For this month’s blog I have been asked to come up with five ways in which my stoma has positively changed my life. In previous blogs I have explored the many ways that my life has improved since receiving “Homer”, my stoma, in 2012 but in this blog I have tried to think more broadly in order to encapsulate how I think and feel about my surgery and its consequences.

1. Good health. My stoma has without doubt given me my life back. I am fitter and healthier now than I was for many years leading up to my operation. It has almost become a cliche now to say, “life is too short” but in reality mine nearly was. I have had a second chance to enjoy life and I make sure that I do everything I can to stay healthy by eating sensibly and maintaining my fitness by walking; I’m lucky to live right next to the Millenium Coastal Path in Carmarthenshire.

2. Confidence. While I was ill, suffering with my Ulcerative Colitis, I never knew if I would be able to get up in the morning, get to work on time or even complete a full day. I was working in a factory at the time and I was very fortunate to have a sympathetic employer who accommodated my illness as best he could. Now, however, I’m able to fulfil my role as a bus driver without any worries. Before my operation I was battling with the obvious symptoms of UC plus weight fluctuation brought on by constant diarrhoea and different medication and the constant fatigue that resulted in many days spent in bed. Thankfully this is a thing of the past.

3. Opportunity. Having a stoma has opened up a whole world of opportunities for me. My social media presence has enabled me to reach out to many people who may be facing ostomy surgery themselves or who are supporting someone else who is. Hopefully I have been able to give some reassurance and to show people that they’re not alone. There is a huge ostomate community out there who are only too willing to share knowledge and offer support, answering the many questions asked regarding the journey about to be taken. I am also incredibly privileged to be one of the amazing ambassadors for Pelican Healthcare and Respond Healthcare. I now find myself blogging, taking part in podcasts, photo shoots, giving talks and taking part in so many exciting events.

4. Friendship. Because of my stoma I have been introduced to a lot of lovely people I am proud to call friends. Meeting fellow ambassadors , either online or face to face is an amazing feeling; others who share the same positivity and zest for life is truly heartwarming.
5. Freedom. Finally, I am forever thankful for the freedom my stoma gives me. I am free to travel, free to work, free to eat and drink pretty much what I like, free to love my life and live it to its fullest. I am eternally grateful to our wonderful NHS for making it possible.

I have had to change several things about my life after having a stoma, but nothing has been poorer for it. A positive outlook makes the changes that come with a stoma easier to cope with and adjusting to new routines much smoother. As Charles Darwin said:

‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’

I hope that my response to the changes I’ve experienced thanks to my ostomy surgery will continue to help and inspire others as it really has changed my life for the better.