My Entirely Normal Life With A Stoma

by Billie Anderson

Billie Normal Life With A Stoma

Since my stoma surgery I’ve had a lot of people ask me what I can’t do now I’m one organ down. But this is a common misconception because my life hasn’t been hindered by stoma surgery at all… it’s actually enabled me to take a whole new leap.

Here is a list of things I can’t do now I’m an ostomate:

  1. Deep sea diving

That’s it! Though if I really wanted to give it a go I’m sure I could, plenty of ostomates enjoy diving and there are always options for keeping my stoma safe and my bag secure.

Back in January 2018 when I was faced with a surgeon, a scalpel, and the prospect of being colon-less, a few thoughts rattled through my brain, along the lines of: what won’t I be able to do? What ‘normal people’ stuff will I miss out on? Would I have to be careful with my newly bagged body?

Pre-surgery I couldn't even walk up the stairs unassisted

So I spoke to my Stoma Care Nurse in the hope that the list would be short. To be honest, when I actually had my colon I couldn't even walk up the stairs unassisted, and I was repeatedly told that surgery would give me my life back; so I had an idea of how short the list was going to be. But I didn’t realise it would be THAT short! I kept repeating it over and over in my head: ‘the only thing I can’t do as an ostomate is deep sea dive’ …whatever would I do with my weekends?! I was so astounded that I could go on as if nothing had happened that it almost didn't seem real. 

And now I find myself thinking how incredible that is - I can lead an entirely normal life despite losing an organ and needing to attach a bag to my stomach. The nurses told me I could do anything I wanted to do: travel, swim, run, skip and jump! I could go skiing, skydiving or climb a mountain if I wanted to! Backpacking across Europe is now an option or I could cycle the length of the country... with a bit of training obviously! I can travel by plane, jump on a train or go for a walk to wherever I desire. 

I have all the same opportunities that non-ostomates have 

Okay, so I still spend a lot of time in front of my laptop trailing through Netflix, or lounging about in the sun, but the point is, I now have all the same opportunities that non-ostomates have. My colitis took so much away from me that when my life was finally handed back, I almost didn't know what to do with it.

During my worst pre-surgery days I felt like a caged bird staring through the bars at all the excitement I could be having, just longing to fly away into the big wide world. I was stuck in bed while all my friends were off at university, going travelling and just being 21. So now, regardless of the fact that I'm one organ down, I’m doing so much more than I ever thought I would.

Modelling in my bikini or catching up with friends – it’s all possible now   

Just 3 months after my operation I took the opportunity to model in aid of stoma awareness - I modelled in my swimwear with the purpose of showing off my bagged body. Pre-stoma I would never have had the opportunity or the guts (pun intended) to do this, and it was such a confidence boosting activity! But it isn't just the big things - it’s mostly the little things that I've been so excited to be able to do. It’s the mundane, everyday stuff that you take for granted when you don't have to think about it: going to the shops or having a coffee with my friends without my bathroom radar beeping away; being able to leave my bed; waking up with a smile filled with excitement about the day to come.

As I write this post, 5 months have passed since my stoma surgery, and not only have I escaped my metaphorical cage but I'm never going back in! I’m doing so much more than I ever dreamed I could - my life is taking twists and turns that have opened my eyes to the beauty of life.

The world really is my oyster and I can’t wait to see how it pans out.

About the author

My name is Billie Anderson, Im 21 and a history student down on the sunny English coast of Portsmouth. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2017 and after one year of very aggressive drug therapy on January 2nd 2018 I became an ostomate. In order to aid in spreading awareness for IBD and stoma’s I started a blog (https://trustyourgut.blog) and an Instagram account (@billieandersonx).

This is my attempt at bringing about more awareness for Inflammatory Bowel Disease and making my very unconventional stomach, conventional; I hope to show the world that you can love yourself at 21 with your insides on the outside. 

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