Mary Rose, who raises awareness of stomabags-ileostomy, colon cancer and invisible disability via her popular Instagram page ‘big_c_stomaandme,’ appeared in a video on the Lorraine show recently, where she spoke about ‘embracing life’ with her stoma.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’, the mother of two told how she was contacted via her page and asked to be part of the campaign, which raises awareness of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer.
She said: “As I use my page as an awareness page I was happy to be a part of the campaign as it means a lot to me and the more awareness the better.
“It feels amazing to be part of such a big campaign and talk about bowel issues openly in the hope that it removes the stigma, makes people aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer and encourages people to get checked if they have persistent symptoms. My part in the campaign was to also highlight stomabags and create awareness and to show others that you can do what you want and wear what you want with a stomabag and having this surgery shouldn’t stop you from living your life.”
Mary Rose said it was ‘emotional’ seeing herself on screen as part of the campaign, which is supported by Bowel Cancer UK.
“Me and my boys watched it together and we ended up in tears. I’m so proud of how far I have come in the past two years and I know it’s helping so many others doing what I am doing.
“Never in a million years did I think I would be showing my stomabag to millions of people especially when I couldn’t even tell close friends about it at the beginning. I feel like I’ve found my purpose. Never did I see myself going down this road but here we are. The response was absolutely amazing. I received so many messages and comments of support, encouragement and thanks, for sharing something people feel like they need to hide, and by raising awareness for both bowel cancer and stoma bags.”
Mary Rose told how the campaign is important to her as she feels ‘if we can educate people on what is and isn’t normal when it comes to bowel habits etc and encourage them to get checked, so many lives could be saved’.
“Early diagnosis means better chance of successful treatment. The campaign also highlights that it doesn’t matter how young you are. Cancer does not discriminate and I am living proof of that. It is also important to show that there is a life after cancer even if that is with a stomabag.”
She said her Instagram page, and the community she has met through social media, have been a great support to her.
“My page has really helped me throughout my journey. The online cancer/ostomy community is an amazing community of people and through seeing others creating awareness, actually encouraged me to use my platform and experience to do the same. Some of the messages I receive daily is what keeps me doing it.
“People thanking me for showing real life and not just perfection like the typical Instagram pages. I get so many messages from others telling me how they have decided to get something checked that they were worried about, others who have had stomabags for years and have never spoke about them until now after seeing my page, others who have just had a diagnosis and are asking questions about that and from people awaiting stoma surgery who were worried about different things before seeing my page. It’s just rewarding to be able to help others and to raise awareness.”
You can find more information on the campaign at https://www.itv.com/lorraine/articles/no-butts
You can read more about Mary Rose’s journey here: https://www.derryjournal.com/health/derry-womans-instagram-helps-people-with-stoma-bags-you-do-not-have-to-be-ashamed-3255010