Monday, August 20 2018
I think this title is appropriate as we were served chicken for dinner at the awards night, sorry just being cheeky.
On Friday the 17th of August, Russ and I drove up to Brisbane to attend the 2017 Great Comeback awards held by Convatec. I know we are in 2018, but it was 2017 when I applied and so the award is for last year but it is in this year which is confusing, but anyway, I won!
I was 1 out of 5 finalists from Australia and New Zealand.
It was such an honour to have been made a finalist, and I was incredibly shocked and surprised to have found out on the night that it was me who had actually won! There were so many deserving and inspiring finalists who have incredibly powerful stories to tell.
On the night at the awards ceremony, which was held in the brand spanking NEW boutique hotel called Emporium Hotel South Bank (I am dedicating a whole separate blog post to this, so stay tuned), there were video interviews of each of the 5 finalists presented. Each video is around 2 minutes long and consisted of images or videos being added in to share in the impact of the story.
I was in tears watching the videos, then mine, which was last to be presented, had me in a complete blubbering mess. I was so embarrassed as it was MY story and I know this sooooo well so it surprised me that it impacted me the way it did. I assume it was a build up of emotions felt on the night, I was incredibly anxious but I was also very overwhelmed, so once the tears started I couldn't stop.
Please keep in mind that the original video was 22 minutes long and was chopped down to 2 minutes for the ease of viewing, so a lot of important points I made were missed. I did also thank my friends and family and also those who read my blog and my tribe who encourage me (you guys), so I don't want anyone to be upset if they didn't hear it mentioned (because it was).
If you have an ostomy, or know someone with an ostomy who has a story to share and have done something inspiring or had a comeback post ostomy life, please let them know about the awards. It could be something like pre ostomy life you were too sick to travel so once you had an ostomy you travelled, could be you returned to work, you did something you have always wanted to do, you started a movement to inspire others, you went back to uni and graduated, or you found yourself and the joy of life from having an ostomy.... or it could be whatever your heart desired that you feel you made a great comeback thanks to your ostomy....
The Great Comeback is entirely your own comeback after ostomy life and could be anything, or could be a number of things, it is different for each person.
To apply you need to submit your story via the site, you do need to include certain aspects of your story pertaining to:
I wrote my story out first in a word document and then copied/pasted it in the appropriate sections. I used the aforementioned topics as headings for each part of my story.
**Please note: the drop down box doesn't have NSW available to be selected, they are aware but have said to choose any state but write somewhere that you are from NSW. They are in the process of fixing this error up along with updating their site too.
If you have a stoma nurse who is amazing and deserves to be recognised, please nominate them too!
I do encourage everyone to apply, the program is a great way to not only share your story but to meet other members of the ostomy community. The awards are all about empowering and inspiring ostomates that there is still a life to be lived and enjoyed after surgery. I had a lovely night, which I will share in more detail in a blog post to come.
Thank you to Convatec and the judges for choosing me as the 2017 winner and I can't wait to see what is to come.
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!
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!
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 12 2018
I was scrolling through my Facebook 'on this day' memories when a post from this day, 5 years ago, came up.
The post was:
You see, I had a pretty MASSIVE and life changing decision that needed to be made.
I was told not long before Xmas 2012, that I had early signs of bowel cancer and that I needed to have a surgery called a total colectomy with a permanent (end) ileostomy created.
I was so scared, I was so alone and I didn't know of ANY other people with an ileostomy let alone a young person with one.
I was 21, why should I have known anyone, afterall I was ignorant and thought just older people lived with stoma bags, it was hard to fathom a young person living with one.
I ignorantly made this association as I presumed that people had a stoma at the end of their life and that their lives are essentially over.
So when I was told that I would be needing one at 21, for the rest of my life, I was really freaking out.
I tried to search for blogs about young people with an ostomy and couldn't find anyone. Social media wasn't what it is today, there was Instagram but it hadn't taken off, but there was still so much stigma around living with an ostomy and the social stigma too for that matter, that not many were sharing their lives publicly.
The media wasn't helping much when it came to sharing stories about people with a stoma either. They published such negative, fear mongering articles that had people, like me, perceiving it as death sentance or that it was THE worst thing imaginable.
But my surgeon said this to me :
I met with my stoma nurse, counsellors and surgeon a couple of times to help me process the surgery. I hadn't told any of my friends or family, I didn't know how to bring it up, I knew they would have questions that I wasn't ready to answer, but I was worried about being judged.... so I decided to wait until I had to tell them, which was the week before surgery. I had so much to process as it was I just didn't need anyone else weighing in, they were pissed understandably, but they were also upset that I was trying to process such a huge thing on my own.
I had told Russ though and he had been coming to my appointments with me, as it was impacting him too. At the time I gave him the option to leave me, told him that I wouldn't hold it against him if he did as it wasn't what he signed up for, he told me to stop being ridiculous and it would take a lot more than that to stop loving me.
I couldn't have gotten through all of this and life to come, without Russ though.
He came to my appointments and asked my surgeons or stoma nurse questions, he even asked if when they teach me how to look after my stoma that they show him too so that he knew how to help. I think it was at that point I fell even more in love with him, which I didn't think was possible.
Russ said to me that it was my decision to have the surgery or not, but if it meant that this could be helping me to live as long as I could that he would appreciate me having the surgery.
So 5 years on, this is a letter I wished I could tell my scared 21-year-old self, I don't even recognise that part of me anymore I feel like this was a massive turning point in my life and I grew up A LOT in the years to follow.
Letter To My 21-Year-Old Self:
I know you have a lot that you’re dealing with right now and I know that you’re doing the best that you can under the circumstances. You are facing a life-defining decision right now, I can tell you this because I have watched you live through this.
Yes it changed your life but it saved it too.
Do you know how much pain you’re in right now and every time you go to the toilet? You probably won’t believe me when I say this, but you won’t be in agony multiple times a day. You won't even be needing to spend most of your day on the toilet either.
