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What it’s really like to live with a stoma, according to one young woman who has one

Posted by
Megan Murray
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“Yes, I have a bag of poo attached to me at all times, but it is absolutely 100% possible to have a stoma and still feel confident and comfortable in your own skin.”

Hannah Witton is the definition of a bright young thing. Multi-talented, she’s a writer and author of The Hormone Diaries, successful YouTuber, podcaster and advocate for sexual liberation and spreads awareness of the realities of living stoma. Because although outwardly Witton might look like a vision of perfect health, she’s struggles with inflammatory bowel disease and lives with a permanent stoma.

For many, this kind of life change would be debilitating, and Witton isn’t afraid to express how it’s knocked her confidence in certain areas of her life, but she hasn’t let it hold her back.

“[I’ve] needed a lot more reassurance and felt embarrassed and ashamed of my body,” says Witton. “But it is absolutely 100% possible to still feel confident and comfortable in your own skin.”

We asked Witton to explain to us exactly what it means to have a stoma, and how she personally has dealt with living with this condition. “An ostomy – or a stoma – is an artificial opening of an organ in the body created during an operation. I have an ileostomy, which comes out of the ileum which is a part of the small intestine. 

“But there are other kinds too, like colostomies which comes out of the colon and urostomies, which come out of the urinary system,” she says.

If you haven’t ever met anyone with a stoma, it might be easy to imagine that it’s very rare and something that wouldn’t effect a lot younger people, but Witton says this is a misconception. 

“It’s estimated that around 1 in 500 people in the UK are currently living with a stoma, and that includes a lot of young women,” she explains.

Witton had her surgery after a severe flare-up of ulcerative colitis, and says it “can definitely take a knock to your confidence and have an impact on your sex life.” 

“I have definitely experienced that,” she admits when talking about being intimate. But there are ways to build up your confidence she says, and for Witton naming her bag was one. 

“One thing that really helped me was naming my stoma. So I would like to introduce you to mona. It’s a fun way to relate to this part of my body that’s a bit different. She has her own personality and sometimes when I see my friends, they’ll be like ‘Hey! how’s Mona!’ And I really love that.”

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Another confidence issue that Witton is still working on is wearing bikinis. “I’ve worn full swimming costumes and high-waisted bikinis and I feel amazing, but I also bought a bikini with low bottoms and I haven’t mustered up the confidence to wear that yet,” she explains. “Yes I’ve done photo shoots in my underwear, but I’m still yet to have the bag fully out in public.”

Ultimately for Witton is comes down to what’s most important, and that’s her health: “Having a stoma, although it being a lot to adjust to is so much better than being ill and I am really grateful for my health. There are health professionals who can help, online resources and fellow estomotes all over the world on social media, we can offer support, and their own tips and tricks.”

“Yes, I have a bag of poo attached to me at all times, but it is absolutely 100% possible to have a stoma and still feel confident and comfortable in your own skin.”

Well said, by a truly inspiring woman. 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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