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My ileostomy has given me six years of my life back - Charlotte Guinea

Charlotte shares her story about being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at 17 and how having an ileostomy has given her 6 years of her life back.

My ileostomy has given me six years of my life back - Charlotte Guinea

One Monday evening in March 2013, I was admitted into hospital after a weekend of excruciating stomach pains. At this time I had been living with a condition called Ulcerative Colitis for over 5 years and my condition was about to take a turn for the worse.

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at just 17 years old, a pretty scary thought to get your head around at such a young age! Most people ask what is Ulcerative Colitis? Well, it’s a condition where the colon and rectum become inflamed. Ulcers develop throughout the colon and bowels lining, these ulcers then bleed and produce pus.

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis aren’t very pleasant; recurring diarrhoea which usually contains, blood, mucus or pus; excruciating stomach pains and a need to frequently empty your bowels, sometimes up to 20 times a day!

Whilst in hospital doctors gave me the news that my medication had stopped working and the only option left was emergency surgery to remove my large intestine and colon. Quite a daunting thought at 21 years of age!

During my surgery, my small intestine was diverted out of an opening in my abdomen (an ileostomy). I lived with my ileostomy since March 2013. In November I then underwent the first stage of surgery to create an ileo-anal pouch. This is an internal pouch that is connected to the anus. My pouch was formed during my first surgery but I am still waiting for my ‘take down surgery’ which will connect the pouch so I am currently still living with my ileostomy.

People often ask how I have coped going through such major surgery at a young age, my response is ‘it was a bag or a box.’ The lifestyle I have since having an ileostomy is AMAZING, I will be sad to see it go, it has given me six years of my life back. My ileostomy means I can socialise with friends again, go out for dinners, go on holidays and make it at least 4 hours without having to set foot in a bathroom. Friends and family say that I am much more positive since having surgery and the old bubbly me is back.

Living with an ileostomy has become relatively easy over time, initially there is the fear of having a stoma, it made me feel slightly squeamish at the beginning but the actual stoma doesn’t hurt as it has no nerve endings, and it is really easy to maintain when you get into your routine.

My words of advice to those newly diagnosed are; don’t suffer alone, use the support groups available via Facebook, twitter and also local support groups within your area which can be found on the Crohns and Colitis UK website. I always use the phrase ‘break the taboo on poo’, there is such a stigma around bowel related illnesses and this really needs to be broken. The more people that talk about these conditions the more awareness will be raised. So together, let’s ‘break the taboo on poo.’

Written by Charlotte Guinea, 23 Hampshire