a sense of magic in helping others to feel less alone as they navigated their ostomy life or dealing with new diagnosis and what comes next or even in finding themselves again.
I know it is scary and daunting sometimes, but I know how much better it is when you find someone who you can identify and relate to or read something that creates an 'ah ha' moment... I just hope that I have helped others.
My milestone, that I thought back 5 years ago was unrealistic and unattainable but I still held hope and believed in myself and backed myself. I learned a lot in that time not just about life but also about myself.
My blog wouldn't be what it is without you guys, my tribe and cheer squad
Of course me celebrating this moment would be worthless if it weren't for every single one of you who read my blog, support me and my writing and have helped me create a community.
Thank you so much for your support, respect and kindness over this time, but also for your friendship too. Thank you for embracing me and for letting me be myself and helping me at times on my quest to find/discover/remember myself and for reminding me when I had forgotten.
I want to thank you and show you how much I appreciate you.
I have been looking at ways to celebrate my 5 year blogaversary, reaching half a million views to my blog and being close to 1000 facebook likes. So I am thinking of fun ways to say thank you, so please stay tuned.
What an Ostomistically amazing time it is to be alive!
I am grateful so much for you all and if I have helped you in any way please comment below.
Friday, January 19 2018
I had wanted to write about this topic so many times last year, but each time I feared if I did it could somehow come across that I am some angry hermit who doesn't like visitors.
I don't claim to talk on behalf of all the people who are chronically or terminally sick, I simply am sharing mine (and my husband's) views of how we feel when you have surprise visits. Sometimes surprise or short noticed visits are difficult and stressful, you mightn't realise but there are reasons that make surprise visits difficult.
It could be very easy for you and your loved one who is sick to know how you can better support them and what things or actions don't help them. Finding how they feel about their needs or issues and how you can better help could be a starting point so you both can understand.
It is hard when you're chronically (and also in my case) terminally sick and trying to navigate the waters of keeping up appearances, being social and people visiting often surprised and unnanounced. I know people care and they decide as a last minute thing that they wanted to visit me for the day but don't bother telling me as "it is fun to surprise you" thinking it will make me feel great about myself having visitors, but they don't realise surprise visits cause me a lot of stress and anxiety which I explain below.
Don't get me wrong, I like when people visit but only if 2 conditions are met:
There were a few times over the past couple of years when people had surprised visited me and despite continually asking for no surprise visits, they still happened.
Family and friends were outside waiting and were upset and bothered when I didn't answer the door, because I was asleep and had my phone turned off so I could sleep.
I NEED notice when it comes to having visitors for a few reasons.
#1. I sleep a lot:
#2. My stoma leaks a lot:
#3. I often sleep starkers:
#4. I am often in pain and bedridden:
On days when I am bedridden I would love visits, providing you are understanding that I am in bed and you can sit in my room chatting with me. But don't expect me to get up and entertain you, defeats the point of being in bed resting. Don't ask "when are you getting up" or "why aren't you getting up" because it makes me want to kick you up the butt if I could because I don't need to justify myself to anyone.
#5. I can't just simply duck out to the shops:
If you arrive and we don't know in advance, even if you tell me in the morning, if Russ has already left for work it is too late. I don't have a car and can't drive much anymore, so if you surprised me it would mean I wouldn't have milk or cake or anything and would be a terrible host (again) and I would be feeling so anxious all day if you arrived worried that am I going to hear about this from others about how I am a horrible host... I don't mind if you do turn up unnanouced, just don't be upset if I don't have milk or coffee and can't get to the shops.
#6. I need a chance to cancel:
#7. Our house mightn't be visitor friendly:
I could go on about scenarios, there is so many more.
But I do love a visit, just prefer at least a couple of days notice at the very least to make sure the house is ready or that if you're staying the guest rooms are ready. You can visit, please just understand that turning up and surprising me isn't what works best for us.
I know it is hard to understand, but please do reconsider and try to give us as much notice for when you want to visit. I want to have a nice visit with you but I don't want either of us to feel uncomfortable.
If you do decide to that day or morning to visit, please give me as much notice as you can. If you arrived in Coffs at 9am but aren't visiting until 4pm Don't wait until 3pm to call me! Tell me first thing so I can have time to assess if I am up for a visit or under what terms. If you don't hear back from me or Russ before 4 hours before you're planning on visiting then it might not be the best day. If you don't hear from me, try Russ.
But if Russ says "today isn't the best day she isn't well" please respect his call.
Don't continue to turn up and then be upset if you're outside waiting for me for a while and I am asleep and don't know you're there until an hour after you've sat out there waiting. If you haven't heard a conifrmation at least 4 hours before arriving on if I am aware you're coming or if it is the right time, than maybe it isn't the most apporpriate time for a visit.
Again, none of this is said to upset anyone, I want visitors I really do - I just don't do well with surprise visits. My health IS declining and I am spending more time in bed, so surprise visits really aren't ideal for us anymore. #sorrynotsorry
As I said, ask your loved one how you can support them and what they need from you, in my case try to avoid surprise or unnanounced visits.
Sunday, January 14 2018
Russ, as of 4pm this afternoon, is off work for 10 days.
Cue the party blowers!
I noticed he was burning out, it is hard working full time and being a primary carer too, it can understandably be a bit overwhelming and exhausting at times.
It can feel like you're burning the candle at both ends too.
In 8 years of being together I have gotten good at recognising what Russ needs even before he says so himself.
So I realised around Christmas he was tired, he was more snappy and irritable than usual and he was just grumpy. I told him that he should find out the earliest he can take holidays and take them, as I was worried about him. Our GP agreed it was good idea for him too.
So he finished this afternoon and heads back Australia day or just before.
I don't want to overwhelm Russ with a jam packed daily itinerary, he doesn't do well with plans as the fallout of when they don't happen can be hard, so I am choosing to do things to spend time together but shouldn't be too overwhelming either. We don't have a holiday planned or anything but there are 5 things we want to try and do:
#1. Go for a couple of nice walks together:
#2. Go to Bunnings:
#3. Do some house stuff:
After all, happy wife happy life they say.
I have also just started doing the Barefoot Investor, so hoping to work on whipping ourselves into financial shape this year, so probably try and sell a bunch of stuff to find the $2k needed for one of the steps. I have A LOT of work to do to find this amount so I can begin.
#4. Do our belated Xmas:
#5. Go Swimming:
So it is safe to say I am feeling pretty excited for the next couple of weeks, I like days Russ has off and we can hang out - even if it is just playing board games in bed. Days I am in bed it is a comfort to know he is close by. Also means if there is an hour or two I can manage getting out of the house we can do stuff, those are my best parts of the week.
Here is to quality Talya and Russ time - Can you tell I am excited?
Friday, January 12 2018
I know I have chirped on and on (and on) about how we are struggling financially and that I am concerned about when I die and if Russ can manage it on his own. I know you're probably sick of hearing me go on about it, but it honestly is so stressful.
It is hard being on one income, I know it is overwhelming for Russ too.
So last week we got a letter from our bank informing me that as of today (the 12th) our mortgage will be going up $500 a month.
This really scares me.
Not only do I not know where I am going to pluck that extra $500 from this month considering we are already halfway through the month, but that I really am so stressed and upset.
Yes, I acknowledge my priviledge in that we have our own mortgage, but even when we were renting things were hard and the rent assistance really made the world of difference when it came to our budget. But it doesn't mean that things instantly became easier when we got out mortgage. I didn't realise how much harder it was to have your own place.
I see how worried Russ is over this and I know he is on the fritz of losing it as it was before this letter, now he is just even more stressed. I feel so guilty, I know it isn't my fault and that I couldn't help getting sick but it is my age old issue with that I should have gotten life insurance earlier or made more of an effort to do extra super contributions when I worked as it would mean I have more than $3000 in super.... which I am still fighting to get out mind you.
That is a fight for another day.
Yesterday I got a copy of Barefoot investor in the mail (thanks to a beautiful friend buying and sending me this copy) and started reading it, I have heard everyone rave about it and how effective it truly is, so it gives me hope for the first time that maybe I can get things under control this year.
It is one of my goals to get things neater for Russ, I don't know how much time I have and I think it will just be a massive peace of mind to know it is under control.
We have our mortgage, debts, car loan plus our other bills. So I try each year to review things to see if there is savings to be found, so I am hopeful that this book will help me even more.
Plus, it is one of my goals to read more too, so this is already tackling my goals for the year.... maybe this year is getting off to a stressful start but it might be turning around? Always hopeful that things will get better, surely they have to?
A friend has put me in touch with a broker and hoping we can find a new bank with a better rate and can consolidate our debt which will mean freeing up a lot of weekly expenditure and might mean we can afford to start saving.
So tell me, have you read the book? Did it help you? What was the biggest take away you had from it?
I will let you know when I have finished reading it and what progress I make.... until then, wish me luck!
We also got Solar Panels on recently, they had a 5 year interest free offer, so we are really hoping that on our next bill we can see a difference, otherwise I am going to be rather upset. Russ assures me we will be better off and that it will improve the value of our home too. Do you have solar panels and do you see a difference? Next bill is March, so will let you know if there were savings to be had.
