An Interview With… Jamie Pearson

Through blogging I have met some incredible and brave people.  During the course of me appearing on The IBD & Ostomy Support Show, I met Jamie.  He lives not far from me which was an obvious starting point for a conversation.  He has become a good friend and is always there for a chat and check in.  I asked Jamie if he would answer some questions about himself and his diagnosis/surgery from a male perspective.  He kindly agreed and so here we go!

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Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your diagnosis?

My name is Jamie & I am living in Derby. I am a massive football fan & love teaching it and playing. I an a laid back person who is ambitious. I was told I have Ulcerative Colitis over 8 years ago.  All the symptoms started with me injuring my toe nail & being on a long course of antibiotics. The bleeding & constant toilet trips all happened a few weeks after my toe nail surgery.

What surgery have you had as a result of your IBD?

I had my surgery October 5th 2016 for my stoma & left my rectal stump in, in case I wanted a j-pouch created. My surgery was planned after all medications were tried & failed. I was at the stage where I couldn’t go on with the pain and was bed bound.

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How did you feel when you were told you would need a stoma formed?

That first moment I was told I would be having a stoma, I just didn’t take it all in & I felt so scared.  I was thinking does it stink and how will I live a normal life? Then the stoma nurse explained everything and I felt so much better.  Of course I was still scared but at the same time I was now prepared for a new life with my stoma.

Do you suffer with nay other health problems connected to your IBD?

I suffer with depression from IBD & surgery for my stoma. A month in hospital with 2 operations & not getting answers just really knocked me down.  I am now on anti-depressants which are helping.

What do you think are some of the issues men face when dealing with this illness/surgery?

The issues I feel for myself & other men with a stoma or illness is confidence in going out places.  For example  – can anyone see my bag & what do I wear? Also dating is scary. Explaining you have an illness or a stoma & getting into a sexual relationship is difficult to navigate.  The first time you have sex after surgery is a big step.

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What advice would you give to others facing ostomy surgery?

Advice I would give for anyone having surgery is it isn’t the end of the world having a bag. You still can be normal & achieve anything in life. It won’t be easy, but in my case I have become a much stronger person & my confidence is so much better. Also, good support groups are around online. The IBD & Ostomy Support Show I think is amazing on YouTube, as well as the group on Facebook.

You have more surgery planned.  What is next for you?

I have surgery planned for June which is the rectal stump removal to make my bag permanent.  I have been told if I have a J-pouch made it would just collapse.

Have you continued doing the things you did before surgery since having your stoma?

Since my first surgery it took some time but I’m basically doing most of the stuff I did before.  Playing football was a big one but I did that & was so happy.  I would advise whatever you do just rest after you have done it. But yeah, I can do anything I used to do since surgery. I started my blog from seeing yourself & others share their stories. I just wanted to share my experiences and what I went through & if it helps just one person then I am happy.

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Thank you for answering these questions Jamie, I am so grateful!  Jamie can be found on Instagram and he has started documenting his journey through his blog – The Stoma Guy Blog

Please get in touch if you have a story to tell.  I would love to share other Spoonies and parents stories over the coming months, just fill out the form and I will email you back as soon as I can

NatalieThe Spoonie Mummy

Ten Top Tips To Prepare For Ostomy Surgery

I got a whole day to get my head around the idea of having an ileostomy, many people don’t get that long as it is often performed during emergency surgery.  For some however, the surgery is scheduled and they have some time to prepare.  Physically, this can be a blessing with more time to get ready for what is going to happen.  Mentally, it can be both a blessing and a curse – longer to worry about the surgery, but at the same time you are able to prepare and speak to other ostomates about what happens, what to expect and what you need.

This post is written for those prepping for ostomy surgery.  Whether you have a date or it is a possible part of your future.  You also may have recently had your ostomy surgery.  I have recently been talking with a lovely lady who is having her surgery soon and trying to offer over any pearls of wisdom I gleaned from my experience.  Some people feel unable to talk to someone, or don’t know where to turn, so hopefully this will reach those who need it and get them better prepared for their surgery.  I hope the list is helpful for you and if you have any extra tips, please add them to the comments so everyone can see them.

