A while back I was asked by the marketing team for Coloplast UK to come and be a guest speaker at their sales conference at The Belfry in Birmingham, and share my story with the sales & marketing teams as well as the nursing teams. It was such an honour to be asked to come and share my story with the group of people who have had a direct impact on improving my confidence and being able to get out and about with an ostomy.
I was EXTREMELY nervous the few days leading up to it, and I kept writing drafts on what I wanted to say, but kept throwing them away because they went on way too long. There was so much I wanted to say, but I could never fit it all in to a 20-minute presentation. I made some PowerPoint slides to keep me on track, and stop me from rambling too much.
The day of the conference soon arrived and my amazing fiancé came with me for moral support. I agreed to meet Natalie from the marketing team at 2pm at the venue (the very lovely and rather posh Belfry) but whilst on the way there, I had a message from her saying that we couldn’t get into the room to practice until 6:30pm… so I had a few hours to kill when we got there! So we checked in and ordered some lunch (the first time I had ever ordered room service, so I was ridiculously excited) and then we just relaxed in our hotel room.
We met up again with Natalie at 6:30pm and had a quick run through the slides that were projected onto a huge screen, and then we had a quick drink (to steady my nerves!) and before long it was time to go in!
Natalie introduced me, and then played the ‘trailer’ that I had made for my YouTube channel and then it was time to talk!
I purposely didn’t wear my glasses so that all I could see what a blurry sea of faces, which helped with my nerves. I started talking and my voice was all wobbly, and I was worried that I’d just pass out. But by the third sentence, where I was introducing myself and I mentioned that I was engaged, the audience clapped and I felt a bit more at ease, and even more so when they laughed at little funny bits. One thing that got a big laugh was when I talked about when I came back to work after the surgery, and my friend Heather said that I looked fabulous and had asked me, “oooh, what have you had done?!” so now the running joke is that I was actually away at a spa for ten months and was having a tummy tuck, boob job, nose job and chemical face peel.
Another fantastic reaction was when I put the pictures up of Wally the Wound (when my midline incision popped open to reveal a 13cm x 6cm x 4cm canyon of open flesh). As soon as the pictures flashed up on the screen, there was an audible gasp from the audience, and I knew it shocked a few people.
I talked about my difficult recovery, my interactions with fellow ostomates, the combination of products that helped me finally get out and about without being scared of something going wrong. I showed them photos of post-surgery, when I went to my first social event, when I was able to go on holiday, when I was a bridesmaid… the only thing I forgot to mention was how I went on roller coasters too!
When I finally finished rambling, I said thank you, and what happened next completely took my breath away. Every single person in the audience stood up and applauded. I have never in my life had a standing ovation, and it was such an emotional moment for me. I managed to hold it together and not crumble into a ball of tears and snot, and instead stood there and took a moment to think of me three years ago, the version of me who is currently stuck in that hospital bed, completely terrified and feeling alone. The girl who is waiting for some miracle to make everything feel less sore and making is horrible bag thing go away, or to at least feel more normal. The girl who believes her social life is now over, that she’ll never get her job back or get married, and none of her friends will visit. I thought of her and smiled, because in three years time, she would be standing in front of an audience and telling her story with a huge smile on her face, with her amazing fiancé by her side, and her whole future ahead of her.
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Email Thaila: ThailaSkyeMail@gmail.com