As always, thank you for listening and wish me luck as I tackle this mammoth task!
What goals are you hoping to tackle this year?
Thursday, December 14 2017
If you have just read part 1, You will have learned: how heat can affect those who are vulnerable or sick or with an ostomy; what are the different heat related illnesses to look out for; what are the symptoms of the heat illnesses; and lastly, how/what to do under each situation.
NB: It is important to remember that this is just an informative guide only and I am not a nurse or doctor, and any individual circumstances or advisement is based on each person's own circumstances. If you have questions to follow it up with your team.
So in this Part 2, I will be sharing tips to help you be more prepared for the weekend
But just in case you haven't read part 1 yet, basically here in Australia we are preparing for an extreme heat wave which will occur over the weekend and most of Australia will be experiencing temps of 35'c-45'c+.
I have an ostomy, ileostomy to be exact, I also have other chronic co-morbid health issues/illnesses and take various medications which put me at higher risk of sun related illnesses.
I started writing this post a couple of years ago but never finished it in time for it to be relevant, so I am finishing it ahead of this weekend, I only hope it might help someone to be more informed of their own circumstances and to know what to do.
Also keep in mind anyone you know who might be at a higher risk of suffering with the heat, it could be a neighbour who is elderly and lives alone, or it could be checking in on a friend, just to make sure they are doing okay - as the heat can affect many in different ways.
Part 2: Being prepared and tips to surviving the heatwave
I thought it might just be helpful to share different tips to help you get through the heatwave, if you have your own be sure to comment.
Tip #1: Never leave kids or pets alone in a car
Even on a "cool day" this is a no-no. While the temp outside might only be 25'c the temps inside that car can be 55-70'c! It can rise 40 degrees hotter than the outside temperature, so imagine how hot it would be on a day during a heatwave.... scary to think. The damage it can do is increase a child's body temperature, which could lead to brain damage... not to mention what it does to pets too.
I have seen videos and experiements where a chef has cooked a lamb while inside a car, to a vet documenting what it is like in a car. I do not suggest trying it out yourself, there are plenty of videos and information out on the interwebs about the consequences to leaving pets or kids in cars, which can be deadly.
A child left in a parked car under those conditions for even a few minutes can very quickly become distressed, dehydrated and can die from organ failure. If you see anything, you need to act quickly. If you wait, it can be too late.
What to do if you see a child or pet in the car?
You don't have to be an NRMA member to call for roadside assistance if it is in less urgent circumstances. Because of the grave danger involved, the NRMA drops everything to respond immediately to calls where a child is locked in a car.
For pets: Visit Just 6 minutes, a site by the RSPCA which outlines that it takes only 6 minutes of a dog left in a car to die. Here is a factsheet of pet first aid if you can rescue the pet from the car and can wait until the owner arrives. Call 000 immediately and ask what you're legalities are if you can smash the window. But some states you can receive a $200k fine and imprisonment for leaving a pet in the car.
Tip #2: Have plenty of water
You should drink two to three litres of water a day even if you don't feel thirsty.
Tip #3: Have electrolyte replacement on hand
Also important if you don't have an ostomy but have gastro or vomiting bugs during a heatwave too. Hydrolyte is an electrolyte drink which also comes in the form of icypoles too and can be found from most supermarkets or chemists.
Tip #4: Stay cool
If you are outdoors try and find a nice shaded tree and be sure to keep hydrated.
You could also use one of those battery operated hand held mist fans Kmart have them for $5-$10, or a spray bottle with water in it to help.
A cool tip, get it (lol) I have one of my heatpacks in a zip lock bag and in my freezer. This turns into a cold pack and means I have a cool option too. I get my heatpack/cold packs from Chatterbox City.
Tip #5: Keep plenty of drinks in the fridge prepared
Tip #6: Have ice packs or blocks in the freezer
Tip #7: Keep blinds drawn
Tip #8: Wear light summery clothing
Tip #9: Be sun smart and sun safe
Tip #10: Reapply sunscreen often
Tip #11: Don't lie in the sun exposed
Tip #12: in case of a blackout
Tip #13: Open the house at night or evening if a cool change is forecast
Tip #14: Pets or wildlife
Fill a kids clam pool sand pit thing with water and put in the shade and let your dog cool down when he needs to.
