After being a slave to my bowel routine for five years I elected to go for an operation which changed my life. At the time I had a live-in full-time carer and was staying with my parents. Having a live-in carer was proving problematic and putting a strain on family life which led us, as a family, to decide that the best thing would be to do away with a permanent live-in carer. I would have a carer during the day while my family would manage nights. The only obstacle was my bowel routine which required extensive attention every second night. As both my parents and my sister worked this was just not an option - so we needed to find  an alternative.

I was fortunate in a way as, a few years earlier, my father had been operated on because he had colon cancer and, in order to save his life, he had been left with acolostomy/stoma. This meant that I had knowledge about the workings of a stoma but, while it was fine for him, I never wanted to have a stoma myself as, in some weird way, I figured it would make me even more disabled. I could not have been more wrong. My parents were terrific and while they were keen for me to go for an elective stoma they never put any pressure on me to do so.

In addition to our staff issue, I also have extremely sensitive skin and regularly had to spend a day in bed due to a skin complaint caused by my bowel routine. Eventually, after having to spend a few days in bed because of my skin, I decided that I was tired of being dictated to by my bowel routine and, with the comforting knowledge that the stoma would be reversible should I be unhappy, I decided to take the plunge.

The operation took approximately 20 minutes from beginning to end and is, as I understand it, are latively simple procedure. I spent a total of four nights in hospital after the operation while they made sure that there were no complications. At first Iwas a little bit alarmed by how it looked, it almost appeared as though they had sewn Mick Jagger's lips on to my side! The surgeon assured me that it was just swelling and that, in time, everything would settle and look less odd. Needless to say he was correct and, within three or four weeks, things had settled down and looked far more acceptable.

The stoma therapy sister advised me to keep looking after my stoma in as simple a way as possible - which is exactly what I have done. I am somewhat of a control freak and, as such, continue to take laxatives every second day so that I can be sure that my bowels work at a time that is convenient to me. I generally take a laxative between 15h00 and 16h00 and my stomach works about 12 hours later while I am fast asleep!

Changing the fullbag is a breeze and literally is a matter of peeling it off my side, putting it into a special plastic bag and throwing it away. My carer then wipes the area with toilet paper and ensures that everything is nice and clean. If not, then we use alcohol swabs to tidy up the area - although a regular face cloth with some soap and warm water works just as well. I have had my stoma for almost 15years and in that time I have never had any sort of infection and the skin onmy bottom does not break down nearly as often as it did before.

Having a stoma has enabled me and allows me to now dictate terms to my bowels, be a little bit more independent and has most certainly improved my quality of life. I have never regretted the decision I made, not even for a second.