Lots of exciting things are happening right now, 1, I’m on holiday, “oh when aren’t you, You don’t work so every day’s a holiday for you!!” I hear you cry, Yep, fair enough, ‘tis true, but I’m on an actual holiday in Spain...”you do that a lot too!!!!” Again, Yep, you’re right I do do that a lot too. Hahahahaha
I’m very grateful to live an extraordinarily good life, mainly because I’m not prepared to sit back and let it pass me by anymore.
Having suffered terribly from low self esteem and no self confidence since I was a young teen, throw into the mix a phobia of flying for about 10 years and you will paint a very different picture of the me I once was.
Meeting Chris nearly 25 years ago now changed the course of who I was and who I was to grow into being, he truly is my Wizard of Oz, getting me to believe in myself and what I am capable of, that I was capable of all along if I only could see it.
Quite frankly he believes in me like no one ever had before and still does, he’s encouraged, supported and lifted me up and that helps me to see my potential. He’s amazing, it’s like living with my very own life coach. Someone believing in you and encouraging you is not to be sniffed at. Chris and cancer have both had very profound and positive effects on my life and I’m damn sure I know which one I prefer! Besides, I’m sure he’d probably say I’ve done the same for him too, so we’re either super supportive or codependent hard to tell this far down the line really. Hahahahaha.
Without his encouragement and literally sitting me in front of the lap top and saying write what comes to mind, Gladrags and bags wouldn’t exist.
I like to feel free to do as I please, and Chris is very good at encouraging me in my random pursuits. I pick and choose, I take positive things from every aspect of life and leave the bits I don’t like behind. For example I eat vegan 3 days a week, all the real vegans would be up in arms “that’s not being vegan!!!!” No, it isn’t, I totally agree, I love cheese and I have an addiction to designer leather shoes but I also want to avoid bowel and breast cancer as best as I can so I’ll stick to my 3 days and you stick to your full timing and we’ll all live happily ever after. And I know I have to exercise to be fitter and stay well but I don’t want to particularly, so I ride my new bike for 45 minutes 5 days a week, it’s not ground breaking or heroic but I’m going to do want I want to do and nothing else.
Anyway that aside I’ve had a very positive and productive few days.
A few weeks ago I was so fed up with being treated automatically like a suspect at Stansted airport security I decided enough was enough and wrote to the chief exec. In no time at all I heard back from his PA that they were very sorry to hear about the ongoing incidents I was having with thier staff and that my concerns and letter had been passed on to the right people to get it sorted.
I wasn’t holding my breath but I did get a lovely letter on Tuesday this week.
My letter to the chief exec is as follows;
Dear Mr. O’Toole
I am writing to you as I have just about had enough of the discriminatory application of your security procedures.
Let me first explain my position. In 2010 I was diagnosed with advanced stage bowel cancer at the age of 36. I had all the usual nasty medicine and an operation to make a colostomy. Thankfully I got lucky and won the battle. Since then I have lived life to the full. Including traveling where ever, when ever I can.
This joie de vivre is some what dampened when coming through your security at your airport.
If you are in possession of any research which shows findings that ostomites are any more likely to be criminals than regular non bagged people then please share those findings with the rest of us. Because I am getting fed up to the back teeth of automatically being presumed guilty of terrorism, drug or diamond smuggling! I assure you if it was the latter I’d be wearing them in full view, subtle I am not!
In the last year alone I have been through security at Salzburg airport - twice, New York JFK, Murcia - 4 times, Gatwick , Heathrow and Las Vegas. In not one of those other airports have I faced the hassle I get going through Stansted!
The last 5 times through Stansted I have been overly pestered, and on one occasion I was walked (felt like marched) to a side room, where I thought I was going to suffer the indignity of a full cavity search. But what turned out to be another check with the magic wand (apparently the first time it was done and nothing showed up was not enough) and some form filling and box ticking. All the while I was in a state of trauma that I’d be strip searched or worse. And on another occasion at Stansted I explained to your security agent that I had a Stoma and that they needed to be less heavy handed because she actually caused me pain by patting me down so hard. I had to explain to her that a stoma is formed by turning the inside part of the bowel outside and fixing to your abdomen, therefore it’s very very sensitive needs gentle care, she didn’t grasp the concept at all.
I came through security last Wednesday afternoon only to be stopped yet again.
Now I totally understand that the scanner shows my colostomy bag up, I accept that. And I fully cooperated and explained to your member of staff that what showed up was my in fact colostomy bag.
