Monday, August 31, 2009


The moment I take my seat on the stage I regret volunteering. I’m sitting at the end of a row of nine other students, who like me, eagerly flung their arm in the air when the stage hypnotist asked for volunteers. A solid mass of faces leer up at me. I should be with them. I should be in the audience. Not on stage. When I was 12 the stress of playing ‘man in the crowd’ in the school production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory got too much for me and I pleaded with my teacher to let me be a stagehand instead. It’s fair to say show business is not in my blood. But right now a substantial amount of alcohol is, which is why I find myself on stage about to be hypnotized. I become aware of every muscle in my body, my hands and feet and lips and ears feel hot and twice their normal size. The hypnotic process hasn’t started; the hypnotist isn’t even doing anything yet. I just feel incredibly self-conscious. Rigor mortis has set in. I’m made of plasticine. I’ve morphed into Morph. And I really need to urinate. Now we are being asked to follow a simple set of instructions to see how open we are to suggestion. I put my right hand on my head, then my left, then my right, then my left. I stand up, I sit down, I stand up, I sit down, I stand up, I sit down…and completely miss my chair. A tsunami of laughter crashes over me as I loll impotently on the stage floor. Those in the crowd that know me begin to chant my college nickname. Those in the crowd that don’t know me join in. “Les! Les! Les! Les!” It’s horrible. The hypnotist helps me to my feet and quietly says, “You’ve probably had too much to drink, mate, you can go back to the audience.” As I shuffle shamefaced off stage the hypnotist encourages a round of applause, “Thank you, Les! There he goes, off back to the bar!” And that’s exactly where I head, muttering under my breath, “My name’s not Les, it’s Martin.”

Until Guy mentioned hypnotherapy to me, my only previous experience of hypnotism was that slightly embarrassing encounter with a stage hypnotist back in 1992. And all that taught me was no matter how much beer you’ve drunk never put your hand up for anything ever. An invaluable life lesson learnt, yes, but in no way helpful in my understanding of hypnotism or hypnotherapy. So I had no real preconceptions about the subject, other than the usual spooky ‘repeat after me’ stereotypical hypnotists you see on telly. Again not that helpful. Guy reassured me if we did a session together I would be awake the whole time and be fully aware of everything going on. Satisfied I wouldn’t be put into a zombie-like trance or start talking like a 16th century French peasant we arranged a time for the session, which we would do over the telephone. As the session approached I felt a little apprehensive. Apart from a brief chat with Guy the day before I didn’t know him from Adam. I was about to undergo some sort of hypnosis with a total stranger – a total stranger off the internet, which is the natural habitat of the strangest type of stranger. At this point I gave myself a little talking to and decided to approach it all with an open mind and just go with it. The worst that could happen is I’d get a mildly interesting anecdote to write about on Number Twos. Deep down I was hoping for more though. This wasn’t about having a funny story to tell, the purpose of this was to get better. To finally beat my UC. With that in mind I allowed myself to feel a little excited and waited for my very first hypnotherapy session to begin.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Positive thinking poll - results

Do you believe having a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE can help reduce the severity of your UC/Crohn’s or even cure it?

