A year ago Lisa Wilkinson would never have dreamed of stripping down to her underwear in front of people.
Having been diagnosed with bowell condition ulcerative colitis at the age of 19 she underwent an operation to have her large bowel removed and has had a stoma bag ever since.
I named my stoma bag Betty
Lisa, 30, from Kirk Hallam, says she has now gained a whole load of confidence thanks to a group of women she has met through the charity Purple Wings. Along with 11 other women - all who have stomas - she has posed in her undies for a 2016 charity calender.
The mum-of-one, who has her own business making covers for stomas, shared her story with the ‘Tiser.
It began in 2003. Lisa was trying to deal with a number of deaths in her family when she started suffering with an upset stomach. Medication didn’t work and she put it down to IBS, until the results of a stool sample showed that she had ulcerative colitis .
“I was hospitalised and put on steroids and other drugs which put it at bay but my face swelled,’ said Lisa ‘ A few months later I woke up one day and couldn’t move my knee. I was told I had a torn ligament, even though I hadn’t fallen over, and they put my leg in a cast.”
An MRI scan showed that the steroids had caused a rare reaction and had stopped the blood going to the bone, in essence the bone was dying.
“I had to come off them as soon as possible’ said Lisa, ‘but coming off them I was going to the toilet up to 25 times a day. I lost two stone in just over a week and was under six stone. I had no other option but to have a stoma.”
She was booked in for the operation immediately and was told her bowel would have ruptured if she had not gone ahead with it.
“The surgeon said my bowel just fell apart. I woke up with a stoma, I called it Betty.”
While still recovering, three months later she had an operation on her knee. It took her a while to get her strength back and she had to give up her job as a carer for the elderly, taking on jobs in admin.
During the first couple of years of living with the ileostomy bag she didn’t know much about the condition and struggled at first with the changes to her body: “I used to wear little skimpy tops and that was taken away. I had a boyfriend at the time and he was very supportive, as were my friends. It saved my life, I can’t do anything about it so there’s no point getting down about it,” said Lisa.
By chance she was put in touch with Lauren Henderson from the charity Purple Wings, which supports women with stomas, when a friend’s dad bumped into her in a lift, wearing a ‘Ask me about my stoma’ T-shirt.
Lisa said: “Lauren then saw a photo of me at a ladies day and asked me if I wanted to do the calender. I got to the photo shoot in Birmingham - standing there was very daunting. I was so nervous but we all supported each other and afterwards I thought “I’ve done it.
“I feel I’ve found my wings now, thanks to Lauren getting us together.”
Lisa’s hopes for the future are to see her business Stoma Style grow. She sews the covers in a corner of her bedroom at her Goodwood Crescent home. Requests have included a granddaughter who buys them for her 80-year-old grandad with slogans on that make light of the fact that he has a stoma. She has also done dartboards, and football teams.
“It’s to help them feel better,’ she said ‘it’s like putting socks on in the morning. I want the business to get bigger and become well recognised. It’s part of me now, the thought of not doing it now is just not me.”
Next month she will show her designs at a show at the Royal Derby Hospital in the hope of attracting new buyers.