Liver update

I saw my GI a few days ago, and I was expecting to only see him. To my surprise, I actually had a joint GI/Liver appointment. This is really helpful for them and for me as having IBD, and Ulcerative Colitis specifically, means I am more prone to certain liver diseases, and seeing me at the same time makes it easier to assess and treat my symptoms without having to keep going back and forth.

Just over a year ago, I had some problems with my liver. An ultrasound showed it was enlarged after I presented with abdominal pains to A&E, and I had a biopsy to determine if I had something called Primary Scleroring Cholangitis (PSC), a progressive autoimmune disease that causes the bile ducts in the liver to become inflammed and eventually blocked. At the time, I didn’t think I had this as the biopsy didn’t show any signs of it – or so I thought. As it turns out, I do have PSC but it is very very mild at the moment. It means I’ll need yearly ultrasounds but that’s it unless it shows signs of progressing, then I’ll need biopsies. At the moment, there are no treatments for PSC but it is something they are working on.

As for my IBD, everything is fine. My GI wants to check my sodium and calprotectin so I’ll be doing several samples and blood tests over the next few months. In the meantime, I’ve been advised to have St. Mark’s rehydration solution or dioralyte every now and then or if I’m feeling very thirsty during the day. This should help keep my electrolytes up and save me from getting dehydrated.

Halloween!

I love Halloween. I love it for the decorations, the costumes, but most of all, I love it for the sweets. Yes, the sweets. (I know, I’m a big kid really). But seriously, there is a practical reason for my eating many sweets; slowing down stoma output without having to take medication.

Recently, I have had fairly loose output which is a bit of a pain because it can mean the bag filling faster than normal. Eating sweets, particularly ones with gelatin in, can help thicken the output and slow it down. Halloween is a great time to stock up because not only is there a much higher supply in shops, but they can be a bit cheaper. Now, obviously, I’m not saying everyone should gourge themselves on sweets (I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure that’s not good for you, even for ostomates) but this is just how I like to deal with high and loose output. How do you deal with loose output?

So, my plan for tonight are to eat Chinese take away followed by a load of sweets whilst watching Coraline. What are you up to this Halloween?

Coffee Morning!

I went to a Crohn’s & Colitis UK coffee morning today with my mum. It was good to meet new people, we talked a lot but there’s never enough time to speak to everyone. I hope to go to the next one near me though. I met someone who has had a jpouch for around ten years now, and I spoke to someone who came with their mum (like me) and who both have Crohn’s. A couple of them were also at the IBD open day last weekend too. I’ve always thought that these meet-ups are a good idea, they give you somewhere to talk freely and feel safe, as well as being part of a community that understands and doesn’t judge because they’ve been there. I know they’re not for everyone but I enjoy it.

In other news, I saw my surgeon last week and he’s very happy with how I’m doing. He said he doesn’t want to do anything now for at least another year, which is fine by me (two surgeries is more than enough for this year, thank you very much). He said I’ve got three options though; 1) I can have my stoma closed and try the jpouch again, 2) I can have my jpouch & rectum removed, a permanent end ileostomy formed and have a barbie-butt, or, 3) I can stay as I am with jpouch & rectum intact and loop-ileostomy. I am quite content to stay as I am for now, but eventually, I will want to go for option 2; permanent stoma and barbie-butt. I don’t want to go back to the jpouch because not only is it ulcerated, but I still have the perforation near the entrance, both of which make me not want to risk it failing again and having to have yet another surgery. I could stay as I am indefinitely but I think I’ll always feel like it’s not finished and I just want this to be sorted once and for all.

So, that’s it for now. Work is going well and I feel able to do more things and for longer. My appetite has returned with avengence so I’m eating like a horse at the moment. My weight is very slowly increasing so all good from where I’m sitting.

IBD open day & a work update

I went to an IBD information open day today at my local hospital. There were lots of resources for patients as well as their friends and family, and the talks covered things like exercise, research, diet and the hospital’s IBD helpline. Even though I know a lot about my disease already, I still found it informative and interesting. There wasn’t much time for networking or socialising but it was still good to be there among those who suffer as well and those who are helping make it bearable.

Next week, I’m going to a Crohn’s & Colitis UK coffee morning meet up. I haven’t been to one for a while so I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone is doing. Although I don’t feel I “know” any of the regulars at the meet-ups, I still feel some sort of connection because we have this disease in common.

As for how I am doing, I feel my recovery is going well. I went back to work three weeks ago and it’s going well so far; I’ve a gradual return, with my first week consisting of one and a half weeks because I had a week of annual leave straight after. The second week was two full days but they were easy as it was quiet and there wasn’t as much to do. This last week I worked four days with a day off in the middle to give me time to rest. I have found getting back into it easier than I thought and there are only a couple of minor adjustments I need at the moment. These adjustments are mostly regarding my ability to aid a disabled patient, specifically mobility aid users, as I can’t push a wheelchair nor support another person due to my stomach muscles still healing. This is to protect both me as well as the patient as if I am unable to support someone and they fall, I can’t help them back up again. It’s frustrating because I hate how I am not able to help my patients the way I should. Still, this is only temporary for me and I know eventually I will get better. I am for the forseeable future going to keep wearing my support belt as it helps prevent muscle pains during my work day.

