Embracing Change: Finding Courage With a J-Pouch

About the Author: Sinead Mullen (@sineadm3689) is a blogger and content creator. She shares her story with ulcerative colitis through her social media platform. It's been her mission to inspire and instill confidence in other women around the world. You can read more from Sinead on her blog, which you can check out here.

I spent most of 2016 and early 2017 saying to my husband "something isn't right". I had started noticing mucus and blood in my stools and it was becoming more frequent. Generally, I felt fine, just the odd few days here and there where I'd have the worst stomach cramps that would bring me to my knees. I'd had many doctor's appointments, only to be told it was either IBS, piles, or all in my head. I was referred to a cognitive behavior therapist and put on antidepressants. 

In June 2017 I was finally admitted to hospital with sepsis and diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which affects the large bowel and rectum. I spent 20 days in hospital on different oral and IV medications but nothing was working. My only option was surgery to remove my large bowel and create a stoma.

I was terrified. I'd never really heard of IBD so knew nothing about colostomy or ileostomy bags. I cried and told my husband I didn't want the surgery (not that I had a choice, my body was killing me). My husband showed me a picture of a girl on instagram with an ileostomy bag and she looked amazing! It was that picture that made me decide to share my journey and hopefully help others. 

My ileostomy bag actually gave me more confidence than you could imagine. I stopped worrying about having to poo in public or what I looked like in a bikini. I nearly died, but thanks to a little bag, I'm still here. I started seeing things differently and had more appreciation for the little things. I also felt that sharing my journey made it easier to come to terms with it. Rather than hiding it away and being embarrassed, I embraced it.

Although having a bag was great and gave me so much freedom, I decided to have two more surgeries to create an internal pouch called a J-pouch. A J-pouch is formed using the small bowel and connected to the rectum. I was doing quite poorly after the first step surgery due to narrowing in my small bowel. The narrowing would cause my bowels to block and the pain was horrendous. I was admitted to hospital 6 times for bowel blockages and dehydration. It was tough, but I knew it was temporary.

My step two, ileostomy takedown took place on 5th March 2020 and my recovery has been much better than I thought. I've had my moments and days where I've felt frustrated and cried but it's still early days and my body needs time to adjust to its new way of working. 

Even through the bad days I always try to keep a positive mind. Your mind is such a powerful place and keeping that happy is so important. I could easily be angry or frustrated and ask why me? But my illness has given me strength and ability to inspire others, and I'm quite happy with that.