Do you know how you don’t leave the house, go out for dinner or stay over at someone’s house unless you know that a toilet is accessible and close by? Well, you won’t have to worry as much. You won’t be needing to quickly dash to the toilet every time you eat.
Do you know how you lost your enjoyment of food because of the above comments? You will find you can eat all your favourite and missed foods, given there are things you can’t eat anymore, but you will find you will learn to love and appreciate food again.
I won’t lie, there will be some pretty difficult times ahead, not only will surgery and the recovery be long and hard but it will be painful.
You will adapt to stoma life, but it will take time, so be patient with the process.
There will be times where shit literally will happen, it is to be expected, but trust me - you will get used to it. You will sometimes wake covered in shit, so just remember to empty your bag throughout the night and also invest in waterproof mattress protectors.
Sometimes leaks happen, it isn’t your fault, but always carry a spare set of supplies everywhere you go just in case. There will be a time where you’ll be caught out, it will be embarrassing and it will serve as a learning curve.
I know you’re apprehensive right now about surgery, but your stoma will serve to give you extra time… everyday is a gift and not a given right, learn to appreciate each day you wake up and all of the moments you have.
You don’t need to worry about Russ or your marriage, he will be there for you every step of the way. He will surprise you at how calm and collected he is even when you’re flustered and freaking out and covered in shit, even if it is in the middle of the night. He won’t mind helping with your bag changes or leaks, you just have to ask him.
He loves you for you and your stoma will soon be a part of you.
You will lose friends, because they don’t understand - it will hurt but don’t dwell too much on those who aren’t there for you and appreciate and be grateful to those who are. You will make some great friendships over the coming years too, you'll find people who embrace you for the wonderful person you are and won't be worried that you have a stoma.
Just remember what dad used to say to you and find comfort in his words offered.
The next 5 years will be incredibly tough and this is just the start of the rollercoaster ride known as life, this will be the first of many primary cancer diagnosis’ and the start of many surgeries.
Know your limits but also recognise when you need to ask for help too. Put your stoicism aside and ask people to help you, most are wanting to help they just are waiting for you to ask.
There’ll be times where you easily wished you could pick up the phone and call dad, but there’ll be times where you will draw from his presence and he will be there to guide you. I am sure he will be proud of you.
Learn to pick your battles, know that some just aren’t worth the stress. You will come to learn to try and let everything go, everyone will always be having their own opinion or force their mindset onto you. Just stay true to yourself. Know your worth. Know that you aren’t what they think of you.
It will be hard on your mental health throughout times over these next 5 years, there will be times where you spiral and it is important to always recognise when you need help. Find what drives your creativity, focus on writing or creating, find ways to give yourself purpose in your day.
You are about to start a blog, you are worried about putting all this out there publicly and worried about how other’s perceive you. But by doing this you are going to be helping so many, you will help save lives, you will help nurses in how they help support young people with a stoma, you’ll be nominated for awards, you will even start your own magazine for young people with a stoma and will even help others to feel less alone.
You’ll start your blog because you’re finding as a 21-year-old female that there isn’t much info out there at the moment when it comes to young people with a stoma and a blog, you don’t know what life will be like going forward, but you will feel that if you share it as you go that maybe you’ll help others who are feeling alone or worried too. You will meet other young ostomates too.
You’ll even be invited to speak about your time as a young ostomate.
But you will also get to do some fun stuff too, like catch the train to Adelaide, go to P!nk’s 2013 concert, Meet the Dixie Chicks and see them in concert in 2017, finally get to experience and see Darling Harbour, Go to Melbourne and accidentally stumble across the Offspring hospital, go swimming and do water aerobics, and do some bucket listing too. You'll finally get a tattoo too!
You and Russ will realise your house dreams in 2015 and will build a house, you’ll also have a very adorable and fun kitten who will make your days fun and full of love.
Then in 2016 you’ll need surgery to remove one of your tumours which will mean losing your stoma, your stoma will now be retracted and sit under your skin. It will leak a lot, it will be hard at times to lose all hope knowing the good stoma you had prior, but you will get through it. You will get used to daily leaks and waking up with a leak, it will affect your mood and what you do but you’ll be relatively okay.
In 2016 you will also enter palliative care, they will offer you a wheelchair - don’t decline out of pride or feeling like you aren’t worthy of it. You will learn to love your wheelchair and embrace it, just like you have your stoma.
So while you have a huge decision to make right now, I can tell you this now that you will be better off having the surgery. You will be okay, your marriage will be fine, you will love life and not fear it.
Don’t fear asking your stoma nurse for help, even if you feel it is a silly question, she will be one of your greatest supports. She has probably heard it all, you really couldn't do this without her....
But you have got this, your life will be changed but you will cope and adapt.... just breathe!
Write that bucket list now, start to see and do as much as you can and don’t keep saying there’ll be plenty of time, go travel when you’re able to and take lots of photos and always tell those you hold dear you love them and appreciate them.
P.S I just wanted to say thank you to each and every person who reads my posts, comments on social media or on here or has emailed me over these 5 years supporting my blog. Cannot believe it is 5 years later already!
Friday, January 12 2018
NB: This post contains talk about poop
You always remember your first time doing a milestone. Well today I am celebrating the first time I showered without my bag on and boy I felt like a rockstar afterwards as though doing something mundane but great.... If you know what I mean.
There have been times where I have had a really bad bag leak, I'm not talking about a little seepage from under the wafer, I am talking a leak of cataclysmic proportions like a volcanic erruption or a poosplosion (the latter is real, trust me). My clothes, my linen and my mattress protector needed to be washed and soaked with napisan.
Then there was me, not only were the clothes I was wearing drenched, but so was I.
You know when you go to the beach once but for the next month you find sand everywhere and it gets into every nook and cranny? Well, that is how it is for me when I have a bag leak of epic proportions, except switch out sand for poo and you've got yourself a winner.
