Monthly Archives: August 2015

Chronicle II: Teething.

After the seven days of antibiotics I was up and running again. I had the spring back in my step, and I was completely mobile. No more living in the bathroom with one end on the toilet and the other in a bucket for long periods of time. My diet no longer consisted of two things – dry milk arrowroot biscuits and flat lemonade. I was perfectly fine again. Healthy. I could walk ten steps without collapsing and without holding onto walls for support. I was no longer waking up in the morning and feeling so absolutely disgusted in myself for having had yet another accident. Because this blog is supposed to be brutally honest and a true reflection and account of my story, I have no shame in admitting that I had no control of my bowel to the point where I was in nappies – thankfully at this time my siblings were still in nappies so my mum didn’t need to buy any just for me (I have to find the funny side in any horrid situation!).

No longer did my mum come into my bedroom of a morning to see if I was alive, or to check if I had soiled myself again and was completely unaware. You may think ‘how the hell did she not know if she had an accident or not?’ – let me tell you, once you lose control of your bowel you lose control of your feelings and emotions. I was numb. Numb from the neck down. My nerves were all over the place and I could not for the life of me, feel any life within me.

The morning I woke up without having had soiled myself during the night, and where I didn’t wake up feeling like I would rather had gone to sleep forever and never wake up was the best feeling ever. I absolutely cannot put into words how elated I felt knowing that I was no longer in nappies, nor was I doubled-over in pain constantly and crying myself to sleep face-down in my pillow so my parents couldn’t hear my cries. I was no longer scratching at my thighs and digging my nails into my skin because the pain was excruciating as the Salmonella tore right through my insides.

I was back to normal. Alive. Healthy. Ready to live life again and go back to school.

The three months that followed my bounce-back after a nasty bout of Salmonella were an absolute mind boggling time for me. The first month my bowel was normal, I was regular. I had control and my bowel movements were perfectly healthy. I was eating a well-balanced diet as always – my mother is a fantastic cook and my step-family is Turkish so our version of a home cooked meal is a banquet of vegetables, fruits, grains and lots of meat!

There I was, back at school having missed the first fortnight and it was great to start back and be surrounded by friends. It honestly was like nothing had even happened, like I had had no nasty Salmonella and I was completely healthy like always.

Come the second month, and something changed. My bowel was erratic. I had gone from normal healthy bowel movements to ‘where is the closest toilet?’ diarrhoea. The on and off diarrhoea lasted a month from memory. I had severe bowel incontinence. At first I didn’t tell my mum. I figured it was something I was eating or it was nothing important or of concern – I was still able to pass a bowel motion so everything was okay, right?! I finally told my mum and we both put it down to maybe I was eating too much fibre so I cut my green vegetable intake and figured that would help.

The third month brought on another change. A change that would be permanent and a feeling that would last for the rest of my life. I was constipated to the point where no matter how much water I drank, how much fibre I had and I could drink endless cups of herbal teas and still no ease in the bathroom. I was straining so much I almost passed out a few times. Throbbing migraines, haemorrhoids and a bleeding rectum were the new fun moments of my bathroom habits. Again, I didn’t mention this to my mum until it was almost a week without a bowel movement – yes, I got to the point where I was unable to go to the toilet at all. My bowel stopped to a halt and I was so disgustingly backed up with faeces and in so much pain as my waste was turning toxic inside of me. Next thing you know I was in the chemist buying some over the counter laxatives to pass a stool and I felt more at ease.

Once again I was taken back to the doctors. The same doctor I had gone to when I first fell ill with Salmonella three months prior. I told him about the past three months and my erratic bowel patterns and behaviour – healthy movements, diarrhoea and then constipation. He listened attentively, nodded and wrote some notes down. He then proceeded to say the following, “There is a small chance of people who have ongoing effects of Salmonella. It’s something as small as 2% chances of ongoing medical issues due to damage caused – but you should be fine. Don’t forget you had a severe case of a Salmonella infection”.

I was given a cocktail of laxatives and sent on my way home. Told that the laxatives taken were mild and could be taken daily and to not exceed the minimum dosage because my bowel will re-regulate again and be okay. Okay?! I was far from it.

I refer to the three months post Salmonella as my ‘teething’ period. You know, the time when you are kind of okay and your body is preparing you for the next big phase in your life. It’s going through some big changes, changes that will set you up for growth.

