Category Archives: ostomate

Time to make some changes.

 

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Change. We all go through it whether we are ready or not. It’s programmed within us to adapt, to allow for change and to react. It can be scary, it can also be enlightening and liberating, or it can be in the form of a huge hurdle that seems almost impossible to overcome.

I have been a little quiet the past few months dealing with my own changes and most importantly, learning how to change myself to be happier and more appreciative of myself. I inadvertently stopped blogging, posting on social media and even stopped looking at myself in the mirror. I felt disgusting in my own skin, and for someone who has gone through so much health wise and changes with their body – this was the final straw for me.

After my last BB competition in July last year where I didn’t look my best because of stress catching up to me at the very last minute, making my body do some crazy things and holding a crazy amount of water and fat – I blew out. Now for those who don’t know what I mean by ‘blew out’, I ate anything and everything in sight as soon as I stepped off the stage. I still went to the gym and hit some impressive numbers with my lifts (probably the only bonus of this horrible time for me) but I was hurting so much inside and felt absolutely useless and like a disgrace. I had dieted for 20 weeks and then just threw it all away and gained so much weight I no longer recognized myself. I hated what I saw in the mirror. I hated myself for what I had become.

I was downright depressed. I had Chronic Fatigue settling in, my glandular fever was making a comeback and my Ostomy was flaring up with horrible irrigation as a result. My health both mentally and physically was appalling. I had spent just over 2 years repairing my digestive system and regaining my menstrual cycle after not having it for 6 years since falling ill, and I felt like I was the biggest failure as a result of my epic food binging.

I had every intention to compete at the Arnold Classic in March but it just was not my time, and was not for me. I could not put my body through any more drastic dieting or excessive cardio. I realise now that my heart wasn’t in it either and I wanted to compete for all the wrong reasons – Bodybuilding for me is all or nothing, and if your mind isn’t in a good place then competing is off the table. This is also why I have zero plans to compete again in the near future. I simply do not have that fire or passion that I had for my first competition prep, and until that fire ignites within me again I will not be putting myself through another arduous process.

Fast forward to today, where I have completed changed my nutrition and training habits, and have taken responsibility for it as I now look after myself. I now follow IIFYM (If it fits your macros/flexible dieting) and track everything I eat and it has been the best thing I have done for myself in a long time. I don’t eat excessive amounts of junk food, but rather I eat more volume in my food and variety. I have the choice without feeling guilt to eat a burger and chips as long as it fits. I went from a standard ‘high repetition’ training program back to lifting heavy and working my strength back up – I am now lifting for me again. I have changed from doing all the things that didn’t really make me happy, to doing things that make me excited to wake up in the morning and to go to the gym and to no longer avoid coffee dates with friends or steering clear from a blueberry bagel. I have changed the way I see myself and the way I see food and it really is a beautiful thing. (If anybody wants help with IIFYM or training let me know – preacher over here!)

I changed my job as well in the past 2 months. I had a job that allowed me to travel and work in countries like China, Thailand and Malaysia but the hours and demanding workload meant that I had no time for my partner, friends and family or most importantly myself. I now work for the University I studied at and I am so happy there in my new role. I had to change my work mentality and understand that I will no longer see my ‘work family’ every day who I had grown very fond of over the past 3 years, and realised that it was now time for me to grow professionally in a male dominated field with most people being double my age.

In the past few years I have experienced a lot of change. Some of it good, some of it bad and some of it… I still don’t know how to feel about. I had to change my attachment to people because it became all too clear that some people no longer served me and I valued our friendship more than they did. Yes it sucked. It really did. I changed the way I saw myself and what I thought I deserved. I changed my circle and those I held dear and close. What once was large, is now small and refined – somedays I get a little upset that I no longer have a large circle but other days I am more than content with those I have around me.

In order to change, we must identify what surrounds us and what is no longer doing us justice or making us happy. Happiness and wellbeing are so damn important and I cannot stress enough the importance of being happy and healthy on the inside before you see the changes on the outside – not just the physical, but what you emit.

