International Women’s Day: CrohnsFighting, Pelican & Me
Today is International Women’s Day and I was kindly asked by Pelican if I could write a post about myself for this and reasons as to why I work as an ambassador and spend time raising awareness on living life with my constant companion, my stoma Bertha.
For me as a person and as a woman, I don’t see myself as inspirational. I just see myself as a 34-year-old, mother, soon-to-be wife and friendly ambassador that likes to help people. I am more than aware of what it feels like to be isolated and scared to admit I had a stoma for that I may not be loved for having one.
With my first ileostomy back in 2009, there was not a social media presence like there is now and I know from heartbreaking experience that my stoma back then was taboo, it wasn’t allowed to be spoken about, it was fair game for sick jokes and sexual innuendo along with being told I was lucky to have a man who was willing to stay with me because quite frankly no other man would want me or look at me due to my stoma being gross along with an open wound.
Looking back at how far I have come in the last 11 years I now laugh at that above statement because after leaving that individual, I found a few men that were in fact interested and didn’t bat an eyelid at my issues or run screaming for the hills when I mentioned the word stoma.
I started my Crohnsfighting Instagram in October of 2016 more as an outlet rather than a raise an awareness page. In the last four years, I have gone from posting small things to posting inspirational postings or as I like to call them the daily life moments of Potter thinking it was a good idea.
I was persuaded to start blogging in January of 2017. If you saw my early posts compared to what I write now, you would think it was a different person, I kept the same humour but I’m more literate these days…
Why I decided to raise awareness
I think at the start of all of this I decided to do it more as an outlet and a diary to help my mental health.
Then it turned into being a role model for my daughter and teaching her that in today’s life of social media influence that you don’t have to be perfect to live life. I’m trying to teach her to use her brains rather than rely on being picture-perfect. My daughters’ teachers are very complimentary of her writing work and she uses me in a few of her stories and Mummy is the person she aspires to be (rather cute but scary if there are two versions of me running around).
The awareness I raise on social media is more of a true insight into what life is like for me. I don’t filter photos, I have journeyed through the same battles as most of you and I don’t sugar coat what life is like post stoma surgery, I am always open and honest and sometimes a little brutal.
Stoma life is so taboo. It was only the other day I saw another ostomates post about a dating website and her being told she was disgusting and would never find love because and quote “she sxxxs into a bag”. I am incredibly lucky and have never been trolled but I occasionally get negative feedback as to the posts I put up, as I post up my bare stoma, which can be scary for some but it is the reality for all of us. It is literally this is me as I am posting.
There is a part of me that wonders why people are so negative to something that in my personal opinion is quite small as to what makes up a person. Yes, we have a stoma, but does that really define us as a person? Does this change us like a human? Does this give people free rein to drag another person down because of plain ignorance or narcissism?
In this day of keyboard warriors, I am hoping that myself and many an ostomate who is raising awareness will someday squash this taboo and prove we aren’t any less worthy because of that bag.
I took part in the charity pin-up shoot for Purple Wings in March last year and stripped down to my underwear in a country park in Redditch. I did this to prove that I could and that we are still attractive and portray a good body image for those who are facing the same battles post-surgery.
What does stoma life mean for me?
Stoma life for me has improved my life. I can’t say this will happen for everyone but in my journey, I have a greatly improved quality of life. I get to live life now instead of just existing; I get to enjoy things without having to wonder where the toilet is or living in constant pain due to the nature of my illness. I found love pre-stoma and have a great man who has seen me through two life-changing surgeries both for myself and him. My daughter has her mummy back and we enjoy family time without having to worry mummy is going to have an accident.
My illness in general
For the best part, the stoma surgery is doing it’s best at keeping my Crohn’s in remission. It’s not to say I am completely cured as currently going through tests and further hospital appointments as my arthritis is getting worse and they are currently in the process of working out if I have chronic pain syndrome or fibromyalgia. But this is life.
Being an ambassador/blogger for Pelican Healthcare
When I originally started blogging I never intended to get picked up by a company, the thought never crossed my mind. This time two years ago I got a phone call asking if I would like to work with them writing informative blog posts and doing the odd presentation here and there.
For me, Pelican is the best fit. I absolutely love their bags and for me, they changed my life and made stoma life livable. Pre-Pelican bags I suffered issues with sore skin and constant leaks.
The last two years have been a whirlwind, from presentations to how a stoma product changed my life to presenting in front of people at ASCN which was really nerve-wracking. It has been one incredible journey and it keeps on growing. Sat down writing this I still have to pinch myself that I get to write posts for a stoma based company and that people actually read my posts.
I will always sing the praise of Vitamin E because if it changed my life it can help others in being ostomates that live life rather than just exist.
That’s about it from me for international women’s day, in the words of Bridget, ‘YOU ARE PERFECT JUST THE WAY YOU ARE’.
Many thanks for reading