Monday, October 15 2018
I posted on social media the other night (well, last Thursday) a teasing photo of a delcicious hearty stew I had brewing in the Slow Cooker, it sparked so many asking for the recipe, so here is the stew recipe and story behind it.
Please note: I have not been paid by any of the companies I mention when it comes to ingredients I use, you can always opt for your own preferred company of choice, but this is my stew and how I have made it for over a decade.
Story behind the Stew:
I first learned about this stew when I was staying over at a friends house in year 12 and we went to spend the day at her Grandmother's house and she said "girls since you're leaving home soon I better share an easy stew recipe". So we cooked it and she talked us through it and she gave me a copy, I started experimenting making the stew and adding in different ingredients and was determined to make it my own.
It is one of those stews that are perfect for wintery cold nights or if it is raining outside and will be rainy days ahead it is nice to just pop the stew on to cook in the slow cooker and wait for it to cook, meanwhile enjoying the smells as they fill your house for the next 8 hours.
I also find that we can get a few days worth of meals out of this, we put as much as we can into chinese containers and pop them in the fridge and freezer, but one chinese container is one bowl full for one person.
But don't ask me the calorie intake, I have no idea but it is just delicious, and Russ loves it too! You'll want seconds it is so good!
You will need:
Ingredients: (I get all my ingredients from my local Woolworths)
☞1 x large bbq chicken [ or you can cook your own chicken, ] for time management and ease I use a BBQ chicken (it is the most costly component), sometimes you can find cold chickens which is just as good to use and cheaper too
I think that is all the ingredients, now for the making of it
Step 1. Locate your slow cooker and plug in to power, add 1 cup of water and turn to high
Step 2. Wash your fresh vegetables like sweet potato, carrot, potatoes just wash but keep skin on (when it is ready the skin just easily fall off), if you're adding in fresh brocolli or brocollini or cauliflower wash these too.
Step 3. Add in the cans of Campbell's condensed cream of chicken and corn or cream of chick soup cans into the slow cooker.
Step 4. Add in the canned vegetables.
Step 5. Add in the Continental cup a soup creamy garden vegetable and creamy chicken and corn with croutons sachets.
Step 6. Mix all the soup together
Step 7. Next add in the BBQ chicken by tearing off small bite size pieces but not adding in the skin, bones or stuffing
Step 8. Mix the chicken and soup mixes together
Step 9. Add in the shell pasta and mix it all together, add more if you think it needs more, but not too much more.
Step 10. Add in the pieces of cut chunky fresh carrots, sweet potato and potato. Stir it all together.
Step 11. Add in the frozen vegetables and stir it all together.
Step 12. Leave on high for 2 hours, check roughly hourly and stir, it can be messy as it will rise and thicken as it cooks.
Step 13. After 2 hours turn to low for 6-8 hours and check hourly and stir
Step 14. Leave it on low for another couple of hours if you think it needs longer.
IF DISCARDING STEP 14, turn it off and serve.
Step 15. ENJOY your delicious thick stew
* We love to buy the packs of dinner rolls from the woolworths bakery and pop in the oven so they are hot and fresh for when we serve up our dinner, we cut them along the tops and we stuff spoonfulls of stew in there and then eat it like that. We also use bread not toasted but buttered to scoop up the soup and it just is delicious.
Step 16. Fill up containers, we use takeaway chinese containers and pack these to the brim and pop 3/4 in the fridge and 1/4 in the freezer. We find with the 2 of us we can eat this for lunch and dinner for a few days using the fridge containers, often Russ goes back for a second bowl.
I have made this when I have had my kid siblings come and stay over the years or my MIL and they have loved the stew. It is so easy to make and all the effort is in the preparation and the slow cooker does the hard part. I would cook this if it were cold and miserable weather, or if it is raining, nothing says snug as a bug as a hearty winter stew whilist nestled under blankets enjoying a movie.
We made this Thursday night, and I say we as I sat and supervised Russ and told him what to do as I wasn't up for standing in the kitchen for even half an hour or less (pain). But Russ loves when "we" make stuff together, he loves learning how to cook some of my meals that he loves.
We started cooking this at 7pm Thursday night and was cooking when we went to bed, and the aroma wafting through the house had my tummy rumbling all night. We would check it every hour and then we turned it off and put it in chinese containers and went back to bed. So it was exciting to wake Friday and have stew for lunch, and dinner and we still have a couple of bowls left.
But I have to be careful with my stoma, luckily all the veggies and chicken break down so soft they just fall apart and then i try to take the skin off to avoid a blockage, but as I have had so much and it has caused my output to be rather thick and caused a blockage, so just keep that in mind if you're an ostomate prone to blockages that it does make things thick.... but it is so delicious!
Our Slow Cooker:
This is an adorable story, we got our slow cooker the first Christmas we were together (2009). We spent Xmas Eve with Russ' family who were up from Melbourne as we planned on spending the next day with my dad and family. So we unwrapped our gifts and our joint gift from Russ' family was a George Foreman slow cooker. I was so excited as I had been saying to Russ I wished we had one as I was missing being able to cook my stew.
