An update from Hattie, post-reversal surgery!

Finally, what you’ve all been waiting for – Hattie’s first update since her reversal surgery!

I’d first just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported me during the time I spent with an ostomy. It was both a huge learning curve and an inspiring time for me. I found so many great people through a variety of IBD groups who inspired me to keep going, and who also made coming to terms with my ostomy easier.

As you’ll all know, on the 20th of October of last year, I underwent reversal surgery.

Because I’d had my large bowel removed but obtained my rectum, I had a straight re-join reversal, in which my small bowel was connected to my rectum.

I was told the operation and recovery would be easy – but boy were they wrong. It was a truly gruelling process. The 3 days I was supposed to be in hospital turned to 11, and I was unable to eat or keep any form of liquid down for 9 of those days, meaning I lost an entire stone during that week.

The way I felt was horrendous. I had no self control. No control of my bowels nor my stomach. I was in a lot of pain and I felt sick the entire time. I worried I’d made the wrong decision.

But, each time I looked down at my stomach, I cried…with happiness. Not necessarily because I no longer had an ostomy bag – but because my new stitches were a reminder of how far I’d come. I felt a little sad, that my journey had come to an end. I’d spent so long writing about life with an ostomy that I worried about what I’d do next.

Fast forward 6 months, and here I am. Sat at my laptop, with a healed stomach, drinking a glass of cider. I only note what I’m drinking, because it’s something that I wouldn’t have been able to drink before. Since my reversal, I have been able to eat and drink what I want with no issues.

Sure, it was hard at first. I was using the bathroom 6-8 times a day and for a couple of months I feel I regretted the surgery, because I had to take a few months out of my new job as I was constantly suffering with cramps, and I couldn’t rely on my stomach to behave. I was also really, really sore going to the toilet. But hey, who wouldn’t be after not going for 9 months?! I personally am really pleased with my reversal.

I think the key is to wait it out. Don’t get upset. Things take time. In the space of 6 months, I’ve gone from using the toilet 6-8 times a day to 3. The only thing I rely on is Imodium.

If you’re opting for a reversal, don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself time to heal. Allow yourself that time to come to terms with things and understand that things don’t get better overnight.

There are definitely parts I do miss about having a stoma bag – not being on the toilet for 20 minutes at a time is one of them. And I don’t think I’d be upset should I ever need one again. But having the reversal, for me, has helped me gain some control back over my body. And I’m glad to update you all that I now couldn’t be happier.

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Morethanyourbag.com had an amazing 2015!

WordPress.com automatically prepared this 2015 annual report for this blog. (Note from the  sponsors, CliniMed and SecuriCare : Didn’t Hattie do amazingly in her year of blogging and juggling her stoma surgery / recovery?)

We thought you might like to share the statistics…

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 500,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 21 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Goodbye everyone!

So today is – hopefully – the last day of having an ostomy bag. With my operation coming up unexpectedly fast (it’s tomorrow?!), it’s the day I’ll be saying goodbye to the late nights up changing my bag, trying out different coping methods whilst also looking for the most fashionable way to stay comfortable. Though I’m sure I’ll be looking for extra comfort over the next couple of weeks, but for a different scar this time! So with saying goodbye to the bag that saved my life, it’s also time to say goodbye to the blog that saved my mental health.

Today is the last day that I will officially be running this blog. From here on in, my blog will be managed by my wonderful sponsors SecuriCare Medical & CliniMed.

It’s been a wonderful year being able to write and embark on my journey with you guys but I feel the blogging comes to an end for me, here. I know that after my operation, I will have a great support network of people around me, and I’m quite excited to begin a new journey privately.

My blog helped me in a number of ways – more so than I’d ever imagined. It kept me strong, it kept me sane. It allowed me to speak openly on my experiences whilst introducing me to wonderful people with wonderful stories. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything it has given me.

I can’t believe this little online diary turned into something so positive. It all started from this one picture.

