Meeting the TGEakin team.

I was extremely lucky to go to Belfast to visit TGEakin. You may have heard of Eakin’s products but don’t know a lot about them. Their most well known product is the Eakin cohesive seal. I have used this since just after having my surgery and cannot rate it highly enough. But there is one thing about it that is possibly better and that is the people who are part of the Eakin team.

This short video tells the story of TGEakin and how it all began.

 

Because I use the seal, they asked me to go over to Belfast as they wanted to produce a short documentary about the seal and how it helps you with getting on with life, they also didn’t want to use an actor and felt it would be much better using a “real” stoma patient who uses the product. Of course I said a definite yes to that.

All the arrangements were made, and off me and my husband went to Ireland. We had an amazing time, they treated me like a celebrity and were so welcoming when we arrived, and were shown round the factories. Tom Eakin himself came to say hello, as did his son Jeremy. The other son runs another part of the Eakin family business which you may have heard of.. Pelican Healthcare . I finally met Laura who I have emailed regularly because of my posts in ” A Bigger Life ” website but never actually knew what she looked like. I also met Kiera and Patrick who arranged the shoot. They were all lovely.

Laura and me         ( Laura deals with ” A bigger life” website)                                          

Kiera and me

Patrick, me, Jon ( hubby) and Kiera

In my protective clothing in the factory

The factory was so well organised and immaculately clean. It was so interesting to see how the products were made and how meticulous the staff were with making sure the products left the factory in perfect condition, I can see why Eakin’s seals are well liked.

The filming started on the streets with me and Jon visiting different places, and meeting friends going for coffee, having meals out and drinks. We then did the talking part in the hotel, which was the bit I was anxious about, but it seemed to go well, and I hoped they could edit it if it was awful. Sean ( the person doing the videoing) was good at making me more relaxed and I got to know them all comfortably by the end of the two days.

Here is the finished product, it is strange seeing myself in a video but it was great fun, and the fact that I am a genuine wearer of the seal. ( Oscar’s next year, must sort out my acceptance speech )

 

Visit their shiny new site at  www.eakin.eu

Body image and positivity

 

Body image and what we should look like haunt most people. Those with physical body changes , more so. Why should we worry if our bum looks big in something or if our features don’t conform to scientific studies of what beauty is? so what if we lost a limb or our hair? so what if we have a stoma…

As you can probably see from my posts, I am an open person when it comes to my stoma, but believe me, I have many hang ups about my body. I could write a fairly substantial list about what I don’t like, but for the most part, it doesn’t include my stoma. It’s things like, my ( slightly) large nose and lack of a great jawline, but really, why? why do I feel like that? because I know it isn’t perfect so therefore I don’t like it. What is perfection? well science has decided it is certain criteria and measurements that are deemed attractive, but if that were true why are we all different? and why do we find different people attractive than others? therefore science is not right. It has a lot more to do with the person we are, and how we carry ourselves than what we actually look like.

I happen to come across a really great programme called Naked Beach

The concept is quite scary to even the most body positive of people but it really shows you that in the end no one really cares what you look like. Three contestants who are very insecure about their bodies go to a private villa in Greece where a number of body positive people are there in the nude ( initially with body paint and knickers) and they help the three overcome their hang ups, and at the end they have to join the team and go naked. It really seems to work because the team that are there to help have all sorts of shapes and sizes, including Dan who had to have his arm and shoulder amputated. After watching it I felt sure I would have gone there and stripped right off and gone skinny dipping in the sea too.

I love the photo shoots from #GetYourBellyOut and Purple wings charity too, they really show that we are not really different from anybody else, we are just as gorgeous. The more we show that we don’t mind having our bottoms on our tummies then the more it becomes accepted as just one of those things like a broken leg, and nothing to stare at on the beach.