So the next day we went to Xmas at my dad's and he handed us a joint Xmas present which was a slow cooker! we laughed as what are the odds of getting 2 slow cookers! I was really appreciative and thanked my dad but Russ' mum made a comment how she beat them to it and we had one already, so dad took it back to the store as it was unopened ( we already opened the one the night before as I was keen to make pinterest desserts) and he bought us something else.
I remember one Xmas dad wanted an electric sander so he bought one for mum so she could use it, and that same Xmas mum bought dad an electric sander so she could use it. It still makes me smile even though I was 10, it made me laugh that Xmas with the slow cooker remembering the electric sander gifts.
So we have been enjoying our slow cooker for quite some years now, I used to use it more when I could easily jump in the car and go get groceries and was more independant, but I am wanting to make slow cooked lamb shanks for Russ next winter.... but I have been trying to convince my nan to get a slow cooker as she would love it, pop the meal on in the morning and smell it cook all day.
Tell me, what is the favourite slow cooker recipe of yours? Mine is definitely my hearty stew.
If you do manage to make this please let me know how you went!
Monday, August 20 2018
I think this title is appropriate as we were served chicken for dinner at the awards night, sorry just being cheeky.
On Friday the 17th of August, Russ and I drove up to Brisbane to attend the 2017 Great Comeback awards held by Convatec. I know we are in 2018, but it was 2017 when I applied and so the award is for last year but it is in this year which is confusing, but anyway, I won!
I was 1 out of 5 finalists from Australia and New Zealand.
It was such an honour to have been made a finalist, and I was incredibly shocked and surprised to have found out on the night that it was me who had actually won! There were so many deserving and inspiring finalists who have incredibly powerful stories to tell.
On the night at the awards ceremony, which was held in the brand spanking NEW boutique hotel called Emporium Hotel South Bank (I am dedicating a whole separate blog post to this, so stay tuned), there were video interviews of each of the 5 finalists presented. Each video is around 2 minutes long and consisted of images or videos being added in to share in the impact of the story.
I was in tears watching the videos, then mine, which was last to be presented, had me in a complete blubbering mess. I was so embarrassed as it was MY story and I know this sooooo well so it surprised me that it impacted me the way it did. I assume it was a build up of emotions felt on the night, I was incredibly anxious but I was also very overwhelmed, so once the tears started I couldn't stop.
Please keep in mind that the original video was 22 minutes long and was chopped down to 2 minutes for the ease of viewing, so a lot of important points I made were missed. I did also thank my friends and family and also those who read my blog and my tribe who encourage me (you guys), so I don't want anyone to be upset if they didn't hear it mentioned (because it was).
If you have an ostomy, or know someone with an ostomy who has a story to share and have done something inspiring or had a comeback post ostomy life, please let them know about the awards. It could be something like pre ostomy life you were too sick to travel so once you had an ostomy you travelled, could be you returned to work, you did something you have always wanted to do, you started a movement to inspire others, you went back to uni and graduated, or you found yourself and the joy of life from having an ostomy.... or it could be whatever your heart desired that you feel you made a great comeback thanks to your ostomy....
The Great Comeback is entirely your own comeback after ostomy life and could be anything, or could be a number of things, it is different for each person.
To apply you need to submit your story via the site, you do need to include certain aspects of your story pertaining to:
I wrote my story out first in a word document and then copied/pasted it in the appropriate sections. I used the aforementioned topics as headings for each part of my story.
**Please note: the drop down box doesn't have NSW available to be selected, they are aware but have said to choose any state but write somewhere that you are from NSW. They are in the process of fixing this error up along with updating their site too.
If you have a stoma nurse who is amazing and deserves to be recognised, please nominate them too!
I do encourage everyone to apply, the program is a great way to not only share your story but to meet other members of the ostomy community. The awards are all about empowering and inspiring ostomates that there is still a life to be lived and enjoyed after surgery. I had a lovely night, which I will share in more detail in a blog post to come.
Thank you to Convatec and the judges for choosing me as the 2017 winner and I can't wait to see what is to come.
Wednesday, April 18 2018
Stoma Nurses are the heroes of the ostomy community, well I know I wouldn't have made the last 5 years without my wonderful nurse by my side. So it was why it was an absolute honour for me to have been asked by the WOCN society to contribute to a tribute video they were collating for WOCN week, to say thanks for our nurses.
It was even more of an honour as it was to mark 50 years of WOCN contribution, and I felt in someway that it was a way for me to leave a mark in the world to say thanks to my Nurse and all the nurses out there. I am big on saying thanks and ensuring that I say thanks for those I love or those who have made an impact on my life.
This week 15th-21st April, is the WOCN appreciation week. WOCN stands for Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing, in Australia this is a Stoma Nurse who is also a Stoma and Continence Nurse.
If you wanted to see the tribute video, here it is. If it doesn't load below the link is here.
Thank you to all of the nurses for all that they do to help ostomates navigate life with an ostomy more smoothly. Most importantly, thank you for having our backs.
Congratulations to the WOCN society on celebrating 50 years of service! And thank you for everything!
Friday, February 09 2018
I have had the pleasure of connecting with some incredible ostomates over the years, even had the chance to interview and chat with them for my magazine, which is always a great privilege. Some have even become great friends too.