Tip #15: Keep your body cool but not freezing
Tip #16: Check in on those at risk
Tip #17: Watermelon
Tip #18: Foods
Tip #19: Wearing a stoma cover
Tip #20: Mashmallows
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I hope that you have found these 2 posts helpful on how to prepare for a heatwave with an ostomy, I know they have been long posts but there was a lot of information I needed to share with you. These posts do not replace the information of that of your nurse or doctors, it is a guide to help inform you of the risks and tips on getting through the heatwave safely.
Please be sure to seek medical attention if you require it and don't delay, heat related illnesses are deadly serious.
More Links through my research:
If you have another tip, be sure to let me know in the comments below. To read part 1, click here
Monday, November 27 2017
I am feeling a mix of emotions right now, I am feeling so relieved that the magazine is finally ready to be published and shared with the world... but that part terrifies me!
I feel guilty for the delay, health issues happened, but I still worked hard when I could manage to get the issue out.
I also feel mega proud right now!
I hope you enjoy this issue, there is some great content in there and work for issue 3 is underway (summer/xmas/holidays issue) so if you have any content you want to contribute get in touch asap, or keep an eye on the facebook page too.
If you're a business and wanting to advertise - we offer affordable advertising options and also offer affordable graphic design too. I am also open to collaborations, just get in touch.
I am really hoping you love this issue, there are 2 giveaways too.
In this issue I launch my NEW Stoma Diary, this is an ebook that you can download for FREE and print or edit via your computer or tablet. It is aimed at helping NEW ostomates navigate the first 6-8 weeks post op and as they approach surgery. I have had my own stoma nurse look over it and she excitedly shared it with her colleagues too.
So sit back with a cuppa and have a flip through.
I have tried to get more male relatable content out there but struggling to get the guys to contribute, anyone that knows me knows I am stubborn and persistent and I endeavour to have more male content in here, I am trying my best so please don't be disheartened.
Finally, If anyone is wanting to join the team on a voluntary position I would love some social media help and develop a content strategy etc, I recently posted about this on the magazine facebook page too.
Anyway, have a wonderful night and I will anxiously await your feedback.
Saturday, November 11 2017
CW: This post talks infertility, miscarriage and other heartbreak caused by having a faulty body
If you follow me on social media, no doubt you have met the gorgeous little furball Dusty who is a ragdoll x blue russian kitten. He has the most gorgeous blue eyes and has made every day over the past year filled with love, fun, adventure and cuddles.
Wait, 12 months on, is he still a kitten or is he a cat? I hate to think of him as a grown cat as he is wholeheartedly my little furbaby. I still like to think of him as this tiny little ball of fluff that relied on me.
Dusty has filled a void that I have had for far too long, and I know Russ will say the same.
Dusty is our baby, he is our child we never had and he is a spoiled little shit. I say that with lots of love. He has destroyed everything because he can, he makes a habit out of biting my ankles or backs of my knees, and he just throws tantrums if he doesn't get what he wants.... I love him, I do, but some days he can be a handful.
However, I know the huge benefit Dusty has had on my wellbeing, I believe he is a major part of why I am still here, he has filled our home and hearts with so much love, laughter, joy, and I know the last 12 months would have been a lot more lonlier and isolating if it weren't for him.
Our Hopes for a family:
Russ and I have always wanted children, even before our first date 8 years ago he said "I am looking to settle down, to have a family, to find the one person to spend the rest of my life with". At the time the then 18-year-old me was like "hmm ok we'll see" it wasn't in my life's plan to have kids until I was at least 24, married and had a career and house. But then once we got to know each other, he supported me through several brain surgeries a month after we started dating, I knew there was something special about Russ and when he proposed a couple of months later I said yes. I was excited for what the future had in store for us, it was my chance for a new beginning and hopefully a family.
We had one misscarriage in February Valentine's Day (was the day of our engagement party) and it was the only successful attempt. We were shattered. We were hopeful that we would be a family one day.
Later that year we got married (July), then sometime after the wedding we learned that my dad was terminal with bowel cancer at 39 years of age and that it were a rare hereditary form that it was high probability that I too shared this gene.
My doctors forewarned that I were likely to have cancer myself but wouldn't be until around 30 (boy they were wrong) and suggested we try and plan for a family right away and live our lives before surgery and cancer took over.
Our hopes and dreams as newlyweds of having the family we longed for were shattered now that we were gambling the life of a future child in our hands. We started meeting with geneticists, specialists, gynecologists, fertility specialists and counsellors to fully go over our options.
In 2012, 2 years after my diagnosis of FAP, I had investigative surgery of my pelvic area including my bladder and bowel.
I woke from surgery being told that I was in a medically induced menopause and that on top of the FAP I had severe stage 4 endometriosis and the chances of having a child with IVF was less than 1% and would be too costly.
