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Enjoying the festive season with a stoma in 2020


I LOVE Christmas! I love the food, drinks, clothes, activities, lights, and the snow (if we get any). I like frosty mornings, and passing people in the street and wishing them a merry Christmas! But, most of all, I love spending time with my family and making them smile with thoughtful gifts!

This year may be a little different, but I am determined to keep the festive cheer.

Christmas food

There’s been many a Christmas in the past where I could barely tolerate any of the usual Christmas dinner items. Thanks to my stoma, I can eat most of the food I want to! There’s a huge possibility that I will eat far too much and have to deal with the aftermath of constant bag empties, but sometimes it’s worth it! On Christmas day, I will be gobbling Brussels sprouts and just hoping that any resulting wind is quiet!

In the run up to Christmas, I’m all about the comfort food. One-pot cooking is where it’s at; curries, stews and bakes being the ultimate comfort! Then, there’s party food! I’ve already been eyeing it all up in the supermarket, and I think now is the time to start sampling it!

My diet is pretty balanced and healthy in general, but at Christmas, I’m happy to be tempted over to the more indulgent side! Fortunately, very few foods cause issues with my stoma. However, the amount of food I consume usually increases around Christmas time, which means additional toilet trips throughout the day and night unless I want to risk my stoma bag coming off.

Christmas drinks

I don’t really consume alcohol throughout the year. It used to cause a lot of problems with my Jpouch, so I stopped drinking it. Now, it just doesn’t feel like something I do! If I am going to partake, it’s usually at Christmas. Every year that I’ve been well enough, myself, my best friend, and my mum have gone out dressed as Santa for a local charity day. This usually involves some day drinking and an early night. Obviously, that won’t be happening this year! Christmas eve, my mum comes over and we drink mulled wine and eat cheese and crackers – which works well for my ostomy because the cheese and crackers tend to thicken the output, whereas the wine tends to thin it out. I’m even partial to a snowball or two on Christmas day.

Just a small amount of alcohol causes dehydration for me, so I always ensure that I drink an oral rehydration solution before bed and first thing in the morning to keep me hydrated.

Hot drinks for cosy days and nights at home are a favourite. Hot chocolate and coffee are my go-to beverages. This year, I even have a coffee advent calendar! I do have to limit myself to two cups of coffee per day because otherwise, my output becomes too loose.

Last year, I made homemade hot chocolate for the first time. This year, I’ve been experimenting with the trending version – hot chocolate bombs.

Christmas clothes

I can’t wear wool, which I find super annoying. It seems to trigger psoriasis – I even have to wear a thin cotton hat under my pretty woolly ones. The thick knitted jumpers always look so cosy and warm, but alas, I have to make do with what doesn’t turn me into a dry, itchy mess. I am a size larger this year than last year (again, this is thanks to my stoma), so I’ve been buying new. Can we just take a moment to appreciate the joy that is online shopping?! I have gone all out this year with T-shirts, dresses, and even festive headwear! Where will I wear them all? The IBDSuperHeroes weekly film club, where we meet on Zoom to discuss this week’s chosen movie! We might all have gone a little bit mad from being cooped up indoors because we decided that throughout December we’d watch two Christmas movies a week!

Christmas activities

Obviously, COVID-19 has put a dampener on things. There will be no local charity day dressed as Santa… There will be no Christmas anything happening really. Last year was the first year that I actively looked for things to do and activities to attend because my health was finally good enough thanks to my ostomy! I went to multiple Christmas markets; some better than others, but I enjoyed them all! I enjoyed being out and about, finally doing things after such a long period of poor health!

I have had to resort to keeping myself busy at home this year, so when I’m not watching Christmas movies (thank you Netflix), I have been binge-watching old episodes of Kirstie’s handmade Christmas! I made Christmas stockings for my mum’s dogs, and have lots more plans for crafty makes. I’ve also been investing time into looking for new recipes and spending more time in the kitchen. It feels like the season for baking, so maybe I can finally become good at that too?

Christmas lights

My decs have been up since November the 9th! I had to make a conscious effort to do something every day during lockdown to cheer me up and distract me from reality. Some of my neighbours even had theirs up before me! I also bought new lights, and I’m absolutely loving cosying up in the living room to watch festive TV!

Frosty mornings

There have been many frosty mornings recently, and it’s made for such a beautiful walk with the dogs. I feel like I’m appreciating the beauty of nature a lot more these days.  I’ve now identified a time when there are very few other dogs around, which means I can let mine off. They’re so happy running around in circles, that I can’t help but join them in their joy!

Anxieties about Christmas

Christmas is usually spread over 3 days for me. Christmas eve with my mum, Christmas day at my auntie’s, and boxing day seeing my partners family. This year will obviously have to be a little different. Yes, I’m a bit bummed out by that, but, we have to make the best of what we have to work with.

Ordinarily, my only real anxiety about Christmas is having to empty my bag at other people’s houses. We usually go for a walk on Christmas day, before dinner. This can cause me anxiety too because we’re in the middle of nowhere, which evidently means no toilets. I’ve taken to carrying disposal bags, tissues, and wet wipes with me at all times, so if I need to hop into a bush in an emergency, I can!

Final thoughts

Thank you internet for allowing connectivity with others possible – the IBDSuperHeroes weekly chats have been a lifesaver for me. Thank you also for allowing to do all of my Christmas shopping from the sofa!

Thank you mother nature for the mesmerising beauty you provide.

I thought being a chronically ill person had made me more grateful for the little things, but COVID-19 has definitely increased that awareness. If it weren’t for COVID, I definitely wouldn’t be trying my hand at anything crafty this year. I also think I’m going to attempt to make my own mulled wine.

I think it’s time for me to start wishing people happy Christmas in the street, even if I do have to shout a little louder from a distance and through the face mask! I will start with you guys!

Merry Christmas everyone – wishing you all of the joy and happiness that Christmas usually brings!


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 creatio