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Mattress Protector

This is a must buy for me!  Leaks are bound to happen and it will happen at least once in bed.  Bad enough is having to strip your bed sheets at night, but if the output gets on your mattress, it is pretty much impossible to get out.  I picked up a waterproof matress protector from Asda and it just comes off and gets washed with the sheets but saves your mattress from getting covered.

I also get bed pads from my delivery company Bullen.  These are the disposable versions and although I no longer need to use them at home, they are super handy for taking with me when I am staying at a hotel or a friend/family members house.  Your delivery company will do different complimentary items but you often get wet and dry wipes, disposable waste bags, scissors etc from them.

Pain Relief

I know some are offered an epidural when having ostomy surgery.  I can’t comment on it’s effectiveness as I didn’t have it, but a few ostomates I knew did advise me not to have one.

When I woke up from surgery in the recovery room I was in an immense amount of pain.  The staff were brilliant and helped get it under control as quickly as possible and got my morphine PCA (patient-controlled analgesic) up and running so I was then in control of my pain relief.  After this initial pain, I can honestly say it was never that bad again.  I had my surgery on the Thursday afternoon and the PCA was taken away on the Monday, replaced by paracetamol and oramorph.  I was a little worried when they said it was going but I didn’t have to be.  The pain was well controlled and I didn’t suffer any horrible pain episodes during the rest of my recovery.

Everyone’s pain tolerance is different but the pain management team will be around to advise and help you manage it.  It always pays to be honest with the staff and don’t sit suffering in silence, you get no medals for doing it without pain relief so take what you need!

Clothing

A little tip for the ladies – New Look high waisted leggings were a lifesaver for me in the recovery period.  I wore them a lot with short dresses and they were so comfy to pull up over my tummy, scar and bag.  I didn’t feel restricted by them at all either.

I did have a huge wardrobe clear out not long after my surgery which I probably should have waited a little while for.  Nearly two years on, I now find I can wear most things and probably didn’t need to get rid of quite so much, although it was an excuse to go shopping I suppose!  During recovery you want to feel comfortable and you don’t want anything pressing too much on your bag.  The biggest thing I have to be wary of when shopping now is my jeans – high waisted are great and go over my bag with ease (I have some fab ones from Pep & Co).  I also wear jeggings a lot as they look like jeans but have a bit more stretch to them

Support Groups

I had been a member of some IBD Facebook groups for a while but there are some fantastic ostomy-based ones and I thought I would mention a few.

PW Ostomy Support runs alongside the Purple Wings charity which is a brilliant place to get insight, support and information.  The Purple Wings charity specialises in ‘Time For Me’ grants which helps support and treat ostomates.  Their tagline is ‘Recover, Adapt and Overcome’ which really sums up life following ostomy surgery.

Making Ostomies Cool is a fab group with lots of ostomates all willing to share information, advice and support.  It is more focused on just issues related to ostomies which means questions and posts are not left unanswered in a deluge of more personal posts.  While I love some support groups for this sense of family and support, it is nice to have a group you can go to with a question and know it will be answered.

There is also The IBD & Ostomy Support Show page of which I am 1/5th of the hosts.  We go live every Thursday night at 8pm on YouTube for an hour discussing all different issues surrounding – you guessed it – ostomies and IBD.  The Facebook page is also a great place to go to ask for advice and get support.  We also lover to hear your thoughts on the show and what you would like to see us talking about.  You can subscribe to the YouTube channel here and you will be notified when we go live and also be able to catch up on previous shows

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Samples

There are so many stoma companies out there all offering different products and it can seem like a minefield, but getting to try out different appliances will really help you find out what works best for you, your ostomy and your skin.  There is, unfortunately, no ;one size fits all’ and although I wear the Salts Confidence BE bags and love them, they don’t and won’t suit everyone.  However, definitely try them out!  Ordering samples is really easy and, for the most part, can be done online.  You can also call the companies and you will see how helpful they really can be.  I will pop a few links below of companies you can have a look at, just click the name and it will take you to their sample ordering pages.

