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My ostomy journey and reasons for surgery - Lisa Walkingshaw

My name is Lisa, aged 27 from Belfast and this is my first blog. I would like to share with you my personal story and reason for my ostomy surgery.

Lisa Walkingshaw

In January 2009 at age 21, I was busy preparing for my university exams, and working in my part time job. However I noticed that I wasn't feeling quite like myself, always tired, no energy and constant dark circles under my eyes. I just thought I was maybe doing too much. However over the weeks that followed things began to get much worse. I noticed blood in the toilet every time I went, I couldn't keep anything down (even the smell of food was making me vomit) and I had become so weak that I could barely brush my hair. My GP diagnosed haemorrhoids and prescribed anti-sickness medications and some cream. However when there was no sign of improvement my parents took me straight to A&E and after an urgent colonoscopy I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. The next week was spent in hospital hooked up to IV fluids and IV steroids. My condition somewhat improved and I was discharged home.

Things did get better for a while, and medication seemed to be keeping things at bay. However in October 2010 I began to flare and again I was admitted for IV treatment. Unfortunately I didn't respond as well as expected and was becoming sicker by the day. I knew something had to be done... and fast. I couldn't cope with the pain any longer and was fed up sitting on the toilet for hours at a time. My surgeon explained how sick I was and that surgery was the only option. So, on the 3rd November 2010, I had surgery to remove 4/5ths of my large intestine and form an ileostomy.

The support given by the stoma nurses, my family and friends, helped in the immediate post-operative period, but no-one could really prepare me for how my life was going to be with a stoma, nor could they tell me how I would adapt. I was scared, frightened, and my self-esteem was at rock bottom. I felt ugly and wondered how my boyfriend would ever find me attractive with a bag attached to me. Some days there were laughter some days there were tears. Either way I knew I had to accept that this was my new life. I will never forget a girl opposite me in my hospital bed who recently had the same surgery. She said "Do you think you'll ever go back to work again?" As a 22 year old young woman, with plans and ambitions I was totally distraught. My life would never be the same again!!

However, I was discharged to recover at home and I can honestly say I adapted really well. I decided to name my stoma "Stammy the Stoma". It took a while to learn how to change the bag, what to eat and what not to eat etc. but almost 5 years on I have become an expert in timing my poops and bag changes. I have done things I never thought was possible with "a bag". I have visited places I would never imagine including Las Vegas and Mexico and have planned to visit New York in January 2016. I have been camping, went down water slides (holding my bag in case the impact took my bag off haha), been on a quad safari, boat trips, snorkelling in the sea and drove a jet ski. Also, my surgery and hospital experience inspired me to become and nurse and make a difference just like the nurses made a difference to me in my most vulnerable state. So in July 2015 after 3 years of study I finished my nursing degree and have just taken up post in my local hospital. In December I will graduate.

Finally, I don't necessarily love having an ileostomy but I love that it saved my life and afforded me the opportunity to fulfil my dreams. My friends and family forget I even have a bag and no-one knows unless I tell them. I have more energy and my experience has made me love life even more and look forward to what the future holds.

So, to the girl opposite me in the hospital bed who made me believe my life was over. My life was most certainly not over, it has only just begun!

Lots of love


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