Today is Colostomy Day 2016 – a day which has been created by the Colostomy Association in order to raise awareness and find ways of improving the lives of people who are living with a stoma. I am honoured to be the face of this year’s Colostomy Day 2016 campaign (yep, that’s me in the posters and on the website – before my blue hair!)
The Colostomy Day campaign has two elements; stay silent or make some noise. I think this reflects the different types of ostomate out there; some people with a stoma prefer not to talk about it and tend to keep it private and personal, whereas others prefer to talk openly about it and raise awareness quite publicly about having a colostomy. There’s no right or wrong; people are just different.
Making Some Noise for Colostomy Day 2016
Personally, I am very open about the fact that I have a colostomy and I’ve been making videos on YouTube for years now about life after ostomy surgery (a few of which you can find at the bottom of this blog post). Why am I so vocal about it? Well, when I first had my surgery back in 2010, it still felt like something to be ashamed of. People talked about it predominantly in closed forums and kept it behind closed doors. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why some people prefer to keep quiet about it and keep it as a personal thing. But I felt like I had a responsibility to others going through the same thing as me to reach out across social media and talk about it; to make it less taboo. Being a young woman, I wanted to stand up and do whatever I could to help make a difference; not just for me, but for all those with a stoma who might not want to speak out themselves.
Fight The Poo Taboo
One of the reasons I needed ostomy surgery in the first place was because I never spoke up to my GP about the symptoms I was having sooner. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to talk about poo. The idea of being poked and prodded and having any kind of examination freaked me out and so I ignored everything that was going on. I often wonder what might have happened if I had spoken up earlier. Maybe I’d never have needed surgery. Who knows. But that’s another reason why I feel that talking about having a stoma or about my Crohn’s disease is important. Because if someone else out there is concerned about anything – whether it’s blood in the toilet, abdominal pain, unexpected weight loss, etc – you should never have to literally die from embarrassment.
Get #ColostomyDay Trending!
I am sick of the attitude that having ostomy surgery is a ‘last resort’ when, in fact, it not only saves lives but it can improve the quality of life for many people.
I am sick of hearing stories of people being made to feel ashamed for using accessible toilets because they ‘don’t look like’ they need to use them.
I am sick of seeing the word ‘colostomy’ being used as an insult.
I am sick of hearing people say they are afraid to leave the house because they have a stoma.
Yeah, it’d be great to see the #ColostomyDay trending on social media. But, more importantly, let’s get the conversation going about what it’s like to have a stoma and that it doesn’t have to stop you living the life you want. People are often afraid of what they don’t understand, so let’s help the general public understand that having a stoma doesn’t mean the end – for many it can be the beginning of a better life.
Draw My Life: A Crohn’s Disease Special
You know that trend on YouTube when everyone did a Draw My Life video? Well mine is slightly different – I decided to draw the Crohn’s disease part of my life:
My Surgery Experience
In this video, I talked about my first ostomy surgery from back in 2010:
We Don’t ALL Have Colostomy Bags
It may be Colostomy Day, but there are MANY different types of ostomy out there:
Ostomy Bags Are NOT Just For Old People
One of the biggest misconceptions about having an ostomy is that it’s just old people who have one. In fact, there are many young people (even kids) who have to have ostomy surgery.
Post-Colostomy Surgery Update
In this video, I talk about my most recent surgery in May 2010: