Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Every UC cloud has a silver lining

The other day I received a letter from my GP. An appointment has been made for me to have the Swine Flu Vaccination. I think I qualify because I’m on azathioprine, which is an immunosuppressant. There aren’t too many advantages to having ulcerative colitis, but getting the Swine Flu Vaccine might just be one of them. I feel like I’ve been given the last cabin on Noah’s Ark. I’m on the last chopper out of Saigon. I’m one of the little green aliens in Toy Story that get picked up by the claw. I’ve been saved. Just as long as I don’t catch anything between now and 10am on 1st December.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Does anyone know where the gents are?

The online UC community is much bigger now than it was when I started blogging in 2007. Back then there were the web forums run by the various IBD groups and organisations, but very few blogs. As you can see by the links section over there on the right, that’s all changed. More and more of us are now sharing our experiences. Which can only be a good thing given ulcerative colitis is an illness few people openly talk about. I have noticed though that there aren’t too many male UC bloggers. Also most of the comments I get on here are from women. It’s the same with the Number Twos followers. Nearly all girls. As far as I know UC affects men and women equally, so where are the chaps? Are men just less comfortable talking about their illnesses? Do they prefer to tough it out in hairy-chested, square-jawed, manly silence? Are men too busy huntin’, shootin’ and insulatin’ the loft cavity space to be wittering on the internet? If this is the case, where does that leave me? Am I a big girl’s blouse for blogging about my UC?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ostomy & me

Sometimes I think I don’t blog enough about being an ostomate. This might be because I know I’m not going to be one forever. To use a footballing analogy, I feel like I’m only on loan to the ostomates. And early next year when I have my reversal I’ll go back to being just a UC person. Or if I can emulate Guy Cohen, I might even be a regular healthy person. Who knows? But right now I am a fully-fledged, colostomy bag-wearing ostomate with ulcerative colitis. I should probably talk about it more.

It was only eight months ago that I was totally floored by the flare-up that was to lead to me becoming an ostomate. I wasn’t able to go to work. I could barely get to the shops and back without having an accident. And I was often waking up three or four times during the night to go to the toilet. It was physically and mentally draining. I was also hospitalised a couple of times, but no amount of medication made a difference. Surgery started to look like the only way out. I wasn’t exactly mad about the idea of having a colostomy bag, but nor was I in love with remaining in the grip of a flare-up indefinitely. Plus I needed to get back to work. I’ve got a mortgage and bills to pay. Having the op meant if all went well I would be back at work in a month. That was the deal on the table. I took it.

Since my operation on 27th February I haven’t looked back. There were a few niggles in the early days, which I wrote about at the time, but eight months on and I’m in a very good place. Becoming an ostomate really, really isn’t the end of the world. Without wishing to sound too dramatic, the operation gave me my life back. I’ve worked solidly since the end of March. Most evenings I walk half of the way home to either Liverpool Street Station, which is 2.7 miles or Highbury & Islington Station, which is 2.8 miles. In August Elisabeth and myself completed a 12 mile hike in the Lake District. Neither of us had ever walked that far in our lives before. I fly regularly back and forth to Germany. And recently I went up in a hot air balloon, which given its lack of onboard toilet facilities would have been an absolute no-no before. Having a colostomy bag doesn’t stop me doing anything. These days if I get exhausted it’s because I’ve walked from Oxford Circus to Walthamstow or I’ve gone nuts to Eye of the Tiger one too many times.

And if for some reason I couldn’t have my reversal in the new year and I was an ostomate for life, I could live with that. No problem.

On my recent balloon trip the nearest loo was only 30 metres away - straight down.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Happy feet

My legs are bending and clacking straight again like a builders tape measure. Bend, straighten, bend, straighten, bend, straighten. This is me dancing. Well, the lower half anyway. The upper half is doing its own thing entirely. My arms are bent at the elbow. I know this much. But past the elbow it’s anyone’s guess. Some sort of twirling might be occurring. It’s hard to say. Perhaps windmilling is a better description. So, to recap – legs: bend, straighten, bend, straighten, bend, straighten. Arms from the elbow down: twirl, windmill, twirl, windmill. Sounds about right. I’m fairly certain if I ever danced like this in a club a 24hr vet would be called out and I would be shot with a sedative dart. Fortunately I’m in the privacy of my spare room. Blinds closed. As are my eyes. Clinging for dear life to my wildly bucking head is a pair of headphones, through which blasts Eye of the Tiger by Survivor. Perhaps better known as the theme song from Rocky. 3 minutes 53 seconds of pure testosterone-pumped cheddar. And I’m doing the full Travolta to it in my back bedroom. Legs: bend, straighten, bend, straighten, bend, straighten. Arms from the elbow down: twirl, windmill, twirl, windmill. Oh, for pity’s sake what now. Cripes. I’m triumphantly punching the air with a clenched fist, which is odd because a 37-year-old man rocking out to Survivor on his own isn’t anything to feel particularly triumphant about. I’m too English for this. I do feel ever so silly. But I’m possessed by the steady rhythmic beat of the drums, which sound like the pounding feet of Hannibal’s war elephants on the march. As I pirouette out of a deft little Northern Soul spin I remember Guru Cohen’s words, “Really go for it and dance and celebrate being well again, feel the joy and happiness just like you’re completely better, really get into it and feel those emotions, be grateful for being healthy.” So as my legs bend and straighten and my arms twirl and windmill and punch the air I focus my mind on what it would feel like to be well. I summon up the spirit of Rocky and imagine myself as victor. I try to visualise myself totally fit and free of ulcerative colitis. I try to feel it as if it were true. It’s a huge mental effort, but I start to smile, and for a fleeting moment I do feel something, and it feels good.

Every day after I’ve finish my hypnotherapy session I put my headphones on and dance to Eye of the Tiger. I no longer feel such a berk and I quite enjoy it now. I’m not sure if it’s having any effect on my UC, but my dancing is coming on in leaps and bounds, and I’ve been called back for a second audition for Grease: The Musical.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prattle, prattle, prattle, prattle, prattle, oh that’s nice, prattle, prattle

Every now and then, in a desperate bid to inject some much needed variety into this tired old grey sock of a blog, I resort to posting pictures that in all honesty have diddlysquat to do with ulcerative colitis. Though instinctively I feel a photograph of a toilet seat with some crocodile teeth painted on it (which I posted ages ago) can only lift this blog to loftier heights. Such visual witticisms add a nuance of texture. It's all about light and shade. And just as the classic Beatles album, Revolver has the acid-tinged psychedelia of Tomorrow Never Knows rubbing shoulders with the pre-school tomfoolery of Yellow Submarine, on Number Twos you will often find my inane whimperings shored up with something far more rewarding. Like this picture of a load of old bog rolls stuck up in someone’s spare room.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I think Pixar are safe

I made another film. I’m not going to post it here because Number Twos is an extremely serious blog, with certain editorial standards that must be upheld. If you do want to watch the film you can see it here, where there are clearly no standards whatsoever.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Image is everything

Thanks to an outbreak of flaky, head-to-toe eczema as a baby I missed out on being christened. I can only imagine my parents thought there was a danger I’d dissolve in the font. Or one of my limbs would break off like an over-dunked Hobnob. As a result I’m not a particularly religious man. But I do love a good church. I just think they’re amazing places; the stonework, the stained glass, the tapestries, the carpentry, the big organ thing with the giant set of panpipes sticking out the top. From nave to pulpit churches are flippin’ impressive. But if churches are still capable of wowing our 21st century eyes, imagine how mind-bendingly impressive they must have been to our ancestors, who in all probability would have never seen an IKEA, like we have. For the average medieval peasant, the local church would have been as sexy as hell. A bit like Harvey Nichols is to us now. In the wattle and daub landscape churches would have added a touch of glitz and glamour. The church knew how to create a good image. All that gold and stained glass was there to seduce us. And I guess over the centuries it worked.

What’s the matter with the truth? Everything comes in packages. If it’s in a package you can bring the devil in the house. People rely on packages. If you will wrap it up, they will take it.
Saul Bellow, ‘The Victim’

But as church congregations dwindle it seems more people are turning to the self-help section of their local bookshops for spiritual enlightenment. I don’t think this is any more right or wrong than being fed a Pringle by a middle-aged man wearing a purple dress. As John Lennon sang, ‘Whatever gets you thru the night, s’alright.’