So in times of a cataclysmic bag leak it is best to just get in the shower and be hosed off and clean up the mess later.
I have always been hesitant though at jumping into the shower without a bag on, normally I would clean my self up the best that I could while sitting on the toilet and once a new bag is on I would then jump into the shower. Which often meant changing my bag afterwards.
I know what you're thinking, but WHHHHHHYYYYYY?
Well, it was simple....
I was scared.
I have never, in 5 years, showered without a bag on.
I know many do and many have many times, but I was always hesitant.
One of my fears, with my first stoma (May 2013-feb 2016), was because essentially your bowel is stitched to the outside of your abdomen I was worried about the run off from my shower gel or shampoo/conditioner would affect my stoma or cause irritations that might leave me presenting to the emergency department explaining my issue and people think I am silly for not knowing better. It really used to play on my mind.
So I never did try with my old stoma.
Then this new stoma (feb 2016 to now) is a total pain in the ass, it is retracted and sits under my skin, essentially I poop out of a belly button looking hole. So because of this I was always worried that the run off or chemicals would get inside into my small bowel and cause issues, because, well, soap and shampoo/conditioner shouldn't naturally be in your small bowel... so I worried it was just a recipe for disaster.
But with both stomas I was also worried about the mess side of things, like what if it were active during my shower, what if it were active while I was drying myself and would have to shower again and the circle would go on, and on, and on. I also can't bend over or get down to clean, so I was worried about leaving another chore for Russ to do, so I feel enough a burden when my bag leaks this badly and he has to help clean me up.
So back to my story.
I was in bed asleep all day and woke around 6pm to find my bag leaked, I called for Russ to help me as it was too much for me to manage to clean on my own.
Each time it is this bad he always says "just jump in the shower and hose it off", but every time I say "uhh, no it's okay I will figure it out".
Except yesterday I really had no energy and said "what the heck".
I took my bag off and disposed of it, that way I could clean my stomach better and easier.
I had my first shower without my bag on, it was nice to have water running directly on my belly as opposed to wet towelling and washers. It was nice. I have a handheld shower head which has different notches you can turn it to for different settings, so I put on the more gentle of the settings and didn't hurt.
I was worried about the repurcussions of an active stoma.... but to my surprise there wasn't any disasters. My stoma had probably expelled everything it had stored in there (daily I have bowel blockages due to tumour issues) so sometimes it works all of a sudden and leads to poosplosions like this.
Now I know next time when I should just jump in the shower and hose off that it will be okay, that I won't die because my soap chemicals burned an ulcer through my small bowel or that showering with my bag off won't damage my skin if anything it helped it.
Thankfully it isn't everyday that I wake up with a leak like this, some days it is more managable, but it is uncommon to have a day where I don't wake with a leak. There have been a couple of times when a leak like this happened during the day when I was out (once at a wedding and once at a restaurant), so in those moments I can't just hose myself off.
Have you tried showering without your bag? Were there worries you had too?
I know my worries might have seemed over the top, but I live with bad anxiety and that anxiety rules a large part of my life and very quickly my mind can esculate a situation.
I am used to bag leaks now, but it took a while to not be flustered. At first I would cry every time my stoma leaked and I would be so flustured and overwhelmed, so much that my husband would step in and help me. He always was the calm one. I used to play songs or music when I did a bag change to help distract me. When I got my new stoma and it leaked almost hourly I basically had an ipad set up and would watch something funny to distract me, the steps involved in doing a bag change took almost an hour each time and it just helped the time to pass by being distracted.
Now when it leaks, I am just so focussed on getting a bag back on as quick as I can because sometimes it can take a long time to stop being active long enough to whack the bag on.
If you have a frequent leaking stoma, welcome to the club.
But be sure to see your stoma nurse about why you have a leak and what you can do to prevent it, I know not all leaks can be prevented but sometimes there could be a new or better product for you to try.
With my first stoma I was have regular leaks every few days, I realised that my output was getting under my base plate, so my STN gave me rings/seals to try and it really helped improve the longevity of my bags and I was able to go 7-10 days between changes and my skin was still good... I do miss my old stoma, and it is important to note what worked for me in that situation might not work the same for you.
Of course there isn't anything to be done about this current stoma, and it could be the same for you, but sometimes your nurse or surgeon can help.
Monday, January 08 2018
I know there has been a lot of posts around social media this past week (well, more so New Years Day) about the whole 'non resolutions' or how people were dropping the making resolutions as they either never stick or it makes people feel overwhelmed and anxious. This has something to do with the pressure placed on how it is a "new year new me" and that you internalise this pressure for the need to change yourself.... so it gets pretty depressing when it is the end of the year and you are yet to do one thing you set out to do.
Well, I know for me I get horribly depressed each December when I realise that none of my unrealistic/unattainable goals weren't met, and I feel like a bit of a failure and get pretty hard on myself.
So this year I plan on doing something a little different... I give up on each year setting myself the task of finding that million dollar idea (maybe if I don't try so hard I will find it), or to feel bad that I didn't finish my uni degree, or that I haven't got a hot bod (#sorrynotsorry).
I am choosing 18 ACHIEVABLE things I want to accomplish in 2018.
#1. Self Care:
I purchased the ebook version off Amazon and by a quarter of the way into the book I was astonished, I could have sworn it was me who had written this book as it was just so incredibly relatable. It definitely has me hooked!
Self care isn't necassarily just candle lit bubble baths with a glass of bubbly and reading a book, it can be a whole range of things. It could be doing things that make you happy, here is a post I wrote back in 2016 about 5 things to do each to add happiness or meaning to my day. You could choose to meditate or do yoga, could do a course or learn a new skill, could do something on your bucket list, could volunteer, do a random act of kindness, buy yourself flowers, get pampered, get your hair done or watch a movie or show.
