Stress Free Outdoors
We are a Social Enterprise (an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being- Thank you Wiki.). We are aimed at making a difference to people struggling with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and their families. We appreciate that living with an IBD can be tough, Alan and his family have been living with it since 2001. We are here to support newly diagnosed patients, long-term patients and those struggling to cope with the anxiety and depression that comes hand in hand with Crohns or Colitis. We are also here for ‘stoma owners’ and their families, life with a pouch can take some adjustment, for the whole family. Sometimes it is a case of adapting and overcoming those obstacles, Stress Free Outdoors is here to help you beat these changes and get your life back on track.
Founder and Director of Stress Free Outdoors
Al has always been a lover of the great outdoors, living on Dartmoor for 18 years before moving to Cornwall in 2005. Al has learned the importance of spending time outdoors, be it mountain biking, camping, hiking or time spent in the woods. We have it all on our doorstep, let’s not waste it.
A Brief History
Stubby arrived on 16.11.2010 after 9 years of struggling with medication to control my Ulcerative Colitis. Eventually ‘the cupboard was bare’, nothing worked so a Mr Faux decided it was best to whip my colon out. This transformed my life, again!
Initially it was transformed for the worse in 2001. At the time, I was working in a residential home supporting adults with learning disabilities, a years break from being a heating engineer. I managed to lose 3 stone in 2 months, without even trying. My work colleagues were concerned, for some reason I wasn’t. They forced me to book an appointment with my doctor, the odd thing is, I felt fine, fit and healthy. I don’t know where I would be and what condition I would have been in if it wasn’t for those ladies, thank you!
It was a week or two before I saw my GP who promptly booked me an appointment to see a Gastroenterologist at Derriford hospital, Plymouth. I had been supplied some powders I had to add to water and drink, a total of 3 litres of salty vanilla flavour water, mmm tasty, but boy did it do its job! The following day was a nervous time, it was my first experience of a hospital examination, I won’t lie, the best part of this was waking up to a cuppa, a NHS cuppa! The colonoscopy results confirmed my GPs suspicions… I had Ulcerative Colitis!
Now, this is when I made my first mistake, I Googled my diagnosis when I got home. At the time I wish I never, I saw the line “could lead to cancer”, it scared the hell out of me! What do I do now? Why me? I wasn’t even 30 and I had a lifelong incurable disease.
I saw a Dr Hayward at Derriford hospital, I was prescribed various tablets and enemas, oh the joys. Although my colon was in bad shape, with the help of Asacol, Colifoam, 6-MP, Prednisolone and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet it was kept at bay for a few years.
The medication slowly stopped working, or the UC got worse. By this time I had given up my passions of mountain biking and hiking, I had lost my mojo, my enthusiasm to do anything. Although, I had become a title contender for the 100-meter sprint (3-second warning) which my work colleagues thought quite amusing, mind you, so did I. I was back as a heating engineer now, losing blood surviving on my energy reserves.Things started to take a nose dive in 2007, this was my fourth year as a self-employed gas engineer, a nice business, happily working 6 days a week, being my own boss. Now, any business person will tell you that not working for nearly 6 months due to health issues is not good for business, I folded the business and became a recluse.
Depression, anxiety and fatigue all hit at once, like a ton of bricks. I was sleeping up to 18 hours a day, finding any excuse not to go outside the front door of the new house we had bought in June 2007. To compound the stress and make matters worse, February 2008 saw a knock at the door from debt collectors, not what someone suffering with Ulcerative Colitis really needs!
2009 was a struggle, travelling the length and breadth of Cornwall working for a major boiler manufacturer, I soon learned where every available public convenience was located. I made my life a routine, awake at 4.30AM- breakfast, 5.30AM- head to the 24-hour Tesco to sit in their loo for 60 minutes (kept the bathroom empty at home), head home and get ready for work whilst dashing to the bathroom countless times, I was losing a lot of blood! In November, my GP was called to my house. I haven’t had a GP house call since I was 14 years old, I was in bed shivering with a high temperature, wearing just about every bit of clothing I owned, I felt clammy and cold. Dr Keech confirmed I was suffering with severe dehydration, he phoned A&E to inform them I was on the way in, this was the start of a 10 day stay in Treliske. I came out a couple of stone lighter (boy did I need to lose that weight too) and signed off work for the foreseeable future.
Work commenced again in February 2010, I felt a new man, invigorated, energetic, happy. I was still losing blood, my medication had changed, again, I was on Prednisolone 60mg a day for now, there was no change. I had my second colonoscopy that year, definitely something NOT to look forward too! This time it had to be stopped promptly, the pain was unbearable! A few days later I had a call from the consultants office for an appointment, I was to have my colon removed… “You can have it done willingly now or as an emergency within the next 12 months…” I went for option A.
The date was 16th November 2010 when I got my life back, I was admitted to Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske for surgery, I was losing my colon. To be honest, it didn’t really bother me, the pros outweighed the cons. I’ll get my life back. The hospital staff were fantastic, I cannot praise them enough. I was in nearly 4 weeks, issues with blood tests and infected wound. I can’t complain, the surgery was done laparoscopically so no big scar. I was eventually discharged into the big bad world, ileostomy, fiancé and dogs. Recovery took 3 months. Now, I would recommend to anyone not to rush recovery, we are all different and all have varied coping mechanisms. The stoma nurses in Cornwall are amazing, the district nurses also. My fiancé was amazing, if you have someone there to care for you then let them, there is a big adjustment to be made for the whole family, patience is essential.By March 2011 I could get out mountain biking again, wild camping, hiking and mountaineering. Though things would never be the same, it was very much a case of ‘adapt and overcome’ those obstacles, the fatigue was and still is the most difficult hurdle to jump, some days I don’t physically have the energy to jump that high. Stubby and I have our differences every now and then, but with the slight alteration to lifestyle and routine things can be ‘normal’ again.
Dealing with a stoma in day to day life can be daunting, just be prepared. Yes, I’ve had leaks when I least expected, blow outs when not convenient and the noises rival any oompah band. There are many ostomy appliance manufacturers out there, try as many as you can, sample all the creams, sprays, tapes and putties. Ask questions, there is no such thing as a silly question, someone will know the answer.
I don’t see having an ostomy as a negative, it has changed my life for the better. So much so that I am opting to make it a permanent partnership, I have the option of a J-pouch but Stubby and I get on so well.