Regular readers of Number Twos will know that recently I have been exploring alternative therapies in an attempt to rid myself of ulcerative colitis. This has taken me deep into the murky world of self-help. And whilst it continues to be a fascinating, and I think, a rewarding journey, one thing concerns me. Self-help has an image problem. It looks naff.

A majority of the books, websites and DVDs I’ve come across look cheap, tacky and poorly produced. It’s like Del Boy has twigged there might be a few quid to be made in the self-help business and has got Rodney to knock something up on his ‘puter.

Self-help looks low-rent. The moment I see faux-Michelangelo illustrations, techy brainwavey icons or dodgy quasi-religious scrolls I start to get suspicious. Much of the design and imagery is so heavy-handed and desperate to be taken seriously, for me it actually has the opposite effect. And the music in some of the films I’ve watched on youtube sounds like it’s being played on Casio keyboards rescued from the rubble of a Tandy store after a gas explosion. I assume the filmmakers were aiming for ethereal and soothing, but again, it just comes across as cheesy and bargain-basement. Sigh.

In my opinion these low production values undermine the message. Sometimes how you present something is just as important as what you present. Personally I think there are some really worthwhile ideas that fall under the umbrella of self-help, that do deserve a wider audience, but until the writers, filmmakers and designers start to consider how they package their message, many people will continue to be put off. As the church understood, get the image right and people will take notice.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sympathy in the Workplace

I discovered this animation site and made a little film. Hope you like it.

(If you double-click the film I think it'll take you through to the site where you can watch it in its proper format.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Back to the future II

I’m still drawn to this time machine idea.

Having lived with ulcerative colitis for a few years now, I’ve got a pretty good understanding of how it impacts on my life.

I suppose it’s called experience.

But just because I have all this ‘experience’ it doesn’t mean I think I know all the answers.

I really, really don’t.

Although there is some stuff I know now that I wish I’d known when I was first diagnosed.

And I suppose that’s called hindsight.

For example, it would have been good to know about Guy Cohen and some of his ideas 4 years ago.

There are lots of things that I would like to have known earlier.

But they were either not available to me or I wasn’t looking hard enough for them.

And I didn’t turn up in a time machine with a handy little UC guidebook from the future either.

So, I’m not sure where I’m going with this.

I’m just really intrigued with the idea, that if I could go back to 2005 what would I say to myself?

Or if I could give myself a notebook full of advice, what would be written on those pages?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bloody Redgrave. Again

Sir Steve Redgrave may be a pretty useful oarsman, but he wouldn’t be much cop as a UC blogger.

In his book Inspired: Stories of Sporting Greatness he dedicates just 5 pages to his ulcerative colitis. But maybe he’s right to downplay his illness? Some of his success may be down to not giving his illness a bigger role than it deserves.

In one of the few passages in which he actually talks about UC he says this.

Both before and after the Olympics the colitis was hard to manage and sometimes excruciating, but for a ten-week window which culminated in Barcelona I was fine. That’s why I say it was only partly the medication that helped me to my third gold and Matt to his first. The other part was something I never fully understood, something along the lines of willpower. I don’t know whether stories of women finding the superhuman strength to lift ton-weight of cars to rescue their children are purely mythical. All I know is that I’m more prepared to believe them after the Barcelona Olympics.
It’s very interesting that he credits willpower. This ties in with everything Guy Cohen believes.

It also makes me wonder if blogging about ulcerative colitis, and therefore dedicating a sizeable chunk of my time to thinking about it, may actually be detrimental to my health?

Maybe it’s time I gave my UC a smaller role?

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 8.2

Wednesday 4th November:
3.45am Change bag
7am Change bag
11.50am Empty bag
4.30pm Empty bag
7pm Empty bag
9.55pm Empty bag

Breakfast 6 x mesalazine 400mg
Dinner 4 x azathioprine 50mg
Bedtime 6 x mesalazine 400mg


Noticeable improvements:

Still good.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Back to the future

If you had a time machine and you could travel back to the day you were first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, what advice would you give yourself?

This is my first stab at it:
You may not be able to control everything that happens, but you can always control how you deal with it.

What would you say to yourself?

It could make an interesting/helpful/inspiring/funny little book?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 8.1

Wednesday 28th October:
7am Change bag
11.30am Empty bag
6.45pm Empty bag
9.30pm Empty bag

Breakfast 6 x mesalazine 400mg
Dinner 4 x azathioprine 50mg
Bedtime 6 x mesalazine 400mg


Noticeable improvements:
No blood.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bedtime reading

Foyles sits on the edge of Soho like a bookend. Established in 1903 it is the Harrods of bookshops. In its heyday Christina Foyle held literary lunches on the premises, attended by famous writers of the time. If ever the Oxford English Dictionary were stuck for a definition of ‘intimidating’ then ‘Foyles literary lunch’ would sum it up well for me.

Recently I did something in Foyles I’ve never done before. I went downstairs to the basement floor in search of the self-help section. It’s ironic that you have to go down to find the books that will make you feel up. What immediately struck me about the self-help section is its size. The shelves are floor to ceiling with books written by gurus of every description; businessmen, entrepreneurs, doctors, hypnotists, healers, religious leaders, celebrities, sportspeople, professors, scientists, philosophers, weathergirls (probably); the selection is mind-boggling. In fact someone should write a self-help guide to self-help guides. It would probably sell.

There clearly is money to be made in the self-help business. I’ve read a few articles recently suggesting the current popularity of the genre is largely down to the credit crunch and modern life being a bit stressy and shit. There’s probably some truth in that. A couple of journalists even go as far as to actually blame the banking collapse on self-help books themselves, which they claim are responsible for psyching up city traders and making them feel invincible. At this point it all gets a bit chicken and egg and I need to lie down.

Whilst flicking idly through various books, with bombastic titles such as Want it, See it, Get it! I surreptitiously took a peek at my fellow browsers. They didn’t look desperate, unstable, depressed or haunted, like they were about to throw themselves under a tube train. Nor did they particularly look like pumped up little Gordon Gekkos. They actually appeared an incredibly normal bunch. Although I did note we were all men. Perhaps women solve their problems by talking about them, whereas men prefer to furtively underline key phrases and scribble notes in the margins of self-help books?

There’s a lot of scepticism about the self-help industry. And when you read some of the titles, like Happier Than God and Awaken The Giant Within it’s easy to see why. The style of some of the writing doesn’t help either. A couple of books I picked up read like nothing more than extended penis enlargement ads. But I decided to hold back on my cynicism. After all you don’t dismiss John Steinbeck because he happens to be on the same shelf as Danielle Steel, do you? Like any genre, there must be good self-help books and bad ones. It may be a case of not judging a book by its cover. Or even its chest-beating, testosterone-enhanced title.

On the recommendation of Guy Cohen I bought Paul McKenna’s Control Stress book. I like it, a lot of it makes sense to me and it dovetails nicely with Guy’s therapies. If you feel stress may be an issue for you I think it would be £10.99 well spent. Since my trip to Foyles I’ve started to amass a small library of self-help books and related newspaper articles. (I’ve found quite a few books in charity shops, which perhaps isn’t a good sign.) Some of the stuff I’ve read seems a little fanciful, but on the whole I find them really useful to dip into for a nugget of wisdom or a piece of fresh thinking. A few pages a day seems to help keep me focused and heading in the right direction. For me, self-help books can be a great resource if you open them with an open mind.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

One of Nena's 99 red balloons borrowed for use in Crohn's and UC song

Red Balloon is a song written by Lauren Bruno and featuring Mike McCready of Pearl Jam to raise awareness of inflammatory bowel disease. It’s very inspiring to see people putting themselves out there and using their creativity to help others. Incidentally, I’m going on a hot air balloon ride next weekend. I’m not sure if it will be red though. And I won’t be singing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bloody Redgrave

A word of advice to anyone newly diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

Chances are until recently you’d never heard of ulcerative colitis, and as soon as you got home from the hospital you probably did what most people do and went straight on Google. Maybe that’s how you ended up here?

And amongst the flotsam and jetsam of UC related stuff on the internet you may have read that Olympic legend, Sir Steve Redgrave also has ulcerative colitis. This is true, he does. He’s one of the very few public figures who are happy for the world to know they have a bowel disease. This is to be applauded.

Now, when you come to find yourself explaining to your friends, family and colleagues what exactly UC is, it may be tempting to drop in the fact that Sir Steve Redgrave has it. This is perfectly natural. It somehow helps normalise it for people. In their heads they’ll think “Oh, if Sir Steve Redgrave’s got it, it can’t be contagious because he had to sit in a boat with other people and I’ve seen him shake hands with the Queen.” It helps people contextualise it.