#2. To read more:
So I have been so focussed on micro managing every part of my day/life that I would say I was too busy to read or I didn't have the time, but I vow this year to make time to read more. Whether it be the ebooks I have stored on my ipad or tablet, or going old fashioned and reading the amassed pile of books I have acculumated over the past few years. So starting with reading "The Self-care project" I am setting myself the challenge of either reading 1 book a month or 18 books this year.
Let's do this!
#3. To say No more:
In saying this though, there will be times where I say no simply because I am physically unable to do something due to pain or health, so I am sure this will cause more stress as some might think my health is an excuse? As I said, a challenge... but I am not putting my health at risk for a ridiculous deadline anymore.
#4. Reducing waste:
One of my favourite quotes from Gandhi is "Be the change you wish to see in the world". Change is hard and takes patience and a lot of baby steps, but you can't expect the world to be better or changed if you don't play a part yourself.
So I have ordered some produce reusable bags from my Sister-In Law's business which will mean no longer using single use plastic bags for produce. We also plan on using environment friendly bags in replace of plastic bags and I hope to get a compost happening too.... as I said it will be hard, but I do hope it will help the environment.
I feel guilty sometimes being an ostomate, because my base plate and bags aren't biodegradable (that I'm aware of) so even if I used bio degradable garbage bags and buried it, it still wouldn't break down and would be just the same as putting it in the bin. So I hate having a bag that leaks multiple times a day as it means a lot of ostomy products are used and thrown away, and I feel guilty that I am impacting the environment.... but it can't be helped.
So if I can make changes in other areas of my life, it hopefully makes up for it somehow?
#5. See the snow:
I had always hoped to get to the US or Canada and see this in person myself, but while that dream won't happen, I am happy to settle for somewhere in Australia where it snows, there is a romantic log cabin with a fire and somewhere Russ and I can unwind and relax.
I have heard him say almost daily the past month that he truly wants to experience this with me. Watching all the romantic Christmas movies helped I think, but it has had him rather upset realising too all the things he wants to experience with me but not sure if we will.
It is hard sometimes trying to squeeze 80 years of experiences into as much time as we have left.
If you have suggestions, do let me know, I can't fly so anywhere that is easily train accessible or short driving trips in NSW will be best.
#6. Learn something new:
I am doing a course right now cert 4 in screen and media and learning at the moment how to write children's stories.
#7. Write that damn book:
#8. Write a blog post a week:
#9. Write a journal:
All of these writing cues would be kind of life self care I guess, since it is cathartic and all.
#10. Regularly meet with a counsellor:
I guess this would come under self care and taking time for my needs too.
#11. Go Swimming:
Don't worry I plan on being sun safe and have my SPF50+ rashie from SunSoaked and my Sunbella parasol to help me too.
#12. Go Glamping:
#13. Have a holiday:
#14. Explore the Coast:
We still have bucket listing adventures for Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle and beyond. I am just wanting to see so much!
I am just really hoping to see/experience new places this year.
#15. Renew our vows:
I had always said when we get to 10 years we would renew somewhere fun and overseas, but not sure that dream of international travel is managable or if I could make it to our 10 wedding anniversary.
#16. Get back on our feet financially:
We tried to apply to several other banks who all declined us because we didn't have savings (everything went into our house) and so we had hoped to even consolidate everything into one loan to make repayments easier and more affordable but were declined. Despite having equity in the property. It is hard to have savings when every cent is going into the house, our debt, living expenses, medical expenses and the list goes on.
I am just hoping this year we have better luck and if we can't at least consolidate everything that we can find a new bank for our home loan. I just want out of their grip, just like Britain wanted out of the EU. If we can get a new bank and debt consolidation everything will be more easier, we might even afford a mini holiday.
Part of this is finding a new bank too. I just want and need everything to be tidied up and managable ready for Russ to take over when I die.
#17. See a waterfall:
#18. Try to get my pain under control:
I spent the better part of last year struggling with my pain. I know my doctors are doing their best to manage it, but it really is hard and affects so many aspects of my life. It is debilitating, exhausting, it makes me frustrated and irritable, it messes with my mental health and it just sucks. It is hard to manage getting out of bed most days let alone manage an hour of getting out and about. I missed out on a lot last year and I don't want to miss out on life this year because of pain.
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I know it was a long post, but I thought 18 made sense since you know it is 2018 and all. I feel good that it is all written down but now overwhelmed, which is ironic, but I will do seperate posts throughout the year both here and on social media documenting how I go... it means I can hold myself accountable now since I have told you all about this.
My list honestly could have continued such as "yet to finish unpacking", "yet to manage that room makeover" and so on. I just decided to choose things that will either improve my life, bring me joy or are somewhat achievable for this year.... and if I win the lotto that is a bonus!
Russ asked me what I have been writing/working on the past couple of days, he then rattled off a list of 18 things he *felt* I should do instead which all involved him and were very much Russ focussed or specific. I laughed and said, your list kind of defeats the purpose of several things on my list like taking time for me and saying no and putting me first.
To be fair, his list was most of what I do anyway which was:
Here's hoping 2018 is a good year and that I can do some of these things if not all. Despite spending over 80% of the year in bed last year, the times I did bucket list stuff or was out and about are some of my most cherished memories looking back, those memories I remember on my bad days.
I wish you a HNY2018 and wishing you health, love, success, happiness and clarity this year.
Thank you for reading, feel free to share something you hope to do this year in the comments below:
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
Thursday, December 14 2017
NB: I am not a doctor or nurse, I am sharing information through my own experiences and also that of various credible sites online. The heat and how it may affect you can differ based on personal health issues, so please do speak to a professional regarding how to be safe in Summer based on your own needs. I am sharing the advice I have found and learned in the hopes it may help you to have a better awareness of how to prepare and endure the heatwave.
Here in Australia, we are 14 days into our Summer. We had a fairly non-existent Winter where we live near in northern NSW, and it honestly felt like a mild Summer. I don't recall having to wear a jumper at all and some nights we needed the air conditioning on. But temps were always around 30'c, it was so dry and warm that our grass and plants were rather dead looking - thankfully, after a lot of water and work, the lawn and garden are thriving.