Salts Healthcare

Coloplast

Pelican

Dansac

Peak Medical

Your Stoma

The first time I saw my stoma I cried.  Even though I was feeling pretty positive and ready for it, once I got the bag off for my first change, realisation seemed to hit me.  When you first come back from surgery your stoma will be much larger due to the recent surgery you have had.  Good news is, it does shrink!

There is also the question of whether to name your stoma.  Many stoma nurses suggest you do this, but it is ultimately your choice.  I would say most people I have come across have named their stoma but those who haven’t often say they don’t name it as they think it is or silly or they just see it as a part of them, rather than a separate thing.  There is no right or wrong answer here and it is entirely up to you!  Mine is called Stanley as I like things to start with the same letter and it had to be male (after just coming out of a relationship I was of the opinion all men were full of poo, so it seemed appropriate – I should mention that isn’t my regular view though!).

Stoma Nurse

Your stoma nurse will be your best friend for the first week or two following surgery, and possibly after that too!  They will be a daily visitor while you are in hospital and will help guide you through your first bag changes to make sure you are confident and competent before going home.  They will also be able to advise on products to help you individually, such as the possible need for a convex bag if your stoma is more flush to the skin.  I had three lovely stoma nurses working in the hospital I had my surgery in.  All three were absolutely fantastic and I couldn’t have been more pleased with all the advice and support they gave me.

Output

You will become obsessed over your output in the first few weeks – trying to get the perfect porridge like consistency they tell you to aim for!  There are all sorts of tips and tricks to help thicken your ileostomy output (see my previous post – Thickening Stoma Output) and hydration is key as it is a lot easier to become severely dehydrated with an ileostomy especially, and this can happen very quickly (see my posts on Dehydration With An Ostomy and How To Cope With A Stomach Bug When You Have An Ileostomy).

Diet

I was really lucky as my ostomy ‘woke up’ really quickly following surgery, but this can take a few days.  Some people are then given a post surgery low residue diet plan for six weeks and Louise over at Crohns Fighting did a great blog post covering this which you can read here

There are some foods which are not recommended after you have a stoma as they can increase the risk of blockages eg. sweetcorn, mushrooms and popcorn.  However this varies from person to person and I can eat mushrooms and popcorn with little problems.  Sweetcorn, nuts, fruit/veg skins and certain beans do not agree with me at all though!  This chart gives a round up of some foods and what they can cause when eaten with a stoma.

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It is advisable to avoid the stoma obstructing foods immediately after surgery but once you have healed you may want to start reintroducing them and see how you manage.  Try them in small quantities, drink plenty and chew, chew, chew is always the best advice when trying new things.  Note the colour changing foods too.  Your bag may look full of blood but it is probably the beetroot you ate for lunch!  Before rushing to A and E just have a think about what you ate that day, as it can scare you the first time it happens!

Patience

Not something you can buy, or save up unfortunately, but patience is going to be the key to get you through.  Having a stoma is by no means a quick fix.  It has given me and many others a new lease of life, but with that comes new routines and big changes to your everyday life.  Finding products which work for you can take time, learning to cut your bags yourself will take time (it used to take me hours when I first started and I hated it), Recovery from the major surgery you have had takes time, as does getting used to getting up in the night to check/empty your bag.  Learning what is comfortable to wear and what is ok to eat will take time and I mean months, as your body first has to recover from the surgery before you can start to really know this stuff.  However, there is plenty of support out there and just know that, nearly two years on, I still have bad days where Stanley is then referred to ‘the little shitbag’ as he isn’t behaving.

This surgery changed my life and wholly for the better.  Acceptance and understanding of your stoma takes a little time but as long as you are prepared for that, I think you will do amazing.  I am not a medical professional and this post was written entirely based on my experiences, so please consult your doctors about your personal situation and about any problems you may have.  My inbox is always open for advice and support though, should you need it.

Finally, a big thankyou and a huge good luck to Ella who inspired this post.  She has her ostomy surgery and has been in touch with me asking questions and seeking support about it all.  It made me write this post, to collate a lot of the things we had talked about in our chats and hopefully help people facing, or who have just had, similar surgeries.  Please add any relevant tips you can think of in the comments, it will be great for people to be able to read lots of ideas from the amazing, supportive, ostomate community.

