Learning to Love Yourself After Life-Saving & Changing Surgery

Hello, my lovelies! I’m Amy (@ibdwarriorprincess on Instagram) & I’m 29, living in the UK. In 2011, I underwent life-saving surgery which changed my internal “plumbing” and left me with a permanent ileostomy.

An ileostomy is where an opening (stoma) is created from the small intestine via the abdomen to divert poop out of the body. Mine was done because of severe Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease) & a large, benign tumour. I also had my rectum and anus (the workings of my bum) & my appendix taken away. Because I will never go to the toilet out my bum again, it was surgically sewn up. To the naked eye however, it looks like a normal bum if I wear a bikini etc. My surgeons did a fantastic job & it was long & touch & go. Surgery literally saved my life by hours.

Understandably, having such major surgery impacted me on every level. Physically, it was super hard and challenging but mentally and emotionally it was also tough. However, I would go through it all again to feel how I do now, despite it being the hardest time of my life. Even now, over ten years post surgery, I learn new things about having a stoma, face new challenges (but ones I can actually face most of the time thanks to my stoma) & still have days where emotionally, things are much tougher than other days and that’s okay.

Every day, I list three things that I like about myself when I look in the mirror, to start my day. These don’t have to be physical things, and some days are harder than others, but I find this can help set my mindset for the day to more of a place of gratitude and what I can achieve and what I do like.

Because of my surgery, I’ve been able to develop body confidence & a good relationship with my body. Before surgery, I could never maintain my weight & food was my enemy. Gradually, since surgery, that has changed & I’ve managed to stay a constant weight the last few years. My ileostomy has enabled me to feel sexy, empowered, confident & accept & embrace my reflection all whilst unapologetically being myself. I wear my scars with pride. They are my warrior stripes & I will never be ashamed of the fact that they symbolise that every little cell in my body has been, and is routing for me, right up until this point. Remember that the tortoise wins the race, not the hare. Body confidence is a journey, not a destination.

Our bodies are our own canvases, ready for our own beautiful musings, patterns, stumbles & breakthroughs. When things go wrong, don’t throw your artwork away. Trust the process. Pick up a new paintbrush & keep painting until you never fully lose the sunshine in those colours for too long. They will be visible again, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.

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