The amount of growth I had ahead of me physically, mentally and emotionally were definitely not preconceived nor were they predetermined. It really was only the beginning.

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The Skin You’re In.

The way we perceive ourselves is completely different to the way others see us. What we see in others is also our own personal point of view – this does not mean we are right nor wrong, but it is nothing but an opinion and opinions do not hold truth.
When I had my surgery at 17, the body issues of a teenage girl had amplified tenfold to say the least. I couldn’t bare the sight of myself in the mirror at times as all I saw was sickness, pain, misery and a disability. In due time I found my confidence again and would wear a bikini on the beach with friends looking confident on the outside but on the inside I was uncertain, unsure and at times afraid.
I was afraid of what others were thinking when they noticed I had a stoma cap on. Would they notice at all? Is it all in my head? What do I do if someone comes up to me? These, and many more are all the questions that went through my mind and I am sure that similar questions go through your mind when you go to the beach whether you have a illness or not. Body issues and body shaming are so apparent in society that it has almost become the social norm to scrutinize ourselves and one another.
Throw into the mix the lifestyle and industry I am a part of today – bodybuilding. The most vain sport you could ever be a part of and can damage even the strongest willed people from the inside out. We are judged on our bodies – our legs are too big, shoulders not wide or defined enough and perhaps our waist isn’t small enough. It’s a sport based on proportion, symmetry, presentation and aesthetics.
Too often as of late I’ve seen and heard, not only everyday people, but celebrities and bodybuilders body-shaming themselves and each other. Quite frankly I am absolutely sick of it. There’s nothing that gets under my skin more than seeing someone putting others down because they feel they have put on weight or they don’t have a nice body – which is all a matter of opinion. Who are we to judge someone else based on their body? A body that is the only one they have to live in and if that person is happy in their skin or they are on their own journey to making themselves better then it’s nobodies place to speak or offer opinion.
As soon as you open your mouth and make comment you are opening yourself up for criticism of not only you as a person but your body as well – let’s face it, nobody likes being criticized for the way they look!
We live in a world where our imperfections seem to gain more attention than our perfections. We would rather pick at the things we don’t like about ourselves instead of the things we do like.
Let’s amplify and acknowledge the things we like and work individually on the things we don’t.
There’s no need for bitter squabble or to use your voice in a way that shames others.
Everybody has a body unique to them – large, small, in-between, muscular, shredded and off-season.

II VII MMIX / 02/07/2008

For my followers and those who pass on by, I thought I would share with you what I posted on Facebook for my six year anniversary (also known as my re-birth day)

Today is the anniversary of the most important day of my life. It’s the day where I was given my second chance after being given a death sentence of 4 weeks – my ‘rebirth day’ if you will. It’s the day I went under the knife and became a permanent Ostomate.

Every year I try to put into words to try and explain the toughest time of my life, but typing a few characters just doesn’t do me justice.

There’s no words to describe getting a phone call three days prior with a nurse telling you “you’re at the top of the list now after the critical cancer patients. The second of July it is”. Nothing could have prepared me for the battle and journey that would occur from then on.

I can’t use words to portray the visual of waking up groggy to the most intense burning pain you could ever imagine. A pain that I only have to close my eyes and it takes me back to the cold sterile walls of St George Hospital and that God awful bed, with white linen sheets saturated in blood.

But I can say that I am ever so thankful and grateful for the life I live today. One where the options are limitless and endless – glass always full, never half-full or half-empty. I no longer am bound to the bathroom carrying enough laxatives for 30 people daily. I now walk strong, chest proud and head held high – not hunched over in pain feeling my body deteriorate daily.

To think this time six years ago I had said goodbye to my family, and today I say “I’ll see you tomorrow”. Had you asked me six years ago if I would ever enter bodybuilding competitions, or if I could squat and deadlift more than my body weight I would’ve laughed in your face.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in one way or another and for not showing me pity. Here’s to many more years of kicking goals and leading a good healthy life.

Chronicle I: In the Beginning – My Story

Like any typical teenager going back to school after a summer break I was dreading the endless hours of studying and the early mornings – however, this first day back at high-school would be one to remember for all the wrong reasons.