Utter claptrap 13%
It probably helps, but can’t cure it 71%
I’m positive it can cure it 4%
I’m open minded 11%
Surgery is the only cure 0%
Thank you to everyone who voted in the positive thinking poll. It would seem most of us believe that having the right frame of mind is key to dealing with our illnesses. But the idea that we can actually use our minds to cure ourselves was clearly a step too far for most. That’s understandable. That’s how I felt until I received an email from someone who told me how he cured himself of ulcerative colitis. His name is Guy Cohen and he has some very interesting thoughts on UC and how to beat it. Initially I was sceptical and fired off a decidedly cynical reply to his email. Unflustered by my thinly disguised accusation that he may be some sort of internet Dick Turpin preying on the sick, Guy patiently answered my questions and explained a bit more about himself. We pinged a few emails back and forth over the course of the day, and it soon became clear Guy wasn’t recruiting on behalf of a Texan sex cult, and was a genuine, decent sort of chap. Once I’d got over the disappointment of not being groomed by a Texan sex cult, we arranged to talk on the phone later in the week. In the meantime Guy pointed me in the direction of his website, which despite the off putting heavy handed sales schtick, did explain more about Guy’s incredible story. And dispelling once and for all any suspicions I may have had that he was after my money, Guy very kindly gave me all his downloads free of charge. You can read exactly how Guy recovered from UC on his website, but in a nutshell he uses established hypnotherapy techniques to eliminate destructive thinking patterns that he believes can cause ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s and IBS. At this point you may be shouting ‘bollocks’ very loudly at your computer screen. Fair enough. I’m sitting here with a colostomy bag, still very much with UC and I’m supposed to believe that all this could have been avoided if I’d just had happier thoughts? I’m as cynical as the next man, but the more Guy explained how my bad thinking habits affect my stomach, it started to make sense to me. I suddenly became aware of the internal dialogue I have with myself. And it’s not pretty. It’s not quite the ‘You talking to me?’ scene in Taxi Driver, but I now recognise that I spend way too much time and energy having babbling cyclical arguments in my head and playing out ridiculous imaginary scenarios, that are really quite pointless. I’m not a complete fruitcake, but at some point in my life, for whatever reason, I developed thinking habits that aren’t particularly helpful. It makes sense to me that if I can correct the way I think it can only be a good thing. It could make me more positive, happier, healthier. It could cure my UC. I believe it can. After all it worked for Guy. This is the start of a new journey for me and as ever I’ll be recording it here. I understand some people will be dismissive and think I’ve finally lost the plot. That’s okay. I just really want to get better. Over the years nothing has worked for me, from yucky Chinese tea to conventional medicine. Even surgery hasn’t fully rid me of ulcerative colitis. So I’m going to give Guy’s methods a shot. I’ll still be taking all my usual medication and continuing with my hospital treatment, but I’m also going to be putting my faith in something hopefully far more powerful. My mind.

For further information, this is an interview I found with Guy.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Summer holiday

Number Twos will re-open in two weeks.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Positive thinking poll

The mind is one of the most powerful tools known to man. Perhaps second only to those gadgets you see on the shopping channel that help get the lids off jam jars. So, do you think that it’s possible that thinking positively can have a positive effect on your illness? Can thinking ourselves well make us well? If we believe we can get better, can we? What are your thoughts? The poll is just there on the right. Now try to be positive…

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wenshday's diary on a Thurshday 7.2

Got a masshive ulsher on my tongue. Oooh, isht’s a big one. Isht’s making me schpeak funny. Imagshin the Eleshphant Man after he’sh had schpeach therapy and he’sh making shome progresh – thash what I shound like.
Wenshday 12th Augush:
7.05am Chanshe bag
11.30am Empshy bag
1pm Empshy bag
3.30pm Empshy bag
7pm Empshy bag

Brekshfasht 6 x meshalashine 400mg
Dinner 4 x azashfioprine 50mg
Bedtime 6 x meshalashine 400mg

Ulshers are back with a vengeansh. Owsh.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Elisabeth, UC and me

‘It brought us closer together.’

That’s how I voted in the relationship poll.

I met my girlfriend Elisabeth shortly after my first flare up with ulcerative colitis.

Although at the time I didn’t know it was called ulcerative colitis.

I just thought it was a weird-spluttery-shitting-blood-diarrhoea-thing.

I thought it would go away.

So I didn’t mention it to Elisabeth.

In case it made her go away.

A weird-spluttery-shitting-blood-diarrhoea-thing isn’t something you bring up on a date.

I wanted to make a good impression. I wanted her to think I was sexy and funny and clever.

I didn’t think telling her my shit looked like roadkill would help.

So I kept it to myself.

It wasn’t difficult, because most of the time I felt fine.

My symptoms would come and go. It was all very sporadic.