Last year I was honoured when Krystal Miller, who is an Aussie ostomate/advocate/IBD warrior and blogger more famously and belovedly known as Bag Lady Mama online, allowed me to interview her for my magazine. She was the cover ostomate for issue 2 and allowed me to get down and deep with my readers, and had a no filter no question off limits type interview.
Ostomyconnection.com reached out after the issue went live and asked us if we wouldn't mind if the interview was republished and edited to suit the readership and the site.
So last month I opened up my inbox to see the latest interview went live on their site. I was so excited to see how many were sharing the article around social media and how many loved the interview.
As a writer, or maybe it is just me, I tend to doubt myself A LOT - I mean constantly - so I always worry that people won't like what I have written or that it wouldn't be read/enjoyed.
I saw within a couple of days there'd been something like 888 shares, this gave me this huge smile and sense of "maybe I am doing something right after all" but to know so many liked it really made me so proud. I think I used the term 'proud as punch' on twitter, but I honestly am.
Of course I know my interview wouldn't have been what it was if it weren't for my wonderful interviewee, Krystal.
If you want to read the interview on OstomyConnection the link is here.
5 years ago I took a chance on myself and started writing about life with an ostomy, and I am just so grateful to the opportunities and people I have met along the way.
P.S I have another interview/article on another Aussie ostomate, Laura Zapulla who blogs at stomalicious, talking about how she has inspired and shown ostomates that you can have bag will travel and that having an ostomy doesn't stop you from living the life you are able to. She recently moved abroad which is a lifelong dream. So I am excited to share that interview soon. Laura has shared articles for me in my magazine about travel with an ostomy too.
Sunday, February 04 2018
If you could see me right now, you'd see that I have THE biggest grin on my face. Imagine a Cheshire cat style grin....
Yes, it's that huge!
I recently got home after a short stint in hospital where on Australia Day I almost died, it has been a rather upsetting and hard fortnight but I am home now and recovering (and catching up on everything).
I am so grateful and acknowledge my own privilege in that I could come home this time, but also that I continue to live for another day.
I was so scared on that Friday as I wasn't ready to die, I had so much I still was yet to achieve and do and finalise. I was scared that I felt things weren't ready and my anxiety since has been sky high, understandably so, worried about when or how close the end actually is - which is looming everyday closer, it is terrifying.
I know I have so much I wanted to achieve and goals I had set both personally and for my blog, which brings us to today's post.
Back when I started my blog 5 years ago I said to myself:
So I remember a couple of weeks ago - before I suddenly got sick and went to hospital - I had looked at my site stats as I was updating my media kit for January. It was when I noticed that my blog views were sitting 15k shy of half a mill.
I said to Russ:
I am not writing this as an intended brag post or anything, and I know for some blogs 500k views is their monthly or yearly visit, but I am sharing this as I am feeling incredibly proud as punch right now.
5 years ago I was told I had early stage bowel cancer and was about to undergo surgery to remove my entire large bowel and live the rest of my life with a permanent ileostomy for the rest of my life.
I was scared
I was alone
But I took a leap of faith and courageously started my blog.
I was worried that people would not be kind or respectful, or that people would be judgemental and rude. I also worried that maybe what I am trying to share wouldn't be read by anyone and wouldn't be providing value or meaning.
I was full of self doubt.
It is quite vulnerable when you put yourself out there and you don't know how this all would work out and how well your blog would be received. Especially given that it is a difficult and personal experience that I was putting myself out there during what is a private time of mine and my husband's life, but I knew that if I shared this openly and what I learned along the way that it could actually be helping someone somewhere. I know it helped me immensely to share this, gave me a sense of purpose.
Back then there weren't many ostomy bloggers, social media (instagram more so) wasn't as huge nor were those publicly sharing life with an ostomy, and ostomy life and living with a bag was such a taboo subject. It felt rather lonely and isolating, felt kind of like it was a dirty little secret and I wanted to try and change that and help the next generation of young ostomates to embrace their lives and stoma.
I had hoped that I could be part of the movement of helping to normalise life with an ostomy and raise awareness of that life as a young person with a stoma is still able and that life won't end.
So with hesitation I hit publish on that first post and was surprised by what followed.
I was thanked for what I wrote, I found people who respected my writing and it has led to some amazing friendships and I found my tribe and community.
I felt valued, I found self worth and I found that there was a sense of magic in helping others to feel less alone as they navigated their ostomy life or dealing with new diagnosis and what comes next or even in finding themselves again.
I know it is scary and daunting sometimes, but I know how much better it is when you find someone who you can identify and relate to or read something that creates an 'ah ha' moment... I just hope that I have helped others.
My milestone, that I thought back 5 years ago was unrealistic and unattainable but I still held hope and believed in myself and backed myself. I learned a lot in that time not just about life but also about myself.
My blog wouldn't be what it is without you guys, my tribe and cheer squad
Of course me celebrating this moment would be worthless if it weren't for every single one of you who read my blog, support me and my writing and have helped me create a community.
Thank you so much for your support, respect and kindness over this time, but also for your friendship too. Thank you for embracing me and for letting me be myself and helping me at times on my quest to find/discover/remember myself and for reminding me when I had forgotten.
I want to thank you and show you how much I appreciate you.