It’s understandable that anyone with any sort of illness would seek out a celebrity with the same condition. I imagine Professor Stephen Hawking often told his friends, “You know that Davros from Dr Who? Well he’s got what I’ve got.”

But if you were thinking of telling people you have the same disease as Sir Steve Redgrave, don’t.

It’s not worth it. And I’ll tell you why. Next time you phone in sick, or cancel a night out, or try to get out of going to Ikea and you use your UC as an excuse, Sir Steve-sodding-Redgrave will be thrown back in your face. Gold medals and all.

You see, somehow Sir Steve managed to go and win gold at five consecutive Olympic Games all whilst having ulcerative colitis. And he wasn’t doing shooting or bowls or some namby-pamby sport, he did it in rowing, one of the most physically demanding events you can do.

Up against that your excuse that you’re too tired to go to Aunt Jean’s birthday party suddenly sounds a bit lame.

So if you want an easy life, mark my words, don’t ever, ever tell anyone that Sir Steve Redgrave has UC.

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 8.0

Wednesday 21st October:
6.50am Change bag
11.30am Change bag
3.30pm Empty bag
6pm Empty bag
8.45pm Empty bag
11.15pm Empty bag

Breakfast 6 x mesalazine 400mg
Dinner 4 x azathioprine 50mg
Bedtime 6 x mesalazine 400mg

Paul McKenna Control Stress relaxation therapy, Rewind technique

Noticeable improvements:
A smidgen of blood. Not enough to satisfy a vampire gnat.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009


On my computer desktop there’s a Word file saved as Gratitude. It was originally called Joy, but that seemed too hyperbolic. Then it was called Whoohoo, but that felt slightly sarcastic. So now it’s just called Gratitude.

Every night before I go to bed I open up the Gratitude document and write a list of all the things that I’ve been grateful for during the day. It can be anything. If I had a particularly good cheese sandwich for lunch, it goes on the list. If someone compliments my shoes, it goes on. If I have a niggle-free bag day, I put that on the list. I work with talented, interesting people, so I put that on my list. My girlfriend goes at the top and in CAPITALS. Personally I don’t like to use too many exclamation marks, but they’re sprinkled all over my gratitude list like hundreds and thousands. I think it’s okay to be cheesy with it.

When I first started writing my daily lists I felt a bit of a plonker. It didn’t feel like something a 37-year-old supposed man of the world should be doing. It felt naff. But that feeling quickly went away. What I find now is just the act of writing the list shifts my focus away from life’s irritations and niggles. And after I type out each thing I’m grateful for, I give myself a moment to think about whatever it is. It sounds corny as hell, but it’s kind of hard to stop myself smiling.

Keeping the list also makes me more conscious of the good things in my life. It makes me seek more of them out. I look for them now. Yesterday I was walking through Piccadilly Circus, which I’ve done hundreds of times before, but just for once I stopped and took it all in. And as I looked around me I thought to myself – wow, I’m living in one of the most exciting cities in the world, on my way for a mooch round Waterstone’s Piccadilly, in a great art deco building and then afterwards I’m going to have a really good cheese sandwich. That’s pretty cool.

Now in cold black and white pixels that may sound like a load of old hippy nonsense, but just a few weeks ago I could have made the exact same journey and I would have been chuntering to myself about bloody tourists getting under my feet, the lights taking ages to change and generally being a cantankerous old git. I would have been so wrapped up in my gloomy thoughts Eros could have been replaced by Jesus the Redeemer and I wouldn’t have noticed.

And I wouldn’t say I was particularly unhappy before, or that I was a sour, miserable sod all the time. At least not outwardly, but inwardly I was perhaps dwelling on the negatives a little too much. I think I was probably like a lot of Londoners.

But just by spending a few minutes every day writing my list, littered with all those cheesy exclamation marks, I’m training myself to think more positively, to appreciate what I have and enjoy it. It makes me live much more in the present. Not in the past or the future, but in the moment.

So here’s an example of how I start my list:
Wednesday, 21st October, 2009

Today I am happy and grateful for…

1. Having the time to write a blog about my gratitude list

And then I keep adding to it until I run out of stuff. There's usually somewhere between 8 and 15 things on the finished list.

If you decide to give it a go, try it for a week and then let me know if you feel any different. I’d be really interested in the results.

It works for me!!!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Loo roll sculpture

I think these are really quite lovely.

Things I won’t be talking about in the lift at work but I will be talking about here

Lift conversations should be kept light. It’s almost as if the lifts themselves can only carry conversations of a certain weight. Anything too heavy and there’s a danger the lift will grind to a halt. Or it can feel that way.

So as a rule of thumb, the lighter the conversation, the quicker the journey. The heavier the conversation, the slower the journey. If you don’t believe me, next time you’re in a lift with someone start a conversation about paedophile tagging. See how long that journey feels.

Lifts already carry signs to tell you how many people they can take – Maximum load 10 persons or 750kg. Maybe they should also have one for conversation – Maximum heaviness of chat ‘the weather’, ‘recent football results’ and ‘the Cheryl Cole did-she-mime-didn’t-she-mime debate’. It would be a handy reminder to keep things nice and light.

Of course, I already know this, which is why recently when someone in the lift at work asked me if I had done anything interesting the night before, I lied. That’s right, I lied to their face. Because the truth would have been far too heavy for lift chat. The truth would have meant telling them I spent the evening attempting to cure my incurable disease. It is, I think you’ll agree, a little on the weighty side. There’s a time and place for telling folk you’re attempting to cure yourself of an incurable disease, and it isn’t somewhere between the ground floor and the fourth.

In fact, outside of a small circle of friends and family and anyone who reads Number Twos, I have told very few people what I’ve been getting up to in my spare time. And even then I’ve been fairly vague about the details.

But over the next few posts I’m going to share with you some of the therapies and techniques I’ve been using to wallop my ulcerative colitis into submission. After years of my UC attacking me, I’ve started to fight back. And I’m throwing everything at it. It’s quite fun actually.

So in my next post* I’ll be talking about the role gratitude is playing in the war against my UC. It’s definitely not a topic for the lift.

*Okay, the post after the one with the loo roll sculptures.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Karate Kid Part II

I wasn’t cut out to be the Midland’s answer to the Karate Kid.

When I was about 14 or 15 I joined a local karate club. Naively I had assumed karate was all about flying ninja kicks and screaming ‘haaayaaah’ a lot.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Karate, I soon discovered is incredibly disciplined. It is an ancient martial art form with very strict traditions. There is a clearly defined hierarchy and you have to behave respectfully at all times. I seem to remember being made to bow an unreasonable amount of times.

Karate is far from just a bit of a dust up in pyjamas; it’s a way of life, a philosophy.

And as a young teenager prone to giggling, that wasn’t my cup of sake at all. So after I got my first belt I bowed out. Literally.

Now let’s take a flying karate kick through the years to the present day.

And once again I find myself being challenged by something I had thought was relatively simple, but have since discovered is far deeper.

I’m talking about the hypnotherapy techniques I’ve been doing recently.

When I started I thought it was just a case of popping the headphones on, pressing play and letting it all wash over me. But it isn’t. There’s much more to it than that.

It’s not like going on a sunbed where you just lie there and 20 minutes later – bing! – you’re 2 or 3 shades closer to being racially abused by Anton Du Beke.

You need to play an active role in some of the therapies. You need to concentrate. You have to work at it. It’s a learning process. It’s ongoing. And it doesn’t end when the recording stops.

Like karate, it’s a way of life, a philosophy. And the more I practice the techniques, the more effortless they will become. My thinking will go from flabby to toned and my health, too, will improve.

I just have to stay committed and disciplined and not give up on it like I did with karate.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 7.9

WDOAT has been a long-running feature on Number Twos since 1952, when it made its first appearance in exactly the same week Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End. And like The Mousetrap, WDOAT continues to keep audiences from around the world on the edge of their seats week in, week out. An enduring tradition of WDOAT is that readers are asked not to reveal the surprise ending to anyone, to ensure it isn’t spoiled for future readers.
Wednesday 15th October:
6.45am Change bag
11.20am Empty bag
2pm Empty bag
5.50pm Change bag
7.30pm Empty bag
10.15pm Empty bag

Breakfast 6 x mesalazine 400mg
Dinner 4 x azathioprine 50mg
Bedtime 6 x mesalazine 400mg

Paul McKenna Control Stress relaxation therapy

Noticeable improvements:
Bit of blood.

Disappointed. (Don't tell a soul.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Are you a West Ham supporting ostomate who doesn’t work Wednesdays and has at least two friends?

If so you’re in luck.

I received this invite today, but I won’t be able to make it.

If you would like to go, email me your address and it’s yours.

(Nice of them to design an invite that matches my blog so well.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

UC, diet, health, recipes and a girl called Penina

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called ‘Why me?’ Well, amongst the comments was this one from someone called Penina:
I agree. I used to think "why me" when I was first diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, but getting "sick" helped me discover my passion for nutrition. Now I am working with clients with digestive issues to help them regain their quality of life, which is more rewarding than any corporate job I used to have. So I guess in the end...my disease was a blessing...
It sounded interesting. Penina had put her name to the comment, and it was in blue and underlined, which is always more fun, because you can click on it. This is the internet equivalent of stepping through the wardrobe; you never know where it may lead you, but you’re hoping it doesn’t involve rubber gimp masks and hamsters. (Or maybe you are?)

The click-through took me to a very lovely website called Feed Your Roots, which is written by Penina. It was immediately obvious she has no interest in rubber gimp masks and hamsters, but is clearly passionate about food and diet and the role it can play in our health. I thought it would be good to know more, so I emailed Penina to see if she would be happy to answer a few questions. She said yes. So I’d like to say a big thank to Penina for taking the time to do the Q&A.

Could you tell us a little about your history with ulcerative colitis?

Absolutely. In November 2006, I developed symptoms similar to a stomach flu and I could not seem to recover. Once I started bleeding, I was tested for a number of different illnesses and issues including parasites, but every test came back negative. It took about a month before I finally had a colonoscopy and that was how I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. My doctor said I had a mild case and that with the help of medication I should be in remission “in no time”. Six months later, my quality of life had not improved and I started looking for other options.

In June 2007, I found a health counselor in New York City (where I was living at the time) who specialized in digestive issues and scheduled an appointment with her right away. We discussed my current diet and lifestyle. I thought I was pretty healthy - I exercised regularly, ate well and was not overweight. She gave me several recommendations to start on immediately and this was the beginning of my healing process. Some of the recommendations were harder than others. Omitting coffee and beer from my diet was probably the most difficult. Once I got over the hump of my caffeine withdrawal haze, I could feel a positive difference in my body, but I still had a long way to go. Over the next several months, my health counselor helped me understand my body and my disease and how food can be used as medicine. My life was never the same again.

My illness helped me find my passion – nutrition. I am now a Certified Health Counselor and work with clients to meet their health goals to live a healthy fulfilling life.

I was fortunate to have the support of my friends and family. I could not have made these permanent life style and dietary changes without their love.

You were taking conventional medicine for UC, but you only started to improve once you changed your diet and lifestyle. What changes did you make?

That is correct. I tried medicine without making any diet or lifestyle changes for six months and did not show any signs of improvement. My diet today is plant-based with an emphasis on whole, nutrient dense foods. Whole foods have not been processed or refined and do not contain added ingredients like salt or sugar. They cannot be made in a plant or factory. I exercise regularly and incorporate stress-relieving activities like yoga into my routine.

It can be easy to get disheartened if you don’t see results straight away, how soon did you start to see an improvement in your health?

I think we live in a society that demands instant results. Everyone is looking for a “quick fix”. I think that is why fad diets and diet pills are so popular.

It takes time to undo the damage you caused your body over the years. Our bodies know how to heal if we give them the right equipment to do so. I started feeling more like myself again after a few weeks but it took several months before I went into remission.

And what’s the current situation with your UC? Presumably you still take some medication?

I am the healthiest that I have been in years. I am on a small dosage of Lialda, which I hope to eventually taper off of completely. I’ve been to 3 doctors since my initial diagnoses and none of them have been able to give me an explanation as to why my colon is pink and healthy.

It seems your approach is tailored to the individual and requires you make some pretty big changes to your lifestyle, what would you say to someone who would like to make those changes, but whose family is less than enthusiastic to swap their ‘normal’ diet for a whole food one?

I would also tell them that just a few years ago I was in their shoes. Some of family members did not understand why I was working with a health counselor. They always supported me, but did not understand. Then they saw how my quality of life improved and became “believers”.

I would also suggest that the individual schedule a Wellness Consult with me so that we could speak about their specific concerns in more depth. This is a 50 minute complimentary session where we discuss that individual’s heath history and how we could work together to start making changes for them to live a more fulfilling life. I work with clients by phone, Skype and in person and can be contacted at peninabareket@gmail.com.

When I was first diagnosed with UC I asked the doctors about whether a change of diet might help and they pretty much dismissed the idea there was any link between diet and UC. Do you think this is a belief the US medical profession shares or is it just a UK thing?

When I was first diagnosed my doctor also told me that I did not need to make any changes to my diet. I needed to experiment and see what worked for me because each person is different. While I agree that each person is different, we are also alike in many ways. How can food not play a significant role in a digestive disease?

I think many if not most medical professionals in the US do not think that diet and lifestyle play a significant role in “incurable” diseases like Ulcerative Colitis. I strongly believe that this is starting to change. There are many physicians who are leaders in their fields who believe food should be incorporated into medical treatment and I believe this already has a ripple effect. My father is an OB/GYN and initially did not agree that changing my diet and lifestyle could improve the symptoms of my disease. He has seen 2 of his 4 children develop UC and change their quality of life through diet and lifestyle. Today, he is studying to incorporate nutrition into his practice.

Stress and UC are quite often linked. Before becoming a health counselor, you had a job in the corporate world with a lifestyle to match; do you think this played any part in your illness?

For me, addressing and controlling my stress has played a huge role in the overall maintenance of my UC. I first started to show symptoms of UC during a very stressful period at work. A year later I had a terrible flare up which also happened to coincide with another stressful period at work. By working with a health counselor as a client and then through my training and education to become a health counselor, I have learned how to reduce my stress and what I need to do when life does get stressful so that I don’t flare. We all have stress in our lives, this is unavoidable for most, but the important thing is to learn how to deal with it before it controls our life.

I’m a big fan of the occasional curry, can you recommend a recipe?

Unfortunately, I don’t. Curry dishes typically have dairy and a lot of spice, which I avoid in my diet. I’ve tried curry-style recipes in the past that were dairy free, but I have not found one yet that I like enough to recommend.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 7.8

Other things WDOAT could stand for:
Worryingly Dire Opinions Are Typical
Words Don’t Offer Any Titillation
Worthless Drivel Obviously All Toss
And my favourite:
Weekly Dose Of Arse Talk

Wednesday 7th October:
7am Change bag
2pm Empty bag
7.30pm Empty bag
11pm Empty bag

Breakfast 6 x mesalazine 400mg
Dinner 4 x azathioprine 50mg
Bedtime 6 x mesalazine 400mg

Paul McKenna Control Stress relaxation therapy, Rewind, Guy Cohen relaxation therapy, Geoffrey Glassborow relaxation therapy

Noticeable improvements:
Small amount of blood again. (Which technically isn't a 'noticeable improvement' is it?)

Very good; but I have decided to pull out of my planned invasion of Andorra. (Apologies for the late notice.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Monthly blood diary

A month ago I started to keep a record of blood in my daily back passage movement. This is not the same as the output from my stoma into my colostomy bag. There’s never any blood in that. This is purely the stuff that comes out my rectum, and quite often has some blood in it.

The idea of keeping the blood diary is to see if the relaxation therapies I’m doing are having a noticeable effect on my UC. As you'll see below it all started very promisingly, but lately it’s become more hit and miss. The ‘no blood’ days are winning, but only just.

It’s worth clarifying, that when I say there is blood, it’s often extremely light. Just enough to turn the toilet paper pinkish. But I’m being very strict, there is either blood or there isn’t. Simple as that.

Unfortunately I don’t have any record of how often I had blood before I started the therapies. I think it was heavier and more frequent than now. The only way to see if things are improving is to keep up the blood diary and see how it looks in a month. Hopefully by 7th November there will be fewer blood days.

As I’ve mentioned in my weekly WDOATs, I definitely believe the relaxation therapies are having a positive effect on how I feel. And considering I worked 29 days out of the last 31 and a couple of weeks ago my girlfriend moved to Germany to start a new job, I think I’m remarkably chipper. I’m not sure that would be the case without the help of the therapies.

