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  • Writer's pictureAustin Birks

Riders on the Stom...a

Not only a classic tune from The Doors in the sixties, but I thought a fitting title for my next stoma bag related ramblings. Living with a bag is, I have to say, about adopting a certain type of mindset. Each of us in life is different, and so it is the same with being given your own free waste disposal unit. None of us ever think for a moment that we are going to end up in this situation.

But, like it or not, it is important that we accept it, learn to live with it, and make the most of it, because ultimately it keeps us alive, and able to live comparatively normal lives.

Of course everyone is different. Some take to it better than others. I have known people who have had awful experiences. Young people, either teenagers or youngsters in their twenties, who felt as if the shame of having a stoma would never allow them to find partners, and felt embarrassment to such an extent that their confidence withered and they found it hard to leave the house.

Utterly understandable, but for me, I felt from day one: I do not care what happens. Even if I poop myself in a public place: so what? I have cancer, this is what happens. It is not a statement, it is an accident! And as we all know accidents happen.

When I returned from hospital, my wonderful partner Yvi had brought me some stoma underwear. These have a little insert which allow you to pop the bag into a pouch, meaning that you won't see it, and well, allow business to carry on as normal.

Three weeks after coming out of hospital with 27 stitches and an infection in the stitches that required surgical cleaning every day from a nurse, I was back in the gym, training in Karate. I posted a video of it on my Karate club website, and got a good old telling off from one of my close relatives, for being such a an idiot. But, for me, it was all about getting myself back to normal as quickly as possible. Within 5 weeks, I was back in the spin classes, and the following week back in the dojo teaching Karate. Yes, don’t get me wrong, when I am teaching Karate, or doing courses or grading examinations at different clubs, the bag makes the most horrendous noises. I do not pretend it does not happen - I usually make a joke about it. And guess what: people accept it for what it is. I have been truly amazed by people's acceptance of it. It is, after all, part of me, and it does a vital job.

So, of course, I am sure all of us who have one would prefer not to, but not unlike a pacemaker, it keeps us all players in the game of life. And lets' face it, that the is most precious gift, so why would you not embrace it and cherish it?

Oh, and one other thing: it does not stop people from loving you, or you loving them. Like all other challenges, you learn to live and love around it. We don’t fall in love with stoma bags, we fall in love with people. Some may own one, some may not. But, as always, it is the person that matters, not what what is attached to them. Oh, and by the way, if some people can't live with that, then that is their loss, not yours. Plenty more fish in that sea!

Until next time. Keep well, fit, and strong.


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