( photo Purple wings photoshoot, permission granted for this blog)

I am no spring chicken but have decided that I am comfortable with my body enough to wear clothes I like whether they are tight fitting or not. I will wear bikinis with my stoma bag on show on a crowded beach, why shouldn’t I? I realise that if you are not confident then you will think that everyone is looking at you and whispering under their breath. But maybe, just maybe they are thinking how good you look, how confident you are even with a stoma ( or other difference). If you speak to everyone you know, I can almost guarantee that there will be something they don’t like about their bodies, so that must be true about all those folk you think are staring at you.

I say embrace your body and it’s differences and don’t let me be the only one with a stoma and a bikini on that beach.

Oh, and watch  naked beach  

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Crohns or colitis ? ( plus a bit about the IA information day)

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, busy busy busy. I am also excited about a thing I was involved with to do with stomas, but it is still hush hush at the moment so I can’t tell you yet. Watch this space !!

I went to the National ileostomy and internal pouch association information day the other week in Birmingham, and it was a great day out. I met many people who I only ” know ” from social media so to meet them in person was so nice. It was based around  Living well with a stoma or internal pouch and it was very informative. We got to have a great taster session about exercise with Sarah Russell called Move without fear, which was great for me personally as I have a fear of exercise for my abdomen. She is a massive inspiration having achieved so much since having her own surgery.

I missed hearing a talk given by Natalie Gardner ( aka @thespooniemummy) with the young IA peeps which I am sorry about because I now wished I had been there, as it was about body image which is a topic that can mean a lot to people with a stoma, particularly the younger generation.

We also had a mindful session which gave us techniques on how to slow down and relax which I found useful. ( Although me and Sue did a bit of giggling 🙂  )

The talk I was very interested in was called ” Should it be called Crohns” but alas as is usual for me, it wasn’t at all about the subject I had thought it might be about. I might just add though that it was a very good talk and very interesting, so I am glad I attended. I really thought that it might be about the question mark over indeterminate colitis/ Crohns colitis. I thought maybe he was going to discuss whether Crohns and colitis were actually variants of the same disease, as I have often wondered. Yes they are both IBD, but many folk have been told one then changed many years later to the other. Some say they have been told they have both, is that possible? is it just the same disease showing in a different way? ( The talk was actually about who really discovered Crohns disease.)

Many years ago when I was first diagnosed, I was told I had Crohns disease and that diagnosis stayed for about 10 years. I even had a biopsy that showed Crohns of the large and small bowel. Those notes are now so old I don’t think I can get hold of them, it was also in a hospital in Surrey. Move forward years and I was then told I had indeterminate colitis ( unsure which IBD I have) or Crohns colitis ( Crohns of the large bowel). Then it was decided I had ulcerative colitis.

I have always had a few doubts about which one, even now without the large bowel. The histology said severe UC but there were some bits that could be Crohns related, like thickening of the bowel wall. I also had severe swollen skin tags before surgery which is more Crohns like, and mouth ulcers.

Now, things again seem strange for me once again. The perineal sinus tract that I have had for a few years and have had a few surgeries on, has now been proved to be a rectovaginal fistula. Fistulas can happen with UC but again are more likely to be Crohns disease. I also have the fistula at the base of the stoma ( which is part of my small bowel.) Hopefully nothing else will appear within the small bowel to suggest I am not clear of IBD.

 

  • FISTULA – an abnormal or surgically made passage between a hollow or tubular organ and the body surface, or between two hollow or tubular organs. So could be linking any internal organ or skin together.

This is why it would be great to get the conversation going about the subject of one IBD or two? who else has the question mark over their diagnosis? I hope and think that I had UC with some tendencies of Crohns in the colon that has now been removed.

An eventful week

Well it’s been a full week with work and going out. Even though I have Laryngitis, with a cough and being mistaken for a seal, I actually enjoyed the week. The cough started a couple of weeks ago, then it made me lose my voice ( or at least most of it ) and a gland in my neck was painful, but weirdly I didn’t feel that ill most of the time. ( Except for coughing gagging and spluttering in the mornings ).

