Tracey Devereaux used to have the same sort of body insecurities as a lot of other women.
“I used to worry that I needed to lose more weight, that I wasn’t perfect,” the Queensland mum-of-seven remembers.
Then she nearly died.
It was early October last year, and the 38-year-old was on a rare “date night” with her husband Bruce in their home town of Gympie. Going through the KFC drive-through, Devereaux felt a sharp stomach pain. Before long, she’d been diagnosed with an aneurism on a vein in her stomach. She was rushed to hospital in Brisbane.
In a coma, with most of her bowel gone, wracked by infection, there seemed little hope she would survive. The surgeon advised her family to put her into palliative care.
Her husband had to tell their seven children – the youngest aged just three – that it was time to go into the hospital and say goodbye to their mother. They did.
"That night, remarkably, is the night they gave me some extra antibiotics, a higher dose than they would normally give, because I was dying anyway," Devereaux tells The Motherish. "And at that point I turned the corner."
After 22 days she came out of her coma.
"I couldn’t walk, I couldn't sit, I couldn’t talk for a while there because I still had a tube in my throat," she remembers.
Finally, after almost three months in hospital, and just before Christmas, Devereaux came home to her family.
"The day I checked out of hospital I saw my surgeon and he said to me, 'I don’t know how you’re here.'"
Devereaux had gone through 10 operations. Her stomach muscles had been pulled apart and a skin graft put over the top. There were hernias in her belly, making it look even more swollen. She had two stoma bags attached to her abdomen, in places where the surgeon didn't have enough bowel to sew it together properly.