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Chris Morrison

Bowel Tumour Patient

Firefighter Chris uses a stoma bag after having a colostomy. Now he’s urging more men to put aside fear and get symptoms checked out quickly.

Chris Morrison, an operational firefighter in Derry, Northern Ireland, had a colostomy in 2016. Now he’s urging men not to ignore symptoms.

How were you diagnosed

When I noticed blood in my poo, I ignored it. It was not painful but when I started losing weight and was exhausted, my wife sent me to the doctor, who diagnosed haemorrhoids.

After feeling ill at work one day, a test showed a low blood count. I was rushed into hospital, and they found an 8cm tumour in my rectum. I needed a colostomy – a huge shock for a young fit man. Fortunately, the tumour proved non-cancerous, though left a bit longer it could have been.

©Artwork by Michaela Tait

I knew nothing about colostomies, but a colorectal nurse showed me the stoma bags I’d need and put my mind at ease.

Does your stoma hold you back?

I wear a SenSura Mio Concave, star-shaped bag that seals to my skin and never moves when I’m at work or jogging. It doesn’t prevent me from doing anything.

What do you say to men, in particular?

Don’t ignore symptoms like mine. Early diagnosis leads to better outcomes. The fear and shame attached to talking about poo can kill you.

My stoma was a life-changer for me and my baby

Bethany Fenwick

IBD patient

Intensive care nurse and mum Bethany Fenwick is trying to banish the stigma of stoma after an ileostomy gave her back her life.

How was life before your stoma?

I was rushing to the toilet up to 30 times a day, losing blood in my stools which led to exhaustion, and getting inflamed joints – a form of arthritis that comes with IBD flare-ups.

I studied, socialised and worked around it without taking time off sick, though I took a change of clothes everywhere. I thought I was living a near-normal life – but I wasn’t.

What made you decide on surgery?

I had baby Violet in 2016 and my IBD started impacting on her. I couldn’t get her pram into public loos; at mum and baby swimming I’d have to get out early and when I went into hospital for treatment, I’d miss out on time with her. Finally, I agreed to an ileostomy. I had refused before because it meant wearing a stoma bag.

How did your life change?

I’d worried that the bag would leak, show or smell, but it doesn’t. It’s easy to change. Mostly I forget I’ve got it.

I wish I’d known beforehand how it would change my life. Now I’m keen to banish the stigma of stoma and try to educate people about what a life-changer it can be.

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