I still have the awful perineal sinus tract which is the thing that makes me feel worse than I actually am. It is becoming painful and I have leaked through my underwear ( with pads ) quite a few times.

Anyway, we had our young IA night out for Notts & Derby and it was great, I had a lovely time and there were quite a few of us who made it out. As the young IA rep ( I still find this funny as I am 52, ) I like to attend these events. Salts healthcare organise and pay for these nights and we are so grateful to them and their wonderful rep, Helen.

I had my MRI for the sinus on Thursday, so hopefully won’t be waiting too long for the flap surgery. This was at the Circle treatment centre ( QMC ) and it was very modern and lovely ( it is part private ) I went into the MRI feet first as it was for pelvis and rectum, although I don’t have a rectum : ), I had to try and not cough during it because the image might be affected, this was a challenge but with the help of Adele singing to me I managed it until the last minute.

 

Friday night was girly night out and I was ready for it. We had a great night out ( actually started at 4pm, so technically still day, but never mind ) went to a meal then some drinks and dancing and lasted until about 10pm, not bad for an oldie. I had one awful moment when I got up and realised yet again I had leaked, but managed to sort it out in the disabled loo. I have learnt my lesson to take out pads and swabs etc, with a longer top, so I don’t feel that I have to go home. Just a side note that a young man came out of the disabled toilet and said he used it because he couldn’t find the mens, my friend said well my friend ( me ) was genuinely able to use it , he said ” yeh right”, if only I had had more drink, I would have shown him. hahaha.

Since having a convex bag, Tomas has been amazing, no tantrums or leaks from him so far, I am happy about that, I even go an extra day sometimes. At the moment I use Pelican platinum convex and it has never lifted at all, I use the thin belt that hooks onto each side and it really does feel very secure. Unfortunately, no bag, as yet has stopped me taking off some mornings but at least the bag stays put.

 

So apart from sounding like Gollum, this week has been a good one.

The trouble with perineal wounds-wound care and dressings

 

 

Ok, so this is more of an update and a moan.

I have had this stupid perineal sinus tract for two years now, after the proctectomy I have had two further surgeries to try and sort it out. Now I don’t blame anyone for the complication, but I do think I should have more wound care because of living with such an awful wound for this length of time. No one seems in a hurry to help me, and no one seems in a hurry to sort me out.

Just before I went home I still had blood on the sheets and the ST ( yes, a sanitary towel was stuck to my buttocks as a dressing) felt wet and uncomfortable. I asked a nurse if she would help me tidy and clean myself up, which she did as best she could, even she didn’t really know what to do with the wound. So again, I had a sanitary towel stuck to my cheeks, this time I said look, can we just stick it to the pants? it’s doing the same thing but not causing me a rash by sticking to my skin. I definitely believe that had I not asked to change the ” dressing” , it wouldn’t have been done before I went home. and I was never given any information about the care of the wound for any of the operations.

That was fine up to a point, but what to do when the operation failed an the sinus returned a few weeks later ? No one really helps with that except my stoma nurse really. I role a swab up and place that over the wound ( right between the cheeks ) but I still need to wear a thin pad as it can leak through. The discomfort is sometimes awful too, any wound hurts and this is no exception. It feels bruised and sore, so sitting for any length of time ends up being painful. Also being up and down, standing and sitting causes the leaks to be worse, so what do you do?

I suppose what I am trying to say is, there is nothing dressing- wise, that I have been given that is specifically helpful for a butt wound. You get sore ( like nappy rash) constantly changing the swab, and you are constantly aware that you might leak through. This has been me for two long years, so you would think that because of the long waits for surgery, someone would have come up with something better than this. The only time anyone checks it out is when I go to my practice nurse one in a while, this waiting cannot be doing me much good. I am now awaiting another MRI to see why it is back with a vengeance, so will have to wait for that result before I get put on any list, and they have to coordinate the plastic surgeon again so that could take a while.