So it was then that we put the plans of us having a family of our own to rest, we then said we would foster, adopt or get a kitten as Russ isn't a dog person.
In 2013, in the months that I were free of bowel cancer and rejoicing for my new lease on life after having surgery to have an ileostomy, we started training to be foster parents. In 2014, we learned of the new tumour where the bowel used to be and was told that I now couldn't be a foster parent until I had been 5 years cancer free and had a stable life - bringing a kid into a house with a sick parent could be traumatising for the child - so we said we would wait for that day to come.
Which brings us to 12 months ago:
We had moved into our own home, now as home owners we could have a kitten. We were scrolling through facebook one day when a lady posted a photo of Dusty and said he was available in 2 months time (late october). I quickly messaged expecting him to have been sold already, but to my surprise he hadn't found his forever home yet. Later that day Russ dropped by on his way home from work and paid for him and had his first cuddles with him.
Russ was completley smitten and in love.
It filled my heart with so much joy seeing the bond they've shared over the past year.
Dusty cuddles up to me a lot through the day and the night, but as soon as Russell's alarm goes off he shoots off the bed and meows all excitedly as he knows he is about to be fed. When Russ comes home Dusty runs to the door to greet him, Russ will pick him up for cuddles and often rolls around on the floor playing with him.
It is a comfort some days knowing that Russ will not come home to an empty house once I've died, that he will always come home to seomone who loves him and needs him and I think (hope) that Dusty will be a great comfort for Russ.
I know a cat isn't a child, but Dusty is our little baby. He is funny, mischeivious, smart, playful and loving.
Dusty is so clever! He plays fetch. He learned when he was really little that I spend a lot of time in bed when I have bad days, so he learned if he wanted someone to play with that he needs to play on the bed as I am laying down, and it has worked really well.
He at times has sensed when I am upset or anxious, he often checks on me during my bad days, he also sometimes wakes me up by poking me in the face with his fish-on-a-stick-toy, but he has made me feel full and loved. He is so protective of me it is adorable.
I now feel like we are a family and we have Dusty to thank for completing our lives.
I know I post a lot of Dusty posts on social media, but most days he is the best part of my day and I want to share that with the world.
I always had been told that pets are theraputic, but until this past year I wasn't a believer. I get asked why I haven't died yet and what has changed in the past year and my answer is Dusty.
Friday, November 03 2017
Recently, I was asked to be the Australian writer and contributor to OstomyConnection.com which is a site dedicated to being a hub on all aspects of ostomy life.
I was asked to write an article on:
Despite there being approximately 44,000 Australians living with an ostomy, it can at times feel frighteningly lonely and friendless, especially if you live in remote or rural areas of Australia (like myself).
When I was 21 (in 2012), I was told that I needed a permanent ileostomy due to early stages of bowel cancer. I didn’t know anyone to help me understand ostomy life, especially my concerns as a young person (moreso, a young female) and navigating/living a fulfilling life. So I sought out a local stoma support group but at the time there was a 40 year age gap with the nearest age to mine, which made me feel more alone and unable to relate to them or their lives.
So .... I turned to the internet - particularly social media - in a desperate search for proof that a life can still be lived with an ostomy. At the time there weren’t many bloggers or people publicly sharing their life with a stoma, so it was hard back then to find “your people” or someone who just got you and could completely empathise with you.
Today, Instagram has a community of over 800 million users!
That is 800 million chances to find your community that you want to connect with or to be inspired by…. After all, a friendship is born at the moment that one person says to the other “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
One of the perks of social media is the ability to connect people and to help them feel less alone and isolated.
Whilst I know that there are thousands of Aussie Ostomates on Instagram, here are my top pick of 20 fellow Aussies that I know you’ll not only find relatable and awe-inspiring through the lives they lead, but that you’ll also love. Each contribute vastly to ostomy life.
I look forward to bringing you many more articles.
You can read the post here https://ostomyconnection.com/news-and-culture/20-ostomates-in-australia-to-connect-with-on-instagram
Wednesday, October 04 2017
“Be the change you wish to see in the world”
We all know that at some point our lives will end, but what we do in our life and how we live could be a legacy that we are leaving that would continue to live on well after we have died.
It is hard at times knowing that my end is coming, given my terminal prognosis and that I am living with the knowledge that I could have 6-12months. I do know that a year ago I didn't think I would still be here, but I am. So I am making the most of every single day.
However, leaving a legacy is at the forefront of my mind.
Everyday I wonder: "will I be forgotten?"