But it did make me worry about the sort of heats and Summer to prepare for, and if going off the predictions for this weekend - I had a right to worry.
So this weekend, particularly Sunday and Monday, most of Australia will be experiencing temperatures ranging between 35'c to over 45'c, we are told this could be the first of many extreme heatwaves we'll need to prepare for this Summer.
..... 14 days in to December, this is going to be a long hot Summer!
Part 1: Knowing your risk and what to do
I know you're probably thinking, "big deal just go to the beach, no biggie" - well it actually is a big deal, especially to those vulnerable in the community which includes:
During heatwaves you can be at risk of heat related illnesses such as heat stroke, dehydration, overheating or hyperthermia, heat cramps. Heat can also worsen health conditions too. During this time the extreme heatwaves can attribute to bushfires or power outages (blackouts) too, so it is important to be prepared.
Summer and heat realated health issues and illnesses need to be taken seriously as it can lead to deaths, heart attacks, strokes and more.
How does having an ostomy put me at risk during a heatwave?
Then add in sweating and extreme heat to the mix and you're more susceptible to becoming dehydrated and suffering due to the heat. Aside from drinking plenty of fluids, also drink electrolyte drinks such as sports drinks or even icypoles filled with all of your delicious minerals and vitamins. Be sure to ask your stoma nurse or dietician what else you can do to help.
With the dehydration issues aside (I will share signs to look out for below) heat can also affect your stoma, such as: by your bag not adhering to your skin properly, using tapes/boomerangs these can help to secure your bags; you might get a heat rash, I know in Summer I get a heat rash where my bag sits against my stomach, I find wearing stoma covers helps with the irritation; Your output might be more watery due to dehydration, so have some marshmallows or gastro stop/immodium to thicken your output. Just remember your spare stoma kit and supplies if you do go out, just incase you happen to have a leak.
It is important to also keep in mind (during the heatwave) that if you are outdoors, doing any strenuous activities such as sports or gardening with an ostomy, you are at risk of heat cramps too. I will explain more about heat cramps below, but essentially due to excessive sweating the body loses water and salts (electrolytes) and when the salts in the muscles get really low these cause cramps. If your electrolyte levels are at risk of being low consider avoiding activities that might put you at risk of heat cramps, at least until you are rehydrated and the weather is as normal as it will be during Summer.
So what is dehydration and what are the signs to look out for?
NSW health says the symptoms/signs of dehydration to look out for are:
So what should you do if you or a loved one are dehydrated? NSW health offers this advice:
So what are heat cramps and what are the signs to look out for?
NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
So what should you do if you or a loved one are suffering with heat cramps? NSW health offers this advice:
So what is heat exhaustion and what are the signs to look out for?
NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
What to do -FIRST AID- according to NSW health:
So what is heat stroke and what are the signs to look out for?
NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
What to do -FIRST AID- according to NSW health:
I know that this is a long and comprehensive guide on the signs and symptoms pertaining to heat related illnesses and what to do in terms of First Aid, in the next post (part 2) I will talk about being prepared and tips for enduring the heatwave.
Again, I am no health professional, I have only done 2 years of Nursing, but I just wanted to put as much information out there from reliable sources to help you be more informed when it comes to the heat and Summer... especially with an ostomy or any health issue, which can make your risk heightened. Please seek medical attention and don't delay, also remember to slip slop slap!
Please be safe and be mindful of how your medications can affect you with the heat, speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you are worried.
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.
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).
Friday, May 05 2017
NB: This post was also written to be published on abiggerlife.com
This week marks 4 years since I had surgery to remove my large bowel and to live life with a permanent ileostomy due to bowel cancer. I was 22, and until only a couple of months prior I had no idea what an ileostomy was; I naively thought that anyone living with a stoma had a colostomy and didn’t realise that wasn’t the case.
So you can imagine how much I had to learn and understandably was very overwhelmed with information.
One thing I struggled knowing was what exactly it were that I needed to not only see me through my surgery but subsequent time recovering at home and in hospital.
So I thought I would share with you my 10 must-haves on surviving the early days of ostomy life!
I wished I knew these when my life with a stoma began 4 years ago...
#1. A hairdryer:
p.s It is also very helpful at drying your stoma bag after a shower if you aren’t needing to do a change and require it to be dry... we also use ours in winter to quickly warm up our bed before jumping in.
#2. Invest in some supportive garments:
With the help from my Stoma Nurse I was able to order some hernia belts from some of the companies/manufacturers. She helped to measure me and choose the right one to suit my body and stoma.
In summer if you sweat more or if you are unwell with a fever or a case of gastro, you may need to increase your electrolyte replacement drinks to avoid dehydration. Again talk with your healthcare professionals on what works best for your situation.
#4. Metamucil, Marshmallows, Jelly Beans and Peanut Butter:
hot tip: I take a few marshmallows half an hour before a bag change, I find it helps to manage my output a little better while I am doing a bag change.
#5. Gastro stop or loperamide:
#6. Linen and mattress protection:
#7. Stoma supply storage:
#8. Wet wipes or Chux cloths:
#9. Scented garbage bags:
#10. Room spray or freshener:
I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information (I could be here for days sharing my wealth of knowledge), but these are the 10 best tips I have for managing the early days of being an ostomate.
You will be sore for a while so listen to your body if it needs to heal and rest, as you have been through a massive ordeal, even mentally/emotionally/spiritually. I wished there were sites like a biggerlife.com when I became an ostomate, it really would have helped me to adjust to life as an ostomate knowing there is lived advice to help me on my way.
Saturday, February 04 2017
The moment is here - The magazine was born!
Welcome to the first issue of the Ostomistic Life, a free quarterly eZine dedicated to helping young people with an ostomy to navigate their lives. It is founded by a young ostomate for young ostomates... but anyone can read it.