My hands trembling as it uploaded, I never expected a hundred people to see it, let alone 14,000.

My blog allowed me to do what I love best – write. I just can’t believe how quickly it blew up to such a huge audience.

Over the past year www.morethanyourbag.com has been viewed by over 420,000 people. So many of youhave consistently returned to offer me your support and share your stories. And I couldn’t be more appreciative to those that have done so. It’s such a lovely feeling to know people have trusted me with their scariest, yet most emotional life saving experiences. And it’s also been an amazing feeling to know I can relate.

Although this blog was initially made to help me get through this, it’s done so much more. It’s shown me I’m not alone. And a wise person once said (my best friend) that the greatest feeling you can ever receive is the feeling of not being alone. And he was right. I couldn’t have gotten through this without you all.

But not only this, my blog has made me a stronger person. It has shown me I can get through absolutely anything, with the right attitude. It has changed me as a person. I depsise the person I was before my surgery. All I cared about was my image and what people thought of me. Now, it couldn’t be more different. I have accepted my scars, I accepted my bags. But most importantly, I have accepted who I am as a person.

This blog has been a huge leap into a career I’d only ever dreamed of. I can’t believe that at 20 years old I am now able to say I created an international blog. I filmed a pilot for ITV with Davina McCall, I was interviewed by The Kyle & Jackie O Show, I’ve freelanced for The Huffington Post and The Debrief, I was featured in several of the UK’s biggest publications and now I’m actually writing for one. I’m so proud of all of my acheivements, and can only look forward to what the future has to offer from here on.

Now, for the most important part.

I want to say thank you, to all of those who have stuck by me throughout this past year.

To my gorgeous boyfriend, thank you for continuing to love and support me through what has been the toughest part of our relationship so far. Thank you for making me believe in myself and believe that I can still be attractive with a disability. Thank you for sticking by my side, throughout everything.

To my loving family, thank you for being the most loving people I know. You have done nothing but remain strong for me throughout this entire experience, and I couldn’t have gotten through those first couple of months without you. We are such a close family, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have been surrounded by such amazing people. I love you all so much.

To DJ, thank you for making some of the most amazing things possible. You have helped me in so many ways, you’ve taught me so many things. You made it possible to create some beautiful films. Films that I’ll look back on in years to come, to look back on this experience. To remember how far I’ve come. Thank you.

To Hollie, the only girl in the world that I know I can trust. You have been the best friend I could have ever wished for. You’ve given me back that sense of normality. You never once judged me, nor questioned me. You never allowed me to feel different. You are the best friend I could ever wish for, I’m so grateful to have you in my life.

To Sarah & Loretta, before I thank the companies, I’d like to thank you. For not just being amazing sponsors, but amazing friends. You’ve done nothing but look out for me and support my work. Thank you for making all of this possible.

To CliniMed & SecuriCare – thank you for being the best sponsors in the world! You made it possible for me to live a normal working life. You helped me support myself financially and you supported every piece of writing – no matter how revealing! Thank you for making sure i’ve been comfortable with every product and for making this experience as easy as possible.

To #GetYourBellyOut – this was the first group that I was able to meet others like me. You showed me that normal is not what meets the eye. You have continued to comfort and support me and advise me when it was most needed. I have made friends through this group that I hope will be friendships that last forever. You’ve all done such amazing work to make sure people know they are not alone. You are all true inspirations.

And to all of my readers – thank you for taking the time to follow me throughout this journey. To open up to me and to compliment my work. Thank you for helping me raise awareness, and for being loyal to my writing. Thank you for listening and helping me grow. Thank you for being my online family!

I’ll be posting up something after my operation, to let you all know how it went. Fingers crossed everything goes to plan!

Take care everyone.

Thank you, really, all so much.

Best wishes,
Hattie – www.morethanyourbag.com xo

Just 9 more days until I get my old belly back…

That’s nuts, right? Just 9 more days? How the hell has it been 10 months since I had my operation?