So I need the powers that be to come up with better care for the perineal / perianal wounds. Most people have to wait a long time with no real support before they get surgery. I never imagined straight after my original surgery that my stoma would be less of a bother than my bottom.

I also didn’t think the timeline for sorting me out would be horrendous.

 

 

Thank you for making my stoma journey less bumpy along the way

I think it is time I publicly said some thanks to those folk in my life that I couldn’t be without, and who have helped me get through the toughest times in my life.

 

You can become quite insular after stoma surgery, it’s all about you for a long time. How am I feeling ? what hurts? can I cope ? people running around after you whilst you are in hospital ( which in my case was almost 3 months ) help with taking the kids to various activities, some of which were not that close to home. Supporting me in my recovery which must have been an absolute nightmare, because it certainly was for me so god knows what goes through the minds of those close to you.

Firstly I would like to thank my husband, who has been amazing and pushed me through the tough times, which were many, having me crying every time he visited me in hospital because I knew I could cry to him. He would work all day and visit me all evening, then go home late and make tea for himself and my daughter, for three months, all whilst refitting our kitchen so that it would be ready when I got home. When I was discharged he sorted out a wheelchair so that we could go out by the river and I would walk a few steps then get in again, this would slowly increase each time we went out.

He even learnt how to clean and pack my wound when we went to my sister’s down south for her birthday party. ( Luckily she had it at home because I would have to lie down for a rest every now and then.) I had a rectal catheter in too and he would have to empty and measure it before he went to work and again at night. Not to mention my low moods, they were very dark times and he kept it together for me.

My mum is next. She visited nearly every day and again put up with my tears. She helped me wash, and took my soiled clothes home to wash. I could nod off if I wanted to because it’s my mum and she was there no matter what.

My wonderful friends need a mention too, I had many visits from my friends, again being there for me and my family. Jo and Helen would take my daughter to her choir rehearsal ( half an hour away) every week, sometimes twice a week. They cried when they saw me so ill, they cheered me up too. All my closest friends were wonderful and still are. A few of them came to clean my house when I was recovering at home, I love them all.

 

My children I thank for carrying on with university and school without falling apart seeing their mum in such a state. Helping dad at home, and being there.

The wonderful nurses on the ward who were amazing and never stopped looking after me to the highest degree. A few times I think I must have been a real handful, but they never changed their lovely ways.

A very special thanks to my stoma nurse, Kate, who came to see me just before my emergency surgery and then all through my hospital stay and beyond. I call her my friend because that is how she treated me, we laughed quite a bit, but she also saw me at low times. She held my hand when I had the NG feeding tube inserted ( let me tell you now, that is an experience ) and I can ring her anytime and she will get back to me.

To my surgeon, who saw how ill I was and got me to surgery and probably saved my life. He had a tough job because I was so ill and weak and I know that although it has been a journey and a half ( and still ongoing) I feel very safe in his care.

To my work friends and managers, your support has been lovely and has helped me get back to work much easier with your help and care. Being at work can sometimes be a challenge with my ongoing medical issues, but I feel able to cope much better knowing that I have that solid support.

I would like to thank ‘ A bigger life ‘ and TG Eakin for having me as a resident blogger, they have helped me get my story further, and I can give my help to others too.

To the Notts & Derby ileostomy team and young IA group. Thank you for accepting me onto the committee, I might not know what I am doing half the time 😉 but I totally enjoy it, and I love the young IA nights out too ( thank you Helen from Salts for arranging these great evenings)

Finally I would like to thank my many new friends in the stoma world. Opening up about my journey has been a great experience and the support from everyone who’s own journey has been a challenge, is something I couldn’t be without. Support groups ( which I am with a fair few online ) are brilliant for the vast experience of stoma life, and stoma suppliers also come in to that category because they offer similar support.