When I originally started my blog it was because I was struggling to find relatable content because representation in the media matters and since was a passion of mine to try and help other young people with a stoma to feel less alone. I learned graphic design and had a dream of one day starting an online magazine... and I have!
I had originally planned this to be created and launched at the end of 2015 but I started chemotherapy and wasn't able to dedicate the amount of energy, time and love that this baby needed... which brings us to now!
I hope you enjoy the first issue, it has been curated with incredible content from an array of contributors as well as some pages to win.
Thank you for sharing in this exciting moment and happy reading.
ISSUE 1 | The Ostomistic Life eZine
I know I only have the Australian Stoma support groups/sites listed, I underestimated how long it would take to collate the whole world. I am still working on this and will be added as each page is ready (apologies)
If you love it let me know.
Work on issue 2 has begun, click here to sign up to receive the next issue straight to your inbox. For articles I am looking for or if you have a topic you want to discuss please get in touch. Some ideas can be found via the pinned post below or on the facebook page.
Monday, August 22 2016
NB: This post is purely satirical... proceed to read with sarcasm
Recently, I was called Gross.... I was asked "how can you live like that?"
Well, I can and I do, and it is pretty simple. I wake up, I live my life and do stuff through the day and then I sleep... and repeat! See, easy!
You see, my daily routine is somewhat similar to a 'normal bodied routine'... I say somewhat as it is slightly different as it involves me essentially shitting myself 24/7 (oh the horror) but I can point out many similarities to our daily routines...
A typical day of mine goes like this:
7-8am: I wake up in the morning, and one of the first things I do is go to the toilet. Nothing like that first pee in the morning, except I also have to empty my bag. Which is usually mostly air, as most people fart all night. I fart too, just you don't smell or hear mine as it is trapped in a stoma bag.
8.15: I am sure this is where you take your coffee, the one thing that you probably need to get you through the day? I consume something too, my medication (thyroxine, endone and folic acid), I need these to survive and can't live without.
8.20-8.30: Just as my husband is getting ready to leave for work I call him in for a quickie.... he quickly jabs me and he puts on his shoes and then is off on his merry way. Then he can rest easy all day knowing that he helped to keep me alive that day with my blood thinning injection.
9-11.59am: The elusive siesta... some might call it sleeping in, some might call it taking a nap. You probably prefer an afternoon nap, but I have mine in the morning so by lunch time I am wide awake.
12-1pm: I have lunch.. this may vary day to day from leftovers the night before to eating dry crackers. If I am feeling adventurous I might even go out for lunch.
1-5pm: I would call this my 'work time'. I only have a 4 hour work day and mostly my work involves writing a blog post, designing fun little pictures.. who am I kidding, I am on facebook and shopping.
5.30pm: My husband comes home and cooks dinner. Dinner is usually something fancy like bangers and mash. In our household we aren't atypical to the stereotypes of the roles of a 1950's housewife; my husband does the cooking, the cleaning and the bringing home of the bacon.
6pm: We have dinner, talk about our days (he acts like I actually did more than just sit on fb all day) and then we just watch netflix and chill
7pm: We have our showers, everyone needs to shower. I just happen to need to do a bag change afterwards.. No biggie. We all need to change our underwear everyday (and my stoma bag is the underwear of my stoma)
7.30pm: Husband goes to the study and does computer related stuff (as he hasn't just spent all day around computers) and I go to my office (the dining table) and belt out songs. This goes on until bedtime.
8PM: Husband comes to give me another quick prick for the day, ensuring that he has kept me alive for the night.
10pm: We head to bed and read. Well, he tries to read; I just try to have a chin wag and nag at him about what he didn't do or needs to do the next day.
Annnnnnnd then I go to sleep.... and get ready to repeat it all the next day!
So that is my typical day, but also throw in having to do a bag change whenever I just decide to shit myself (you know because I have control over that and all).
So I am sure there are many similarities to our day... we all eat, sleep and shit. I just do it a little differently to you, but doesn't make me gross. Who wants to be normal when you can just be unique?
Oh, and having a stoma isn't the worst thing in the world.... some people have a stoma as it was either that or death.
It can be rather convenient too!
Imagine you're standing in the long queue at Big W to do the no deposit toy laby, and all of a sudden you need to do a poo! Oh what are your options? Either leave your trolley unattended in queue while you run off and pray that no one steals your loot or your spot in the line, or you just stay and wait and have an accident? Well, for me I can just do a number 2 at any time of the day and it conveniently collects into a pouch (that doesn't smell I might add) and then as it is full I empty into the toilet. No more missing out on sales for me!
But tell me, aside from now pooing differently has your life changed too much with a stoma?
I ask (if you feel inclined to) that if my blog or my writing has helped you or made a difference in your life, please consider treating me to lunch or a mango smoothie by clicking through to my paypal.me account.
I am mostly housebound so being able to go out for a nice treat would really help make my day that little bit brighter. Would also help me to feel appreciated too.
Sunday, March 13 2016
I first became a member of the ostomate world back in May 2013, when I had all of my large bowel and most of my rectum removed in a procedure to save my life from the perils of bowel cancer.
It wasn't until July 2015, that I experienced my first really bad bag leak during the middle of the night resulting in soiling not only the doona and sheets, but the mattress protector too.
Worst of all, I wasn't even at home. I was staying in a hotel for a few days in Melbourne.
I had to call the front desk at 3am in tears asking for fresh linens, when they replied they don't have any until room service come in later that morning and that it will be best to change rooms. I was absolutley humilated and mortfied but the guy reassured me that it was okay and it wasn't the worst he has seen. (Got me thinking about how dirty some people can be!)
So when I continued that short holiday (was actually down there for a big bloggers meeting, which was exciting) and then when I got home I made the decision to sleep with towels on my bed and wrapped around my belly, that if my bag did leak it would be somewhat protected and not cause a mess.
