The Gutless Graduate - Survival Guide With A Stoma

Aleesha Graduating

As a lot of students are meant to be finishing their A-Levels and applying to university, starting their course or graduating right now, I thought it may be useful to share my experiences with a stoma whilst at university.

I started developing symptoms of ulcerative colitis in my last year of A-levels.

Unfortunately my condition deteriorated to the point where I had no choice but to take a year out of sixth form. I didn’t know what was happening to my body, but one thing I did know was that I definitely wanted a degree!

So here a few tips that helped me throughout my degree:

  • Before I started my course, I got in touch with my university and made them aware of my condition. This made me feel more comfortable and the university were very supportive to ensure I had all the support in place ready for me to start.
  • Choosing where I sat in the lecture rooms was quite important. I always ensured I sat the closest to where the toilets where. This was so if my bag was ever to leak, needed to be emptied or changed I could leave the lecture and get to the toilets quickly.
  • I started off by always using the ladies, however I found using the disabled toilets more ideal for bag changes. So don’t be afraid to use disabled toilets, and carry your radar key if you have one. We need to remember that not every disability is visible!
  • I always used to carry an ‘emergency kit’ in my handbag. This consisted of spare bags, dry wipes, wet wipes, disposable bags, and tape.
  • My attendance to my lectures wasn’t always 100% because my stoma was still fairly new to me, and I was still recovering from a major operation. Therefore I ensured I emailed my lecturers telling them I was unable to attend and they would send me the lecture online so I didn’t miss anything .
  • The majority of time I was quite organised with my assignment and project deadlines, but there was a few times were I struggled to meet targets due to my health. This is when I reached out to my tutors and asked for assignment extensions. Never be afraid to ask for extra support when you need it!
  • Making friends at university to begin with was quite difficult as I felt my confidence was knocked. However I soon started rebuilding my confidence and told two friends about my condition, and they were quite supportive throughout the rest of my time at university. Only do this if you feel comfortable enough to do so.
  • In my second year I got chosen to go to India for a ‘Health in India Study’. This was two months after my second operation (making my stoma permanent this time). This was one of my most memorable times at university. Don’t let your stoma stop you from doing anything. In fact accept any good opportunity you get given at university with open arms! Read about travelling with a stoma here

A lot of our life lessons and the obstacles we stumble across make us who we are, don’t let your stoma or illness get the better of you.

Learning how to turn a negative life experience into something positive was one of the best things I have done. Work hard, aim high and never lose sight of your goal… here I am a few years later, officially a 2:1 Graduate in Health Studies and Social Care!

by Aleesha Verma

Aleesha Verma

About the author

My name's Aleesha Verma - also known as the Gutless Warrior! I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease at the age of 18 and now have a permanent ileostomy bag - not a Prada bag, unfortunately. You can also follow me @gutlesswarrior on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Recent Comments

  • Jenny Onafowokan

    What an inspiring message to anyone suffering with an invisible illness! Don’t let it hold you back! Well done Aleesha!

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