As for my diet, it’s great; consisting of lots of bread, crisps, chicken, potato and chocolate. I’m not underweight but I’m on the lower end for my height so it wouldn’t hurt for me to put some back on. Plus, I’m almost always hungry so snacking is a good thing as far as I’m conscerned. This need to snack does pose a slight issue with my work though as I only get one break during the day and, no, unfortunately I can’t split it due to task assignment. I may have to start stashing snacks in various places so I can eat when it’s quiet.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Hopefully, I’ll have more to share over winter with the cold weathers effects on stoma bags etc, as well as the perils of Christmas dinner. Thank you for reading!

Why am I using my stick today when I didn’t need it yesterday?

I am travelling by train for the first time since my surgery. The journey involves several changes and I am carrying quite a full backpack. As I am still recovering, I need to be careful that I do not fall or get knocked into as these could both potentially cause muscle strain that can lead to other complications. Although I haven’t needed my walking stick for the last couple of weeks, having returned to work this week has shown me that I am far from fully recovered.

As my work requires me to be on my feet a lot, by mid-afternoon yesterday my stomach muscles were beginning to protest. I thought this ache would go away if I sat down and hugged my hot water bottle when I got home but, unfortunately, the pain persisted throughout the night and I am still quite sore even now.

What does all this have to do with my using my walking stick today? Well, as I am travelling through the busy London underground for part of my journey, it will not only help support me as I walk around, but it will also act as a “red flag” to other commuters that I won’t be able to move out of their way and to be mindful to not jostle me as they rush for the tube.

I have said this before but I think it’s worth repeating because not everyone understands that you can be fine one day and not the next. Recovery is not linear.

Salts bag trial and review

I saw my stoma nurse earlier this week and, after a brief chat, we decided I may need a convex bag again but because she was conscerned my stoma might prolapse if the bag was putting too much pressure on my bowel, she offered the Salts 1-piece drainable convex bag to try for a bit as they are meant to be more flexible than other convex bags and so shouldn’t put as much pressure on the bowel.

It’s a tad bit smaller than the Sensura Mio, with a petal shaped baseplate and a drainage end similar to the Dansac drainable, except it has a small tab on the end which makes opening it easier. The material used to cover the bag is soft, water repellent and makes the bag look a lot less clinical. First impressions after wearing it for an afternoon where that it was a good bag that held it’s shape fairly well when full and that didn’t rustle when moving.

But.

I had issues with the opening. I found, although easier to open and clean than the Dansac, it was still messy and would leak a tiny amount of output when closed because it lacked the extra side tabs that the Sensura Mio has.

I thought that maybe I could get used to the opening but then I realised that I was scratching myself raw around the edges of the baseplate – something I was told shouldn’t happen because there is aloe vera in the adhesive to prevent such itchiness. If this was the only issue then I might not have minded too much but because of the opening as well, I’ve decided I prefer the Sensura Mio.

That’s not all to say that the Salts bag isn’t any good. I like it, I really do. It’s just that I can’t get on with the opening (I guess the Sensuro Mio has spoiled me?) and the reaction to the adhesive. I don’t want to deal with the tiny leaks or the itchiness, things that I haven’t had with the Sensura Mio.

I have had other ostomates mention/recommend other bags to me so I may try them in the future but, for now at least, I’m happy with what I’ve got.

Using a mobility aid after surgery

I have had four surgeries on my gut in the last two years. As you might imagine, this puts a lot of strain on by stomach muscles. Muscles we use for pretty much everything, from carrying to simply standing.

When you first start moving after surgery, every twist, every step is painful and you feel like you might just rip your stitches open at any moment. Thankfully, while in hospital, there is always someone to help you, to hold your arm or fetch a wheelchair for you when you can’t quite make it back to your bed. However, when you’re home and out in the real world, those safety nets are always there.

It takes a while for your muscles, and in fact your whole body, to recover and adjust to how things are post-surgery. Sure, a friend or family member will likely be with you on every excursion out the house for the first few weeks but what about when you want to go out when no one can go with you? What about even when someone is with you but you’re not sure you’ll make it to the car, let along the cafe you’re going to for lunch?

That’s where mobility aids come in.

I have a walking stick. I am 31 years old and look fairly healthy, albeit a bit skinny, and I have a walking stick. I got it for the very reasons mentioned above. I can go out with family, sure, but they can’t always hold me and most probably couldn’t lift me if I fell. The walking stick acts as a support for me if I stumble or when going up or down steps, it allows me to keep my independence. It allows me to walk further and for longer and gives me the confidence to go out on my own.

But it’s not only that. It also acts as a warning to others who can’t see the scars, the ostomy bag and the healing wounds, that I may be slower, unable to move out of their way or cross the road in time. It lets people know to give me a little extra space, to catch that door or hold the lift.

My point is that mobility aids are useful and we shouldn’t be ashamed to use them just because we may look healthy or young or otherwise as if we don’t need it. If you feel you need a mobility aid, regardless if it’s a wheelchair, a walker or a walking stick, you should use it. It doesn’t matter if it’s for six days or for the rest of your life, you should use the tools at your disposal if it makes life easier for you.

And to anyone who has felt the need to question why someone is using a mobility aid, it’s none of your business. You don’t know what’s going on inside, what that person is dealing with. They may be walking fine but that’s probably because they are using that mobility aid. Please don’t be so quick to judge.