Afterall, my mattress and bed cost me $6k and it is white leather, so I am rather protective of my bed... initially I was too scared to sleep in it with the leaky stoma... and it isn't just at home I am scared of a leak, I am hesitant to stay at other people's houses for that reason.
I know that you're thinking "just get a mattress protector", well I have one but I worry it won't give me a lot of protection if it is a heavy leak (which most are).
And it got me thinking about what disposable and cheap products could I use to help give me peace of mind when sleeping.. and I came up with one great one (and will also share what one reader's suggestions were too).
So if you have a unpredictable and leaking stoma like me, here are some affordable ways to protect your sheets.
Cheap, thick and disposable table cloths
Update: What I use now and how I protect my linens
Since writing this post a year ago almost (it is now May 2017), I have been trying out new methods and ideas to help protect my linens and mattress from my leaking stoma in a way that was easy to manage and was being savvy too.
Here is a look at how I place it on my bed. I make my bed/sheets as normal, I put the kylie down then a disposable bluey as an added measure. I know the Kylie is meant to go under the sheets and tucked under the mattress, but given how heavy my mattress is it is not something I can manage/change on my own.... so this is what works for me and for a year now I haven't looked back. I also take a kylie with me when I go and stay at family or friends places too.
Have you found something that helped you during leaking bags of a night when you were asleep? Comment below to share or join in the conversation over on the facebook page.
Saturday, October 03 2015
Today is World Ostomy Day, a day celebrated worldwide through a social campaign "Many stories, One voice" and using the hashtag #MyOstomyStory.
I first joined the ostomate club back in May 8th 2013 after a 6+ hour operation to remove my large bowel, most of my rectum and to have my permanent ileostomy formed. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I have had to make, I was only 21 when I was told my bowel was showing early signs of turning cancerous and that I only had mere months to have it removed before it had fully turned and spread, which by the point of the surgery I had just turned 22 (read my story here).
While it was hard to go into my surgery excited (or OSTOMISTIC as I put it) as I didn't know what life as a young person (especially a female) would mean after I had an ostomy, but little did I know it was one of the best decisions I could have made.
I am aware that there are many reasons people get a stoma and while these aren't always planned surgeries and can be done in an emergency situation, or that there are some that are permanent and some that are temporary, I think it is important that we celebrate ourselves and our ostomies, as I know without mine I wouldn't be here today. And for that I am eternally grateful.
So in celebration of World Ostomy Day, and for those who have or are considering having one, here are my 20 pieces of ostomy advice I have for you. If you are unsure of what a stoma/ostomy is, you can read about it here in one of my earlier posts!
Stoma tips and life-hacks:
#2. Your boobs become a valuable asset
#3. Invest in a hair dryer
#4. You'll find many uses for your hair dryer
#5. Avoid foods that cause blockages
#7. Avoid drinks that cause winds
When out and about:
#9. Always pack a spare change of clothes
#10. Jeggings or any elasticised pants will become a staple in your wardrobe
#11. Baby wipes aren't only used for babies
Stoma kit advice:
#13. Invest in some sort of room spray
#14. Always have at least 3 of each item on hand in your portable kit
Storing your supplies at home:
#16. Never wait until you're on the last handful or box of supplies before you re-order
Mental preparedness and a stoma:
#18. For me, my life truly began when I had my stoma surgery
#19. If he truly loves you, having a stoma won't matter
#20. You can still swim when you have a stoma
[end of advice]
While, I have so many more tips to share than just 20, I thought that 20 would be enough for now and to help you get some tips at your fingertips. But if you have some other stoma hacks or tips you wish to share, feel free to comment these below!
Friday, July 17 2015
NB: This post contains the word 'shit'. If you'll be offended by the use of the word, please stop reading now.
Sometimes when things go horribly wrong, all you can do to keep yourself from breaking down and crying is to just laugh... this was a scenario I found myself in this week... and after all 'shit happens'.. in my case quite literally!
You see, I was invited to Melbourne this week for an exclusive bloggers workshop and was amongst the company of some of my blogging idols and heroes (even being in the same room let along being invited to the same event was pretty huge for me personally).
But what is one thing that can go wrong when you have a stoma... and something that you only ever think you're being overly paranoid about when in public?
If you guessed having a huge bag leak then you guessed correctly!
I was halfway through a 4 hour meeting/workshop when I quickly ducked off to the toilets only to realise that my bag had started leaking and was causing a bit of a mess. Of course the toilets were all the way down stairs and my stoma kit was all the way up in a seperate room (where everyone's bags and luggage was kept).. so I was sitting in the disabled toilets panicking thinking "shit, what the heck am I going to do?".
See I knew if I was in the toilet too long it might look suscpicious, or it might be even more suspicious if I ran upstairs grabbed my stoma kit, ran back downstairs and spent the next however long doing a bag change... so I realised where it was leaking and the bottom part of the bag that you close up was no longer sticking closed, so I emptied it, gave it a bit of a clean with some handtowels and ran upstairs.
I then did a bit of a McGyver trick and got the elastic tape (or I refer to them as banana wafers) and taped the bag closed.
I returned to my meeting and resumed my seat until the intermission (when everyone was mingling over wine, cheese and appetisers) I raced downstairs with my stoma kit and DID THE QUICKEST BAG CHANGE IN MY HISTORY OF HAVING A STOMA. No joke. It was the quickest change I have ever done, and thankfully no one noticed I had gone to the toilet for a second time in only a short period of time.
But it made me realise that I could have been better prepared and in hindsight I realise how, and I hope to share 5 ways to be better organised for when shit strikes...
5 ways to be better organised for a meeting/work when your stoma bag leaks
#1. Inside your handbag, briefcase or laptop bag have a seperate clutch or toiletry bag, that is dicreet and doesn't look like a toiletry bag and inside have enough for 1 bag change. So when you need to duck off to the toilet just grab your clutch and own how discreet you're being. Even if you don't have to take care of a bag leak, at least then you are prepared for when the moment strikes and you need to transform into a stoma bag changing Ninja!
