• Austin Birks

A Bag Is For Life Not Just For Christmas

When I was in hospital recovering from the life-saving surgery that saved my life, when a tumor the size of the surgeon's fist was removed from my abdomen, I befriended a youngish lad who, like me, had been fitted with a stoma bag. He was a pleasant enough guy, probably in his early twenties. And as you do when you are in those circumstances, you start chatting and exploring each other’s life and times. It is a very human thing and in the great lottery of life you can find yourself lying in a bed next to virtually anybody. My personal perception was that when you join a ward (in my case the Aylesford ward) as the newcomer, you are the new boy, just like when you went to school. And for the record, I went to seven schools, so I knew that feeling well enough.


As the newbie my tactics were always the same: be polite and friendly to all, but just watch and learn the dynamics of the group. Not unlike Richard Attenborough, when observing apes in their natural habitat. My tactics were all about observation and acceptance, until such time as you find yourself as the old hand, as it were.


Anyway, late one night I was awake and reading and so was this lad, so we started a quiet conversation. Now I do not know if it was the lateness of the hour, but as we talked, this lad started to open up about how he felt. He did not have cancer, but Crohn’s disease and as a result he had been fitted with a stoma bag. He told me that he was not bothered that he had been fitted with a bag. He realised and appreciated the necessity of it. What he did say, however, was quite moving. He told me that what really bothered him was the fact that he would never find himself a girlfriend, as in his head, no girl would ever want to be intimate with him as he had this attachment.

To be fair, completely understandable and human, but as I listened to him, the thought occurred that surely it is the person that people find attractive, and lets face it, when you have a stoma bag, no one knows. It is not apparent - it is the person and the personality that matters. As we talked, I asked him how he usually met girls, and of course, the answer was match.com and Tinder; these were the two weapons of choice that he, along with 99.9% of the world’s population, used to meet people.


Of course, me being old school, I told him how when I as a young chap there was no social media. I had to resort to the terror that was having to ask a girl out to her face. It was horrendous. That teenage crush required hours of practice and preparation, to make the actual ask look as natural as possible, compared to a bright-red spotted, flushed face, gush out a garbled “Would you come out with me next Saturday?” followed by an immediate "No". Followed by the walk of shame, and sting of rejection.


To be fair, he found it funny, and it was a cheap distraction, so then we talked about his plans for dating. I asked him why he felt he could not date anymore. He said that he was too self-conscious and worried that having built up a relationship, when he explained that he had a bag, she would leg it as fast as possible. I suggested that actually maybe the answer was to set up a dating site like Tinder, but for people who had stoma bags. We could call it Stomder, and unless you had a bag you could not join. That way everyone knew just what they were getting into, and there would be no surprises.


There was no reason why the site could not be used for all sexual orientation. Love is not restricted in any way shape or form. It is accessible to all, and frankly, having a bag and enjoying intimate relations simply requires adjustment and is no big deal.


After all, we are all entitled to love and at the end of the day, why limit your life choices? Life is too short and needs to be lived to the full. So live it.
123 views3 comments