My Name is Lauren Wood
I’m 25. I was 21 when I had my stoma surgery on the 14th January 2014. I currently work in Tesco’s as a customer assistant on checkouts. I’ve been in the company 7 and half years. I was brought up in London Kent. I now live in Northern Ireland Belfast.
I speak to my dad often who lives over in England, whom I’m very close to, he also has some health problems. I don’t have many hobbies due to my illnesses and chronic pain. But I loved to dance growing up. I also enjoy shopping like any normal girl. I love to read as well. Which I should get back in too.
Growing up I always had problems with my bowels. I remember having issues keeping my food down and suffered with projectile vomiting, I was always at the doctors and took many different laxatives orally and sadly up the back passage from the age 4. I vividly remember at the age of 8 being doubled over in agony and rushed to hospital where they first thought I had appendicitis. At that age I was extremely frightened so I said the pain passed. It would return every so often and I would continue to eat fibre as the doctor told me.
As I grew up the pain kept re-occurring more often. And in 2010 it became constant. I collapsed in my work toilets in agonising pain to the point where I couldn’t walk. I was sent home and I rested at home. I had horrendous fever and excessive diarrhea. My dad then rushed me to the hospital the next morning & within the hour I was in theatre having my appendix out. When I came round I was told they had noticed my colon was extremely swollen and ulcerated. The surgeon was adamant I had Crohn’s or Colitis so kept me in for weeks on end as I awaited a colonoscopy
I ended up having the colonoscopy a few months later. I took the dreaded picolax and was prepped for theatre again. When I awoke they asked if I had even taken the prep, to which I replied, “yes 100% why?” They replied we couldn’t see a thing as your bowel was so compacted. I was then left until 2014. With endless A&E trips & endless admissions, I had one consultant tell me there was nothing he could do, my bowel was packing up. I actually went 5 months with no bowel movement. I then said I would rather a bag than this. I tried endless medications. I even tried meditation to help with the pain. Tens machines also. I had countless x-rays for them to just fob me off each time. I then found out I had PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome) and had to have a laparoscopy to check for cancer which was a frightening time. I then went on to have 2 other operations on my cervix. It then started to affect my bladder and I have to self catheterise when my bladder stops working.
Finally I got a referral to a specialist hospital St Marks. To which they put me forward for tests which showed I had whole gut slow transit and mega-colon. They suggested I have a procedure done called SNS (sacral nerve stimulation) and the NHS turned me down 3 times. I also had a gastroscopy down which showed GERD. I then ended up having planned surgery for a loop ileostomy. My surgery went smoothly at first until the 3rd day my pain started getting worse. My consultant asked what do you want me to do? I said “I don’t know, do a CT scan because something isn’t right.” I went for one, and next thing I’m being rushed into theatre, because my bowel had twisted so badly it nearly perforated and I had a para-stomal hernia also. Mentally at this point I was drained. I was so scared for my life. Luckily I pulled through. I woke up with an NG tube, a neckline, catheter the full works. Was put on a PCA of fentanyl. Finally, after another week I was discharged home. And spent a few months recovering.
I had 4/5 months to think about and read about having a stoma. Which was still a short space of time to come to terms with living with a bag I suppose. Mentally I struggled afterwards and my mental health deteriorated quite badly at times. I couldn’t even look at my stoma let alone empty it. My current partner at the time did it for me. I then had major leak issues for months as my skin was so bad and my stitches had spilt causing an infection. I was then on antibiotics for quite a while. It took me a while to find a bag that would actually stick to my tummy. I now swear by coloplast brava tape.
My dad was very supportive with my bag even though I didn’t live with him he would listen on my bad days. And my friends were also there for me, never once judged me and made me feel like I wasn’t any different from anyone else. Which I’m extremely thankful for. I went back to work 5 months later which was very difficult and I wasn’t treated very well. So I moved stores and settled in very well there. I made more friends and found the boy I’m with now, who I’ve moved to Northern Ireland to be with. I still struggle some days with my bag mentally but I keep on smiling.
I’ve lived in Belfast a year now and my physical health has improved in some ways, it has helped open my bowels and I don’t walk around looking 6 months pregnant. But I’m in chronic pain, which escalates to well over a 10/10. I take morphine tablets and liquid daily, amongst the other tablets adding up to about 40 maybe more a day. I’m awaiting an admission date for my sigmoidoscopy at the moment as I’m getting a lot of blood and mucus from my back passage and blood in my bag. I hope one day I’ll be pain free. It’s a real challenge some days getting out of bed and I rely on a walking aid as my back is also affected, I have a bulging disk in my lower back. I still focus on making my own money instead of dwelling on feeling so poorly on a daily basis. I hope to one day have children and have a big family, as I have sadly also had two miscarriages.
I’m extremely proud of how far I’ve come since my ileostomy surgery. I’ve moved countries and left my family and friends back in England. I couldn’t have done that at the beginning, I wouldn’t even leave the house.
The advice I would give to others facing surgery is always ask your surgeon as many questions as you need, doesn’t matter how many times, confide in friends/family, don’t ever ever be ashamed of the fact you have to have a stoma, embrace it. And don’t be afraid to speak about it and raise awareness. On your bad days, if you need to cry don’t hesitate to, your entitled to have those down days. Remember what makes your different makes you beautiful.