As cliche as it sounds, I remember it like it was yesterday. It’s all very vivid. Black and white; no grey in between. It was my first day of year nine (middle school for my overseas readers) and I was sixteen years of age. I awoke to a churning stomach, a sick feeling and I didn’t feel quite right. My mum put it down to ‘first day back nerves’ and sent me on my way.

I was freezing. Ice cold – despite the scorching Australian Summer. I was blue. Doubled over in pain and feeling like a complete wreck at school I was running to the toilet. A friend of mine followed, knowing I looked and felt like death. To my absolute horror I realized I had an accident. I’ve never felt so disgusted, repulsed and scared in my life. I was sick to my stomach in every which way of the word!

By 9:30am I was sent home. My mum came to pick me up and took me to the local doctor. In that half an hour at school I went from feeling a little cold and queasy to living in the bathroom at a complete and utter loss.

I was able to see the doctor immediately. He took one look at me and sent me home with a request for a stool sample and blood tests to be run. The results were to be ready in two days due to the severity of my vomiting and diarrhea. It wouldn’t stop. I cannot put into words the intense pain, the twisted cramping as though someone had my bowels in a meat grinder and the burn as my body was violently eradicating all contents of my bowels from every way possible.

Three days had gone and there was no news from the pathologist and doctor. My mum was on the phone straight away to the doctor who said the results had not come in and to call the pathologist. In a sick twisted turn of unfortunate events, the pathologist had no record of my stool sample (how the hell someone loses a stool sample is an absolute joke and beyond me!) thus, no results. I had to do the test again and wait another three days for results. As each day went on without a diagnosis, treatment or any assurance that I was going to be okay, I continuously regressed both mentally and physically.

After six days of no diagnosis, meaning no antibiotics or treatment I was on deaths door. My body was deteriorating. I could not walk. I could feel my muscles eating themselves to sustain my body. I was shutting down physically, mentally and internally. I could not keep any good or liquids down, completely bound to the toilet with one end on the toilet and my head in a bucket. Even though I hadn’t eaten or drank anything, my body still felt the need to reject any remnant left inside of me.

I honestly have never wanted to go to sleep forever. Yes, I thought I was going to die and I can’t believe I’ll admit to this, but I want to be honest and open with you – I wanted to die.

By the sixth day, we returned to the doctor. I was worse than ever. Green in complexion, posture so poor and my body had withered away. Rushed into the surgery and hearing the doctor say ‘you have a Salmonella food poisoning infection’ I was a little shocked and albeit mad. I had never thought food poisoning could absolute rip right through someone (literally and physically!) like it had done to me. I had prepared myself to hear that I had contracted some rare autoimmune disease or perhaps I had some mystery illness. But no, it was ‘just‘ Salmonella.

As the six days had passed and the first stool sample had gone missing, the food that had caused the Salmonella food poisoning infection was long gone out of my system (thus we were unable to find the original food source, and even to this day I cannot prove where I got sick from originally. In saying this I am 90% certain I know where it was from but cannot name due to legal reasons).

Sent home with a diagnosis and treatment of antibiotics and enough electrolytes to hydrate a nation, I thought all my troubles were behind me and that after the seven days of treatment I would be 100% healthy again and have no more issues. The salmonella would be a thing of the past and it would just be a distant memory.

Boy, was I wrong. And so began my never ending battle from January 2006 – full of its highs and lows, with more lows than I would like to remember or acknowledge, with the majority of ‘highs’ from pain killers like Valium.

Stay tuned for Chronicle II in the coming days as I reflect, remember and rehash old memories and experiences to not only educate and inform you, my readers – but to also inspire and put into words what I have struggled with for quite some time now.

Bear with me.

This will not define me

What defines you as a person? Is it the colour of your skin, your religion, your heritage or a unique characteristic that makes you stand out from the crowd? Could it be your morals that have been instilled in you since birth or perhaps the struggles you have gone through in the past that have made you the honorable man or woman you are today.

More often than not, we find ourselves trying to define who we are. Instead of finding solace in personally knowing and acknowledging our own struggles and triumphs in a humble manner, we feel the need to publicise every detail about our private lives in order to feel some self worth or pride. In a world where social media seems to run our lives to the point where we check Facebook and Instagram daily to see where our friends are currently holidaying in Europe or what Sally has had for breakfast, we seem to be missing the big picture.

