dating

'Poo talk is definitely a mood killer.' What it's like to date with an ostomy bag.

I remember the first guy I dated with my ostomy bag.

It was five months post recovery from the biggest surgery of my life after a six-year battle with an autoimmune disease, and just four months after leaving my fiancé of seven years.

I had zero idea how to date in this ever-growing world of social media, where validation is found through likes and swipes right. 

But I also had a new contender to add to this already confusing equation; a bag of poo stuck to my stomach.

Watch: We share our relationship deal breakers. Post continues after video. 


Video via Mamamia.

From the age of 18 to 24, I was a total recluse from the world. Diagnosed with one of the worst cases of Ulcerative Colitis my specialist had ever seen, I not only almost lost my life - I also lost my entire large intestine and half-a-dozen vital years of my youth. As a first-year university student, I was forced to put previous priorities aside in gut-wrenching bid to save my life. 

I spent most of my days in and out of hospitals, crying in agonising pain on the toilet with bloody diarrhoea pouring from my rear end. I suffered with overwhelming anxiety whenever leaving my house from the sheer terror of sh*tting myself - which I did every time.

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All glamour and any sense of dignity turned to sh*t, and I’d find myself pooping anywhere from the sides of busy roads, to back alleys, to botanical gardens in the middle of cities... even hovering over doggy bags whilst driving. 

Poo embarrassment aside, I was also faced with the grim reality of drug-induced lymphoma scares, blood transfusions, chemotherapy drugs and an immune system so low I couldn’t even be around other people.

Safe to say, being thrown into the often superficial world of online dating after spending six years fighting for my life with a totally uncontrollable disease, wasn’t entirely ideal.

Now a measly 34 kilograms, with the new accessory of an ostomy bag and recently single after ending my long-term relationship, you can imagine I was feeling very out of my depth. 

My ex-fiancé was far from supportive, reminding me often that I was lucky he loved me because "no-one else would" with my condition. I unconsciously allowed his words to shape my identity, quickly becoming shameful of my health journey and the story that led to a bag on my stomach.

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With such a stigma surrounding digestive diseases, despite becoming so dramatically prevalent in the western world, I knew no-one with an ostomy bag, so I was really playing in unchartered territory when it came to the dating scene.  

I still look back at date one and cringe.

I stupidly decided I wouldn’t say a thing about my bag, and very briefly skimmed over the fact I had an autoimmune disease on our third date, so the poor guy had no idea what I’d been through. 

Upon asking what autoimmune condition I had, I gritted my teeth as I muttered 'Ulcerative Colitis' in pure fear he would google it and discover exactly what this disease entailed and furthermore, what hid under my clothes. 

Eight dates in, and still no word of my bag, this guy came to my house for the first time and... well, of course he thought it was leading to sex. Every time he reached to take my pants off, I pushed his hands away. Eventually he stopped and asked me what was wrong. 

It was then that my heart dropped through my ostomy bag itself and I felt like I had no choice but to tell him the truth. 

After completely divulging all the information I probably should have just told him five dates prior, he just sat there, with 'WTF' written all over his face. 

Needless to say, this "poo talk" definitely killed the mood. 

He left my house shortly after and I never heard from him again.  

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However, I learned a very valuable lesson. I’d approached the whole scenario so catastrophically from the terror of being judged like my ex had warned. I’d kept my "shameful" secret for so long, he felt like I’d been lying to him the entire time we’d been getting to know each other. 

I thereafter vowed to tell every guy - from date one - I had an ostomy bag. I subsequently learned that if I casually brought it up in conversation like as you would bring up what you got up to that day, it was no big deal. 

I didn’t have to tell them what my bag did, and most of them didn’t really care. After all, it’s not like you take your clothes off in front of a guy, and say, "Hey, I’m sorry about my cellulite!"

So why was I feeling the need to say, "Hey, sorry about the bag?"

So, this was a significant milestone to reach - not giving a hoot about what a guy might think of me - because at the end of the day or night, they’re lucky I’m even willing to exchange my sexual energy in the first place. 

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud, where Mia, Holly and Jessie discuss the five dating rules for a new ear. Post continues after podcast. 


I wrote my book More Than Skin Deep – A Silent Soul Shaper, because in a world where everyone is becoming more of the same, I want to shine a light on our differences, celebrate the traumas that shape our lives in the best way possible and remind you we all have our own silent soul shapers. Stories that have left a mark on our soul and will forever be more than skin deep.

I underwent another major surgery to reverse my ostomy bag and now live with an internal pouch, called a j-pouch. Despite now only carrying the scars left behind from my ostomy bag, my dating life is still with its occasional mishaps and OMG moments, and I can proudly announce that I provide endless entertainment for my friends who listen in awe and laugh in hysterics in the typical 'post-date debrief'.

Had I not endured my battle with Ulcerative Colitis, lived with an ostomy bag, to now living with the daily hiccups that come with a j-pouch (believe me there are more than a few), I wouldn’t be nearly the woman I am today; scars, poo stains and all. 

Jess currently resides on the Gold Coast with her Labrador Oakley. Together they spend their mornings on the beach soaking up the sunrise with a coffee in hand. An Events Coordinator in a family-run business, she is also a Neuro-Linguistic Program Practitioner whereby she helps clients understand their thinking and behavioural patterns to better direct their lives. You can find Jess on Instagram -  @jessa.mann if you have any questions about her journey with Ulcerative Colitis.

Feature Image: Supplied. 

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