I have so many thoughts racing through my mind every minute of the day, these are just some.
One thing that I worry though is if my life meant anything or if I mattered... it might sound like a strange thing to think about or it might sound like a self-centred narcissistic thing, but it is hard somedays wondering "why me?".
So leaving a legacy and living a life that I am truly proud of is something of importance to me
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One thing that I have known and believed since I was a teenager was that I had a purpose in life and that was: "to make a difference or to change one person's life", so I have tried to live life with this desire to help behind every action - including my blog and magazine.
I was pretty excited to have been asked by Share the Dignity to write about legacies and living a life with a purpose. This is a piece I offered up as a volunteer contribution (I was not paid or incentivised in any way), this is a charity I have been passionate about supporting for the last couple of years and one that I know how important/needed their work is.
If you would like to read my article click here. (Feel free to leave a comment if it has helped you or if you liked it)
Share the Dignity have their annual It's in the bag campaign coming up where people are asked to donate a handbag or backpack that is in good condition and fill it with items such as pads, tampons, toiletries and more. To learn more click here...
Being a Volunteer, despite being terminally ill:
Last year I did two backpacks for teenage girls and filled with items I had collected since the Xmas prior. To find out about how I put together 2 bags on a budget, click here.
I decided to sign up as a volunteer and collect the bags and deliver to the respective charities in the area. At one point I had over 300 handbags in my house. Two guest bedrooms were chock-a-block full of handbags and backpacks and there were a trail from the front door leading through the house!
It was an incredible experience and very overwhelming, only that I struggled with energy and pain and couldn't carry much so Russ stepped up for me and helped to deliver everything. Russ also helped me to check each bag for all the essentials and make sure that each bag had pads etc.
I was pretty proud of the work from our community.
Russ and I were delivering bags to a youth refuge and the owner/manager was in tears. One of the girls came out and helped Russ and I carry the bags and she said: " Thank you for doing this, you have no idea how much it means to me to know that strangers do care, that someone believes in me".
Another charity we were delivering to (was our 2nd delivery there that day as the car only fits so many bags) came running out of the charity as she had just received her bag and she hugged me and was crying and said "this were the best gift she had ever received".
I am so happy that an incredible organisation that is Share the Dignity exists, I wish I could have done more to help but I donate pads when I can to their April and August drives and the #itsinthebag. I love that Russ got involved and was a champ in helping me last year, sadly I am not in good enough health to volunteer for a second year but I am trying my best to get a bag together when I can.
I know there were times in my life where pads were a luxury and it meant going without food, it is no exaggeration at all, I am not ashamed of that point in my life I was simply trying my best, but do consider in your next grocery shop to grab a packet of pads/tampons and keep aside for the #itsinthebag campaign, even if you can't afford to do a bag but can donate pads that would be incredibly appreciated and it does make a difference.
If you were interested in volunteering for the it's in the bag campaigns click here, it truly was a hard yet rewarding experience. Or if you can't collect the bags consider offering your workplace as a collection point!
There are always opportunities all around us to help make a difference to someone else's life.
I know that even if you think it is a small act of kindness and that it wouldn't be noticed, it could in fact be a huge thing to that person and be the reason that hope is restored.
Tuesday, September 19 2017
Today was a pretty big day running around between appointments from one to the next, I was so pooped (exhausted) when I got home around 3pm that I went straight to bed only waking not long ago.
Yesterday and today have been the first days in over a month that I have ventured out of the house, it is a rather elated feeling when you feel so trapped and then suddenly you feel free. Hard to explain it really, but being cooped up all the time really gets to me emotionally. I think that is a massive attribution to my depression too.
So I welcomed the change of getting out of the house today.
So today's agenda involved meeting a new GP as my current one is on leave until end of Oct and I needed to see someone, running some errands and grabbing a bite to eat, then meeting with my bowel specialist who outside of seeing me in March (when I was admitted to the hospital) I was overdue for a meeting.
So first up: the new GP
I thought the appointment would be straight forward, I wasn't preparing myself for getting into deep and meaningful conversations today.
Unusually, I am still not used to telling strangers "hey, yeah so I am 26 and dying from cancer" I feel I am always having to say it with a smile in the hopes that it protects them from any hurt they could feel, I also hate feeling morbid and smiling also helps me.
I get a bit anxious when going into depth about my FAP story and how this is more than just a bowel cancer gene, so many doctors don't understand the complexity of it unless it is a field they study... so I was rather surprised when this doctor knew about it and said "ahh yes it can invade multiple structures" which was a relief as it gets exhausting sometimes having to fight and advocate and educate someone especially a doctor on diseases that you live with - I really didn't have the energy today to do this so it was great that he had understanding.
