Naturism with an ostomy, how the heck did I get into this?

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by Billy Ritchie

After an endoscopy in November 2010 I was diagnosed with cancer of the cecum, that was difficult enough to take in, but an MRI scan confirmed that the cancerous bowel has fused itself to my bladder. I would probably have to lose that as well as my large intestine. This sucks.

5 days before the operation I managed to go to the Office Christmas meal but didn’t feel very festive.

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Here I am beside two colleagues and nobody including myself thought I would survive

Early in the morning of the operation the stoma nurse was marking my stoma site and reality suddenly hit me. I felt faint, and had to lay down on the bed. All I could think was - I want to keep my bladder. When I came to after the surgery I asked if they had given me a bag, Yes, my world sank. I had my large intestine, bladder and my prostate removed, but on the bright side they also took out all of the cancer, yippee.

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3 days later here I am on Christmas day and I knew I had received the best ever Christmas present ever, life so I took a selfie

The chemo certainly took its toll on my body and mind, I was just going through the motions, living from day to day. l shut myself away from the world as this was one of the hardest and lowest periods of my life. Being off work gives you a lot of time to think about things. I had so many questions: ‘How will I cope?’ ‘Will having a stoma mean I have to change my whole lifestyle?’ ‘What will I do about dating?’. I would look at myself in the mirror, and think ‘You look like a monster, with a big scar right down your belly and a bag of pee stuck to your side, you will never get another girlfriend now.’

After the chemo my body started to mend and my hobbies came back to me: abseiling, rock climbing, mountain biking. Over the following year, I thought this is who you are now, you certainly can't be destined to hide away. I knew that confidence was the key and that in order to get completely comfortable with my body I would have to do something drastic. I read somewhere that people go swimming with no costumes.


They must be comfortable with their bodies! If I could try that It would be a step in the right direction. So I found a group not too far away that swam naked twice a month. So 19 months after my surgery, I went along, sat outside watching people go in and I chickened out and drove home. However, four weeks later I was back and I went inside, "Hello I’m different I wear a bag on my belly.” I shouldn’t have been surprised at the response. “Everyone is different. Nobody will be bothered about your condition. You are welcome to swim.”

The scariest thing about your first naturist event was wondering if you are going to be the only one with no clothes on. So, once undressed I popped my head out of the cubicle and, to my relief, saw a few bare bums heading to the pool. Nobody was bothered about my bag or my scar. I wasn’t a freak; I was a person, just a normal person. Afterwards I was elated, I had to try that again.

It has been 4 years since I became a naturist with my body confidence fully restored. I wear a smaller bag so it doesn’t flap about. I've attended many organized events including a formal Burns Supper with 106 other naturists, camping, a Ceildh and naked bike rides in York and Newcastle. I found a swimming pool in Glasgow that has a trapeze and rings along the length of the pool, I spend a lot of time swinging back and forward as well as somersaulting on the rings, pretty much showing off.

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Here I am wearing a waist band, not for abdominal support but if I fall in, the bag is protected and won’t rip off

The clothing we wear is used to communicate and identify us, from office workers to nurses, we all make assumptions about the person wearing the clothing or uniform. However, naturism removes those pre-conceived ideas about people. Nakedness is an equalizer, there is no façade.

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I was in Blackpool here so why not get body painted in a 1920’s seaside bathing costume

I am completely at ease with my body nowadays. I have tried many things in the naturist environment. I even did a handstand on the glass floor of Blackpool tower while a TV crew filmed us from the ground below.

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From ten pin bowling to walking over hot ashes

In the early days, my stoma nurse told me "don’t let it rule you". At the time I didn't understand what she meant, I thought of course it will. But now it makes sense. My stoma doesn’t dictate how I lead my life, it is just another part of me. I dared to dip into the world of naturism and I found confidence.