When asked by Pelican to be an ambassador I had been sharing our story for 4 years already. I started my page on Instagram @gutsy.mum with the aim of reaching anyone that may stumble on my page and feel like they are the only ones. Being an ambassador has brought with it so many wonderful opportunities, and for that I am so grateful for. I have learnt some lessons along the way too:
1. Do things that scare you
One of the first photo shoots I did was for a campaign for REFRESH by Respond which was something I had never done before, not even come close! I didn't have childcare so I took my little ostomate with me. I had to show him how we should be proud of our ostomies and wear them with a smile and gratitude, despite feeling awkward in front of the camera having my Mum tum on show which isn't my favourite part to say the least. The team there were simply amazing at cheering me on and the photographer made me feel comfortable and at ease to be able to do the job to the best of my ability. I was chuffed with the result and later found Jake had taken a photo on his iPad which shows me smiling. This makes me so happy that he could see Mummy out of her comfort zone and embracing it! This has led to more photoshoot opportunities and public speaking events which 20 year old Rach would never have imagined. Taking these chances have made me braver, stronger and more determined to do more.
2. There is always something new to learn
Knowledge is key. Meeting others, learning their stories and how they deal with the barriers they face, has given me great perspective and lessons along the way. There is so much to be said for learning from those that do, not just from those that teach. I think it is immensely important to be armed with not just the facts, but also the experiences of others, using them to form your own opinions. Little nuggets of advice such as how to sleep best, what underwear to wear and what to tell family and friends has been gained and more. It is not often that life brings you together with those that are so similar to you where medical conditions are concerned. If the opportunity arises for you, jump in with both hands!
3. Accepting that some people just don't 'get it'
When the opportunity to meet other ambassadors came in person I jumped at the chance. I had never met another adult or child with an ostomy. Immediately upon meeting them I felt SEEN. I felt that I could relax and know that whatever could happen they wouldn't be confused, disgusted or shocked. It was a euphoric feeling to say the least! It was even more lovely to find that most were just as they seem on social media and I could have spoken to them all day long. It was particularly lovely to meet the men that take the time to share their own ostomy journeys who, without realising, are paving the way for people like my son to grow into a more accepting society.
4. The time and effort spent in making stoma bags
The factory tour at Pelican revealed just how much expertise, resources and most impressively, man power that goes into making our precious life lines. These people work tirelessly during every shift in the factory, with every bag they have a part in making, enabling an ostomate to go on to live their daily lives. It scares me to think where me and my son would be without them. For all its problems over the last few years I can't help but continue to champion the NHS and its workforce whether it be on the front lines or in the manufacturing of medical appliances. Pelican takes the time to involve its users in the research and design process ensuring quality and aesthetics are spot on. Speaking to the workforce, seeing their passion, was something not many people have the opportunity to do. They truly care about ostomates and have strong family values at the core which show in the moral of the workforce.
5. We are all role models
I still get surprised when people tell me they follow our story through my social media page. They ask me questions regarding posts and information I have shared and it reminds me how we are ALL role models whether we like it or not. We have a responsibility to ensure the information we share is correct and our own. Medical ambassadors have the added pressure of getting messages from followers regarding posts and products used, From the start I have always reminded people I am not medically trained, yet rich in life experience I wasn't qualified to give medical advice. Despite this, I am able to share my experiences and successful products found and hope others can take what they need from it and find their own way.
Being an ambassador is a role I take very seriously and hope to continue to do in the future. If you have an opportunity to work with a brand you truly use and believe in I would encourage you to take it. You don't know where it will lead, or what you can gain as a result!
Until next time, Rach x