NatalieThe Spoonie Mummy

Blog Series – Conditions Associated With IBD – Fistulas

So I didn’t manage to get this one up last week.  After the unexpected hospital stay, I took some time off to recover.  Today is the second post in the blog series I am doing on conditions associated with IBD and we are looking at fistulas.

What are they?

A fistula is an abnormal channel or tunnel which develops in between two organs of the body.  These can occur anywhere in the body but generally involve the bowel and intestine.  They may connect two parts of the bowel together, or the bowel to the vagina, bladder or skin.  They are more common in people with Crohns rather than Colitis, as they begin when the whole lining of the bowel is inflamed.  Colitis tends not to cause inflammation of the entire lining of the bowel.

Types of fistula

The most common types of fistula associated with IBD are

Anal (also known as perianal fistulas) connect the anal canal to
the surface of the skin near the anus. These are the most common type of fistula and usually appear following an abscess
Bowel to bladder fistulas (enterovesical or colovesical fistulas)
Bowel to vagina fistulas (enterovaginal fistulas or rectovaginal fistulas)
Bowel to skin fistulas (enterocutaneous fistulas) These mostly occur on the abdomen and often develop following surgery
Bowel to bowel fistulas (enteroenteric or enterocolic fistulas) link different parts of the bowel together, bypassing some parts of the bowel

Symptoms of a fistula

Depending on the type of fistula you may experience

  • Tender swelling or lump in the anus, followed by pain and irritation which is worse when you sit down, cough or poo
  • A fistula can drain blood, pus or poo

From the one above my anus – leaking pus and mucus constantly so I have to wear a pad, occasionally blood or stool passes through too.  I have an abscess which drains through it which can be painful

Tiffany, Crohns diagnosed 2017, rectovaginal and perinanal fistulas, runs Tiffany Nicole

I suffer extreme pain from the waist down. I get random bursts of bleeding which results in low iron.  I also get leakage constantly and pain on my skin

Alannah, diagnosed with Crohns 2012, permanent ileostomy, ‘pelvis riddled with fistulas’ and runs a blog here
  • Passing air, pus or faeces through the vagina/in urine

Before I had my bag I was leaking stool from my front.  I was passing wind from there too and I ended up developing sepsis. Only symptoms I get now, 3 years on are drainage from the seton and some discomfort the odd time from the seton and then my team just change it

Anonymous, diagnosed with UC in 2004 which changed to Crohns Disease in 2015, loop ileostomy, rectovaginal fistula

I have symptoms less often in my rectovaginal fistula but it itches sometimes and occasionally leaks stool which made me panic at first, I thought I wasn’t wiping my bum properly!

Tiffany, Crohns diagnosed 2017, rectovaginal and perinanal fistulas, runs
  • Frequent UTI’s
  • Frequent urge to pass urine
  • Pain during intercourse
  • The person may experience dehydration or malabsorption issues

How are they diagnosed?

MRI, ultrasound, CT scans and fistulography tests may be performed by your doctor.  They will want to identify the route the fistula takes and where the openings are, the number of channels there are and if there is an infection also present

My doctor had a look, the area was very red and swelled, and knew straight away what it was.  They did MRI’s too

Anonymous, diagnosed with UC in 2004 which changed to Crohns Disease in 2015, loop ileostomy

I was diagnosed with a vaginal inspection, MRI scan and biopsies

Alannah, diagnosed with Crohns 2012, permanent ileostomy, ‘pelvis riddled with fistulas’ and runs a blog here

I was diagnosed with a colonoscopy and MRI scans

Tiffany, Crohns diagnosed 2017, rectovaginal and perinanal fistulas, runs

For vaginal fistulas, a blue dye test can be used.  This involves the doctor inserting some blue dye into the rectum and a tampon into the vagina.  If the tampon is removed and is stained blue, it will indicate a fistula.

Doctors may also carry out a cytoscope test to view inside the bladder and urethra to identify a bowel to bladder fistula.

How are they treated?