I have been looking at ways to celebrate my 5 year blogaversary, reaching half a million views to my blog and being close to 1000 facebook likes. So I am thinking of fun ways to say thank you, so please stay tuned.
What an Ostomistically amazing time it is to be alive!
I am grateful so much for you all and if I have helped you in any way please comment below.
Friday, January 12 2018
I was scrolling through my Facebook 'on this day' memories when a post from this day, 5 years ago, came up.
The post was:
You see, I had a pretty MASSIVE and life changing decision that needed to be made.
I was told not long before Xmas 2012, that I had early signs of bowel cancer and that I needed to have a surgery called a total colectomy with a permanent (end) ileostomy created.
I was so scared, I was so alone and I didn't know of ANY other people with an ileostomy let alone a young person with one.
I was 21, why should I have known anyone, afterall I was ignorant and thought just older people lived with stoma bags, it was hard to fathom a young person living with one.
I ignorantly made this association as I presumed that people had a stoma at the end of their life and that their lives are essentially over.
So when I was told that I would be needing one at 21, for the rest of my life, I was really freaking out.
I tried to search for blogs about young people with an ostomy and couldn't find anyone. Social media wasn't what it is today, there was Instagram but it hadn't taken off, but there was still so much stigma around living with an ostomy and the social stigma too for that matter, that not many were sharing their lives publicly.
The media wasn't helping much when it came to sharing stories about people with a stoma either. They published such negative, fear mongering articles that had people, like me, perceiving it as death sentance or that it was THE worst thing imaginable.
But my surgeon said this to me :
I met with my stoma nurse, counsellors and surgeon a couple of times to help me process the surgery. I hadn't told any of my friends or family, I didn't know how to bring it up, I knew they would have questions that I wasn't ready to answer, but I was worried about being judged.... so I decided to wait until I had to tell them, which was the week before surgery. I had so much to process as it was I just didn't need anyone else weighing in, they were pissed understandably, but they were also upset that I was trying to process such a huge thing on my own.
I had told Russ though and he had been coming to my appointments with me, as it was impacting him too. At the time I gave him the option to leave me, told him that I wouldn't hold it against him if he did as it wasn't what he signed up for, he told me to stop being ridiculous and it would take a lot more than that to stop loving me.
I couldn't have gotten through all of this and life to come, without Russ though.
He came to my appointments and asked my surgeons or stoma nurse questions, he even asked if when they teach me how to look after my stoma that they show him too so that he knew how to help. I think it was at that point I fell even more in love with him, which I didn't think was possible.
Russ said to me that it was my decision to have the surgery or not, but if it meant that this could be helping me to live as long as I could that he would appreciate me having the surgery.
So 5 years on, this is a letter I wished I could tell my scared 21-year-old self, I don't even recognise that part of me anymore I feel like this was a massive turning point in my life and I grew up A LOT in the years to follow.
Letter To My 21-Year-Old Self:
I know you have a lot that you’re dealing with right now and I know that you’re doing the best that you can under the circumstances. You are facing a life-defining decision right now, I can tell you this because I have watched you live through this.
Yes it changed your life but it saved it too.
Do you know how much pain you’re in right now and every time you go to the toilet? You probably won’t believe me when I say this, but you won’t be in agony multiple times a day. You won't even be needing to spend most of your day on the toilet either.
Do you know how you don’t leave the house, go out for dinner or stay over at someone’s house unless you know that a toilet is accessible and close by? Well, you won’t have to worry as much. You won’t be needing to quickly dash to the toilet every time you eat.
Do you know how you lost your enjoyment of food because of the above comments? You will find you can eat all your favourite and missed foods, given there are things you can’t eat anymore, but you will find you will learn to love and appreciate food again.
I won’t lie, there will be some pretty difficult times ahead, not only will surgery and the recovery be long and hard but it will be painful.
You will adapt to stoma life, but it will take time, so be patient with the process.
There will be times where shit literally will happen, it is to be expected, but trust me - you will get used to it. You will sometimes wake covered in shit, so just remember to empty your bag throughout the night and also invest in waterproof mattress protectors.
Sometimes leaks happen, it isn’t your fault, but always carry a spare set of supplies everywhere you go just in case. There will be a time where you’ll be caught out, it will be embarrassing and it will serve as a learning curve.
I know you’re apprehensive right now about surgery, but your stoma will serve to give you extra time… everyday is a gift and not a given right, learn to appreciate each day you wake up and all of the moments you have.
You don’t need to worry about Russ or your marriage, he will be there for you every step of the way. He will surprise you at how calm and collected he is even when you’re flustered and freaking out and covered in shit, even if it is in the middle of the night. He won’t mind helping with your bag changes or leaks, you just have to ask him.
He loves you for you and your stoma will soon be a part of you.
You will lose friends, because they don’t understand - it will hurt but don’t dwell too much on those who aren’t there for you and appreciate and be grateful to those who are. You will make some great friendships over the coming years too, you'll find people who embrace you for the wonderful person you are and won't be worried that you have a stoma.
Just remember what dad used to say to you and find comfort in his words offered.
The next 5 years will be incredibly tough and this is just the start of the rollercoaster ride known as life, this will be the first of many primary cancer diagnosis’ and the start of many surgeries.
Know your limits but also recognise when you need to ask for help too. Put your stoicism aside and ask people to help you, most are wanting to help they just are waiting for you to ask.