Speaking of which, you’ll also note that about half way through the month I thought it might be worthwhile keeping track of which ones I’ve been doing. There are four: Guy Cohen’s relaxation session, Guy’s Rewind Technique, Geoffrey Glassborow’s relaxation session and Paul McKenna’s Control Stress session.

Until we have something to compare this month’s blood diary to it doesn’t really tell us much. But if we were to look on the positive side of things – and that’s kind of how I like to think these days – there have been more ‘no blood’ days than ‘blood’ days. Which is a very good thing.

7.9.09 No blood
8.9.09 No blood
9.9.09 No blood

10.9.09 Blood
11.9.09 No blood
12.9.09 No blood
13.9.09 No blood
14.9.09 No blood

15.9.09 Blood
16.9.09 Blood
17.9.09 Blood
18.9.09 Blood
19.9.09 No blood
20.9.09 No blood
21.9.09 No blood

22.9.09 Blood McKenna/Geoffrey/Rewind
23.9.09 Blood McKenna
24.9.09 Blood McKenna
25.9.09 No blood Geoffrey/McKenna/Rewind
26.9.09 No blood Guy
27.9.09 Blood McKenna/Rewind/Geoffrey
28.9.09 No blood McKenna/Rewind/Guy
29.9.09 Blood McKenna/Rewind/Geoffrey
30.9.09 Blood McKenna/McKenna/Rewind/Guy
1.10.09 No blood McKenna
2.10.09 No blood McKenna
3.10.09 Blood McKenna/Geoffrey/Rewind
4.10.09 Blood McKenna/Guy
5.10.09 Blood McKenna
6.10.09 No blood McKenna/Rewind
7.10.09 Blood McKenna/Rewind/Geoffrey/Guy

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Last week I bumped into an old school friend on the tube. He was down working in London for the day.

We don’t see each other very often, so I decided to get off at Euston with him and go for a quick drink before he caught his train.

As we walk into the station bar he asks me what I’m drinking. When I say I want a coffee he looks a little taken aback. Over the years we’ve walked into hundreds of bars together, and this is the first time he’s ever heard me order a coffee.

My friend picks up his bottle of beer and we take a seat at one of the high tables. And as he takes his first sip, he’s still looking at me a bit funny, clearly wondering why I’m not joining him with a beer.

You see my friend doesn’t know anything about my UC or my colostomy bag. If we see each other once a year we’re lucky. When we have got together we’ve talked about other stuff. Despite waffling on about my illness on this blog, it’s not always something I talk about in day-to-day life.

But as there’s just the two of us, I figure now is a good time to tell my friend why I’m not drinking. And even though our paths rarely cross these days, we’re still very good mates. We go way back.

When we were at school we both had part-time jobs at Iceland. I collected trolleys and a perk of the job was getting to pocket the fifty pence pieces lazy shoppers left in the trolley coin lock. If I’d had a good day we could afford a scallop each from the chippy on the way home.

We both moved to London at around the same time. We lived in bedsits in the same street, both unemployed. That year we scraped enough money together for a summer ‘holiday’ which was actually just a night sharing a room in a faded, backstreet B&B in Brighton.

When we got jobs we splashed out a bit and spent Christmas and New Year in New York together.

For a couple of years in our 20’s we ran a ramshackle football team of misfits, made up of people who had barely kicked a ball before. One of our best players was a girl. It was the best laugh ever.

We’re proper old muckers. He’d probably be slightly miffed if I didn’t tell him about my UC. He should know, really.

So my friend listens intently as I take a deep breath and explain about how I got ill and ended up with a colostomy bag. He looks very thoughtful, and even pulls out a pen and asks me to spell ulcerative colitis. Blimey, I think to myself, he’s taking this very seriously.

And then he says, “So the colostomy bag is on the inside?”

“No, it’s on the outside,” I reply, giving him a quick flash of it under the table.

“And you can’t drink?”

“I can drink, but I don’t.”

“Hmm-hmm,” he murmurs, nodding his head, quietly assessing everything I tell him.

“I try to avoid fizzy stuff,” I continue, “Things with bubbles in tend to make my bag blow up.”

My friend mulls this over for a second.

Then he asks, completely straight-faced, “Can you eat Aeros?”

That is the single best question I’ve had from anyone since becoming an ostomate. And that is also why we’re still best mates.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Exquisite bodies

Recently I discovered the Wellcome Collection on London’s Euston Road. Sir Henry Wellcome built this impressive building in 1932 to house his vast collection of medical related oddments, containing everything from early surgical apparatus to shrunken heads. Henry Wellcome clearly had an eye for the bizarre. I found the male chastity rings particularly eye-watering. As well as its permanent and temporary exhibitions, which are all free, the Wellcome Collection also has a great café and bookshop. It was today, whilst in the café that I noticed the sign for a new exhibition called ‘Exquisite Bodies’. I was just reading the subhead below, and had got as far as ‘Or the curious and grotesque story of…’ when right on cue, well known horse impersonator, Janet Street-Porter cantered into my line of vision blocking my view and giving the sentence a rather apt visual ending. Actually, Janet is quite an impressive woman in the flesh. She must be at least 12 hands high. Seeing the exhibition sign and marveling at the stature of Janet Street-Porter started me thinking about my own exquisite body. And more specifically how the addition of a colostomy bag to my abdomen has made me feel about it. Perhaps surprisingly I’m more or less as happy with my body now as I was before becoming an ostomate. You would think that having a mitten of shit swinging from my belly would have a devastating effect on my self-image, but it hasn’t really. Maybe this is because I’m a hairy-arsed man. I think there’s certainly less pressure on us blokes to look a certain way. I’ve often thought it must be harder for girls who have ostomy bags. Particularly young girls. So as I sat in the Wellcome Collection café, staring at Janet Street-Porter and thinking about all this body image stuff, I was suddenly inspired to share with you a blog I discovered yesterday, which is written by a young lady in Canada, who had an ostomy when she was just 13. Her honesty and bravery will undoubtedly help thousands and thousands of ostomates feel more comfortable with their bodies. This is Jessica.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What I get up to in the shower rooms at work

Take shampoo and conditioner into the shower? Not me, I just take my laptop and headphones and go. In the basement at work there are two small shower rooms and recently I’ve been using them to do my relaxation therapies. The slatted wooden bench that runs along one wall is a little uncomfortable and the smell of Imperial Leather slightly overpowering, but once I’ve locked the door, turned off the light and put my headphones on, I’m perfectly cocooned from the outside world. It’s important to be in a place where I know I won’t be disturbed. The background noise of a colleague repeatedly ramming the paper tray into the photocopier’s innards, whilst swearing like a Tourettic sailor, is not going to help me achieve a state of deep relaxation. It’s hard to imagine myself floating and swaying at the best of times, without being interrupted by phones going off and members of the management team screaming for more soy chai latte. The shower room gives me all the peace and quiet I need. Of course I could just wait until I get home, but it’s becoming clear that to do the therapies properly takes time. You have to commit yourself to it. And with everything else going on in your life, it’s not always easy to find an hour or so to spend flat on your back in a dreamlike state. So now every day at work, usually around lunchtime, I try to sneak off to the shower rooms for half an hour. It’s something I look forward to. A little moment of calm in the middle of the day. Like a coffee break, but instead of loading up on caffeine, I pour relaxing, positive thoughts into my ears. One thing does slightly concern me though. The other day as I was coming out of the shower room with a beatific, post-hypnotic smile on my face, I bumped into one of the girls from the office. She didn’t give me a chance to explain what I was doing in a locked, darkened room with a laptop, because as soon as she spotted it tucked under my arm, she gave me a very queer look and hurried for the stairs. In future, to avoid people jumping to the wrong conclusion, I wonder if I should roll my laptop up inside a towel?

The shower room at work - an ideal place to cleanse the mind.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 7.7

These WDOAT's sure are coming round fast. Did you know there are only 13 left until Christmas? You’ll see below I really upped the ante with therapies this week, so I’m feeling pretty damn confident. I'm so pumped up I may just invade a small country or at the very least enter The Krypton Factor.
Wednesday 30th September:
7am Change bag
7.45am Empty bag
9.20am Empty bag
11am Change bag
1.45pm Empty bag
6.30pm Empty bag
10.30pm Empty bag

Breakfast 6 x mesalazine 400mg
Dinner 4 x azathioprine 50mg
Bedtime 6 x mesalazine 400mg

Paul McKenna Control Stress relaxation therapy x 2, Rewind, Guy Cohen relaxation therapy

Noticeable improvements:
Small amount of blood again. Still feeling good though.

