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Body confidence part 1 | grieving for my pre-stoma body

This blog has brought up a few things that I’ve not really thought about for a long time.

My first stoma was formed as an emergency in 2007. One week before I had my ileostomy, I’d never heard of one. I was very uncomfortable with the stoma bag, and with myself. I was constantly aware of it, and I was certain that people would be able to see and hear it. I was also certain that it made me unattractive.

I was shocked when I saw my new stoma.

I hated my scars, and I hated my new appliance. I couldn’t look at my newly formed stoma without feeling sick. No one had prepared me for how overwhelming I might find it. Looking at my intestine poking out of my abdomen, especially with the wound and the black stitches holding it in place, was too much.

I don’t think I’d had much more than a graze or a small cut before that.

I had difficulty accepting my new body.

It did get easier as it healed, and once the stitches had gone. I was more comfortable with it, but not comfortable enough to actually feel comfortable in myself, if that makes sense. I still didn’t like it, or want it there, but I didn’t feel so sick and faint anymore when I looked at it.

I felt so isolated. I didn’t know anyone with a stoma. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to talk to about it that really understood. So, I didn’t talk about it much at all, to anyone. I wanted to pretend it wasn’t there, all whilst being constantly aware that it was. I mainly wore boys T-shirts and jogging bottoms because I wanted to hide my body.

Looking back, I always think that I should have been proud of what my body had gone through. I can see why I wasn’t. After all, it had all happened so quickly. I often think that maybe I wasn’t unwell for long enough to be grateful for it. I know at the time, I just wanted the pain to go away, whatever it took. But you forget the pain. The lack of support didn’t help, and the result was me feeling ashamed about it.

Embarrassed by my bag and scars

One of the things that I haven’t really told anybody about is the anger I felt. I was angry whenever an unclothed abdomen appeared on the TV (which was a lot). Seeing those perfect bodies made me feel really crap about my own. I knew I could have that stoma reversed, but I also knew that my stomach was never going to look like that again. There would always be scars from the midline incision, stoma, drain, and cannulas. There would always be a constant reminder of where my stoma once sat. A reminder of a period that I knew I would want to forget. I just wanted to go back to my old normal, and to forget the whole thing had happened.

I was upset and I was jealous of “normal” people, and I had nowhere to vent those emotions.

Find out how I came to accept my new body, ostomy and all, in part 2 of my body confidence blogs.

Upcoming body confidence webinars

Fittleworth have some fantastic webinars coming up! Hear from Donna Butler – psychotherapist and registered nurse, Gill Hasson – Mindfulness books author, and two stoma nurses, at:

11am, Wednesday April 28th

11am, Wednesday May 12th

These webinars will focus on the body confidence issues that ostomates might have, and practical ways of overcoming them! I will be joining! Will you?

About the advice and opinions of our bloggers

We hope you enjoyed this article from our guest blogger. They are expressing their views or knowledge on a topic because of their experience & background. Some of the opinions expressed may not reflect the views of Fittleworth or your NHS professional.

It goes without saying, but this is not clinical advice. Each person will have an individual set of medical factors to consider. So please do not to make significant changes to your diet, exercise or treatments before consulting with a NHS professional.

Sahara was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 19, Picture of author - Saharaafter just two weeks of being incredibly unwell. One week later, she had emergency surgery to remove her colon and rectum, and had her first ileostomy. A turbulent journey followed; a multitude of treatments, complications, seven surgeries, a failed J-Pouch, and three ileostomies later, she is living with a permanent stoma and is a pro-active IBD and ostomy advocate. 

Sahara joined the online IBD and ostomy community in 2014, and it very quickly became apparent to her that whilst awareness is important, even more important than that is providing support to others as they navigate the stormy waters of life with IBD, or an ostomy.

She runs #IBDSuperHeroes fundraising and awareness campaign, and the Facebook support group. She is a blogger for InflammatortyBowelDisease.net and an IBD Patient Consultant for merakoi – bridging the gap between patients and healthcare. She gets involved with research whenever she can, and is a volunteer for Cure Crohn’s Colitis, where she donates her time and expertise in social media marketing and content creation.