There’ll be times where you easily wished you could pick up the phone and call dad, but there’ll be times where you will draw from his presence and he will be there to guide you. I am sure he will be proud of you.
Learn to pick your battles, know that some just aren’t worth the stress. You will come to learn to try and let everything go, everyone will always be having their own opinion or force their mindset onto you. Just stay true to yourself. Know your worth. Know that you aren’t what they think of you.
It will be hard on your mental health throughout times over these next 5 years, there will be times where you spiral and it is important to always recognise when you need help. Find what drives your creativity, focus on writing or creating, find ways to give yourself purpose in your day.
You are about to start a blog, you are worried about putting all this out there publicly and worried about how other’s perceive you. But by doing this you are going to be helping so many, you will help save lives, you will help nurses in how they help support young people with a stoma, you’ll be nominated for awards, you will even start your own magazine for young people with a stoma and will even help others to feel less alone.
You’ll start your blog because you’re finding as a 21-year-old female that there isn’t much info out there at the moment when it comes to young people with a stoma and a blog, you don’t know what life will be like going forward, but you will feel that if you share it as you go that maybe you’ll help others who are feeling alone or worried too. You will meet other young ostomates too.
You’ll even be invited to speak about your time as a young ostomate.
But you will also get to do some fun stuff too, like catch the train to Adelaide, go to P!nk’s 2013 concert, Meet the Dixie Chicks and see them in concert in 2017, finally get to experience and see Darling Harbour, Go to Melbourne and accidentally stumble across the Offspring hospital, go swimming and do water aerobics, and do some bucket listing too. You'll finally get a tattoo too!
You and Russ will realise your house dreams in 2015 and will build a house, you’ll also have a very adorable and fun kitten who will make your days fun and full of love.
Then in 2016 you’ll need surgery to remove one of your tumours which will mean losing your stoma, your stoma will now be retracted and sit under your skin. It will leak a lot, it will be hard at times to lose all hope knowing the good stoma you had prior, but you will get through it. You will get used to daily leaks and waking up with a leak, it will affect your mood and what you do but you’ll be relatively okay.
In 2016 you will also enter palliative care, they will offer you a wheelchair - don’t decline out of pride or feeling like you aren’t worthy of it. You will learn to love your wheelchair and embrace it, just like you have your stoma.
So while you have a huge decision to make right now, I can tell you this now that you will be better off having the surgery. You will be okay, your marriage will be fine, you will love life and not fear it.
Don’t fear asking your stoma nurse for help, even if you feel it is a silly question, she will be one of your greatest supports. She has probably heard it all, you really couldn't do this without her....
But you have got this, your life will be changed but you will cope and adapt.... just breathe!
Write that bucket list now, start to see and do as much as you can and don’t keep saying there’ll be plenty of time, go travel when you’re able to and take lots of photos and always tell those you hold dear you love them and appreciate them.
P.S I just wanted to say thank you to each and every person who reads my posts, comments on social media or on here or has emailed me over these 5 years supporting my blog. Cannot believe it is 5 years later already!
Friday, January 12 2018
NB: This post contains talk about poop
You always remember your first time doing a milestone. Well today I am celebrating the first time I showered without my bag on and boy I felt like a rockstar afterwards as though doing something mundane but great.... If you know what I mean.
There have been times where I have had a really bad bag leak, I'm not talking about a little seepage from under the wafer, I am talking a leak of cataclysmic proportions like a volcanic erruption or a poosplosion (the latter is real, trust me). My clothes, my linen and my mattress protector needed to be washed and soaked with napisan.
Then there was me, not only were the clothes I was wearing drenched, but so was I.
You know when you go to the beach once but for the next month you find sand everywhere and it gets into every nook and cranny? Well, that is how it is for me when I have a bag leak of epic proportions, except switch out sand for poo and you've got yourself a winner.
So in times of a cataclysmic bag leak it is best to just get in the shower and be hosed off and clean up the mess later.
I have always been hesitant though at jumping into the shower without a bag on, normally I would clean my self up the best that I could while sitting on the toilet and once a new bag is on I would then jump into the shower. Which often meant changing my bag afterwards.
I know what you're thinking, but WHHHHHHYYYYYY?
Well, it was simple....
I was scared.
I have never, in 5 years, showered without a bag on.
I know many do and many have many times, but I was always hesitant.
One of my fears, with my first stoma (May 2013-feb 2016), was because essentially your bowel is stitched to the outside of your abdomen I was worried about the run off from my shower gel or shampoo/conditioner would affect my stoma or cause irritations that might leave me presenting to the emergency department explaining my issue and people think I am silly for not knowing better. It really used to play on my mind.
So I never did try with my old stoma.
Then this new stoma (feb 2016 to now) is a total pain in the ass, it is retracted and sits under my skin, essentially I poop out of a belly button looking hole. So because of this I was always worried that the run off or chemicals would get inside into my small bowel and cause issues, because, well, soap and shampoo/conditioner shouldn't naturally be in your small bowel... so I worried it was just a recipe for disaster.
