Woman on a mission to break the stigma around stoma bags: ‘Your scars are battle scars’

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PHOTO: CATERS/WWW.MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA
PHOTO: CATERS/WWW.MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA

This inspiring nurse who suffered from a severe undiagnosed stomach condition which led to her having an ostomy is on a mission to break the stigma surrounding stoma bags.

Sofie Christensen (27) from Sweden started to notice she regularly struggled with an upset stomach in the summer of 2012 but didn’t give it too much thought.

The following year, Sofie’s problems continued to worsen, causing her to go to the toilet up to 20 times a day.

She also started losing a lot of weight, around 15kg.

Despite several visits to her doctor Sofie’s issues were dismissed as being Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and she was prescribed a variety of medications over the course of two years before demanding she be referred to an ostomy surgeon.

The surgeon agreed to operate on Sofie.

“For me it was better than any Christmas gift ever. It was like a dream come true,” said Sofie.

“I had forced my doctor to contact a surgeon after wanting an ostomy for almost two years, during which time I kept trying all sorts of different medicines.

“When I met the surgeon I was told that it might not cure my diarrhoea but if it could at least help me not spend my life on the toilet then why not?

“I would finally get my life back and be able to leave my apartment without worrying about an accident or [having to check] where the nearest toilet would be.”

Sofie says doctors were left dumbfounded as to what was causing her stomach problems.

“Even to this day the doctors are still trying to find out what kind of diagnosis I have. It’s still a mystery!

“The only thing they do know is that I have a super-fast bowel transit, but unfortunately they don’t know why, and they don’t know the cause of my chronic diarrhoea even after six years.”

Sofie says her life pre-surgery was nothing short of a nightmare.

“By the time I had my surgery I hadn’t been able to work for over seven months, some days I would barely make it to the grocery store just two minutes away,” she said.

“I wasn’t eating well at all; only one small meal a day. If I had an appointment I would either cancel or starve myself to avoid the need to rush to the toilet.

“I was so happy when I woke up from the surgery. Two hours later I was sitting up on the bed and later that night I was up and walking.

“Unfortunately, I got constipated and the pain was horrible but was given some laxatives and morphine and the stoma soon started working properly.  The pain eased and I was finally back to being happy.

Sofie says she decided to go public with her stoma bag because she noticed how people would stare at her.

“There are too many people who are ashamed of their pouch, worrying what people will think and say. I find it so wrong,” she said.

“Who cares? Your scars are battle scars and your bag might be your life-saver. I’m so confident about my bag and my stoma. I love to show it!

“Never forget that you are a warrior, and keep fighting.”

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