I’ll do my best to write more – sorry I have been MIA. Changes were happening 😉

IG: @_kaitb E: kaitland.burrows@live.com

Celebrating a decade of living

Ten years ago today, marks the day I first contracted Salmonella food poisoning. It’s also the day that I learnt to appreciate the power of my own strength, and became well aware of the faults in the medical system and the faults in people around me. Little did I know that eating out at a fast-food company that begins with the letter S and ends in Y (Fill in the blanks!) would completely change my outlook on life and change my health for what some would consider the worse – but I see it as the best thing that could’ve happened to me.

I was coming into this day not knowing how to feel; I was a basket case of emotions. Happy and proud one minute but sad and angry the next. My partner told me to take it all in and to just appreciate today for what it is – pretty good advice. Reflecting on everything that has happened over the past ten years has made me realise that I am all the better for what was thrown at me. I now wake up everyday with purpose and live a life where the options are limitless. I take nothing for granted and appreciate even the smallest of gestures and the little things that often go unnoticed. I am a better, stronger, more determined young-woman and I do not hold any animosity for the cards I was dealt with.

I may never be able to go camping, eat popcorn or go sky-diving but if there’s one thing I know for sure, it is that my zest for life is more prominent than most and I will never say no to an opportunity.

So, I leave you all with the ten lessons I have learnt over this past decade. I hope you can learn and take something from them.

One: Always trust your gut (Pun intended!)

Two: Put yourself first at all times

Three: The relationship you have with yourself is the most important one you will ever have. Be kind and love yourself.

Four: Make time for those who make time for you – you are not a one-way street.

Five: Go for your goals no matter how ridiculous they may seem to others.

Six: You are capable of a lot more than you think.

Seven: Let people in.

Eight: It’s okay to be vulnerable (every once in a while)

Nine: Surround yourself with people you can gain something from.

Ten: Never back down.

 

The Walls Came Down…

Everybody struggles to find their ‘significant other’ at the best of times. It’s as though we search and search, only to find ourselves looking blankly at disappointment and heartache on every corner. But then we find someone who we actually want to share moments with, to be in the same room with for longer than an hour and who we can bare our souls to. We seem to forget that the most important relationship we will ever have, is the one with ourselves.

Having an Ostomy at 17 years of age, which let’s face it is prime boyfriend/girlfriend finding time did put some doubt in my mind about ‘finding someone’. All of my friends either had a partner, were dating or were enjoying the single life without actually ever being alone. Then there was me. Hunched over, doubled-over in pain and longing for my next painkiller awaiting the next doctors’ orders.

Truth be told, I didn’t look at my Chait tube after surgery until I was completely alone and it was at the very least the second day after I had surgery. I had to have this time to reflect and try to let it sink in, that my body will never be the same both internally and externally. I will forever be changed in some light, no matter how many times my parents tried to tell me ‘you’re still the same person’. Nobody goes through what I have been through and comes out the same as they were before. It will either make you, or break you. Safe to say, looking back I have definitely came out on top!

For the next six months I battled with my body image and my mental state. I looked like I was happy and ‘better’ on the outside to everybody, but when I was alone and at home in the confines of bedroom walls I was empty, confused and albeit angry at the world. Of course the only person that could see right through me was my mother, who let me have my time to grieve and get over myself. To understand that I was the one who battled through it all and that there is nothing that anybody else could say to me to make me feel any better. Time. Time was what I needed. Time was what I was given –in every which way of the word!

It was through the failed relationships (Both partners and unfortunately best-friends), heartbreak and heartache and being used that I found myself again. Pretty sure this goes for everybody, whether they are healthy or have an existing medical condition like myself, that ‘acceptance’ is something that we all desire. We long to be accepted for our inner workings, for someone to appreciate our quirkiness and individual – what makes us all unique and true to ourselves. But how can we expect anybody to feel that way, if we don’t feel that way about ourselves?

Today, I have accepted that I have been through absolute hell and back more times than I would like to remember. I have been given a death sentence, been misdiagnosed more than anybody ever should and I have unfortunately fell through the system and been forgotten by medical practitioners and specialists. But I’m still here.