But with both stomas I was also worried about the mess side of things, like what if it were active during my shower, what if it were active while I was drying myself and would have to shower again and the circle would go on, and on, and on. I also can't bend over or get down to clean, so I was worried about leaving another chore for Russ to do, so I feel enough a burden when my bag leaks this badly and he has to help clean me up.
So back to my story.
I was in bed asleep all day and woke around 6pm to find my bag leaked, I called for Russ to help me as it was too much for me to manage to clean on my own.
Each time it is this bad he always says "just jump in the shower and hose it off", but every time I say "uhh, no it's okay I will figure it out".
Except yesterday I really had no energy and said "what the heck".
I took my bag off and disposed of it, that way I could clean my stomach better and easier.
I had my first shower without my bag on, it was nice to have water running directly on my belly as opposed to wet towelling and washers. It was nice. I have a handheld shower head which has different notches you can turn it to for different settings, so I put on the more gentle of the settings and didn't hurt.
I was worried about the repurcussions of an active stoma.... but to my surprise there wasn't any disasters. My stoma had probably expelled everything it had stored in there (daily I have bowel blockages due to tumour issues) so sometimes it works all of a sudden and leads to poosplosions like this.
Now I know next time when I should just jump in the shower and hose off that it will be okay, that I won't die because my soap chemicals burned an ulcer through my small bowel or that showering with my bag off won't damage my skin if anything it helped it.
Thankfully it isn't everyday that I wake up with a leak like this, some days it is more managable, but it is uncommon to have a day where I don't wake with a leak. There have been a couple of times when a leak like this happened during the day when I was out (once at a wedding and once at a restaurant), so in those moments I can't just hose myself off.
Have you tried showering without your bag? Were there worries you had too?
I know my worries might have seemed over the top, but I live with bad anxiety and that anxiety rules a large part of my life and very quickly my mind can esculate a situation.
I am used to bag leaks now, but it took a while to not be flustered. At first I would cry every time my stoma leaked and I would be so flustured and overwhelmed, so much that my husband would step in and help me. He always was the calm one. I used to play songs or music when I did a bag change to help distract me. When I got my new stoma and it leaked almost hourly I basically had an ipad set up and would watch something funny to distract me, the steps involved in doing a bag change took almost an hour each time and it just helped the time to pass by being distracted.
Now when it leaks, I am just so focussed on getting a bag back on as quick as I can because sometimes it can take a long time to stop being active long enough to whack the bag on.
If you have a frequent leaking stoma, welcome to the club.
But be sure to see your stoma nurse about why you have a leak and what you can do to prevent it, I know not all leaks can be prevented but sometimes there could be a new or better product for you to try.
With my first stoma I was have regular leaks every few days, I realised that my output was getting under my base plate, so my STN gave me rings/seals to try and it really helped improve the longevity of my bags and I was able to go 7-10 days between changes and my skin was still good... I do miss my old stoma, and it is important to note what worked for me in that situation might not work the same for you.
Of course there isn't anything to be done about this current stoma, and it could be the same for you, but sometimes your nurse or surgeon can help.
Monday, January 08 2018
I know there has been a lot of posts around social media this past week (well, more so New Years Day) about the whole 'non resolutions' or how people were dropping the making resolutions as they either never stick or it makes people feel overwhelmed and anxious. This has something to do with the pressure placed on how it is a "new year new me" and that you internalise this pressure for the need to change yourself.... so it gets pretty depressing when it is the end of the year and you are yet to do one thing you set out to do.
Well, I know for me I get horribly depressed each December when I realise that none of my unrealistic/unattainable goals weren't met, and I feel like a bit of a failure and get pretty hard on myself.
So this year I plan on doing something a little different... I give up on each year setting myself the task of finding that million dollar idea (maybe if I don't try so hard I will find it), or to feel bad that I didn't finish my uni degree, or that I haven't got a hot bod (#sorrynotsorry).
I am choosing 18 ACHIEVABLE things I want to accomplish in 2018.
#1. Self Care:
I purchased the ebook version off Amazon and by a quarter of the way into the book I was astonished, I could have sworn it was me who had written this book as it was just so incredibly relatable. It definitely has me hooked!
Self care isn't necassarily just candle lit bubble baths with a glass of bubbly and reading a book, it can be a whole range of things. It could be doing things that make you happy, here is a post I wrote back in 2016 about 5 things to do each to add happiness or meaning to my day. You could choose to meditate or do yoga, could do a course or learn a new skill, could do something on your bucket list, could volunteer, do a random act of kindness, buy yourself flowers, get pampered, get your hair done or watch a movie or show.
#2. To read more:
So I have been so focussed on micro managing every part of my day/life that I would say I was too busy to read or I didn't have the time, but I vow this year to make time to read more. Whether it be the ebooks I have stored on my ipad or tablet, or going old fashioned and reading the amassed pile of books I have acculumated over the past few years. So starting with reading "The Self-care project" I am setting myself the challenge of either reading 1 book a month or 18 books this year.
Let's do this!
#3. To say No more:
In saying this though, there will be times where I say no simply because I am physically unable to do something due to pain or health, so I am sure this will cause more stress as some might think my health is an excuse? As I said, a challenge... but I am not putting my health at risk for a ridiculous deadline anymore.
