I recently became an ostomist. It’s not the same as an optimist, but as becoming an ostomist can be a daunting experience, it most certainly helps if you also develop an optimistic outlook, writes Des Morgan.
I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC) in 2006. It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum.
The cause of UC is unknown, but people with the condition have problems with their immune system. It can affect men and women of all ages.
I experienced some of the classic symptoms of UC, including abdominal pain and cramping, stomach noises and – the worst feature of all – debilitating bouts of diarrhoea.
My life became dictated by the close proximity of lavatory facilities.
Des, a volunteer presenter on Swindon 105.5fm, says he owes his life to doctors, and urges those showing the symptoms of ulcerative colitis to waste no time in making an appointment to see their GP.
Fortunately, I was placed under the care of the gastroenterology team at the Great Western Hospital (GWH), where I received the best treatment imaginable, and where specialist nurses were always on hand to advise and inform.
I was screened by the consultant using a special camera in a procedure called a colonoscopy, which is used not only to diagnose UC, but also to determine its severity.
It is also a primary tool to screen for colon cancer as UC increases the risk.
I was admitted to GWH and was faced with the reality that surgery was the only available option.
The operation necessitated the removal of the large intestine or bowel, often referred to as the colon, and the forming of an ileostomy, which carries waste into a special bag attached to my skin.
A similar operation that is often carried out is called a colostomy, and anyone who has had either procedure can call themselves an ‘ostomate’.
Living with an ileostomy bag is a challenge, but it soon becomes second nature as you realise the change it makes in your life.
A famous retailer boasts of its ‘bag for life’, but me and countless other ostomates have a ‘bag for a life’.
It’s only one small word extra, but it means such a lot.
Swindon is fortunate to have an active Ileostomy Association which provides support to ostomates and raises funds for specialist equipment.
I am lucky to be alive and owe so much to so many people. UC is a treatable disease, but it requires intervention at the earliest possible stage.
If you have blood in your stools or have any of the symptoms of UC, the message is: see your GP immediately.