I was discussing this with Angelo the other day, how quick time had gone. It doesn’t seem like it was longer than a few months ago that I’d moved back home, and was laying in bed recovering, shaking like crazy about to upload a photo of my experience. I never once thought this blog would get anywhere. Not like it has. I assumed it’d be an online diary that I’d use for perhaps a few months whilst I recovered. Something to look back on. And I mean, it will be something to look back on… but I never imaged so many people would be looking back on it with me.

Times creeping up and I don’t feel nervous at all. I’m excited. Excited to see how I’ll feel when I wake up. I even feel excited to use this whole hospital shower wash and drink all these disgusting drinks just to start getting me prepared. I can’t wait for it to all be over, to be back home with my family, to know that I won’t (hopefully) have to see another operating table for a while.

It’s weird knowing how much I’ve written on here. How many personal stories I’ve shared. How many embarrassing situations I’ve laughed upon with people I’ve never met in my life. What’s most unbelievable is the amount of people this blog has reached. I’d never expected so many people would read it. 10 or 20 of my friends and family, maybe. But over 410,000 people? Across the entire world? It’s something I’d never even dreamed of. How does that happen?!

But it’s not the number of people that continue to click onto this site even when I haven’t written for a week or so. It’s the people that have spent time to message me. To confide in me, to ask for advice. To give me advice and share their stories. It’s a truly wonderful thing to for someone to feel they can trust you. And I have been trusted with so many truly amazing, inspirational yet some absolutely heart breaking stories.

I’d really like for this last week before my operation, to share some stories. So if any of you feel like you’d like to get in touch and share your experience, please do by going to my contact page. I’ll be putting up as many as possible. I really hope some of you feel like you’d like to do this, I feel it will send a truly positive message to others who may be struggling. Knowing you’re not alone is the greatest gift a person can have, and I hope the stories shared will give hope to some that may feel they can’t speak out.

Hattie x

The Release Of Our Project – Beauty Is What You Make It

I’m so excited to finally show you all of the hard work we have put into to something incredibly special. I’m finally able to release the video that has taken 7 months of hard work. Days spent filming down in Milton Keynes, countless edits and meetings to discuss various things. It’s been an amazing experience and one that I’ll truly never forget.

This video has been a huge eye opener for me and has proved to me that if I challenge myself enough, I can acheieve.

As a former bulimic and a current ostomy bag wearer (I think that’s a thing) if you’d have told me 5 years ago I’d be making a public video for a huge charity, all in my underwear – I’d tell you to have a laugh!

And, the fact that I’ve put on two stone in this video isn’t bugging me half as much as it would’ve in the past!

The idea for this video came about when me and my best friend were up all night, watching bad TV, chatting about meaningless things and the subject of bucket lists came up. I’d written about this on my blog, and on here I mentioned burlesque. My best friend runs a film company, and he said together we could make something beautiful… but with his expertise we made something beyond beautiful!

With a feel of burlesque and a vibe that oozes body confidence, we made what I hope will be the start of something amazing – and something accepting. I watch this video with nothing but pride, as I see how far I have come since I was on the operating table about to undergo emergency surgery for an ileostomy bag. From waking up an insecure, terrified girl, scared to look down at her stomach – to a fulfilled, confident woman, embracing her body.

I want to thank DJ Devereux for making our vision come true, Lia Knight for my beautiful hair and makeup, Ryan Coyle for the incredible stage work, Andie Hill from Crohn’s and Colitis UK for standing by me throughout, my sponsors SecuriCare Medical and Clinimed for their ongoing support. Also my loving family and boyfriend for making me the strong woman I am today, and of course my surgeon, Mr Cripps – for saving my life.

This video is the last thing I have left to give to my readers. This is the last thing I will be posting, surrounding body confidence. My reversal is in 15 days, and from now on I am going to be preparing for it. I will keep you updated with my future operations, and thank you for being the most supportive, amazing readers I could ever have wished for. You have offered me so much love and support and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Now please, sit back, relax and enjoy this video.