#4. Reducing waste:
One of my favourite quotes from Gandhi is "Be the change you wish to see in the world". Change is hard and takes patience and a lot of baby steps, but you can't expect the world to be better or changed if you don't play a part yourself.
So I have ordered some produce reusable bags from my Sister-In Law's business which will mean no longer using single use plastic bags for produce. We also plan on using environment friendly bags in replace of plastic bags and I hope to get a compost happening too.... as I said it will be hard, but I do hope it will help the environment.
I feel guilty sometimes being an ostomate, because my base plate and bags aren't biodegradable (that I'm aware of) so even if I used bio degradable garbage bags and buried it, it still wouldn't break down and would be just the same as putting it in the bin. So I hate having a bag that leaks multiple times a day as it means a lot of ostomy products are used and thrown away, and I feel guilty that I am impacting the environment.... but it can't be helped.
So if I can make changes in other areas of my life, it hopefully makes up for it somehow?
#5. See the snow:
I had always hoped to get to the US or Canada and see this in person myself, but while that dream won't happen, I am happy to settle for somewhere in Australia where it snows, there is a romantic log cabin with a fire and somewhere Russ and I can unwind and relax.
I have heard him say almost daily the past month that he truly wants to experience this with me. Watching all the romantic Christmas movies helped I think, but it has had him rather upset realising too all the things he wants to experience with me but not sure if we will.
It is hard sometimes trying to squeeze 80 years of experiences into as much time as we have left.
If you have suggestions, do let me know, I can't fly so anywhere that is easily train accessible or short driving trips in NSW will be best.
#6. Learn something new:
I am doing a course right now cert 4 in screen and media and learning at the moment how to write children's stories.
#7. Write that damn book:
#8. Write a blog post a week:
#9. Write a journal:
All of these writing cues would be kind of life self care I guess, since it is cathartic and all.
#10. Regularly meet with a counsellor:
I guess this would come under self care and taking time for my needs too.
#11. Go Swimming:
Don't worry I plan on being sun safe and have my SPF50+ rashie from SunSoaked and my Sunbella parasol to help me too.
#12. Go Glamping:
#13. Have a holiday:
#14. Explore the Coast:
We still have bucket listing adventures for Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle and beyond. I am just wanting to see so much!
I am just really hoping to see/experience new places this year.
#15. Renew our vows:
I had always said when we get to 10 years we would renew somewhere fun and overseas, but not sure that dream of international travel is managable or if I could make it to our 10 wedding anniversary.
#16. Get back on our feet financially:
We tried to apply to several other banks who all declined us because we didn't have savings (everything went into our house) and so we had hoped to even consolidate everything into one loan to make repayments easier and more affordable but were declined. Despite having equity in the property. It is hard to have savings when every cent is going into the house, our debt, living expenses, medical expenses and the list goes on.
I am just hoping this year we have better luck and if we can't at least consolidate everything that we can find a new bank for our home loan. I just want out of their grip, just like Britain wanted out of the EU. If we can get a new bank and debt consolidation everything will be more easier, we might even afford a mini holiday.
Part of this is finding a new bank too. I just want and need everything to be tidied up and managable ready for Russ to take over when I die.
#17. See a waterfall:
#18. Try to get my pain under control:
I spent the better part of last year struggling with my pain. I know my doctors are doing their best to manage it, but it really is hard and affects so many aspects of my life. It is debilitating, exhausting, it makes me frustrated and irritable, it messes with my mental health and it just sucks. It is hard to manage getting out of bed most days let alone manage an hour of getting out and about. I missed out on a lot last year and I don't want to miss out on life this year because of pain.
☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟
I know it was a long post, but I thought 18 made sense since you know it is 2018 and all. I feel good that it is all written down but now overwhelmed, which is ironic, but I will do seperate posts throughout the year both here and on social media documenting how I go... it means I can hold myself accountable now since I have told you all about this.
My list honestly could have continued such as "yet to finish unpacking", "yet to manage that room makeover" and so on. I just decided to choose things that will either improve my life, bring me joy or are somewhat achievable for this year.... and if I win the lotto that is a bonus!
Russ asked me what I have been writing/working on the past couple of days, he then rattled off a list of 18 things he *felt* I should do instead which all involved him and were very much Russ focussed or specific. I laughed and said, your list kind of defeats the purpose of several things on my list like taking time for me and saying no and putting me first.
To be fair, his list was most of what I do anyway which was:
Here's hoping 2018 is a good year and that I can do some of these things if not all. Despite spending over 80% of the year in bed last year, the times I did bucket list stuff or was out and about are some of my most cherished memories looking back, those memories I remember on my bad days.
I wish you a HNY2018 and wishing you health, love, success, happiness and clarity this year.
Thank you for reading, feel free to share something you hope to do this year in the comments below:
Monday, November 27 2017
I am feeling a mix of emotions right now, I am feeling so relieved that the magazine is finally ready to be published and shared with the world... but that part terrifies me!
I feel guilty for the delay, health issues happened, but I still worked hard when I could manage to get the issue out.
I also feel mega proud right now!
I hope you enjoy this issue, there is some great content in there and work for issue 3 is underway (summer/xmas/holidays issue) so if you have any content you want to contribute get in touch asap, or keep an eye on the facebook page too.