#2. Always get to your meeting earlier than expected to so that you can allow time to go to the toilet and empty your bag, as nothing is more embarrassing than trying to excuse yourself from the meeting and as your bag is full and you apply pressure standing up your bag more or less bursts and it can be rather embarrassing (this has happened to me before when I was studying on campus).
#3. Always have a change of clothes or underwear with you. This one can be a bit hard if you only have a small handbag, thankfully I have a larger tote style handbag that is big enough to fit a change of clothes in. But if you have a locker at work or school/uni always have a spare change of clothes on hand, so that you are ready for when you have a bag leak and you don't have to go home in poo stained clothes, or sit in soiled clothes for the rest of your shift.
#4. Always carry some scented garbage bags in your handbag and stoma kit, so that if you have to dispose of your bag and there isn't any bins around and you have no choice but to carry your soiled stoma bag in your handbag until you can find a bin to dispose of it in.. at least it will help mask the smell a bit. Just soon as you find a bin, dump that shit (LITERALLY).
#5. If you have had to leave your meeting and people notice you have been gone for a length of time and start commenting (and rather then saying what really happened, unless you want to) just pull out the period card... no one especially men will ask more questions and your female co-workers will just look at you with an empathetic tone that says "I totes get how you feel".
I really, really hope that no one finds themselves in any situation where you have a bag leak in public, let alone at work or in a meeting. But I hope that this guide helps you to be better prepared for the worst case scenario. And by having these measures in place, it will help you to be more calm and collected when the 'shit hits the fan' and also helps put your mind/anxiety at ease.
p.s have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to do a bag change or had a bag leak and it was the worst possible timing? If you are brave, feel free to share your story in the comments below. You can always post 'anon.' by simply writing this instead of your name.
Sunday, April 12 2015
NB: This is a sponsored post
When I was 19 and was newly wed (literally a month before) I had my first consult with my colorectal specialist as I had just been diagnosed with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP for short). FAP is a rare inherited disorder which occurs because of a mutation of the APC gene. For those (like myself) that aren't experts on human anatomy and physiology, the APC gene (Adenomatous Polyposis Coli gene) which is known as a tumour suppression gene, is responsible for suppressing tumours in the colon and digestive tracts. So when you have a mutation of this gene, it in turn significantly increases your risk of not only colorectal cancers but other cancers too.
I only found out I had this disease as my dad had been diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer which was caused from the FAP.
So it was in this initial consult with my amazing colorectal surgeon that he asked me if I had Private Health Insurance, and when I replied that I didn't he said to me "First thing to do when you leave here is to get yourself covered. You're going to need it in the years ahead".
So I left his office and started researching different providers and the main thing I was looking for in my cover (at the time) was to be covered for colonoscopies and gastroscopies and also to find which one I had the shortest wait on to claim for a pre-existing condition, which was 12 months (some are 18-24 months).
I became overwhelmed with my research and really wished I had of gone through a company that specialises in health insurance comparisons, such as Health Insurance Comparison, as it would have made things so much easier. Instead, I went old school and called every provider that came highly recommended or I had heard good things about. I ended up going with NIB, as they were the best fit for me and my situation and have had my cover with them for 5 years now (but still good to compare what all the providers can offer you).
There are different levels of cover to suit each individual's health and situation which fall under Hospital and/or Extras. Hospital cover, refers to the cover needed for hospital admissions or proceedures (there are some exclusions which you will need to find out before getting a policy, for example I am not covered for pregnancy or IVF related, but covered for most proceedures). Extras cover, refers to things that aren't covered by Medicare and includes things like optical, dental, chiro, physio, psycology, weight loss programs and some non PBS medications (there are more inclusions depending on the level of cover you need).
One thing that I didn't realise before I was 19, was just how beneficial having health insurance could be. I always thought that if I had just a medicare card that it was enough and to be honest I thought it was an expense I didn't need.
"But once I got the Private Health Insurance cover and have had it now for 5 years, I have learnt just how wrong I was when I thought I didn't need it!"
Here are 12 ways that having Private Health Insurance (PHI) has benefited me over the last 5 years..
#1: I get to choose who my treating Doctor is....
#2: By using my PHI in a Public Hospital, I am actually helping the hospital!
n.b: when you are admitted as a Private Patient in a Public hospital, usually you don't need to pay any out of pocket expenses such as your excess, but it is always important to double check with your hospital and policy provider.
#3: In a Public Hospital, you will get some great freebies if you use your PHI!
#4: You can sometimes get your own room.
#5: When you need a surgery, you don't have to worry about long Public wait lists.
#6: You can sometimes get your glasses for FREE*
#7: Speaking of extra's cover, how painful is a trip to the dentist on your wallet?
#8: A ride in the Ambulance can become rather costly, but if you have PHI it can be FREE to you.
#9: Staying in a Private Hospital can be quite expensive if you aren't covered.
#10: Sometimes we need a little EXTRA help...
#11: You could be paying LESS in Taxes!
#12: If you take your policy out before you turn 30, you'll avoid paying the LIFETIME LOADING FEE!
My advice to you....
Thanks to Health Insurance Comparison, you could win a year's worth of PHI! Click the ad below to find out more!
I hope that this is a helpful guide into how beneficial having PHI is for me, and I hope this helps you to know a bit more about how it can help you too!
DISCLAIMER: While this post was written by myself about my experience in how beneficial PHI is to me and all views expressed in this article are mine, this post is not affiliated with specsavers or NIB but was written for Health Insurance Comparison.
Tuesday, April 02 2013
You might be wondering what an ostomy is, and I will try my best to describe from my knowledge and research. Often you will hear or read ostomy and stoma that are used but have very different meanings. Most commonly you would have heard before 'colostomy'. Until my surgery I assumed an ileostomy was a colestomy. So I found it great to know the difference.
I hope that this helps you to understand the difference between a ostomy and stoma and the different preceedures requiring the use of an ostomy and a stoma.