I have had days where I wanted to rip my Chait tube out (in the beginning, most definitely not now! I love my Ostomy!) and the thought of looking at myself in the mirror made me depressed, feel ugly and I couldn’t stand the sight of myself. I have felt my body waste away, and have had days where I couldn’t walk more than ten steps without breaking down into tears from sheer exhaustion and pain. I didn’t want to be touched, I hated being close to somebody no matter who they were or how long I had known them for. I wanted to be left alone and be by myself. Today I appreciate my body and my mind for all it has gone through. I can squat and deadlift more than my bodyweight, I have ran a half-marathon and I have such a great close circle of people around me who I wish I could spend more time with.

I was once ready to give up on the world. I wanted out. To sleep forever and to be rid of all the pain, mental struggle and the hurt that came with my surgery and my change in lifestyle. Today, I wake up everyday and live a life that is far from empty and dark.

Before, I could not stand the thought of talking about my medical condition or my thoughts. I was a closed book, unable to come to terms with my own issues and was not ready to share them with anybody else. Now, I am an open book. Nothing is off limits.

I am the strongest person I know, with ambition, drive and motivation like no-other. I am the hardest working person I know and I give my all or nothing to everything and anything I apply myself to. I am worthy of a life that is nothing short of a glass three-quarters full and I will never settle for anything less.

So today, I ask you as you read this to think of WHO you are and WHAT you deserve.

Find yourself, and the rest will follow.

Triumphant Transformation

We hear the term ‘transformation’ thrown around like it’s a common term nowadays. We have ‘Transformation Tuesday and Thursday’ where we boast and/or beam with pride of our achievements. We find ourselves transforming from adolescence into adulthood and we reflect on the changes that have been made – nights out getting drunk and stumbling home at 5am turn into nights in with a movie and in bed by 10pm. Transformation can happen on so many levels, yet we tend to focus heavily on the transformation that happens through diet and exercise. The physical transformation. Yes, we may reflect on the ‘I now love my body and can accept it because…’ but it’s not something that we tend to really focus on when it’s actually the most important transformation of all.

Our emotional and psychological transformation is the one that takes time to develop. It is on it’s way. Developing and unfolding before we even know it or can even recognise a glimpse of change. We are so bewildered by the fact that we can now wear our bikini on the beach for Summer with confidence and not a care in the world, but ignore the quintessential essence that is, that we have found beauty in ourselves.

Losing a few kilos and a dress size is the easy part. The maintaining a high level of self love and worth, as well as respect for yourself and admiration for your hard work and persistence is at times challenging for the most part. We lose ourselves if we focus on the physical too much, despite our goals to look good in a Wedding dress for the big day. The beauty of reaching our end goal, is the beauty that we struggle to see and/or have difficulty acknowledging.

We constantly feel like we perhaps are not good enough. We are blinded daily by the media of a celebrity who has gained weight, donning a bikini and in contrast we are shown another who has lost a tonne of weight and is lapping it up on the beach. We are shown photos. Images. Life-stills of that very moment they were captured. We are not shown nor do we hear about their emotional or psychological journey which is the most important one of all. For all we know they now have a healthier relationship with food, and an appreciation for their bodies capabilities.

This constant focus on the physical is something that needs to be changed from both the transformed, to the spectators. I don’t want to go into the cliche terms but I think I may have to – beauty is skin deep. Your physical transformation will always have it’s ups and downs. One day you will have a six pack and the next you will be sporting a one pack. It’s all a matter of time and circumstance. What you do with your mind and the way you hold yourself is another thing all together, and in my opinion is a hell of a lot more important than the striations in your delts or the veins in your forearms.

I will leave you with this thought – Do you want to be solely remembered as a beautiful mansion surrounded by water. One that has no warmth or love, with the only value being monetary and nothing personal OR as a warm home, one that is full of memories and may be showing signs of wear and tear – but at least it’s lived a life that is memorable and shows signs of hope, courage and love.

We are all a work in progress.

P.s – my physical and my internal transformation will be shared in coming days. Stay tuned.

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.

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.