Christmas With Ulcerative Colitis

Sarah November Blog

What a year we have had! I don’t think any of us could have predicted what 2020 had in store for us, but Christmas will soon be here and it is always around this time of year that I really reflect on my time with ulcerative colitis (UC).

Let me tell you a little bit about my Christmases before I had my surgery in 2019.

Christmases were a very rough time. My UC would always flare up around October, I don’t know if this was because of the colder weather, but I always remember the winter months being a tough time for me. Once in my flare I would begin steroids and usually be on them for four to five months, meaning I would be taking steroids for the whole winter which made the festive period not so much fun for me. My birthday falls in November and for so many years I would always be unwell on my birthday. I remember missing out on Christmas parties with work and friends, feeling insecure due to the steroid side effects and generally suffering from them as well as the flare up.

Christmas Day wasn’t much fun at all whilst suffering with a UC flare.

Christmas is so food based that obviously you want to eat all the lovely food, steroids did increase my appetite, but they didn’t always reduce my symptoms. So, it was a catch-22 (wanting to stuff yourself with all the delicious food, but then sitting on the toilet in pain and suffering for hours) meaning I missed out on half of Christmas day! I always felt bad for my family, I would have to rush off from the dinner table to use the toilet and I know they would want to wait for me to eat, but I honestly couldn’t guarantee how long I would be on the toilet for. I would sit there in agony whilst they were all chinking their wine glasses and celebrating. It was a very lonely time.

Thankfully, in 2019 I had emergency surgery removing my colon and forming an ileostomy. I have only had one Christmas as an ileostomate, and I cannot tell you how different (in a good way) that Christmas was! I honestly never dreamed of a life like I have now. I always thought that having an ileostomy would make my life worse, but it has given me such a good quality of life.

My first Christmas as an ileostomate was one of the best Christmases ever!

Having suffered with UC since I was 16, I couldn’t remember the last time I had a pain free Christmas Day! I was apprehensive to begin with, living with an ileostomy you have to be careful of certain types of food, but I was able to eat so much more than I thought, and I loved it. I avoided the mixed fruit and nuts though! My mum cooks the best Christmas dinner, and she is amazing, she cooked a separate dish of vegetables just for me, that were extra-soft so I didn’t miss out (although I don’t mind missing out on Brussel sprouts!) and I was able to enjoy the whole dinner without having to leave the table. It was truly wonderful.

Being pain free and able to enjoy the day with everyone, from unwrapping presents to helping prepare the dinner, was brilliant. I was 15 years old the last time I had a Christmas where I wasn’t on UC medication, so it was just nice to be able to enjoy the day with everyone else all together. I always felt like I was ruining the day by having to miss out and take so many hours away on the toilet. I know that no one else thought this, but I think as the person with the disease you always worry about what other people think. I can’t wait for this Christmas to spend the time together with my family again – hopefully, the public health situation will allow this. Having an ileostomy has really made me enjoy the Christmas period again!

“My first Christmas as an ileostomate was one of the best Christmases ever!” – Sarah Smith

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by Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith

About the author

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 16 and underwent emergency surgery in April 2019 which left me with an ileostomy. I love my life with a stoma and my aim is to spread positivity and awareness about IBD/stomas by giving realistic points of view from my journey so far. You can follow me on Instagram.