Holding onto the side of my chair in a meeting, looking onto my young student’s stoma as his mother explained the procedure of changing the colostomy bag… I remember finding it difficult to look, but doing my best to appear professional. I sat and took notes during an Early Intervention, Department of Education and Training meeting.
Little did I know that I would be facing a similar future just a little later in my life.
At age 30, just after becoming a first-time mum, I began to spend a lot of time in the toilet. Actually, too much time. Juggling motherhood and toilet visits became the story of my life. I knew something was wrong when I began to see blood, however I simply thought a short-term treatment of oral medication would fix it.
After further medical investigation, my diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis was confirmed – a chronic and typically incurable form of inflammatory bowel disease, which began to have an enormous impact on my life, more than I ever could’ve imagined.
I felt it all: abdominal pain, frequent bloody stools, and high sense of urgency at the most inopportune times, cramps, weight loss and fatigue. Because flare-ups can be triggered by food, at times I would starve myself to control the condition. Even a slice of cake on my birthday was out of the question.
The condition was unpredictable and uncontrollable, so much that I would need to measure distances and time to get to a toilet if I was out of the house. Going out in public was like a precise military action, having to scope out where the nearest public toilet was located and how quickly I could get there if I needed to. As a busy mother of two and a part-time teacher, I often wondered how I must have looked at times when I had to leave my kids in a parking lot with a toy to distract them as I desperately ran to find a toilet.
Family life has been hard, but the kids soon learned that when Mummy needs the toilet, regardless of their urgency Mummy takes priority. I cook simple, healthy meals and the upside of this is that the kids have become very aware of nutrition and will happily eat their meals. My husband’s support and understanding has been my personal tank of strength. With every flare-up or emotional breakdown, he would always remind me that it’s just a road hump not a road block.