Hello my lovely Comfizz readers,
September 4th is #NationalWildlifeDay so I thought I would take this opportunity to talk to you about how my relationship with the outdoors has changed since my stoma surgery in 2011.
Rewind to pre 2011 & pre surgery
Especially when flaring with Crohn's Disease, I experienced many symptoms. None of them were pleasant and understandably, a lot of Crohn's symptoms are definitely not designed to go hand in hand with being outdoors. The unpredictability, anxiety & sudden onset of symptoms would make me scared to venture away from the house when they were at their worst. At least if I stayed at home, I knew I would be close to a toilet, be close to my bed and feel more comfortable being poorly in familiar surroundings.
Because I struggled with eating & my weight, I often got cold very quickly outside, no matter what time of year. Being cold would then make me feel even more exhausted & if I got cold beyond a certain point (it didn't take much), I would get intense stomach cramps & then the dreaded, sudden urge for the toilet. Most of the time, it was just easier and involved less energy to stay inside, especially in the colder months.
Not making it in time
There were occasions where I would battle on & go outside anyway, because I wanted to or simply because I needed to. I have never been one to just sit & let Crohn's wear me down, not without a good fight first anyway. Some of those times, I would manage & it got to the point where I knew each & every accessible toilet was on my journey should I need it.
I always carried spare underwear with me, wipes, a disposable bag, sanitary pads & some body spray "just in case". Those "just in case" plans became my saviours where I hadn't quite managed to make it to the toilet in time & after I learnt to drive, I found heading out a lot easier as I felt more in control. I also knew that if worst came to worst that I have the comfort of my own car should I have an accident on a larger scale of the poop variety! I also carried a spare pair of clothes in my car, which settled my anxiety more knowing that I could do an outfit change if I needed to & could carry a lot more in my car to make heading out with Crohn's easier.
As I'm sure most Crohn's patients have experienced, there were times where I had to run behind a bush in the countryside with my pack of tissues and go to the toilet! These times made me feel very demoralised but looking back on them now, I give myself a pat on the back for trying to go about my daily life & do things I wanted to do.
I've got my freedom & my life back
Recovery from stoma surgery in 2011 was definitely two steps forward and one back & I'd say it was several months before I felt anything like when it came to my energy. I built up being outdoors & exercise gradually & have always worn a Comfizz waistband or support briefs for extra support & security.
It was the most liberating feeling being able to even go out of the front door knowing I wouldn't have to worry about suddenly rushing in to a toilet. There are no words to describe how good that felt & still feels now. There isn't a day I take for granted.
I still struggle with fatigue but I know that's something I'll probably always battle on with having IBD. However, I love the outdoors, even something simple such as sitting in the garden on my low energy days without that urgency and anxiety.
Of course, I have had stoma bag leaks and times where my stoma is more active so my bag needs emptying more often, but compared to my life before my surgery these are few & far between. I feel more in control of my bowels most of the time now & know that immodium & certain foods can help to settle my stomach and output when needed. I still get days where my bowel acts up & I can't work out why, but I've always believed that having a stoma is one big learning curve. I feel like my learning never stops in one way or another since having stoma surgery but I embrace my stoma where I can and use it to drive me to do the things I need to do, want to do & things which will help me to appreciate my life & live it to the full!