  • Antibiotics
  • Azathioprine
  • Biologics / Anti TNF medication
  • Surgery – seton, fistulotomy
  • Steroids

I’ve been on biologicals called Infliximab for two years till they stopped working and now on Vedolizumab and I’ve had a seton stitch put in place to drain it

Anonymous, diagnosed with UC in 2004 which changed to Crohns Disease in 2015, loop ileostomy

Living with a fistula

Regular, warm baths can help ease the pain and discomfort.  Clean the area with warm water and a soft, disposable cloth rather than a sponge or washcloth.  Ensure the area is properly dried by patting the towel, rather than rubbing it on the area.  Avoid soaps, talcs and creams in the area unless prescribed by the doctor (they may be able to precribe a barrier cream to help protect the skin).  Wearing loose fitting clothes and cotton underwear may help.

The hardest part is where it is, I feel I smell all the time no matter how often I shower and try to keep the area clean.  Plus not many people explain it in detail like they did my stoma.  As it’s my vaginal area it can make intimacy a bit uncomfortable (luckily my partner is very supportive) and examinations from doctors as the area can be tender

Anonymous, diagnosed with UC in 2004 which changed to Crohns Disease in 2015, loop ileostomy

Cushions and pillows may help when sitting down.  You can purchase memory foam or ring cushions, designed to relieve discomfort and pain.

The worst thing about having multiple fistulas is that no matter how many surgeries I have it will never go away.  I will never be rid of the pain I go through daily.  Some days and nights there is nothing I can do but lay there in pain and cry and wish they would put another seton in

Alannah, diagnosed with Crohns 2012, permanent ileostomy, ‘pelvis riddled with fistulas’ and runs a blog here

Dealing with fistulas can take its toll both mentally and physically.  Taking part in sport and swimming may be harder.  It can also affect your feelings about sex and intimacy.  Feeling depressed, frustrated and embarrassed are common.  Your IBD nurse may be the best person to talk to with the most experience of dealing with fistulas.  You may also find talking to a professional counsellor helps.  Online support groups can also be helpful, especially as you can connect with others in the same situation.

The worst thing is definitely having poo in your vagina… how do you discuss that with people?  I’ve been advised not to have a smear test because of it and although I am not sexually active if I were I’d be very concerned and embarrassed!  The abscess in my bum cheek drains and refills and when it’s full I can only lay down meaning I can’t go to work

Tiffany, Crohns diagnosed 2017, rectovaginal and perinanal fistulas, runs

I feel very lucky to not suffer from any fistulas as the people I have spoken to have shown just how hard it is to deal with what they do.  There is help and advice out there for people suffering though so please don’t feel alone.  Anybody who would like to chat or pointing in the right direction as to where they can find some help, please feel free to contact me using the contact form on the home page.  A huge thankyou to the people who have shared their experiences with me for this piece.  You can also find out lots more great information over on the CCUK page here

 

Top 10 Best Things About Getting My Stoma

Good morning and happy Friday!  If you follow me on Facebook you will have seen my apology about not getting a post up on Wednesday.  I have been working hard on my university assignment this week.  I am pleased to say it is complete and has been submitted.  Now I just get to worry about the score!

I know when I was diagnosed with IBD I felt like my world was ending and that I would end up with a bag and that was it.  I did end up with a bag, but thanks to the support of the fantastic IBD and ostomy communities I was much more accepting of it by the time of my surgery.  And in fact it was one of the best things that could have happened.  Today I wanted to share a list of ten things that have changed for the better for me since ostomy surgery.

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THE PEOPLE I HAVE MET

This has got to be one of the best things that has come out of my surgery.  I had already been an active member of the IBD community when I had my surgery but my ostomy has bought so many more wonderful people into my life including Ste, the Purple Wings charity, Jasmine Stacey and my co-hosts on The IBD & Ostomy Support Show.

NO MORE LONG VISITS TO THE BATHROOM

I used to spend so much time in the bathroom and would even get bruised, marked legs from the amount of time I was sat there.  As a mum you can imagine this really wasn’t convenient and trying to get out of the house was a nightmare – I would always be needing a toilet trip five minutes before I left the house.  It would limit the amount of time I wanted to spend at places and often left me deciding staying in was the better option.  I still have to visit the toilet pretty regularly to empty my stoma bag but it takes less than five minutes and no sitting down!

