How I turned my life around after a battle with Ulcerative colitis resulted in life-changing surgery

September 2013 and I was starting a new life of independence and opportunity at University studying my dream subject, Photography.

My Ulcerative colitis was more or less under control after ruling my life since the age of 12.

Fast-forward to January 2014 and everything had changed. My flare ups were worse than ever and I was considering leaving. One morning on the way to the gym across campus I had a bad incident, for those with the same issues, you’ll know what I mean.

Emotionally and physically exhausted at the fact this wasn’t an unusual occurrence, I packed my bags and I was at home the next day.

It had become too much for me to deal with and I wasn’t going to put up with it being an overwhelming burden any more, so I met with a surgeon a month later.

By early April I had woken up with no colon, a big scar and a bag attached to my stomach.

The very next day complications started to arise. I was white as a sheet and was being given numerous blood transfusions.

It turned out I was having severe internal bleeding and needed emergency surgery.

Another day or two went by before I was awake at three in the morning with the worst pain I’ve ever had, even after the colitis.

The next thing I know the on-call surgeon is at my bedside and I’m being pumped with painkillers before I start to feel the ping of stitches being re-opened as I’m told an infection had taken place.

This has now left me with a very odd and rather unpleasant deep hole scar that looks like more of a belly button than my actual belly button.

We all know life is in no way fair the majority of the time and this situation was no exception. One issue led to another and by May 2015 I had found myself on the waiting list for a liver transplant, of all things, due to an added condition of mine, Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, better known as PSC.

On top of this I was still struggling to adapt and accept life with a stoma and accept the fact I couldn’t be more than two hours away from the hospital.

I was bored, sick, alone and a very interesting shade of yellow –  which actually gets commented on more than you would think.

It’s now October 2016, I have had the transplanted liver for 8 months and all is well. I’ve not only accepted my ostomy bag but now, with the prospect of a reversal, I find myself wanting to keep it.

I used to have extreme anxiety, and I still do to be honest – but it’s a lot better nowadays, and I would put that down to these experiences.

They have changed me as a person and given me new ways to cope and be comfortable and they always give me something to think back to when everything starts feeling hard.

The point of this post is to let people know that things can feel like there’s no hope, or life just keeps coming at you, but it does get better.

What seemed like a never-ending struggle now seems like a blip to me.

I’m now a normal colour –  thankfully – instead of looking like a washed out Simpson, and I’m also starting to cross things off of my to-do list, which has been building up the whole time I’ve been knocked back. Things like learning to drive (finally), looking for a career in health care and picking up photography again for the first time in almost three years are all things I now have under my belt.

I’ve even found myself in a loving relationship, something that after my first surgery I never thought I would have.

There are awful moments for anyone going through these situations, but looking back now I will always remember to never say never.

A phrase I love is that if you have scars then it proves you showed up to the fight.

Words by Ollie Avis

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