The Big Bang Theory
By: Lisa Cummins
Hi, My name is Lisa Cummins, from Dublin Ireland. I have Crohn’s disease, a form of Inflammatory bowel disease. I was diagnosed in 2004 at just 18 years old.
In May 2015 I had my worst flare up imaginable. I developed a perianal abscess and a rectal vaginal fistula. I had lost 2stone in six months. I knew something wasn’t right, my toilet trips were so often. I had a check up with my gastroenterologist and I was admitted. I had numerous amount of blood tests and scopes done to work out what was wrong with me. I was given an NG tube as my body wasn’t absorbing the nutrients from the food I was eating, Hence the dramatic weight loss. Now I love my food but to look at me you wouldn’t think that.
Fast forward 3 weeks later, it’s now June. I’m still in hospital and no news of what is happening, until a few days later my doctor and the team came to see me and tell me they want me to see a colorectal surgeon – and that I may need a stoma bag. My heart sank and tears ran down my face. I couldn’t believe it, I was going to have an operation and given a bag. All that ran through my head was ‘Why?’ ‘Why me?’ I was blaming myself for all of this. I was always good at taking my medicine and watching what I ate as certain foods would upset my stomach. ‘What has happened? Why is this happening to me?’
For 11 years I avoided all of this. Not in a million years did I think I’d end up having a bag. I was told this wasn’t any of my fault and that these things do happen. I didn’t want anyone else to know, I couldn’t tell my friends as I felt if I told them I was having one then it would make it more real. I didn’t want to admit it, but this was happening and there was no way to stop it. It’s something none of us want to have to ever go through. It’s so scary and putting your life in a doctors hands is daunting, but it’s their job, they do this sort of thing every single day. I know it’s easier said then done not to panic, but I couldn’t help it.
I was marked for my bag by a stoma nurse a few days later and brought down for surgery the next day. I cried as I was wheeled down to theatre and gave my parents hugs and kisses. I woke up back on the ward a few hours later. After you wake up and look down and see this thing stuck to you, your heart just sinks and you can’t stop the tears. Stomas aren’t the prettiest of things, I know. But I think if you look long enough they can look like a rosebud or a tomato. It does help naming them too if you want, I’ve called mine Sheldon (huge Big Bang Theory fan). I was in hospital for 10 days after surgery. But a total of 5 weeks over all.
I was so nervous when I got home, it took me a while to get used to changing my bag how to dress with it and learning different things about it. Oddly enough I adapted really quickly to it. I think from the support from family and friends, and friends who had bags too, I didn’t feel so alone.
I’m now 2 years post op, but A few weeks ago I hit another bump in the road. I was badly dehydrated to the point of nearly passing out, vomiting too. My electrolytes where on the floor and had everything via IV drip inc steroids. I had pelvic MRI, small bowel. My Crohn's had spread all the way around my large bowel and I had lost a stone in 6 weeks. My surgeons have said it's only a matter of time before I have to have my large bowel out along with my rectal stump and have bum stitched up. But I knew from day one I wanted to keep my ostomy. For me the pros outweigh the cons, for others it may be different. I know there will be leaks along the way and sore skin, but I’d take that over soiling myself everyday to the point my backside is burning. I’m keeping my bag for my sanity and for a better quality of life. I’m doing this for my future. I don’t want to spend the next 10 years locked in the bathroom. I want to be able to enjoy my life with my partner, who I met 2 years ago, He also has Crohn’s disease and he’s been my rock throughout all of this. Even though having this illness is hard, it’s the only positive thing to come out of it. I met my soulmate. We both know how each other feels and have gone through the same things.
I just want you all to know that you’re not alone in this. The idea of surgery is scary, but life isn’t over after it – mine has only just begun. I feel more confident in myself now than I did before my operation. I’ve had bad anxiety for years and spend much of those years always looking for bathrooms. I used to avoid going out, I always soiled myself too. I don’t want to go back to all that again.
I’m a part of a few support groups on Facebook called #IBDSuperhereos and also another called #GetYourBellyOut. They are an amazing campaign that helps raise awareness about this illness and helps people like me. It’s given me a place to talk to others going through the same thing. I no longer feel alone or ashamed of my illness.
My life has changed so much for the better since having my bag. I’m now a proud ostomate. It’s given me my life back.