From Birth to 21 with a bag!
I have made it! I have made it to twenty-one. My night of nights has come, and it is my turn to shine! I am not allowed to worry about doctors, needles and hospitals.
I was born on the 4th May 1981 at Casuarina hospital in Darwin with congenital abnormalities and a cleft plate lip. I was baptised shortly after birth, as the doctors thought I wouldn't live after the operation. (I had four operations before I was 3 months) As usual they were wrong! We moved to Melbourne (my parent's family lived there), when I was 3 months old. The fourth operation was when I was given two stomas, called Uterostomy. Can't remember much of my early days (but who can!) but my parents say that through all the hard times I was a happy baby/toddler. At four years of age the Surgeon reconnected one uturer back into the uretha, so I had only one stoma.
I loved my Primary School years. I remember that until grade 3, there were no facilities to change my bag ( I didn't know how to then anyway.) So every time I had a leak mum had to pick me up and take me home, then bring me back afterwards. The school renovated the teacher's toilets and installed a disabled toilet. I then started putting on my own bag. I kept my spares in the first aid room and I became "Miss Independent". All the teachers knew about my bag but they did not make a fuss or treat me any differently. I only told my close friends. I did all the "normal" things like every sport imaginable. I played netball until I was 16. I am now a netball coach and heavily involved with my Club. I also loved Vic kick (football). I played in a competition with the boys!
Many times during my primary years I would develop an infection and be hospitalised. I missed school lessons because of doctor's appointments. Despite the set backs I went to every camp from Grade 5 to Year 10. I remember my grade 5 camp, when I spilt Mercurachrome, which is a bright red liquid (helped with rashes back then) that stains every thing. It went all over a white tiled floor in the bathroom. My friend who was helping me at the time was in fits of laughter with me and she had to run and get a teacher. After a lot of elbow grease effort from the teacher and I to get rid of the stain, the tiles are now a light shade of pink! There were always rumours about me especially in high school. Other students knew there was something different about me but they didn't know what. Class students tried to get information about me from of my friends but true friends always respected my privacy. I was very lucky.
High school was different. I didn't enjoy life in high school. Year 7 was fun and you always learnt new things. Your social skills were always being tested. Year 8 I was really sick and in hospital. In high school if you missed a lot of school you really fell behind and I did. I made great friends that did stick by me, but I didn't cope.
In Year 9 a friend in my class died from Cystic Fybrosis. which was a big shock and scared me. Year 10 was the worst year; I was getting lots of infections. I started having my periods which shook me around a bit. I was always tired all the time. So I missed a lot of school, when I was well I still didn't want to go back. I left school at the end of year 11.
I studied Office Administration at TAFE and worked at an indoor play centre. Telling friends about my bag was always hard for me, when I decided that I would tell someone I would practice the night before. It always turned out better than I thought.
Telling boys was another story! I was a late bloomer I didn't start dating until I was 17 (which is really late now!) I always hated telling a future boyfriend about my bag. My biggest fear was rejection. I have been lucky as I have never been rejected by a guy because of my bag.
Boyfriends have always been cool about it and interested to learn more. My friends and some naughty boys asked me if my bag would stop me from having sex. I was also asking myself that question. I was scared about having sex. I read all the books I could get about relationships, sex and pregnancy. I soon realised like any other teenager I had nothing to worry about. When you get older you learn that relationships have more to worry about than sex!
I stand here in a beautiful red dress on my twenty-first birthday. With three hours of hair styling and two hours of make-up, I am ready to face one hundred family and friends who supported me in different ways throughout the twenty-one years. I am happier now than I have ever been. I have a great supportive boyfriend that I have been with for one and half years and I am about to start a traineeship in travel and tourism.
I know I am not finished yet with hospitals, doctors or to be bag free. But I look forward to the future with excitement.
Reprinted from "Just for YOU" (Volume 13 - March 2003)