Agony aunt Virginia Ironside
As a public figure, did you ever consider keeping your colostomy a secret?
The media, internet and reality TV means celebrities are pretty much under the spotlight 24/7. It seems we know who they’re sleeping with, what drugs they take and how they like their coffee – but if any of them have colostomy bags they’re keeping them well under wraps. Why do you think this is?
Sadly it's because people think that anything to do with lavatories is quite disgusting. It's odd, because they can talk about sex and weird practices, even anal sex and everyone thinks it's fine, but there's something about colostomy bags that makes people feel squeamish. Having had ulcerative colitis before having a bag, I find nothing remotely revolting about poo... it's just part of life. And anyway, I've changed enough nappies in my time to be immune.
You once wrote that before you had surgery you thought you’d rather commit suicide than wear a colostomy bag. If more people had spoken openly in the media about wearing a bag, do you think you would have thought differently?
Yes, I do. I wish Cliff Richard came out about his (if he has one, of course - none of us know!) and I wish the Queen Mother had come out about hers (again, who knows, maybe she never had one.) There must be dozens of public figures with them, and I think they should all come out and show everyone they can still wear very flattering clothes and look sexy - no one has to wear baggy trousers.
Do you get many letters from people who have had colostomies? What are the most common concerns?
No, I rarely get any letters except from people like you who say nice things about my "coming out”.
And finally, any embarrassing moments you’re willing to share?
The most embarrassing moments came BEFORE I had a bag because I had ulcerative colitis and often had "accidents". I've only had two accidents with the bag and that was in the early days - both on people's carpets. But with an enormous amount of scrubbing and apologising and being left alone with a cloth, a bucket, and a scrubbing brush, their carpets have looked cleaner after I've been at them, than before.