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International Day of Happiness 2020: 5 Happy Things About Life With a Stoma

Friday 20th March 2020 is International Day of Happiness. Since having my permanent ileostomy, “Stacey Stoma”, formed in 2011, my stoma journey has been one of big ups and downs! Life with a stoma has definitely not been a walk in the park for me, but even with problems I have faced & do still sometimes face, having my stoma gave me something to be very happy about in the sense that it saved my life. happy

Everyone’s stoma journey is different & life with a stoma is sure something that needs a lot of adapting to, but in this post, I’m going to tell you 5 happy things about my life with my stoma.

1. Toilets are no longer my much-hated “best friend”!

Before my stoma, if I was lucky enough to be able to make it out of the house, every single journey had to be planned with several toilet possibilities on the way. The anxiety that surrounded having no control over my bowels I cannot put into words, but it was one of the worst feelings I have ever had in my life. Even at home, a lot of time was spent sitting on the toilet in agony and getting pins & needles in my legs & feet from having to sit there so long.

2. I can explore places I could only have dreamed of before my surgery.

Exploring places is something I find really helps me with my mental health struggles for one, but before my surgery, I used to get so upset at the possibility of me never being able to visit places, near or far, through fear of not making it to the toilet on time, being too dizzy in pain to be out in public or not being able to consume the food needed to give me the energy to get to said places. It’s so liberating to be able to just grab my things & leave the house whenever I need to get out for some fresh air without much planning involved.

3. Food, glorious food!

From as far back as I can remember pre-surgery, I hated food. My “flare-ups” were that severe a lot of the time where it got to the point that even the smell of food would make me nauseous and give me instant, crippling stomach pain. I could never eat much at all, hence always struggling with my weight. I was on a liquid diet a few times as well & I hated the supplements with a passion. Building up an appetite post-surgery was a lot harder than I imagined & it must have taken me 2-3 months at least before I even felt able to stomach a reasonable-sized meal or have the desire to eat. In these last few years especially, I have developed a much healthier relationship with food & really enjoy trying different foods. I still have to watch what I eat to an extent, but my diet is the complete opposite to before surgery because I actually have one!

4. I got 99 problems… & I’m gonna go to the gym & avoid them all!

In the most recent years, I have been able to exercise in ways I would never have been able to before my stoma. I go to the gym, have been to yoga & can also do this at home & I enjoy walking. I have also been able to swim, go on a trampoline, go to an indoor assault course & I’m getting back into my running. Pain, accompanied by no energy & the severe fear & reality of having no control of my bowels meant for years I couldn’t do much exercise & even walking up & downstairs some days would be more than enough. Now exercise really helps me mentally & physically. I always ensure I listen to my body however, so that I know when to rest & when pushing myself may be to my detriment instead of my benefit. I always worry about getting a hernia, but I wear support wear & never directly work my abdominal muscles a lot. Instead, I do supported abdominal exercises, which you can find exercises for on an internet search.

5. “A problem shared is a problem halved” – Being able to help others.

Every time I talk about my experiences with IBD/stoma life, I feel like my suffering has been worthwhile even if it helps just a handful of people. Back in 2011 when I had my surgery, social media support & stoma support, in general, wasn’t anywhere near as accessible or advanced as it is now. Social media, when used correctly, is an amazing source of support, reassurance & encouragement for those who need it & I thoroughly enjoy helping others, especially when my advice has made something a little easier or more bearable for them. It makes me feel so fulfilled when I get lovely messages from people reaching out for support & that because of something I’ve done, they’ve been positively affected in one way or another. happy

My motto in everyday life with a stoma is “you own your stoma bag, it doesn’t own you.” Even on bad days where having a stoma can feel tough and sometimes all-consuming, I am not “the girl with a stoma bag”, I am Amy, who has a stoma bag. It doesn’t define me and it never will. However, I have so much appreciation for my stoma giving me a life and will always make the most of it with the circumstances surrounding me at that given time. A stoma isn’t the end – It is only just the beginning! 

– Amy

You can read Amy’s blog here

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