He acknowledged that no matter how many years he has been a doctor or how many patients he has seen that it never gets easy when you have a patient who you can't do anything for other than what issues or symptoms they had.
I got my referral for my appointmet and a script for some antibiotics for a nasty wound I had and he took a swab of it.
One part of the conversation that surprised me though, was talking about my beliefs of what comes after I died. I don't often get asked and I said what I felt and that is a whole topic for another time I think.
So off I went to the errands we had to run next (go collect a parcel from a courier depot way out of town) then forgot all about the chemists to get my script filled and went to lunch thinking we had plenty of time. An hour passed still no lunch and had 10 minutes until my specialist's appointment when the food finally arrived and I scoffed it down and left. Was rather disappointed as I had been waiting and looking forward to that lunch date for sooooo long and it wasn't able to be enjoyed afteral.
Next up: Specialist's appointment
So he called me straight in and I sat down.
He asked how was the concert (the whole reason I discharged myself from hospital) and I excitedly told him how that not only did I win the tickets to the Dixie Chicks but they wanted to meet me too, which is something they don't often do on their tours. He was so happy. I continued to tell him that they dedicated a song that was special to me and my dad to us and he said he was so glad I could make the concert of a lifetime.
He is a great and caring doctor, he has been my doctor since 2010 so he has been there for me right from diagnosis of the cancer gene right up until this point of my life, so he has been with me through everything. He has an amazing bedside manner and has always gone above and beyond for me, he is so kind and he even takes the time to talk to Russ down the street and ask about me.
Before we dwelved into what I needed for today's appointment, he asked what can he do for me, anything? Not often I get asked what extra assistance I need, but I am not good with asking for help. I did ask for possibility of him booking me respite at the hospital again soon as I need it, he said consider it done.
We talked about what is currently going on in my bowel, Russ never comes to my appointments with him as he always usually was working, but luck had it that he could come with me today. Russ was the one that brought up the pain when I eat before I had the chance too, it was all stuff paliative care have explained to me before, but the first time Russ heard a doctor explain it.
Imagine someone with heart issues tries to walk 100m and experiences sharp pains or angina, essentially my bowel is not getting enough blood supply for it to work. My body quickly rushes blood and it surges to the area to try and make it work. Because of the short blood supply my bowel is trying to run a marathon as a sprint. Gee is it bloody painful!
So everytime I eat I get horrible pain that lasts hours after my meal.
He suggested that I try shakes, protein drinks nothing foody (blended nutribullet as it isn't really a drink) and just try those. I know when I drink or have soft stuff like icecream or zooper doopers (ice blocks) there isn't the pain, which he said would be true as it isn't food and anything food like requires the stomach and bowel to work to process it. He said watery soups would be good too, but I am not a broth type of person. So drinks and ice cream it is!
Next issue was to do with my stoma, when I eat say 7pm my stoma isn't actually working and processing bulk of my output until around 5-6am the next morning. It never used to be this bad. He said it is caused from a bowel obstruction caused by the massive main going-to-kill-me tumour as it is compressing the bowel to narrow and food can't pass properly until it is a massive push/release. He said it isn't my fault just again tumour related and even if I reduced meal sizes he said it wouldn't make a difference and that to not have as much fibrous or foods.
Before we left he did tell me that he thinks I have done an amazing job through all of this to remain the same kind and positive person, he said my attitude towards things have always helped him and he always admired how well I handled things. He said that he acknowledges that the last 18 months with my new stoma hasn't been easy but he said he is proud of how I have adapted and gotten used to it.
It made me feel better to hear from someone such as my Doctor to think highly of me, made me feel like maybe I am strong afterall.
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Sooo pretty much that is where I am at, that is latest health update and I am just trying to make the most of whatever time I have left. It is hard to know you are just basically waiting until you die, but I am trying my best to not let that get the better of me. I know (well, I hope) I still have a lot left to give.
If you read this far, thank you! I know I don't always update my blog as often as I would have liked, but sometimes when you spend 20 hours of your day in bed asleep it is just easier to microblog on facebook or instagram. You can follow me between blog posts by searching @feelingostomistic or twitter is @feel_ostomistic.
Sunday, July 16 2017
I am going to set a scenario:
You have been called back to your doctor's office to review recent tests done and while you're waiting patiently (and anxiously I might add) to find out what has or is going on you can't help but hope that you will hear these three words "ALL SEEMS FINE". You try not to think about what you will do if that doesn't happen as you don't want to "rock the boat" or whatever the colloquial phrase is.