Opening up about my mental health 

I must apologise for being so crap on here the past week! I’ve been super busy and either working or commuting! I’ve been working for the metro this week and it’s been an amazing experience so far, I’m loving every minute of it! It doesn’t even feel like work, doing what I love all day long. I’m so happy with how things are at the moment. 

Everything’s finally under control for me. I feel in control. 

I’ve had a pretty rough time emotionally the last few months, but I finally got some help. 

So today I’m going to post something that I’ve been putting off for a while. I posted it on my smaller blog around the time it happened, but really it’s a personal blog for me so I don’t expect many people read it.

But knowing I’m in control now, and on the right medication, I feel ready to talk about another side of things. The mental health side of things. 

A couple weeks back 

Today was a big day for me, for a number of reasons. Today is the day I learned something about myself, something I’ve been so desperately seeking to educate myself on for such a long time. I pin pointed a source of my true self on some map within my mind and found a little part of me I’d feared I’d lost a long time ago. Today, I got help. I got help I’d been pining for since the first time I cried. And I don’t mean tears, that fall down your cheeks as you reminisce over heartbreak. Or the tears you cry when re-watching The Notebook. No. I mean the tears I didn’t know were there. The true frustration of minimal knowledge as to why these little drops of water are falling from your red, puffy eyes. The emptiness that swarms your stomach and leaves it tied in a knot of guilt, and shame.
Today, I went to see a psychiatrist, who I had been referred to after seeing my GP and another Mental Health Nurse. I’d first gone to speak with my GP when my mother had come over to visit with my younger siblings. Trapped in conversation, my voice cracked as I asked her whether she’d like coffee or tea. “Tea”, she replied, as my shaking hands poured the boiling water into the mug. I handed her the tea as I turned my back to put the milk back into the fridge. I took that moment to take a deep breath. In, and out. But as the cold air hit my face I struggled to contain my erratic emotions. I asked my mum if we could talk in private – in my bedroom – and with that, I broke down. Head in my hands, sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. Lost for words as to why I felt this way. Why I was doing this.
I explained I’d been having outbursts at my boyfriend and that I was struggling to contain anger. This wasn’t anything new to her, just perhaps a little more extreme. I’d always been the same. Controlling, angry, upset, desperate for that “normal” feeling that I’d so often question the existence off. My mother understands because she suffers with Bipolar Disorder. She’d guessed I’d also been a sufferer too for a while, but the meetings I’d had during my teen years had been about as helpful as a blunt pencil. This time needed to be different. Now that I’m living apart from her. Now that she can’t be there at a drop of a hat. Now that there was the worry of post surgery emotions as well as the distant pain that came crashing down so often within my brain.
My GP was great, and today was the first step in the right direction. We talked for an hour and a half. We spoke about my past, my present, my background, my work life, my relationship, my ethics, everything that could possibly amount to the woman I am becoming today. I laughed and I cried, picking at the tissues he was offering me every time he noticed my eyes were beginning to water. My hands would shake as I tried to maintain their stillness, but my body language was nothing but nervous as I tried to spill out my life story within the hour and a half he’d booked me in for.
It’s funny though, as I don’t feel anything that I have experienced in my life generally reflects on my emotions today. It’s hard to explain. I know it’s the actions of your past that sculpture who you are at present. And in some respects that’s completely true. My ileostomy surgery led me to doing a great thing, which resulted in me earning a living from a much wished for career – well, the start of one, anyway. There are various other ways this theory proves to be correct, but my emotions just aren’t one of them. I say that because I currently don’t know what my emotions are. Not the ones that hit me when I least suspect it, anyway. It’s almost as if they’re not me. As if I become this whole other person when I sense any negativity surrounding me. Negativity that is much imagined very often.
I wanted answers as to why I hit out over things that seem so small, things that seem so silly when I’ve calmed down. Things that could have easily been ignored, and therefore the evening spent screaming and crying could’ve been an evening very much enjoyed.