I am guilty of identifying myself as ‘Kait with a permanent Chait Caecostomy’ on Instagram. It almost becomes a tagline if you will, and I am not the only one. In fact, I can say that 99.9% of users of social media define themselves as being anything from a bodybuilder, an artist, a runner and everything in between right up to an shopaholic. Do we all need constant validation that we are important, and that we have to be known or remembered for being that person who had that goal or that hobby?

As I lead my daily life I find that some have the incessant need to share my story, to tell others at face value that I have had surgery and I spend 1 hour on the toilet daily filtering 4L of water through my bowels. Whilst this may be all true, it does not define me. In fact, this is a small portion of who I am as a person but it is largely and solely the reason I am who I am today.

So I ask myself today – what defines me? It’s not the colour of my skin or my multicultural background. It’s definitely not my struggles being brought up or my journey to the stage as a competitive bikini bodybuilder. Nor is it the fact that I fell ill with Salmonella food poisoning resulting in surgery.

I am a woman of strength, determination and pride. I am honorable, at peace with myself and I am humble in my achievements. I do not feel the need to use my medical condition as an excuse, nor do I feel I have the right to speak louder than the next. I want to be a role model, set an example for not only others but also myself, for at the end of the day if I cannot motivate or inspire myself with my own passion and work ethic – then why would I expect anybody else to do the same when reaching out to me?

I asked a dear friend of mine what they thought of the question ‘What defines you?’ and they took a different approach to this. They proposed the idea of changing the meaning and context of the question at hand, proposing a series of thought provoking questions in it’s place. When asked to look at the question differently and to rethink through my answer of what does define me I began to look at it with eyes wide-shut.

So I leave you with these questions –

_What is it that makes you want to wake up in the morning?

_What is it that makes your clock tick every day?

_What motivates and drives you?

You are more than what you think you are. You are not defined by a simple term or an occurrence or event that has happened in your past. You are more than that. You are more than your medical condition or your job title, you are more than your savage past and most importantly, you define you through actions, words and how you carry yourself daily and act around and towards others.

A title is nothing more than words – a stigma if you will. Define who you are from deep within.

Taboo or not yet ready?

Adjective; prohibited or restricted by social custom.

To many, having an Ostomy and openly talking about it is taboo or seen as something that is forbidden. Better to be neither seen, nor spoken about. Since when did a story about survival and determination become something to be censored?

My journey with a bowel problem was a result of an unfortunate case of Salmonella food poisoning being left untreated due to doctor malpractice began almost eight years ago at the age of fifteen. It took two years to find the right doctor after first falling ill with Salmonella to believe that I did not have an eating disorder, bowel cancer, Chrons, IBS, IBD, Coealic or that I was making it all up – why anybody would want to pretend they were constipated for two years, and as a result took enough laxatives for thirty people a day is beyond me!

After having my Chait Caecostomy surgery at seventeen I found it very difficult to find someone who would accept it. I have always had the attitude where, if people cannot accept me for me, then I don’t need them. However, this time, I needed those around me to understand and listen more than ever.

When opening up to someone about your illness, no matter the severity, it is always something difficult to put into words. It is as though nothing you say can really portray nor begin to explain exactly what you have been through – but then again, do you really want everyone to know about the days where you have spent all day crying or drinking colonscopy prep, about to get in for your third colonoscopy? I guess what I’m getting at, is that you have the opportunity to share your story to the degree you are most comfortable with.

Now that I am twenty-four, when I meet new people I find it easier to tell them what has happened – I have a new lease on life, one where opportunities are endless and I am able to leave the house without my stash of laxatives. I don’t share every detail with everyone, but those who I am close with do know all too well about what I have been through. My summary these days consists of “I had food poisoning, be careful where you eat or you may find yourself unable to go to the toilet again” – I think I have it quite succinctly put now, straight to the point.

It is still difficult to tell some though, especially when they have not ever heard of an Ostomy, no matter what type you have. Some people are also quite ignorant or think that you deserve a pity party. Unfortunately, these are the people who we will always struggle with to share our stories of triumph, life and our newfound health.

This is the reason why speaking of our Ostomy is still taboo to some. Nobody likes to hear about faeces or how you go to the toilet, yet, there is so much open discussion when it comes to certain diseases, illnesses and cancers. The world is not quite yet ready to openly talk about us Ostomates, but if we can all tackle this issue head on like we have when it came to our diagnoses and overcoming our own personal demons, nothing can stop us.