GIVING ME THE PUSH TO START BLOGGING

I actually started my first blog while I was in the hospital but once I got home my focus was on recovery and the boys so I didn’t continue it.  I have wanted to do something like this for so long but never took the plunge.  Once I was feeling better though and I felt I really could help people with what I have been through and am still experiencing, I signed up and the rest, as they say, is history!

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GETTING HEALTHIER

Since my ostomy surgery my health has been so much better.  If you still have your large intestine, this kind of surgery gives that area a break and often puts it into remission.  I had a flare at the beginning of last year but it was so much easier to manage with the bag and luckily the doctor’s got on top of it quickly.  I had just moved to Derby so was off a lot of my medications until I could get to see my new consultants which contributed to this flare.  Since then, aside from the odd blockage my Crohns has been very well controlled.

GAINING WEIGHT

To some this would sound strange but I had dropped to just over seven stone during my flare and was suffering with deficiencies in things like potassium and protein.  Once I had my ostomy formed I was able to eat more normally again and started absorbing the things I needed from food.

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NOT HAVING TO WORRY WHEN GOING OUT

As I mentioned in my first point, going out often felt impossible due to the constant toilet trips.  I would end up running late for things due to being stuck on the toilet and often stopped making plans to do things as I just couldn’t manage them.  I have never been a fan of using public bathrooms but the sheer amount of times I would need to go, the speed at which the feeling came on and the possibility of an accident was just too much to cope with.  After stoma surgery there are still concerns – what if I need to empty my bag, will there be a toilet, the possibility of a leak etc.  This ease the longer you have your ostomy.  I find most people are concerned about the smell but there are things that can help.  You can see the post I wrote about ostomy smell here

IF I CAN GET THROUGH THIS I CAN GET THROUGH ANYTHING

The flare I was in prior to my surgery was pretty horrific.  I lost a lot of weight, felt constantly sick and weak, the pain was immense and I was feeling lower and lower.  Getting through that, surgery and my recovery gave me such a boost and if I can cope with all that, I am pretty sure I can do anything I want to set my mind to.

BECOMING A CO-HOST ON THE IBD & OSTOMY SUPPORT SHOW

Getting to become a co-host on The IBD & Ostomy Support Show was an amazing opportunity for which I was truly grateful.  Not only do I get to help others with advice and support, I have made the best friends in my co-hosts who are all brilliant and inspiring people.  The show is live every Thursday at 8pm GMT on our YouTube channel and you can also see all the past shows on there too.

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GETTING SOME CONTROL OF MY LIFE BACK

Not being restricted to the toilet for lengthy periods has definitely helped me feel more in control of my life.  I am now more confident and enjoy seeking out new opportunities and experiences.  I am able to be the best parent I want to be now and can do so much more with the boys and my step-daughter.  I am once again enjoying food and cooking, which has always been a passion of mine but I struggled with when flaring.

CONFIDENCE AND MENTAL HEALTH

My confidence has soared since having my surgery.  I had also got out of a bad relationship a couple of months before being admitted but I literally felt like a new person.  Every one commented on how well I was looking.  I have been able to wear things I still enjoy and often share my outfits on my Instagram page to show that you can still wear your favourite outfits with an ostomy.  Check it out here.  My mental health also received a boost.  Being so very poorly for six months had really taken it’s toll.  Not being able to enjoy going out and doing things I really enjoyed was soul destroying.  I am now living and enjoying a much healthier and happier life and am so very grateful for what having my ostomy has contributed to this.

I hope this list will show you the positive sides of having an ostomy, especially if this is something you are facing soon.  I received some great support from the ostomy community online and that really helped me to accept my stoma and become more confident with it.  Could you add anything to my list?  let me know in the commetns below!

What Is Body Confidence?

I was in a relationship for years with a man who I believe may have narcissistic tendancies. A man who emotionally abused me. First, came the love bombing. The constant adoration, the you are so amazing and look, so am I taking you on expensive holidays and dates (which to be honest, are not really within our budget but later on I will blame you for us being in debt anyway). The butter wouldn’t melt, tell me your deepest, darkest worries so further down the line I can rip you apart using the things I know make you feel most tormented and insecure. I was never beautiful, never pretty, never even looked nice. If I wore make up it wasn’t because he knew how much I love and enjoy it, it was…well who have you been seeing while I’m at work dolled up like that? I dropped heaps of weight off an already skinny frame but he wasn’t worried, it’s your own fault, what have you eaten (Crohn’s flares by the way, are NOT triggered by anything you do to yourself but by an auto immune disease which ravages from your mouth right through your digestive tract to your anus).