She carried out a pat down, did the swab test with the wand, which I also accept is necessary to keep us safe.
She then turns to her co worker and says “shall I swab her colostomy bag now?”
To which he replied “up to you”
To which I interjected “errr, no, no you don’t!”
If nothing showed up on my hands or dress then how could I have loaded the suspected contraband into my stoma bag? And yes, by the way I was wearing a dress and a thong underneath how exactly was she planning on swabbing said bag and still preserving my modesty and dignity?!?
I am a tough old broad and not particularly sensitive about having a Colostomy but even I get nervous having to ‘run the gauntlet’ through your security. If cancer couldn’t take me down I don’t see why Stansted airport security staff should try to undermine my confidence on a regular basis.
If people with stoma’s are so likely to be criminals then surely so too are babies in nappies or women wearing sanitary wear as they too are designed to collect waste from the outside of the body and could just as easily be packed with god knows what your staff are looking for.
Do you swab every babe in arms and every menstruating woman? Are you planning on introducing those measures just to even up the suspicion?
Please, I beg of you, instruct your staff in a proper manor, through better training, compassion, human decency and a splash of common sense.
I live not far from the airport, which is why I travel through there so regularly. I’m happy to come along and assist with some sensitivity training should you wish.
I appreciate you were probably unaware of the treatment of ostomites at your facility. But now you are, it’s up to you to find an agreeable solution.
I want to be safe on a flight but I’m also a paying customer that expects to be treated the same as any other. Perhaps trained sniffer dogs at security would give you a more accurate finding than a scanner.
I know it can be a different experience because that’s what I have at every other airport I travel through.
I will be adding this letter to you on to my blog. I’d like to know other people experiences at airports, as I already know of two fellow ostomites that had similar issues through Stansted and no other airport.
As I said I’m happy to comply with being scanned, patted down (gently with consideration of my stoma) and swabbed.
I don’t expect any of the other nonsense I have to endure through your airport.
I was pleasantly surprised by the response on Tuesday.
(I did have a chuckle to myself when I had to pay £2 to go and collect said letter from the post office as no one had put a stamp on it. Benita at customer relations was mortified when I told her and reimbursed me straight away with a profuse apology).
Anyway it just so happens that I was flying out of Stansted on Tuesday afternoon, now I don’t know if Benita contacted security with a “code red, code red that moany one is coming through later” or if my words had filtered through to the staff. But my passage through security was perfectly lovely.
I was stopped and put through the X-ray machine, always happens, I have a bracelet that can only be taken off by screw driver so as I never bother to take it off, it sets the metal detector off every time.
Anyway once through the scanner I waited for my pat down, which was done gently but efficiently, when she came to my bag, felt through my clothing and asked “what is this?” I replied “that’s a colostomy bag” and she said “oh, ok, no problem at all off you go”. Absolute heaven!
So thank you Stansted, I’m grateful my letter reached the ears of the people that could effect change. Just my one little voice.
Always be the mosquito! We probably could all do with being a bit more proactive, Not just with letters of complaint about poor customer service but with bringing a voice to a subject being ignored, bringing positivity where there is no hope and bringing action where there is unjustness.
Obviously me speaking up benefits me greatly, it was self serving, but it’s also going to hopefully help others that go through Stansted airport, I personally know 3 others.
And if you’re wondering how you go from phobic of flying to the point of getting to the gate at Heathrow but refusing to board a plane to NYC to go and stay at The Waldorf Astoria, to flying 10-12 times a year, well one horrific stormy yacht trip that we thought we weren’t going to make it out alive, Sam being diagnosed with cancer, followed by my diagnosis with cancer only 6 months later all really changed my outlook on life!
Cancer brings many negatives, you don’t need to tell me, I’ve lost enough to it, luckily and thankfully getting away with my life. But it also shines the brightest light on all the positives. One of which has been coping better with flying. And facing other fears too.
But being able to fly is a huge mountain to have been able to overcome. There are so many amazing places to see.
Dress from Zara, Shoes from Russell and Bromley. The dress is online and in stores now, it’s such a great find, I saw it on my friend Tanya the other day and she looked so gorgeous in it I wanted it too. It’s a great all rounder.
Looks great, feels great on and perfect for flying in.
Looks like I’m wearing a super extravagant Stansted airport hat here. Reminding me that I should always check the back ground. Hahahahaha
Anyway, as I had no hassle at security, and the flight was perfectly smooth I began my holiday in great style.
