Hearing that a 22-year-old female has been under general anaesthetic more than 20 times seems ridiculous but that’s what has happened to me.
Since birth I have been in and out of hospital. I was born with imperforate anus which is a birth defect in which the rectum is malformed. I had pull through surgery and a colostomy given to me at 24 hours old.
I was also born with persistent cloaca which is a complex anorectal congenital disorder in which the rectum, vagina and urinary tract meet and fuse creating a cloaca. I had major surgery at birth and as a toddler.
I had my colostomy reversed aged 2. I also had a vaginoplasty aged 2 and another aged 14.
Growing up the problems that I had included chronic constipation – and so I have been on numerous laxatives daily and have been given many enemas. In school nobody knew about this and I kept it hidden very well – apart from my bloated stomach, which was rather obvious!
In my late teen/adult years my health was getting harder to control. The enemas and laxatives were not working and after so many hospital visits I was asked to try peristeen (anal irrigation). I tried using this system for half a year but it didn’t help.
“In my late teen/adult years my health was getting harder to control”
Having these problems, and the fact they were ‘invisible’ stopped me from enjoying sleepovers with friends and the stress of school just made the symptoms a lot worse.
In 2014 I was admitted to hospital due to not having a bowel movement for 3/4 months. I stayed for 5 weeks on 2 enemas a day and laxatives plus a manual evacuation under general anaesthetic once a week which failed.
I was then given a ‘temp’ ileostomy bag so they could cut a mass out of my colon and let my colon heal.
Having my bag scared me so much because I hid my illness from everyone so easily I knew that having a bag I couldn’t really do that anymore. Deep down, I didn’t want to hide anymore! I was 20 years old and I was so fed up of hiding what is basically me!
Coming out public about my ileostomy is the best thing I’ve ever done. There’s so many negative stories that come with ostomy life but from my personal experience ostomy life is the best life!
In 2015 I did a lingerie photoshoot for an ostomy lingerie company and I would never have had the confidence to do anything like that before surgery.
“I would never have had the confidence to do anything like that before surgery”
June 2016 I had the surgery to remove my colon rectum and anus (panproctocolectomy) to make my ileostomy permanent, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made even though I am still recovering from this surgery the fact I don’t have to take medication or have enemas or run to the toilet in agony on a daily basis is what keeps me positive!
I’ve been in an amazing loving relationship for a year now, I’m with someone who doesn’t even make the fact I have an ostomy a ‘thing’, to him it’s nothing – I just go to toilet a bit differently to ‘normal’ people. He is one of my biggest supporters.
My personal opinion is that as long as you think of the positives of this life things will always go positive for you, you have to love yourself before anyone else can. Be confident and embrace what has saved your life.
Hopefully that was my last surgery and thanks to my ostomy I can say goodbye to my second home (the hospital) for a long time.
Words by Danielle McCormack