My Mam’s Stoma And Me

My Mam’S Stoma And Me

I learnt from an early age that a cuddle couldn’t make my Mammy better

During my second year of university, my Mam phoned to tell me she was going to need an ileostomy. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in her early twenties and had been ill ever since. She was booked in to have a pan-proctocolectomy and explained that she would be left with a stoma and a bag to collect her waste.

I’d grown up with Mam being very ill. I was used to her running to the bathroom during meal times and, when she was bedridden, I learnt that a cuddle wasn’t going to be enough to fix her. During flare-ups I helped her bathe while my brother helped with housework and shopping. I didn’t feel different from other children but I understood from an early age that my Mammy was poorly and that meant she couldn’t do things other mammies could.

My family thought we were ready for Mam's stoma. We weren't.

As a family we always knew the day would come when her body couldn’t cope any more and she would need an ostomy of some kind. We thought we were ready and prepared and naively assumed we would adjust straightaway. We weren’t ready at all, especially me.

The surgery went well but it took a lot out of Mam and her body didn’t heal as quickly as expected. I took time out of university to care for her at home but I wasn’t ready to face her stoma. The first time I saw it I am ashamed to say it frightened me. My mother looked incredibly frail and vulnerable with this angry red lump sticking out of her bruised abdomen. Seeing it for the first time, my body instinctively reacted with a shot of adrenaline racing through my veins. I had to look away. I grabbed some wipes so Mam could clean herself up and thankfully she didn’t notice the tears streaming down my cheek.

I couldn’t avoid it forever, Mam needed me

I spent the first week avoiding looking at her stoma. While she worked out her routine for changing her bags, I kept out of the way by cutting the bags to size and getting her supplies ready in order. I helped her bathe, to dress, to get comfortable in bed, but avoided dealing with her stoma directly. One day she shouted me into the bathroom,

“I’m going to faint!” she told me as she sat swaying on the toilet.

“What do you need?” I asked.

She had been in the middle of changing her bag when she suddenly felt weak and almost passed out. I got her supplies and and told her not to worry, to just sit and rest, and I started working on cleaning her stoma. I couldn’t avoid it this time, I had to look. Mam needed me and I couldn’t let my fear get in the way. Once I had attached her stoma bag I got her to bed and sat with her until she felt better.

There were other times I had to be strong for her too, as she began to find her feet again. In the early days, we took a coach trip to Scarborough to treat ourselves to a day out. No sooner had we stepped off the coach, Mam went really quiet and her eyes filled with tears. “I’m leaking! What do I do?”

I looked down and could see a damp patch starting to form on her white blouse. I ushered her into the nearest café and headed straight to the toilets. This was the first time anything like this had happened outside the house and she wasn’t prepared. With no spare supplies we had to think fast.

Here use these.” I passed her some sanitary towels from my bag and taped them around the flange to seal the hole. We laugh about it now but at the time it was devastating for my mother.

Soon I came to see that the stoma had given Mam her quality of life back

When Mam had recovered and life was back to normal, we realised that she was starting to benefit from a whole new lease of energy. Not having to rush to the loo every few minutes meant we could enjoy going further afield. I forgot all about the stoma and instead only saw how much better Mam’s quality of life was.

A few years later I saw her changing her ostomy bag in the bathroom. I looked at her stoma and smiled. It wasn’t scary or gross, it was part of her and it had given Mam her life back. She named her stoma ET (extra tush) and we still laugh at its ability to fart at the most inappropriate moments.

Because of her stoma we have shared some incredibly intimate moments together that have helped us form a very close relationship. Despite the difficulties, my Mam has overcome so much and I am incredibly proud of her. She will always be my hero. As for ET; I have a special place in my heart for that extra tush.

"I forgot all about the stoma and instead only saw how much better Mam’s quality of life was" - Carrie Beckwith-Fellows

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by Carrie Beckwith Fellows

Carrie Beckwith Fellows

About the author

Hi I'm Carrie, I live in rural Northumberland. I have complex health issues including severe intestinal dysmotility and bladder dysfunction caused by Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. You can follow my blog at

Recent Comments

  • Carrie

    You are welcome Frankie. It was a pleasure to write about my amazing mam and how proud I am of her. My mam still gets self-conscious at times. I imagine this is probably something most people with stomas have to deal with at times. Hopefully awareness and acceptance is increasing regarding ostomies.

  • Frankie

    My dad has a colostomy now as he had a large portion of his colon removed to remove a bowel cancer. He finds it really hard, but he is frankly amazing and has adapted really well. He irrigates as he finds it more comfortable. He is self-conscious but manages. He's still with us and that's a great gift. Thank you for writing this and helping to bring stomas into the light and making them more normal :-)

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