A woman who has had both her colon and her rectum removed has claimed that her stoma bag actually makes her feel more body confident.
Holly Fleet, 28, had to undergo an emergency operation in 2021 which resulted in her getting a stoma bag fitted after suffering terribly from ulcerative colitis. This would inflame her colon and rectum, causing her to pass profuse amounts of blood until it eventually perforated her bowel.
Despite having no issues with her bowels before, Holly suddenly started experiencing excruciating stomach pains in January 2020 - but decided it must have been down to stress.
"I got a new job as a journalist working overnight for a newspaper, starting work at 11pm and finishing at 7am", said Holly.
"When the pain started, I just put it all down to changing my routine and eating at different hours but it just seemed to get worse."
It wasn't until 2021, when Holly had a jarring experience that saw her pass a worrying amount of blood in the toilet, she rushed to the doctors for a colonoscopy. Medics told the journalist that she had proctitis and was given medication for the inflammation.
But it wasn't long before the symptoms kicked back in.
Eventually, the symptoms got so bad that Holly had no choice but to move back in with her mum, so she could be looked after.
One night, when the pain made Holly think that she was 'going to die', she was rushed to St Thomas' Hospital in London, where doctors then spent 10 days trying to figure out what was going on.
Eventually, it was decided that a stoma was the only option for Holly.
“They could see the colitis had spread everywhere in my colon. My bowel was basically perforating and I was at the risk of getting sepsis and dying," recalled Holly.
“When they told me I was having a stoma, I thought ‘Well that’s it, that’s my life over'.”
Holly, who was also newly single, was especially worried that her stoma would hinder her attempts at finding love - that was until she met Callum.
"When we first started talking on Hinge, I didn’t mention my stoma bag - but he ended up seeing it on my social media.
"I told him if he didn’t want to talk to me any more, I would understand, but he said he didn’t mind or care that I had a stoma. I just felt so relieved and happy."
Callum has been an amazing support system for Holly, and helped her get through a more recent surgery to have her rectum removed last month.
“Although I had my stoma working, I was still bleeding profusely because there was still inflammation in my rectum,” she explained.
“And a lot of people don’t realise, but Crohn’s and colitis can be a catalyst for getting cancer, which I just didn’t want to risk.”
Now, Holly has learned to accept her stoma and learned to love her body - even calling herself 'Stoma Babe' as a tribute to the late Dame Deborah James, who bravely battled bowel cancer.
Holly has since been documenting her journey on both TikTok on Instagram in an effort to reduce the stigma and normalise stoma bags.
"You never see glamorous people or fashion models wearing stoma bags.
"Instead, there is this perception that you should cover up – but that isn’t me, I like to wear crop tops and tight dresses and a stoma bag shouldn’t mean you can’t do that."
Follow Holly on Instagram and TikTok at @stomababe, or to support her fundraising go to: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Holly-Fleet2