If you're a business and wanting to advertise - we offer affordable advertising options and also offer affordable graphic design too. I am also open to collaborations, just get in touch.
I am really hoping you love this issue, there are 2 giveaways too.
In this issue I launch my NEW Stoma Diary, this is an ebook that you can download for FREE and print or edit via your computer or tablet. It is aimed at helping NEW ostomates navigate the first 6-8 weeks post op and as they approach surgery. I have had my own stoma nurse look over it and she excitedly shared it with her colleagues too.
So sit back with a cuppa and have a flip through.
I have tried to get more male relatable content out there but struggling to get the guys to contribute, anyone that knows me knows I am stubborn and persistent and I endeavour to have more male content in here, I am trying my best so please don't be disheartened.
Finally, If anyone is wanting to join the team on a voluntary position I would love some social media help and develop a content strategy etc, I recently posted about this on the magazine facebook page too.
Anyway, have a wonderful night and I will anxiously await your feedback.
Friday, May 05 2017
NB: This post was also written to be published on abiggerlife.com
This week marks 4 years since I had surgery to remove my large bowel and to live life with a permanent ileostomy due to bowel cancer. I was 22, and until only a couple of months prior I had no idea what an ileostomy was; I naively thought that anyone living with a stoma had a colostomy and didn’t realise that wasn’t the case.
So you can imagine how much I had to learn and understandably was very overwhelmed with information.
One thing I struggled knowing was what exactly it were that I needed to not only see me through my surgery but subsequent time recovering at home and in hospital.
So I thought I would share with you my 10 must-haves on surviving the early days of ostomy life!
I wished I knew these when my life with a stoma began 4 years ago...
#1. A hairdryer:
p.s It is also very helpful at drying your stoma bag after a shower if you aren’t needing to do a change and require it to be dry... we also use ours in winter to quickly warm up our bed before jumping in.
#2. Invest in some supportive garments:
With the help from my Stoma Nurse I was able to order some hernia belts from some of the companies/manufacturers. She helped to measure me and choose the right one to suit my body and stoma.
In summer if you sweat more or if you are unwell with a fever or a case of gastro, you may need to increase your electrolyte replacement drinks to avoid dehydration. Again talk with your healthcare professionals on what works best for your situation.
#4. Metamucil, Marshmallows, Jelly Beans and Peanut Butter:
hot tip: I take a few marshmallows half an hour before a bag change, I find it helps to manage my output a little better while I am doing a bag change.
#5. Gastro stop or loperamide:
#6. Linen and mattress protection:
#7. Stoma supply storage:
#8. Wet wipes or Chux cloths:
#9. Scented garbage bags:
#10. Room spray or freshener:
I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information (I could be here for days sharing my wealth of knowledge), but these are the 10 best tips I have for managing the early days of being an ostomate.
You will be sore for a while so listen to your body if it needs to heal and rest, as you have been through a massive ordeal, even mentally/emotionally/spiritually. I wished there were sites like a biggerlife.com when I became an ostomate, it really would have helped me to adjust to life as an ostomate knowing there is lived advice to help me on my way.
Saturday, February 04 2017
The moment is here - The magazine was born!
Welcome to the first issue of the Ostomistic Life, a free quarterly eZine dedicated to helping young people with an ostomy to navigate their lives. It is founded by a young ostomate for young ostomates... but anyone can read it.
When I originally started my blog it was because I was struggling to find relatable content because representation in the media matters and since was a passion of mine to try and help other young people with a stoma to feel less alone. I learned graphic design and had a dream of one day starting an online magazine... and I have!
I had originally planned this to be created and launched at the end of 2015 but I started chemotherapy and wasn't able to dedicate the amount of energy, time and love that this baby needed... which brings us to now!
I hope you enjoy the first issue, it has been curated with incredible content from an array of contributors as well as some pages to win.
Thank you for sharing in this exciting moment and happy reading.
ISSUE 1 | The Ostomistic Life eZine
I know I only have the Australian Stoma support groups/sites listed, I underestimated how long it would take to collate the whole world. I am still working on this and will be added as each page is ready (apologies)
If you love it let me know.
Work on issue 2 has begun, click here to sign up to receive the next issue straight to your inbox. For articles I am looking for or if you have a topic you want to discuss please get in touch. Some ideas can be found via the pinned post below or on the facebook page.
Friday, January 13 2017
It is a little over 2 weeks until the launch of the first of it's kind and a very needed eZine aimed at helping young people with an Ostomy, it is launching on 28th of January.
There is some pretty amazing content that has been generously contributed by Ostomates and proffesionals all around the world with topics that will help a young Ostomate to navigate life with an Ostomy, so I am pretty excited about this and I know I am not alone either.
I have been working with the incredible Vanessa from Becomingness who has contributed some delicious and ostomy friendly recipes (stay tuned for the launch issue to find out more).
But it got me thinking, as there is interest all around the world with the eZine, what if they measure out ingredients in a different manner?
So rather than the hassle of readers needing to convert different measurements and to prevent any confusion, I decided I would design an A6 conversion reference card for different measurements.
You can either download and print at home for FREE via clicking here
I hope you enjoy this quick reference card I designed, and don't forget to sign up for the eZine ahead of the launch to be the first to read it! There will also be some pretty cool prizes up for grabs too!