Fast forward to now. It’s almost two years since I broke free of that relationship. Life has changed considerably, and the same man continues to hurt me, now using our children against me, but that’s a story for another time.

I’m with someone new. We have actually been dating for over a year now and he’s the most amazing and gorgeous human I have ever met. You could throw me David Beckham and Ian Somerhalder and I would say thanks but no thanks – I have met my soulmate.

Onto the body confidence thing, you can imagine, spending pretty much my entire twenties with a man who once told our children that ‘Mummy looks better than she did on our first date’ when I was going for a meal with his Mum and Sister (apparently this was supposed to be a compliment) it has been pretty low.

My body has taken a battering over the years from my various ailments. I have numerous scars, an ileostomy bag, my elbows don’t straighten, my face is swollen from Pred (steroids) and my bones are now disintegrating inside me (luckily pretty slowly for the amount of steroids I’ve been on and the amount of time I’ve had arthritis – small victories hey?!).

Reaching 30, many women have an epiphany don’t they, it’s supposed to be the years you come into your own and free yourself from the doubts that overshadow you in your twenties, be it your appearance, your career, your friendships. I spent my 30th birthday in a hospital bed, awaiting a central line being fitted, which then got cancelled as I was told I needed an ileostomy. Happy birthday to me! This was something that needed time to adjust to and gain confidence in in itself.

But I’m pleased to say I’m now there. I’ve accepted and am proud of my ileostomy, as well as my numerous scars. Yeah I’ve a bit of a mum tum which I would like to tone up a bit but I’ve had two babies, abdominal surgery three times and I love food too much, so there! A charity called Purple Wings (check out their Facebook page here) helped me no end in my road to accepting and gaining confidence following my ostomy surgery and I can’t thank Lauren enough for the tireless work she does.

I’ve also got a man who compliments me. I know it’s supposed to be all about how you see yourself, but when you see yourself through someone else’s eyes, that can really help shape the way you feel. And when that person is someone you love and respect, and they say these things, you may start to believe them. My man doesn’t use just generic compliments either. Some days I just look beautiful or pretty. Some days he tells me he likes the way I’ve done my hair. Some days he likes what I’m wearing, he notices when I wear something new (and not just to point out the money I’ve spent on myself), he tells me when he thinks it suits me. Some days I smell nice. It means it seems more real, more honest and I believe him. I value his opinions as I want to look pretty and be sexy in his eyes. I want to appear attractive to him. That’s all part of being in a relationship isn’t it, you fancy each other? I don’t want to lose that spark of lust with time like so many do. Yes we are more comfortable with one another, I might not shave my legs as often as I used to and I will burp my bag (although I still try and do it only when he is asleep but thanks to my confessions on here he now knows the smell isn’t the dog) but I want him to want me still, just like he did at the start.

So I’m now 31 and a half and I feel like I’m finally starting to understand what people mean about being in your thirties and the body confidence that comes with it. It’s not all about the man either, but that’s helped. My body has been through a battle, every scar depicts a different story, be it my hip replacement, my c-sections or the chicken pox scar I itched right in the middle of my forehead when I was four. My stuck-bent elbows and swollen knees show a fight I’ve been in pretty much since being born. But I’m still here, I’m happy and as healthy as can be, I’m looking forward to the next adventures and what life has in store for me and my family. What will I achieve sat pouring over and picking fault with every photo of myself, trying to starve myself and feeling miserable to lose that bit of a mummy tummy. These faults are only in my own head and aren’t even noticed by my loved ones. I think it says more about someone else if they are willing to judge me based on my hamster pred cheeks or because I need to use a walking stick sometimes.

I, instead, am choosing to enjoy life and all that comes with it, and will do it all with my head held high and with all the 30 something year old sass I can muster, even on a no makeup and comfies day like today!