All-conquering. Watch out Andorra.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why me?

A little while ago Rich left a comment saying how he often found himself asking, “Why me?” It gave me an idea for a post, because in all the years I’ve had ulcerative colitis I’ve never thought like that. And I think one of the reasons why I’ve never cried up at the heavens in despair, “Why me?” is because I’ve always kind of thought of myself as one of those sort of people that weird or strange or unfortunate things happen to. Of course I was never expecting to get ill, but let’s just say it didn’t come as a complete surprise. And the fact UC is a ridiculous bottom related disease, involving much embarrassment, well that’s just par for the course. Anyway, shortly after reading Rich’s comment I started jotting down a few thoughts on the subject of ‘Why me?’ I never finished writing the post, but on the right hand page below you can read as far as I got. (Click on the pictures to enlarge if you need to.)

Now this week I bought Paul McKenna’s book Control Stress. Which is very interesting and includes some great practical tips on how to reduce stress. One chapter in particular caught my interest. It’s called ‘What’s your story?’ and talks about the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. I think he means that self-narration or self-mythologising thing we all probably do a bit. This part really struck a nerve with me:
Remember, not all stories are negative. If you’ve spent your life telling yourself that you’re a gifted learner, a loyal friend and a ‘get it done’ kind of person, chances are that story has served you well.

But in our culture, the more common stories are imposed upon us from the outside. If you’ve ever been told you’re ‘just not good at maths’, or that you’re ‘shy’, or ‘you’ll never amount to anything’, chances are you’ve struggled in those areas. At some point, you probably took on the story as your own and began repeating it in your head and out loud to others, using the label as part of your identity and building further stories around it.

Now go back and reread those two pages from my notebook. Embarrassingly I’ve got myself down as some sort of freaky big eared, light bulb attracting hospitalaholic. Somehow in my head I’ve turned myself into a real life Gaylord Focker from Meet the Parents for whom life is just one long series of humiliating hurdles. And it’s true, if something not so great happens to me, I just shrug and think ‘typical, of all people it would have to happen to me.’ So all this has made me think I should probably start writing a different story for myself. In this one I won’t be so accident-prone and have strange illnesses. I’ll be lucky and healthy and confident instead. And light bulbs definitely won’t fall on me.

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 7.6

On time and with two and half hours to spare, it's...WDOAT!
Wednesday 23rd September:
4.40am Change bag
7am Change bag
9am Empty bag
2.30pm Change bag
10.45pm Empty bag

Breakfast 6 x mesalazine 400mg
Dinner 4 x azathioprine 50mg
Bedtime 6 x mesalazine 400mg

Paul McKenna Control Stress relaxation therapy*

Noticeable improvements:
A very small amount of blood again. But on the whole I feel great, ticking along quite happily. Don't seem as tired perhaps as I used to.

Positive, more relaxed, more confident.

*Paul McKenna has a book and CD called Control Stress, which seems to dovetail quite nicely with Guy Cohen's stuff.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dead Babies

The bluish haze of cigarette smoke and insufficient light given off by the candles tucked away in the wine bar’s numerous nooks and crannies are forming an evil coalition to make it near impossible for me to decipher what it is exactly I’m eating. Apparently it’s called tapas, but in the 21 years leading up to this point in my life, nothing has prepared me for such a culinary concept. To my unsophisticated eyes it looks like we’re dining on leftovers. Before now exotic to me would have meant ordering the Hawaiian at Pizza Hut. I wash down something gristly with a big gulp of nasty red wine. I know I shouldn’t drink so fast, but I’m nervous. My stomach has tied itself into a knot so tight it would give Houdini trouble. It’s January 1994 and I find myself hopelessly out of my depth at a table with two advertising industry legends and a small group of junior wannabes like myself. The two admen steer the conversation from obscure European photographers to classical Greek literature to Renaissance art before somehow tying them all up in a fancy bow of unfathomable words. They may as well be speaking a foreign language – and often they do – thinking nothing of dropping French colloquialisms into an already incomprehensible sentence. Apart from to chuck wine down my neck, I’ve sensibly been keeping my mouth firmly shut. Then during a rare lull, one of the legends peers over his Andy Warhol glasses at me and asks, “So what do you read?” I get the feeling that ‘books’ isn’t quite the answer he’s looking for. Suddenly it feels like I’ve been plonked into one of those smoky late night arts debates you see on BBC2. All eyes are on me. My sphincter has tightened to the point it’s in danger of creating a black hole and sucking me into oblivion, which at this precise moment perhaps wouldn’t be such a bad thing. “I quite like James Herbert,” I say, before adding (and to this day I don’t know why) “And some of the stories you get in Readers Digest are alright.” “Hmmm,” sniffs the Warhol lookalike, sucking ponderously on a cigarette, “Hmmm.” He gives me a rather theatrically quizzical look and turns his attention on someone else. The spotlight moves further up the table leaving me in the dark fringes. I can feel my cheeks twitching and the blood rushing noisily through the veins in my temples. Everything becomes a bit fuzzy for a while, until I notice that like me, Mr Warhol–lite is no longer involved in the conversation, and without really thinking I ask him, “Is there a book you could recommend I read?” Leaning back in his chair he fixes me with a very long hard look, “Have you ever read any Martin Amis?” “No,” I reply. And then he turns his whole body towards me, and smiles, “Why don’t you try Dead Babies by Martin Amis, that’s a good place to start.”

That weekend I read Dead Babies. And then after Dead Babies I read Money and then Success, and from Martin Amis I moved onto Will Self and this led me to American authors like Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, John Updike and John Steinbeck, Henry Miller and Richard Yates, and Californian writers, Charles Bukowski and John Fante. Whenever a writer referenced another I would seek them out. The Americans pointed me back in the direction of Europe and Camus and Hamsun. George Orwell, Patrick Hamilton, Christopher Isherwood and Alan Silitoe brought me full circle to Britain. For the last 15 years I’ve been on a joyous never-ending journey through literature. An amazing journey that all started because I was curious and asked a question. I hope I never stop being curious and asking questions.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The delayed Wednesday’s diary on a Thursday 7.5

Apologies for the late running of this week’s WDOAT, this is due to my work suddenly going bat shit crazy.
Wednesday 16th September:
6.50am Change bag
8.15am Empty bag
9.30am Empty bag
2pm Empty bag
8pm Empty bag

Breakfast 6 x mesalazine 400mg
Dinner 4 x azathioprine 50mg
Bedtime 6 x mesalazine 400mg

Geoffrey Glasborow relaxation therapy

Noticeable improvements:
There was a small amount of blood, but these days I'm judging things very strictly - there's either blood or there isn't.

Beginning to creak a bit under the pressure of work, but definitely handling it better/more positively than I used to.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This is one of those posts I sometimes write where I leave big spaces between the lines in a feeble attempt to add meaningfulness and gravitas

The ‘Guy Cohen answers me pretending to be Paxman’ post seems to have stirred up a hornet’s nest, albeit a Lillipution one.

As the mysterious and Bond-esque sounding ‘G’ quite rightly points out, never in the long and illustrious history of Number Twos has a post provoked so many comments.

Finally after 294 posts I’ve discovered the secret to successful blogging.

Just get someone other than me to do most of the writing.

If only I had known earlier.

But back to Guygate.

Ever since the incident where I threw a Jammy Dodger at legendary Beatles producer Sir George Martin, I’ve made it my strict policy to steer clear of controversy.

(And too much champagne.)

So I don’t wish to fan the iddy-biddy flames of debate any further.

My aim here is not to antagonise or insult.

As Ray Davies sang, I’m a lover, not a fighter.

(Unless I’ve had too much champagne and I find myself within range of the ‘Fifth Beatle’ with a shortbread-and-jam based biscuit in my hand, in which case I’m terrifying.)

But I would just like to clarify – and I think we’re all grown up enough to appreciate this – Number Twos has always been about my experiences with ulcerative colitis.

Good and bad, funny and sad, everything on here is written from one point of view alone, and that is mine.

It’s not my place to recommend this drug or that therapy, I just write about my life with UC.

I understand that’s a very simplistic viewpoint, and I am aware there is a certain responsibility that comes with writing about a subject like this on the internet.

And from the beginning I’ve always taken care to be totally honest and not to mislead.

The Guy Cohen thing is no different to the time I wrote about trying Chinese tea.

(Incidentally the Chinese herbal doctors claimed they could cure my UC and unlike Guy, they did charge me a hefty sum for it – how come they don’t get any stick?)