 

THANK YOU EVERYONE

Let’s change the stoma bag

 

I felt the dreaded itchiness

This meant only one thing

It was time to change the pouch

along with the Eakin ring.

I can usually go a few days

And this was now day 2

I thought about leaving it longer

and changed my mind ,as you do.

Out came the adhesive remover

with the black bag ready as well,

A tissue tucked up underneath

He might squirt, it was difficult to tell.

The bag was off and all was good

Tomas was unusually still,

He can be a crafty bugger

And change his mind at will.

I cleaned him until he was poo free

Then used the barrier spray,

How easy was that, I’m almost done,

“Good job”  I hear you say.

The seal goes on, without a fight

The bag is next to me

Oh no I forgot to cut the hole

A wasted minute or three,

I snipped round the hole

as quick as I could

Before he made a mess,

I didn’t make it, he woke up

It was like a volcano I’d guess.

Start again I would have to do

cos poo was on the seal

I made sure I was more prepared

as this shit often gets real.

 

 

 

 

 

Early morning wake up call

 

 

I finally nodded off to sleep

My mind got out of hand

I think up all scenarios

That would keep me from dream land.

Would Tomas misbehave tonight?

Would I misjudge the bag

Or would I change it far too late

And wake up ready to gag

Sorry if it’s too much info

But stoma life is real,

Worrying what I can eat that day

Or should I skip that meal?

Shit in a bag, and belly farts

Is the life that I now lead

So if you want to be my friend

A sense of humour is all you need

Friends are very special

They know you inside out

They embrace your quirks wholeheartedly

Without showing any doubt.

Now back to being in my bed

And in a restless sleep,

I wake 3 hours later

In a bed with poo knee deep.

I jump up quick as lightening

Grabbing many tissues

Why do I have to live like this

Others don’t have these issues.

“F–k boll–ks, sh-t, tw-t”

I couldn’t type the real words

I was too busy washing and changing

After being covered in my turds.

I need to tell the real life trials

The life of an ostomate

It’s not just shitting in a bag

It’s a life of love and hate.

My stoma gave me back my life

I know this to be true

But occasionally I have to remind myself.

That it’s not all about the poo.

TOMAS THE STOMA 

TIES® solution – NO OSTOMY BAG NEEDED

TRANSCUTANEOUS IMPLANT EVACUATION SYSTEM

Well I must say this is very intriguing, is it something I would consider? possibly. It feels very futuristicky ( is that a word?) but as my husband says, if you lost a leg you wouldn’t think twice about using a prosthetic. Same with glass eyes etc… my only thoughts are the issues that those women had with the mesh for prolapsed bladders etc and the pain and complications they experienced, but this was made from  polypropylene and the TIES® is titanium.

It is still in early stages, but not that early, I wrote to Ostomycure who own TIES® and they wrote back with some information that they are happy for me to share. It is not available for sale as yet but it’s quite exciting.

 

“TIES Solution has received the CE Mark in June 2016.  We are planning to look for approval in Canada and Australia in the near future and as well  to submit TIES for FDA approval in the near future but this is going to take at least 24-36 months.
 
We are implementing an additional clinical trial in hospitals in Sweden and the UK. The study will be performed by Dr David James in Leeds and Dr Ed Westcott at St Thomas’ in London. 
 
The lid has to be changed every week. We’ll post the added centers on our website as they commit.
 
Please find attached pictures from an article that gives more information on TIES. Please also visit our website  www.ostomycure.com . We shall post regularly news, articles and product information.”
 