I decided to head to the beach on my first day here. I go get my beach fix before Chris arrives, as he’s not retired like I am, he has far less holiday spare so he usually follows me out a few days later. But he hates beaches, which works perfectly with me coming out first.
I went to my usual beach to find a beach bar had popped up out of no where. I walked past at first, too shy to enquire how much the sun loungers were for the day but then I turned on my heels and walked back. To my shame I speak very little Spanish, I’ve got holiday Spanish, and can be courteous and polite of course but I’m certainly not impressing anyone with my language skills. But then it occurred to me “what’s the worst that could happen by asking?”
So all alone I went to the bar and asked how much (well that's what I think I said anyway). Not only did I survive paying for the bed I also discovered that they sell 0% alcohol beers too! Hahahahaha. This day was just getting better and better. So I settled down in the sun to bake. Thank god I didn’t just meekly walk on by too afraid to ask. I had a lovely time. Sun, sea, sand and no one whinging about 2 of the 3 on the list. Hahahahaha
It was here on my favourite beach that I received an email from a Chilean journalist wanting to interview me about my blog. Her kind words blew me away. I am extremely flattered that anyone reads my blogs, it still stuns me now. But to think someone thinks enough of it to translate an interview with me is incredible. I was actually really emotional in all honesty.
I think if you’ve read any of my blogs you’ll know I’m very positive about life after cancer, my colostomy and generally just being very happy and content in my skin. Being alone did not shape how I approached sunbathing. Suns out bag out. I would not suggest that anyone do anything they’re not comfortable with. But personally I am very comfortable to sun bathe in a bikini...yes, me a 45 year old, over weight, legs like cottage cheese, colostomite. I want as near to an all over tan as possible. And a bikini is the only way.
The way I see it firstly no one is going to be looking at me anyway, why would they be? Secondly so what if they do? And third have you ever looked around a beach before? Gods creatures come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I am by no means the biggest eyesore and I don’t say that out of meanness, I just mean that nobodies perfect, literally not one body is, I bet even Victoria Secrets models will be able tell you something they dislike....even if it’s how hungry you have to be to be a VS model to start with. We’re all just plodding along in the skin we’ve been given and the one life we get to live in it in and I’m very thankful for that.
The other good news I had was I heard from Fight CRC (a bowel cancer charity in America) that the few words I had been asked for had gone in this months magazine. Always a pleasure to assist them as they do great work and have been great supporters of my blog.
I write Gladrags because I feel passionately about how much better my life is inspite and despite my colostomy (I’d have preferred that my bowel cancer hadn’t been misdiagnosed as IBS obviously, I wish that it had been picked up when it was just at the polyp stage of course, but it wasn’t so I just focus on what is and not what should or could’ve been).
I do feel that having my bag has opened up the world to me. I have travelled further post bag than I ever did pre. Cuba, LA, Vegas, NY, and Europe many times over.
I do feel more confident in my self and my skin, maybe that’s to do with getting older or maybe it’s to do with knowing what I’m capable of. Immediately post surgery was hard work, but I got through it. I won’t go in to details on here but happily would discuss it one to one should anyone want me to. (it’s a bit like if some one says they’re pregnant and then everyone starts telling them their horror stories. You just don’t need that). I’m not in denial about how my surgery went but I see no reason to talk about it unsolicited on here. But feel free to email and chat about it if you wish. I’m very open and very honest.
Beach or not only bikini’s when it’s hot! Hahahahaha
Another night out and another great dress from Zara, available online and in store and for a bagain price of £29! I
Dress from Zara, Shoes from Ralph Lauren
great for on safari too! Hahahahaha
Navy spotty dress from Next. So cosy, so comfortable, so great for eating out in...although I did drop curry down myself two nights running.
Red spotty dress, unsurprisingly also from Next, Shoes from Jeager
We’re now going to be in Spain longer than expected due to Ryanair cancelling our flights home Sunday night, they didn’t give details in the text but apparently it’s to do with striking air traffic control in France.
We desperatly tried to get flights out of the same airport we flew into but they couldn’t take us till Wednesday, which is no good at all. So we’re now hoping the car hire company won’t mind if we keep the car a bit longer and drop it to Alicante, miles away from where it’s meant to be.
But we’ve been given extra time, despite it being a tad annoying for Chris (he has a job to go to after all) extra sun time and more menu del dia’s por fabor.