'˜My Ostomy saved my life . . . .it allowed me to live normally'

Aneica Duffy from County Derry has Ulcerative Colitis, a life-changing condition she was diagnosed with when she was 16-years-old.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 21st April 2017, 10:08 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:46 pm
Aneica during a charity sky dive.
Aneica during a charity sky dive.

Aneica, from Foreglen, didn’t think the long term condition - which is a form of inflammatory bowel disease - was serious until she started to deteriorate. She lost weight so quickly her treatments ranged from taking steroids to medicine used for Chemotherapy treatment.

“It put my life on hold and I became so ill I couldn’t get out of bed,” she said.

“My immune system was so low I was picking up everything going about. Then I had my life changing surgery in 2014 and, in 2016, resulted in a permanent Ostomy. I’m now able to do anything, still catching up on all the things I missed,” she added.

Aneica, who plays for Dungiven, in action during a football match last September. Photo: Dessie Loughrey

Six years since her diagnosis, Aneica grabs every opportunity to tell people having the condition, and having an Ostomy, isn’t something to be ashamed or afraid of.

Aneica is constantly campaigning against the misconceptions surrounding the condition and its impact and regularly writes about her “wee friend, Bob the stoma’ on the blog abiggerlife.com

The 22-years-old is a committee member for ‘Lets Talk Crohn’s & Colitis Northern Ireland’ (LTCCNI).

When the illness was highlighted in the BBC drama, ‘Holby City,’ earlier this month, Aneica was delighted. However, her delight quickly turned into disappointment as she watched how Colostomy surgery had been portrayed.

Aneica, who plays for Dungiven, in action during a football match last September. Photo: Dessie Loughrey

“I watched ‘Holby City’ and was happily surprised to hear Crohns and then I heard ‘surgery would mean you will be a burden, you won’t be allowed to work; you will be dependent on someone’. I was so annoyed,” she said.

“I think this will trigger fears and more nerves if someone has to get a stoma. However, that’s not the case, ‘Holby City’ should have got a real understanding.”

Aneica wasn’t the only one upset at how the storyline developed.

The Colostomy Association issued a statement to make known its disappointment of the way Colostomy surgery was portrayed in the Holby City episode ‘Someone to look after me’.

“Contrary to how the outcome of the surgery was depicted, having a Colostomy does not make you a ‘burden for the rest of your life’ and you do not need to be ‘waited on hand and foot’,” said a spokesperson.

The Association said it believes “everyone with a Colostomy should be able to live a full and active life” and that “no one should be worried that they have to ‘prepare for the worst’ and that they are going to be a ‘burden’ if they are told they require stoma surgery, and we are disappointed that the BBC chose to offer this view.”

The spokesperson said: “We are constantly campaigning to change the out of date misconceptions about having a Colostomy and promote the fact that, in a majority of cases, no one can even tell you have a colostomy and you can continue to lead a full and active life.

“Indeed, in most cases having stoma surgery can improve life for the patient or even save their life.”

And that’s exactly how Aneica views her surgery; that it gave her a second chance in life.

The self confessed sport fanatic is back playing Gaelic football for Dungiven Ladies and also playing camogie for Banagher; she’s jumped out of a plane in a charity skydive and ran the Belfast Marathon to raise funds for ‘Lets Talk Crohn’s & Colitis Northern Ireland.’

“I blog to show that it is just a small part of a bigger life and to help someone once a day is my goal. I also work with stoma nurses and go and speak to people who may be having a hard time getting used to their ostomy. It’s a big mental, physical and social change for someone,” admits Aneica.

“I’m a commitee member of LTCCNI and I just love organising support events and helping those who are struggling with their illness. I know how hard it is, especially for family members.

“I would say to someone, ‘don’t be afraid to talk. You’re not alone.’ Stigma isn’t as bad. It wll be a hard fight, but amazing charities such as LTCCNI have helped me. The public are doing their bit in regards to facilities such as toilets, realising that not all illnesses are visible. Things will change over time.”

For information about Let’s Talk Crohn’s & Colitis Northern Ireland, go to www.ltccni.co.uk To contact the Colostomy Association visit www.colostomyassociation.org.uk or call 0800 328 4257.