 
Regarding your questions:
1. TIES has received the CE mark which means it has successfully met the regulatory safety requirement regarding class IIb medical devices including clinical testing in human beings. 
2. We are developing a special lid with a hatch that clips onto the device’s external part without touching the skin. A clip-on plate that also does not touch the skin allows the fixation of a conventional single use bag for the drainage of the waste. After drainage, the plate is removed (and can be re-used). The hatch is cleaned and closed until the next time for drainage. It can also be worn during the night if so wished. The lid protrudes about 15mm above the skin.
3. The concept is all about providing a continent ileostomy that eliminates the need of conventional skin glued bags. 
4. There is no cramping or discomfort. When it is time to drain the waste, the patient “feels” it, similarly when one still has a physiological digestive system (colon, rectum). 
5. In the first 6 weeks the patient needs to wear the bag as usual to allow the tissue to grow into the titanium device. After that time the lid can be used.  The number of times the patient needs to go to the toilet diminishes over time when the intestine above the device tends to enlarge slowly to create a natural “pouch”. But the number of times depends largely on the length of the remaining intestine, the diet and the amount of food ingested.
6. There is no erosion or excavation since the patients are not in an inflammatory situation. In UC and Crohn, once the inflammatory part has been removed and an ileostomy put in place, there should not be any inflammation.
7. Should the device need to be removed, the surgeon will dissect around it and perform a conventional ileostomy as it was before.
 
Best regards

Johan Järte MD 
Medical Director 

 

I still have more questions but they can be answered as needed. Like the urge thing and what you do to empty. I can see from the above photos that you attach a bag when needed but then what? does it just seep out ? do we kind of strain like with an anus? or does the act of opening it trigger evacuation?

As I am  googler, I found the care manual that you get following the surgery. It seems you bend slightly forward to drain the internal pouch (that will eventually form ) it might take a while initially but should get quicker as things heal. Care has to be taken not to knock anything until you are fully healed.

One minute I think it sounds wonderful and I would consider it if given the opportunity, and then another minute I think it sounds very scary and robocop like. I also wonder if you can see the cap bit more under clothes than the actual bags we have now, definitely through tight clothes I would think.

Will it take off ? only time will tell.



 

Cruising with Tomas the stoma

 

I have just come back from an amazing cruise with my husband ( and Tomas). I know you may be thinking ‘ And?”, well what I really want to say is what went well with a stoma and what didn’t, so that others will know what to expect. I suppose I am writing a bit of a travel blog with some stoma bits in between, and yes it was amazing and wonderful so I apologise now if you are jealous in any way. 😉

Customs wasn’t an issue at all, we flew from Gatwick this time and they didn’t have the booths to walk into, so I didn’t bleep going through the ordinary checks, in fact my husband did, so he needed the frisking and I didn’t have to say anything to them going through.

I was so brave I didn’t keep my sprays and adhesive remover on me at all, just in the main case in the hold, I felt confident with my stoma bag .I know, it’s madness. My fellow ostomates will understand why this was  Russian roulette. It was fine though so all good 🙂 usually I will have a clear bag with a few essentials in and that is usually enough. Not sure why one would need an extra clear bag except if you take your makeup etc in your hand luggage too. I just put that in the main case.

The ship was amazing, it was a Thompson  (TUI ) and the cruise was called ” Highlights of the mediterranean”. We were late booking so didn’t get the outside cabin with windows but we were more than impressed with it all the same. You still have to go through their own customs and check in and out off the ship. We were due to dock at Corsica, Italy ( Rome) then Florence or Pisa, then St Raphael ( for Monaco/ St Tropez), Barcelona and back to Palma.

The food and drink didn’t cause an issue with Tomas either but I was careful what I picked to eat, there was such a variety it would be impossible not to find anything suitable. I do sometimes get random watery output but never really find the cause, and it seems to right itself, this happened once on the ship and I just had to make more regular trips to the toilet. ( Info on the toilet facilities to come)

My only issue which was annoying is that I liked to wear a dress in the evening which are body hugging up to a point, so I tried my support band. It helps to hide the fact that I have a stoma but I worry that it squashes it all too much. I was right to worry, When we went back to the cabin afterwards and I undressed, I had pancaked and my base plate had lifted up causing a leak. As luck would have it, it didn’t go through to my band or my clothes, it just meant a nuisance bag change late at night. This is one aspect of a stoma that irritates me and makes we want to be ” normal” again. The fact that I have to check my clothes at all angles before I feel confident to go out the door, and I don’t really have anything that keeps me in place but isn’t too tight, is another.  I do use an intimate wrap under my dresses which helps a bit, but it isn’t deep enough to cover the whole bag, so I either stick out slightly at the top or the bottom bit where I empty digs into the top of my leg.

