'I won't keep 'mortifying' bowel disease a secret thanks to belly selfie craze'

Lisa Mitchener and her son Jack

Lisa Mitchener and her son Jack

First published in News
Last updated
Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Features Writer

LISA Mitchener no longer blushes when she says she spends hours on the toilet – sometimes going up to 20 times a day.

Talking about her toilet habits is not easy for the 29-year-old young mum.

But she is among the sufferers of ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel condition characterised by blood and abdominal pain.

At her worst she can be so fatigued she struggles to do simple tasks and is at times, frightened to leave her house in case she feels the sudden urge to go to the toilet.

But once embarrassed to talk about her ‘humiliating’ problem, thanks to an Internet selfie craze called ‘Get Your Belly Out’, she is now determined to raise awareness of the condition which 10,000 young people are diagnosed with each year.

Last month women across the world with colostomy bags proudly bared their stomachs by posting selfies in an online photo sharing craze inspired by Crohn’s disease sufferer turned model, Bethany Townsend, 23.

Daily Echo:

Bethany Townsend

Though Lisa doesn’t have a colostomy bag, she has been inspired to confront the stigma and squeamishness people feel when talking about bowel conditions and feels determined no one should suffer in silence.

“It’s really terrible and not nice at all.

Before I was humiliated about it, but with the recent Internet craze, it’s opened it up for discussion.

“There isn’t enough out there about bowel disease and awareness needs to be raised.

“Nobody should suffer alone.”

Lisa, who also suffers with Type 1 diabetes, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2012 when she was six months pregnant.

Lisa says she was so embarrassed about her symptoms she did not tell medics.

“I had started going to the toilet a lot and I was losing a lot of blood. It was horrific.

“I had been absolutely exhausted and breathless, but didn’t think too much of it.

It was my first child and I just thought it was pregnancy related.

“It wasn’t until I had routine iron level tests, medics phoned me telling me I had to get to hospital because I was anaemic.

“It got so bad that I lost so much blood I had to have a blood transfusion.”

Lisa, a former Hamble Community Sports College who lives in Southampton, was diagnosed with the condition which has no known cause.

“I’d never heard of it before. I was shocked. To be told now you have this chronic disease, is just awful.

“All these things were going through my mind.”

“Ever since, I must have been on nearly every type of medication to treat it. At the moment I’m on the last one and I said to my consultant ‘if this doesn’t work, what’s next?’ and they weren’t able to give me an answer so it is life-changing.”

Lisa, who works as an administrator for the Probation Service, says she has spent months off sick due to the condition which can suddenly flare up after bouts of being in remission.

And for the young mum, living with the condition and juggling work and her two-year-old Jack is not easy.

Daily Echo:

Sometimes she is frightened to leave the house and is prevented from being a hands-on active mum to her toddler unless she plans days out around toilet locations.

“It can lead to constipation and since March I have been on four laxatives a day which then limits what I can do myself because I obviously have to be near a toilet.

“I’d give anything just to be able to go to the toilet without taking laxatives. If I have to carry on doing that for the rest of my life, I’d cry. It’s horrific.

“I feel for Jack because sometimes I can be like a hermit, not wanting to leave the house. You don’t really feel like going out and doing things as much, it is hard having a very active toddler.

“I fear when he’s older he’s going to say to me: ‘mummy, why do you spend so much time on the toilet?’”

However, for Lisa, breaking the toilet taboo, is vital in championing greater understanding of the disease.

“It was very hard for me. I have always been very shy talking about my toilet habits. I wouldn’t go in anyone else’s house even so this was really difficult for me, and it still is.

“But I won’t let my colitis beat me.

"If anyone bleeds from their bottom, they should go to the doctor. Look at me, I let it go on and I ended up having a blood transfusion.

Nobody should suffer alone and that makes me determined to keep talking about it.”

Crohn’s and Colitis UK provides a valuable support network and information resource for people and families affected by Colitis and Crohn’s Disease as well as raising significant funds for research.

For information go to crohnsandcolitis.org.uk

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition, where the colon and rectum become inflamed.

Small ulcers can develop on the colon's lining, and can bleed and produce pus.

The main symptoms of ulcerative colitis are recurring diarrhoea or constipation, which may contain blood, mucus or pus, abdominal pain and needing to empty your bowels frequently.

The severity of the symptoms varies, depending on how much of the rectum and colon is inflamed and how severe the inflammation is. For some people, the condition has a significant impact on their everyday lives.

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