I have had the privilege of being an advocate for ConvaTec since the very beginning. Proudly I was one of the first advocates. But, what does being an advocate actually mean?
I am invited by ConvaTec and nurses to share my stoma story at various groups and meetings. I share how my life has changed for the better since my operation; how it has allowed me to become a father and allowed me to be fitter than I ever was before!
After my presentation and general questions from the audience I’m able to chat with people on a more one to one basis. This is the part I enjoy the most. It’s an opportunity to meet new people and to learn how, whilst we have something in common with our stomas, the journeys we took to reach this destination are unique.
The meetings finish and I continue my normal life (if normality really exists). It’s unusual that I meet those people again. However, after one meeting where I chatted with a young guy, we connected via social media. When we met he was literally weeks post-op and he had the stereotype post-op look - grey skin, tired eyes, lethargic. We discussed my fitness, running and general life and he mentioned how he had played football before the operation. Months later we reconnected. Not only has he returned to activities but he has recently run the Virgin London Marathon. He remembers the day we met and says it was the point at which he realised he could return to an active lifestyle.
By sharing my story I could potentially encourage one person to realise having a bag DOESN’T decrease your quality of life…it can actually significantly improve it. I’m not sure I could have found a better way of describing what an Advocate is. I wish a programme like me+™ was available to me when I first started my journey. Knowing there is a community of people with stomas who do return to a normal and very active lifestyle. I didn’t have this support 10 years ago, I guess that is why I am so passionate about it now and proud to be an Advocate.