The Christmas Sprout
by Jo Hunt
Christmas is a magical time of year, especially if you have young children in the family. It's a time for gathering together, sharing food and laughter and falling asleep in front of the tv.
Christmas 1992 was very different. I had had my stoma for 9 months and it was still a revelation to me. Prior to having my stoma Christmas was something to approach with caution. I had a very limited diet due to Crohn's Disease; very bland and boring but it helped to keep pain to a minimum. I never got through a meal without having to rush to the loo, the only difference at Christmas was sitting there with a paper hat on. My brother would complain about the obligatory sprout on his dinner and I would be wishing I could eat one but I couldn't have any vegetables apart from cauliflower which was cooked to mush and mashed potatoes. No roasties, no Yorkshire pud, no Christmas pudding or mince pies. The wonderful smells of my Mum’s cooking were torture but the thought of the excruciating pain I would have stopped me from having even a mouthful. Visiting family or friends was traumatic as I didn't want to use their loos. I was very self conscious of the amount of time I was in there. Did they have air freshener? How soft was the toilet paper? People went up or down in my estimations depending on the softness of their choice of loo roll.
Having a stoma meant I could start trying different things to eat. I tried one thing at a time in small amounts to see if I could eat them. My ambition was the holy grail of Christmas dinner, the Brussel sprout. Generally if I ate something in moderation, chewed well and kept hydrated I was okay. I tried roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, stuffing, peas and various other vegetables at Sunday lunches over the year. They passed the test and I knew how much I could eat. Just the sprout to try. I wasn't even sure I liked them but it was the principle - I wanted to be able to have one. I cut that first sprout in half, then half again, and put a quarter in my mouth. I started to chew and oh what heaven, it was delicious, amazing. I chewed it really well and finished the rest with delight. I really wanted more but was sensible and luckily had no ill effects from that pioneering sprout and to this day I look forward to having them on my dinner (so much so I had some last night).
Christmas is about preparation, shopping for gifts and food, putting up decorations and getting beds ready for visitors. Having a stoma needs a little bit of preparation so you can enjoy yourself without worrying. Know your limitations with food. If you are not sure if you can eat something and don't feel confident to try it then don't worry. There will be plenty more opportunities. You need to order enough bags, and whatever else you use, to see you through the festive season. Most delivery companies send out reminders as they close for a few days but if you get your bags from a chemist remember to get your prescription so you have plenty of time for it to be made up. Order a bit more than usual to see you through any extra changes or leaks you may have. Most importantly try not to worry too much if this is your first Christmas with a stoma, just take it easy and enjoy the festivities - and that snooze on the sofa. Happy Sprout Day!