How Billie's Chronic Illness Changed Her LIfe
By Billie | @billieandersonx | March 5, 2018
Our bodies are incredible.
I’ve come to understand just how amazing the human body is.
I’ve always been body conscious - I’ve ridden horses nearly every day from the age of 3 to 17 and then became an avid runner when I went to uni (running off all that pizza and alcohol). Being healthy and how I looked after my body was super important to me (bar the booze and pizza)! I always thought if I looked after my body then my body would look after me. But that changed when in January 2017 at age 20, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune illness called Ulcerative Colitis. It’s a disease that effects the lining of the large intestine and ultimately sets your insides on fire - a nurse once said that my colon looked like it was sunburnt, blistered & scraped! You can imagine the kind of pain it produces when your insides look like they've been baked in the sun for too long and then dragged across the pavement for good measure.
So my body and I had a bit of a falling out; going from being pretty harmonious, singing from the same song sheet to not even knowing what a song was. My body had decided to start a civil war without any warning! Just BAM… And I was ill for the rest of my life. Because I had been told I wasn’t ever going to be truly healthy again - just attempting to control the fire my colon had started with medication that actually added to how awful I felt - I gave up because it felt like my body had given up on me!
Everything I ate resulted in bloody diarrhoea, pain and tears. It meant rushing to the loo 20+ times a day and I lost all interest in understanding my body because I was constantly battling it. I lost so much weight I was a skeleton wrapped in skin. I was loosing so much blood that I got severe anaemia - leaving me with a grey, ghostlike complexion that meant I probably could’ve been in The Walking Dead without all the makeup. My hair was falling out at an alarming rate and what was left was thin, wiry & greasy thanks to the medication. If I was lucky I got about 3 hours sleep a night which left me with suitcases under my eyes - my face was now lifeless and exhausted and I was a silhouette of my former self.
I underwent some very strong drug therapy for about a year; on around 20+ pills every day and intravenous drug therapy every 4 weeks, but it became clear that my colon was just too angry and the medication wasn’t strong enough to calm the storm going on inside my very unhappy body. So surgery was my next step. Exactly 1 year since my diagnosis and I was being wheeled down to theatre for major surgery to remove my colon! The surgery for Colitis can be split into two or three procedures: The first being a subtotal colectomy to remove the colon, with a temporary ileostomy formed. Then the others are to either create a permanent ileostomy or a j-pouch in it’s place.
I was in so much pain and so exhausted pre-op that the surgery was a lifesaver for me. I was so sick the day of the operation that I don't even remember what happened beforehand, I just wanted them to get the damn thing out of me. I woke up with my intestines poking through my abdomen and 6 little holes dotted around it. I’m now 5 weeks post op and I almost feel like I'm back to the pre-colitis days - back to the days where I understand my body. It did take a lot of getting used to however - I didn't just hop out of surgery and feel as amazing as I do now. I went through a few weeks of pain, questioning whether it was the right thing to do (not that I had a choice, my colon almost burst) or if I’d ever be able to look in the mirror again and be happy with what I saw. To look down at my stomach and see a bag, to see my intestines, was terrifying and it felt like I had to adjust to an entirely new body.
How It's changed me...
But now I've been liberated from the killer-colon and I’m so much happier: I sleep through the night and wake up happy every morning. I can eat pretty much everything and anything, it doesn’t cause me pain anymore and I'm filling out in-between the bones! I'm pleased to say I no longer look like a drugged up zombie and can do so much more than I ever would've been able to with the colitis! Im so proud to look at myself, I might have my insides on the outside, but for the first time ever I'm happy with what I look like! The bag and the scars are a reminder of how strong the human body can be. Im back on a path to understanding myself again - to being able to love myself again and be the healthy, happy Billie I used to be
Being diagnosed with Colitis really shifted my perspective on what's important to me- I was very focused on Uni/School/Work but after my diagnosis, I realized how it's the little things in life that are truly important; that family and friends should be the centre of my life - they are what got me through my illness and my surgery. The love from the ones closest to me is what's important
I want to show that you can be body confident and love yourself even when you have a stoma bag at 21, so I created a blog and Instagram account to show off my little stoma and how much life she has given me!
A bag can seem like the end of everything but I’ve never been happier! So here’s to loving the skin you're in and being proud of it!
Bille is 21 and in 2017, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune illness called Ulcerative Colitis. Colitis is one form of IBD and it affects the lining of the gut. In 2018, she underwent surgery to remove her colon after a year of heavy medication. It's been one hell of a journey to get to where she is, but she says it was the best decision she's ever made! Billie hopes that she can show everyone that you can be body positive with your insides on the outside and a bag attached to you!