I spoke and he listened. I asked and he answered. I questioned these answers and he continued to explain. He continued to help. It felt amazing speaking my whole mind for once. Not just the part of it that I feel needs to be spoken. Needs to be heard. I couldn’t believe how comfortable I felt telling a stranger things I’d felt too scared of, too ashamed of to tell to those closest to me. It was such a relief. Somebody knew what was going on. And they didn’t make me feel crazy. I felt at ease with myself for the for the first time in a long time. Reassured. Relieved.

Today, I left my appointment with a smile on my face. 3 notes in my hand. One for blood tests, one for prescription meds and one for current evalutation. A pre-diagnosis that I’m going to face and deal with. Something to get me on the right track. Something to help.

Emotionally Unstable/Borderline Personality Disorder, OCD & Social Anxiety.
Emotional Intensity Disorder / Cyclothymia
It may not have been the result you’d think I’d be happy with… the all clear and much hated ‘hormones’ term. But it’s a result, after all.

  

My Last Ostomy Bag Order

Today, I received my the last ostomy bag order I’ll ever have to make (being that my operation goes all okay). And to be honest, it hit me right where all the emotional bits are, a little. It’s weird, knowing that I’m never going to have to order 60 ostomy bags and a ton of sprays, barrier wipes, disposable bags and dry wipes again. No more worrying as I get down to my last 3 bags and realise I’d forgotten to place an order for next month. I can’t quite get over that today marks one month exactly until my reversal. How does time go so quickly? It doesn’t seem like it’s been two minutes since I first went under the knife. Knowing it’s the last order I’m going to make has made me realise how much other stuff is going to come to and end. I’m no longer going to need to wear countless pairs of support pants. I’m no longer going to be peering down to my stomach to see whether a balloon has magically appeared under my jeans. No more frustration over the sore skin that occurred when I’d run out of barrier wipes. No more…. nope. That’s it. I’m trying to think of a tonne of things that are going to end for me but I just can’t. Because to be honest, my ostomy hasn’t really been there. I mean, it’s been there… but it’s not obvious. And I mean obvious in the sense that it hasn’t made that much of an impact that I can discuss all of the changes that are going to become so much clearer once my next operation is over. It’s strange, the only difference I’m expecting to notice next month is the lightness of my stomach. Like when you enter a hairdressers after a 6 month hair growth where you haven’t had the time for a cut. And suddenly, after they’ve thinned and trimmed your hair you feel like a whole lot of weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Literally.

Ordering my last load of ostomy bags was like saying goodbye to something you once knew. It emphasized the change I was going to face. I must also add, that anybody who has ever faced a difficult ostomy bag order, you MUST use SecuriCare. Orders can be so awkward at times. It can take your GP a decade to complete your prescription, sizes and delivery can be messed up and your doctor may believe you don’t need as much as you think you do. Which is absolute s*** because who’s to say how many times you should be allowed to clean yourself?! Ridiculous. Anyway, SecuriCare have been my guardian angel. I’ve always ordered earliest 2 days in advance with guaranteed next day delivery. I once asked for some barrier wipes and they sent me 7 packs just to be sure I was set for the next couple of months! I have a great relationship with them and I could never go with any other company after being with them for so long. All of my trust sits with them when it comes to ostomy related things.

I’m looking forward to spending less time changing my bag and altering the cuts and sized, and to spending more time focusing on day to day activities. Not to say I’ve been limited in anyway, of course – but sometimes (especially when in a rush) it can be a little time consuming.

Anyway, I hope everyone’s
all good. I’m 4 weeks from the operating table now and my nerves are starting to get the better of me!

All my love xxphoto 2

P.S. I thought I’d use this old photo for this post, just as a reminder of how far I’ve come. And how much weight I’ve now put on, lol.

xxx