Ulcerative colitis by Keith Thomas…A patient view!

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HI everyone, my name is Keith Thomas and this is my first ever guest blog, so here goes…

Thanks very much to @johnathanlaird for sharing…

This all started many years ago when an illness crept up in me: ulcerative colitis. There were far too many visits to A&E when I was feeling poorly, following endless hours on the loo and no answers to why I was experiencing the severe pains in my sides.

The only way I can describe it is that it was as if my insides were on fire: I was constantly feeling like crap (no pun intended). I felt weak, dizzy and not in a nice place. Unknown to me this was the effect of the dreaded dehydration, caused by my colitis. It ultimately resulted in me having an ileostomy in 2012 – something that drastically altered my life.

I want to talk about how I have used social media to raise awareness about my condition and how having a determined positive outlook allows me to live a fulfilled life once again- something I thought I would never have.

Straight after leaving hospital, I knew that I wanted to tell my story to as many people as possible with the sole aim of helping others. I wanted to show that being ill and having to have this rather daunting surgery was not the end of the world. I am a great believer that the more positively you approach such things, the quicker you recover. I understand and appreciate that not everyone is able to have the same outlook as me, but speaking personally, being positive has really worked. I have to say that the support of family and friends is a fantastic boost, as none of this is easy without such support.

As I said, I have taken to using social media, Twitter in particular; I have read many blogs (which is quite something for me as reading books holds no interest for me at all!) and I also contribute to a website called Inspire, that has a lot of overseas contributors, especially from the USA and Canada. I have been well received on this site, and I can only think it is because of my positivity which I have been told has helped a lot of other people- great news.

Then, a few months ago, I came across a website run by Pelican Healthcare, I know of them as I have used several of their ostomy products. On their site, two women had shared their stories about their ostomy journeys which included pictures. Pelican then invited anyone else with a story to send it in and it has to be one of the best decisions I ever made to send in my story to them. Within days, there it was on their website- “Keith’s Story“.

From that moment on, I knew what I had to do. Every free moment I had, I would find someone new to follow on Twitter and ask them to retweet my story having supplied the above link. People started reading it, retweeting and then actually became my followers! It was a good feeling to think that so many people were reading about my experience, including a local reporter who contacted me via twitter. He said he had been through the same illness and had also had the same surgery. He was keen to run my story in the South Wales Evening Post – he only had to ask once! We had a long, interesting conversation over the phone where we compared our stories. There was no question that he wanted this story to be shared and he organised a photographer to come out to my home to take a suitable picture to accompany the article.

Of course, since this story was published, I have seized the opportunity to ask even more people to retweet my story. The positive comments, not only online, but from passengers on my bus, work colleagues and even people I have met whilst out shopping, have been fantastic. An elderly lady even pointed towards her stoma and admitted, “I have a bag too.” I couldn’t help wondering if she would have been so willing to admit this if she hadn’t read the article and felt more confident. So many people have been eager to talk about something that has been quite a taboo subject until recently- and have approached me to share their own experiences and to ask questions, all as a result of me openly sharing my story.

I have to say how lucky I was to have had my operation done as ‘keyhole’ surgery. I have no big scar to cope with and my recovery was a lot quicker – I know that not everyone is so fortunate, especially those who have had to undergo an emergency procedure. I want to thank a number of people without whom things may have been different:

Peter, who has been an ostomate for over 40 years, and took the time to sit and talk to me about life with a stoma – it gave me an honest insight into what life would be like for me.

Pelican Healthcare and the Evening Post for giving me the forums I needed to tell my story.

My wife Jane who from day one has been so supportive and positive.

Johnathan, who has asked me to do this.

…and last but not least, my surgeon Mr Umesh Khot, whose skill and dedication changed my life.

Keith.

Thank you for reading my first ever blog.

Follow Keith @keiththom2014