Ok, the toilets…… they are like aeroplane and train toilets, and by that I mean that anything on the front of the bowl doesn’t flush away properly if at all, so it took a while to sort out each time to leave everything tidy for the next person.  Not so good in the shared toilets on deck. The actual public toilet rooms in the ship, and in Italy Spain and France were good in all other respects, far better and cleaner than any we have here in England. The disabled toilets are all amazing even the one at the airport in Palma, I think we have to up our game here, ours are invariably disgusting and need inspecting before we dare sit on them. It is best to make sure some loo roll is stuck to the front to empty onto first but even then it doesn’t always flush there at all, but at least you could move it down a bit lol ( sorry too much information for some).

Usually on a beach I am happy to have Tomas’s cover out on show but on the ship sunbathing I didn’t feel as comfortable, there was no reason for this, but my thoughts were that these folks will see me all the time I am on here, but on the beaches they don’t know me and probably won’t see me again, not sure why I felt I might be judged, it’s just how I felt. One day it was quite empty when we got back from shore so we had nearly a whole deck to ourselves to use the sun lounges, so I braved it then and it felt good. Only a handful of people went by and if they did glance I didn’t notice. Normally I am very open about it all but I just felt slightly more vulnerable on there.

I did a bit of a pose when no one was around 🙂

Finding toilets on land could be difficult unless you were happy to buy a coffee or two, although after the fact I did see some public ones about. One cafe in Florence had an agreement to let cruise ship customers use their toilets if they had their cruise sticker on, which was good except I think they had an agreement with all cruise liners because the queue trailed outside the shop.

Back on the ship…

The staff on board couldn’t do enough for you and were very polite and treated you like kings and queens, it was lovely. They tidied the cabins 3 times a day, the end of the day they put chocolates on the pillows and turned down the beds. The towel art was amazing too.

I worry every time I go to bed in a hotel/ friends/holiday though. I don’t leak very often but you never know. I would be mortified, never say never.

There were many bars and restaurants, all excellent, with the all inclusive drinks being good brand names.( at least you know what you are getting then) You could pay for a premium package but there is no point really. Anything extra that you wanted either from the onboard shops or excursions etc had to be paid onto your Thompson card at reception first, or you could leave your bank card details prior to setting sail. We just topped up our card at reception if we wanted to spend anything extra.

It was great to wake up to a new place every day, and for those worried about sea sickness, it was fine most of the time. One day it was slightly swaying when you stood up and it took me a little while to get used to it, it made me feel slightly off. I was told this was a rare occurrence. Even though it carried on through the night, it didn’t bother me after that and it only happened once that badly. Don’t let it put you off if you are thinking of a cruise, it was a small part of a large great time.

FLORENCE

Beautiful buildings and churches.

ROME- BASILICA AND THE ENTRY TO SISTINE CHAPEL ( you can’t take photos actually inside the chapel, and you have to have your shoulders covered in both places of worship). This was my favourite bit and I was really looking forward to it, I was not disappointed.

All I can say is, don’t let travelling with a stoma stop you, yes there are challenges but they can be overcome, and to stop going places just to feel safe and cocooned means you are not getting the best from your one life. There are some considerations, but you know your own stoma and body so just take the time beforehand to get things organised and make sure you take everything you need. I can guarantee if you are not sure whether to take an item or not, take it because you’ll wish you had.