I am trying Guy’s therapies and I will be writing about it.

And as far as my progress goes, rest assured you can expect the same in-depth, behind-the-scenes, impartial investigative reporting that brought you such journalistic gems as On your marks, get set, poo!

It’s the very least I can do.

Now, before I get any more sanctimonious, for those of you who prefer Number Twos a little lighter in tone, below is a book on toilet paper origami.

It’s ten quid on Amazon!

Linda Wright, the author, should be hanged for peddling this kind rubbish to vulnerable people who spend way too much time on the loo.

It’s disgusting.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Guy Cohen answers me pretending to be Paxman

Obviously I’m a massive Guy Cohen fan now, but is it fair to say my initial “aggressively cynical” attitude is one often shared by the medical profession and even some Crohn’s & Colitis support groups?

Yes, the aggressively cynical attitude is commonplace, particularly with the old school medical profession. I didn’t bother with the support groups because I didn’t want to hang around with a bunch of ill people who felt a camaraderie in their illness. I wanted to be well. Years after I was well, remember from the book, I called the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) only to discover they’re only interested in treatment that involves drugs. Furthermore, my cousin in New York asked if I’d like to come to charity dinner and maybe say a few words. When I said I’d talk about how I’d got well, he basically said don’t come, they’re not going to want to hear that as it was a medical sponsored dinner event!

As you know I’ve been having some teething problems with the Rewind Technique (more of which I’ll write about later) – do you believe that literally anyone can succeed in curing their UC with your methods?

Yes, I do believe that everyone I’ve met so far could be cured if they follow what I and others have done. IE provided they really want it and are prepared to do what it takes. Fortunately with the Rewind Technique it’s not nearly as much effort as what I had to devote to it. But the sad thing is that there really aren’t that many sufferers out there who REALLY want to get well. They don’t want to put in the effort, or they make excuses like “I don’t want someone messing with my mind”, etc.

Ok, there’s the odd person who may have an allergy or intolerance but that’s a tiny minority. Like I say, I’ve never met anyone who has colitis/crohn’s/ibs who hasn’t had those negative thought patterns looping around continuously. From there it’s a question of honesty and then desire to get the job done and keep it going.

Before you contacted me I'd always been led to believe I’d have UC for life and I’d just have to learn to live with it. You’re the ONLY person who has ever told me I can beat it. That in itself is incredibly powerful. Do you think doctors are doing us a major disservice by not suggesting we might explore alternative therapies such as yours?

Yes, the medical community is doing a massive disservice by (a) not investigating and interviewing people like me – I'm totally willing to co-operate and help duplicate what I did in any way they suggest; (b) not suggesting people to at least explore relaxation techniques and hypno. I'm not the only one out there who’s conquered the problem and my goal is to make it commonplace.

But the truth is the medical profession, particularly in the US, is in the grip of the drugs companies. Let’s face it, if a charitable foundation like the CCFA are pretty much controlled by big pharma, what choice are people really being given?

But here’s the good news. Thanks to technology and the internet people like me can start to make a difference and give folks out there something to think about and try with zero risk. They can continue with their treatment and still try my methods. What I really need to do is find someone famous who has colitis (like Anastacia for example) and treat her successfully. That would be huge ...

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 7.4

A very promising week and a little blip. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday there was no blood in my daily bowel movements, which can only be a good thing. And then today there was blood. It’s annoying and a bit disappointing, but I’m going to take encouragement from the three days without blood and keep on with the therapies. Talking of which, yesterday I stayed over at my girlfriend’s and stupidly forgot to take a copy of Guy’s recordings with me, so I missed a day. Could that be why the blood returned today? Hmmm.
Wednesday 9th September:
6.50am Change bag
2pm Empty bag
5.30pm Empty bag

Breakfast 6 x mesalazine 400mg
Dinner 4 x azathioprine 50mg
Bedtime 6 x mesalazine 400mg

Missed a day. (Naughty.)

Noticeable improvements:
Three days in a row without blood in my daily bowel movements. Emptied/changed my bag a lot less???

Pretty good. Generally more upbeat.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Guy Cohen answers Rich Mercy Seat

Rich of The Mercy Seat fame had a whole load of questions for Guy, which he is happy to share with us. I think you’ll find Guy’s answers interesting, entertaining, enlightening and, well, really quite blunt. But that’s the key with Guy’s therapies – you have to be totally honest with yourself. Not always that easy. Maybe you’ll recognise a bit of yourself in Rich? If so, don’t worry, you can’t possibly be more cynical than I was. According to Guy I was ‘aggressively cynical.’ Harrumph. Anyway, many thanks to Rich for his questions and also thanks to Guy for the character assassination, sorry, advice. I meant ADVICE.

If I consider myself to be relatively positive in a general sense, will the hypnotherapy still be beneficial to my UC?

Hi Rich...being serious(!) how can you say you’re “relatively positive in a general sense” at the same time as saying in the same email: “Will my naturally cynical nature limit the effects of the therapy?” and “I am a jaded, world-weary, world-wary old bugger”?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and tease you with the idea that you’re not as “relatively positive” as you suggest! Furthermore, I'm going to ask if you camouflage your natural cynicism with some sort of self-deprecating humour?

This is a chance to be brutally honest with yourself as my methods do rely on that.

In my first email exchanges with Martin we had similar discussions about his desire to be well versus his almost aggressive scepticism. It’s not uncommon, but consider this – and I said the same thing to Martin: something you truly desire (I hope) could have fallen right into your lap. Regardless of the salesy nature of some of my material, I'm a real guy who has (a) cured myself of UC and (b) helped others do the same. For the sake of a book and website you can read it and figure out how real it is and how real I am.

When I was ill I grasped at EVERYTHING until I would find a solution – that was my attitude. I wasn’t cynical or bitter about any of the ones that didn’t work – and of course none of them worked at all, until I stumbled upon Geoffrey. My attitude was that every failure was a step nearer success. Now, compare that to your “naturally cynical nature”! You say you wouldn’t have even looked at my website – in your position I would have been all over it in a flash.

How about replacing your “naturally cynical nature” with a “naturally curious and open-minded nature”, combined with a single-minded determination to get completely well again? For the purpose of achieving your goal here, you’ll find it’s much more constructive!

In every spiritual book (even the non-hypey ones) taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions is at the heart of the message. I'm not religious in any way, however, deep down I believe we all know the truth of this, and the moment you take responsibility for what’s going on in your life is the moment you can start to have more input over what happens in it. Two great books are “The Power of Now” and “The Power of a Single Thought”.

Is the therapy successful in breaking the tie between symptoms, mental response and behaviour; i.e. I feel a cramp, I think about it all day, anxiety sets in, symptoms apparently worsen... Could this be the root of negativity that will cause UC?

This is part of your issue. You have got into the habit of negative looping thinking. Now, of course it’s easy and understandable to get anxious about a nasty pain or cramp. However, as you start to understand how your mind works and how my method helps, you’ll find yourself in a virtuous cycle. As your thinking is clearer and healthier (having stopped or radically reduced the negative looping thoughts) your body will begin to feel more comfortable. In turn that gives you the encouragement to keep thinking in a healthier way. Try to become the observer of your thoughts a bit more ... it’s very instructive.

Or... is it all about other issues? Does you feel that my UC is as a result of historical negativity - I'm struggling to come to terms with the idea that there is much negativity in my life outside of the UC.

As above, it’s all part of the same thing really. Somehow, you’ve learnt to think in this self-destructive way. That doesn’t make you a bad person – it’s actually a form of survival mechanism for whatever reason. Often these habits are learned at a young age and in response to close relationships with family/partner, etc. That’s not to shift the blame anywhere else, not even yourself. But for some reason you got into a bad thinking habit. Listen to your thoughts and be honest about what kind of thinker you are. If nothing else, read your email to Martin! I realise you think you’ve seen all the cures that are possible but the fact is that you haven’t! And instead of being excited, your tone in the email is full of cynicism! Now, it’s time to get excited and curious.

What kind of time frame does the therapy work in? Is it really possible to see improvements rapidly? What is the rate of the disease returning after therapy?

If you use the Rewind Technique properly in conjunction with my relaxation recordings this can work very quickly indeed. I also want you to buy those two books I mentioned at the end of Question 1. You need to read my book too ... preferably more than once – particularly the Roadmap part. Tricia Best had Crohn’s for 20 years and was housebound for around 70% of the time. With her she was virtually better within a week or so. She was completely committed to the method and her breakthrough was doing the Rewind Technique with me. Read her review of my book for her account of what happened.