You know speaking of things you tell yourself, I was in hospital once with this lady who told me that she "willed herself to get cancer" and that it is possible that I did too... It is safe to say we were not on the best of terms and those 4 weeks of my life were horrible!
So back to that Doctors appointment...
The door opens, the receptionist calls your name and you walk in and take a seat. There isn't often time for small talk and the Doc gets straight to the point. "The results are in.... the test show you have [insert illness]....". By this point you may have zoned out completley (why you should always have backup) and gone into shock, it is naturally your bodys way of protecting you.
But you will leave and head home, all while you are wishing you knew what the doctor said.
Instead you turn to DR Google and start googling your disease and symptoms. You shouldn't have gone there, you have opened yourself right up to trouble and a vortex of stress/worry! Dr Google brings up all this images and medical reports that are so grim and scary and you feel yourself on the brink of a panic attack...
You compose yourself and stop for a moment...
You know NEED support but you don't know where to turn... so that is where this post will hopefully provide some insight.
Where to find support and information after a diagnosis
I know the above scenario might seem over the top or seem unlikely, but I can tell you that it was from my own personal experience on how I handled situations where I got bad news.
I learned Google was not my friend nor was Dr. Google, I found after the first few times that it really wasn't helping the situation aside from making the diagnosis a bit traumatic.
But here are ways to find support without causing yourself harm in the process:
#1. Speak or consult with a professional:
So I booked another consult and took my husband with me this time as he was eager to hear the plan going forward, and to be honest so was I. He told me the game plan going forward, my hubby heard it all as I zoned out again, but he referred me to a stomal nurse. She became my biggest life-line these past 4 years and has helped me on so many occasions.
It is important to really get a good grasp on what is available, so don't underestimate the support from the professionals.
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#2. Lived advice and experiences are very valuable and helpful:
One of the benefits of learning from lived experiences is that it can offer you a perspective or advice that a Doctor or health professional might not necessary know, and while a Doctor might know the text book side of things they might not be able to give you a total view of things. Still refer to your doctor for any health issues and management, but don't discount the account of a real person either.
How will you find these types of advice?
Keep in mind:
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#3. Search on facebook for groups or support groups:
You can also google "support groups for _INSERT DISEASE_" as there are some forums online and support websites dedicated to helping to support you during any stage of your illness.
I learned a lot from connecting with others in groups, especially about treatment options or stoma issues, so there is a lot of value in groups.
Keep in mind:
Some members posting might be partners or parents of a person who is unwell, some groups only allow patient members to join others allow carers to join too. If you are a carer and if your daughter or son is in the same facebook group as you, be mindful of what you post ABOUT THEM, it is their story to tell afterall and you might disclose personal details that they hadn't told their best friends let alone strangers online, so be mindful of their privacy and respect what they have told you in confidence too.
One last thing I have to add is sometimes being a member of facebook or online groups can get a bit too much at times, I know when I am struggling myself I tend to either leave the groups or I turn off notifications so that I don't see posts on my feed, sometimes it gets too much dealing with your own health issues and being privvy to others' too.... it can feel like you just can't escape your disease, and sometimes you go to facebook to just escape life and it is hard when you are surrounded by your reality online too.
For me, I struggle a lot of times with my mortality and hearing/reading about a member of the group who passed away is really confronting. Friendships made online are real and just as much valid as real life friendships, so it can be hard at times when a friend passes away.
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#4. Ask your Doctor, Nurse, Case worker, Counsellor or Social worker for local support:
Otherwise you could consider making a flyer (canva is a great place to start and east to use) and you could advertise your new group in the paper, on noticeboards or even online in local groups!
The above suggestions are just a few ideas I have used on finding support after a new diagnosis, if you have any suggestions feel free to let me know in the comments below!
I know that a new diagnosis is hard and can come as a shock but googling your diagnosis or illness will only cause you more upset and harm you, these are ways I have found support after a new diagnosis that is not only positive and supporting but it is constructive as well.
Dr Google doesn't always have the right answers and can lead to damage or traumatising you, which isn't what you need when facing a new diagnosis.
Take a deep breath and big hugs, there is always support out there just waiting for you to find it. It might not always be an easy or quick overnight find, but be patience and perservere, someone out there at some point felt alone too.
Please be kind to yourself, this is a hard and stressful time. Take some time out for you and self care and try and do something that makes you happy or takes your mind off things. Here are some things I do for me and to add happiness to my day
If you're in hospital and are looking for things to do to pass the time, I wrote an article in issue 1: of The Ostomistic Life (pages 34-36).