With Martin I think we’re making decent progress though not as spectacularly as Tricia, but that’s for a couple of reasons. Not only had Martin had the bag, but also he was highly sceptical – aggressive almost – with a stranger like me approaching him! Understandable perhaps, whereas Tricia’s husband knew me and what kind of guy I am, so she bought into the idea immediately without question.

In simple terms what is the minimum therapy you would recommend? Read the book? Do the free download? (Are you making money out of this? - I can't quite work it out on your website, but when you have seen so many of these miracle cure sites it is difficult not to be cynical...)

Well, this is going to be a wholesale change in your view of the world, so in some ways it’s ongoing. But to get results you need to get the package. Read the book, even listen to the audio if you like too, so you can hear it with my voice. Listen to one of the relaxations at least once per day for the first month. When you’ve read the book and understand the method, do the Rewind Technique. Really get into it and go for it ... you should be pretty zoned out by the end as it’s an intense exercise.

If you’re still hyper-cynical just get the book. Then you’ll know for sure that I'm real. Regarding the Rewind Technique, Martin had a couple of issues at what to point it at. Follow the instructions in my book. You point it at the representation of yourself having the negative destructive thoughts. In your case it you could point it at your cynicism for one! But you can do it multiple times at different areas until you start to notice tangible physical results. When you point it in the right place, results happen remarkably fast.

Am I making money out of this? Not yet! I’ve spent $24,000 on this project so far. When it becomes profitable, then Geoffrey will get the lion’s share as he’s in his mid 80s and my gratitude to him is immense even after all these years and the fact that I’ve significantly improved on what I did with him to get better myself.

Do you ever think that, perhaps, you’re just in a lengthy period of remission? Would you totally refute this as a possibility?

I never think in terms of remission – it’s a dirty word to me. You’re either well or you’re not. When you’re well, it’s just a question of staying well. If you were to lurch back into bad thinking habits, that would be unhelpful of course. But if you adopt what I'm saying and it works for you, then you create a new habit. If you were to have any kind of setback having got well, you would know exactly what to do to get back on track.

What I do is a formula, and it works. Use the formula to get well. Then retain the good habits that the formula creates for you.

Again, your question is incredibly negative, however, let me elaborate. First, I’ve been well for over 13 years, which was also the last time I saw a doctor about it. Once in a very occasional while (perhaps 3 times in 13 years), I’ve had “warning signs” where all was not completely well down there (though by no means full blown or too terrible). Each time that happened, at the heart of it for some reason I’d re-started the negative looping thoughts for one reason or another that was pretty easy to identify. In one occasion, something was happening in my life that was akin to a bullying kind of episode I’d grown up with. We literally identified it, rewound it and trivialized it in a relaxed state and literally within 24 hours I was 100% fine again.

It was because of these episodes that I began to realize how fast one can make massive changes physically. In a way they were a kind of gift and without them I probably wouldn’t have connected the Rewind Technique to a solution to all this. The Rewind Technique was created for phobias. However, what I discovered is that a phobia has the identical thought structure to what people with Crohn’s, colitis and IBS are doing. Bad thinking habit = physical reaction. Eliminate the bad thinking habit = no more physical reaction. That’s the formula.

The trick is how to eliminate the bad thinking habit. Well, you can do it with cognitive methods and hypnosis, which is how I got well, but that can take time and requires immense discipline and commitment. Or you can do that AND the Rewind Technique and suddenly the results are massively accelerated provided you point the Rewind at the appropriate area.

Will my naturally cynical nature limit the effects of the therapy?

If you insist! It’s really up to you ... an attitude change is preferable. Here’s my question to you ... Do you really want to get better? If you do, you’ll get on with it now and stop the cynicism. If you’re not serious about this you’ll (continue to) make excuses!

Thanks to Martin, something amazing has fallen into your lap here. Grasp the opportunity and only think about the result you want.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A big hand for my surgeon

My surgeon is making notes in my hospital records folder. I make a half-hearted attempt at reading them, but from this angle they're upside-down and without the benefit of a team of code-cracking Bletchley boffins at my disposal, my chances of understanding his scrawl are hopeless. My attention drifts to my surgeon’s hands. They’re quite small, neat and pinkishly clean. They look exactly as you'd expect surgeons' hands to look. If there was a Stars In Their Eyes for hands, and these were to come on and announce, “Tonight Matthew, we’re going to be surgeons’ hands,” then once the famous doors had slid open and the dry ice had cleared, viewers at home would be nudging each other and saying, “Ooh, they really look like surgeons’ hands as well.” Watching my surgeon guide the nib of his Mont Blanc across the page it occurs to me that these fingers have actually been inside my body. And as small, neat and pinkishly clean as they are, it’s still unnerving to think they’ve been under my flesh. I barely know the man, yet it feels like we’ve shared some kind of intimacy. I’m just considering whether it’s enough of a bond to warrant sending each other Christmas cards or not, when his voice jerks me from my dopey daydream, “When would you like to have the reversal? We could possibly do it within the next two months.” His dextrous little fingers screw the lid back on his pen and he smiles in that way that indicates he’s finished talking and now it’s my turn. “Oh, that’s good, but I was sort of thinking if maybe we could do it early next year? I’ve had a lot of time off work this year already and I’d just rather enjoy Christmas.” There’s something about being an NHS patient that always makes me think I should be grateful that there’s even a chair to sit on in the waiting room and I wonder if I’m pushing my luck by asking to have the operation in the new year. “That’s fine, come back in three months and I’ll put you on the waiting list then.” Since starting my treatment with Guy I’ve thought a lot about how fortunate I am that during my operation the surgeon made an on-the-spot decision to only take a small section of my colon out, rather than the whole shebang as he had intended. A younger, more inexperienced surgeon may not have had the confidence to go off script. His actions mean I don’t have a permanent ileostomy, and now with Guy’s help it gives me a fighting chance of clearing up the disease in the remaining colon. As I stand to leave something compels me to express this to my surgeon, “I just want you to know I’m really grateful to you for only taking out a bit of my colon, I think it’s turned out better this way.” It was worth telling him for his smile alone. Offering me one of those quite small, neat, pinkishly clean hands he says, “You know at the time I took a lot of stick for doing what I did. A lot of people weren’t happy with me about it. But I think it was the right thing for you.” I note his cool, relaxed, just-the-right-side-of-arrogant manner, and I know for sure that I’m in safe hands.

Ask away

Guy Cohen said he would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about the methods he uses for curing ulcerative colitis. So if you want to leave a question in the comments section or email me, then I’ll pass them on to Guy and post up his answers shortly.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 7.3

You may notice one or two changes to this week’s WDOAT. From now on there’ll be a slight shift in focus. Rather than just recording the same old stuff week in week out, I hope to now use WDOAT to chart any significant progress I’m making with my new goal, which quite simply is to be fully healthy again – UC free in other words. Since having surgery I no longer have any of the obvious symptoms of ulcerative colitis. But it’s still there. The colonoscopy I had back in June revealed I have mild disease in my remaining section of colon and in the bit near my rectum. Now there’s no way I can tell what’s going on inside my colon week by week. A tribe of nomadic shit mining pixies could have set up camp in there and I wouldn’t know a thing about it. But there is one way I think I’ll be able to see if things are improving. Most days I still have one normalish bowel movement. This produces a putty-mucus-milky-Weetabix type substance. Over the months since the op, blood has crept into these bowel movements. At first it was just a pale pink blush on the toilet paper, but more recently it’s been a definite crimson. This I believe is caused by the UC still in my rectum area. If the blood from my back passage reduces, then I think it’s fair to assume I’m heading in the right direction. So I’ll be keeping an eye on that. Also I’m going to try and comment on my general mental wellbeing, my mood, vibe, spirit, whatever you want to call it. This then, is the new and improved WDOAT.
Wednesday 2nd September:
7am Change bag
8.15am Empty bag
1040am Empty bag
2pm Change bag
6.15pm Empty bag
9.30pm Empty bag

Breakfast 6 x mesalazine 400mg
Dinner 4 x azathioprine 50mg
Bedtime 6 x mesalazine 400mg

Geoffrey Glasborow* relaxation download

Noticeable improvements:
Consistently healthier thinking. Less dwelling on negatives. More energy.

Positive. Bit excited really.

*Guy Cohen's original recording of a session with Geoffrey Glasborow in 1995.