But I do remember when I stayed at Elisabeth’s house, in the mornings I would turn the shower on to drown out the phutt-phutt-splutt-splosh of my bottom exploding.

If Elisabeth or her housemates ever heard anything they were too polite to say.

By the time I was properly diagnosed and I had a name for my weird-spluttery-shitting-blood-diarrhoea-thing Elisabeth and I were boyfriend and girlfriend.

A proper couple.

And proper couples share their troubles.

So we learnt all about UC together.

And as we got to know UC better, we got to know each other better.

Thanks to the noises and smells I produced, Elisabeth perhaps got to know me a bit better than I would have liked.

But she never made me feel embarrassed about anything.

She always said she didn’t mind and encouraged me to be open about it.

She made me feel comfortable talking about, well, poo, mainly.

Colour, consistency, frequency…nothing was off limits.

Nevertheless, I continued to turn the shower on when I went to the loo.

It’s fine talking about it, but she didn’t have to hear everything.

So I know I’m very lucky to have a girlfriend like Elisabeth.

Not only is she patient and understanding, she kind of takes everything in her stride.

She’s unflappable, calm, steady.

I put some of it down to her being German. They’re a practical lot.

As well as being cool-headed, she’s incredibly supportive.

If you go all the way back to my first post on Number Twos you’ll see I had my first comment.

That’s Elisabeth.

She’s been there for me right from the start.

Reading this back I think I should write a post about how having my bag has affected our relationship, so coming soon…Elisabeth, colostomy bags and me.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Relationship poll results and a slightly glib scribble in lieu of something more meaningful that I intend to write once I’ve gathered my thoughts

How has your illness affected your relationship?
It's really put a strain on us: 22%
It's caused us to split up: 2%
It's brought us closer: 29%
It's made no difference: 31%
It's made me avoid relationships: 13%

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 7.1

You’ll see below that I empty my bag a few times a day. It occurred to me that it might lead people to think my bag is constantly filling up, so I thought it worth mentioning that I never wait for it to fill right to the brim before emptying it. I usually empty it when it’s about a quarter full, just when it’s starting to get a bit of weight to it. I could hold on longer for a good old load of poo to build up, but I prefer to keep the bag as close to empty as possible. Psychologically it’s somehow better. I’m more relaxed if my bag is empty. And the less plump it is, the less of a bulge it makes under my clothes. And the less it feels like it’s going to burst. Or drop off like a mushy overripe pear. So I let out a little more often, if that makes sense.
Wednesday 5th August:
6.45am Change bag
9.30am Empty bag
11.55am Empty bag
5.30pm Empty bag
10pm Empty bag

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

The ulcers cleared up.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ben Watt book review

I have just finished Ben Watt’s Patient: The True Story Of A Rare Illness. It’s his account of a life-threatening illness that nearly killed him in 1992. It has nothing to do with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s. What he had is called Churg-Strauss Syndrome and is incredibly rare (only 30 cases reported in the last 25 years.) And it turns out that although he had nearly all of his small intestine removed, his large bowel was unaffected, which means he can still poo. So he’s not an ostomate. Ben tells his story exceptionally well. He captures life on an NHS ward perfectly. At times it almost felt like I was there in the bed next to him. It brought back a lot of memories. He handles his book as he did his illness – with dignity, humour and not a shred of self-pity. Bloody good bloke by the sounds of it. Might have to buy an Everything But The Girl Best of… now.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Magic tips

Sleight of hand depends on the use of psychology, misdirection, and natural choreography in accomplishing a magical effect. Misdirection is perhaps the most important component of the art of sleight of hand. The magician choreographs his actions so that all spectators are likely to look where he or she wants them to. More importantly, they do not look where the performer does not wish them to look.
In the few months since becoming an ostomate I have learnt to hide my colostomy bag by using sleight of hand, much as a magician does. At my disposal I have a bag of tricks that help me disguise the fact I have a bag. Here are a few of them.

“The Back Turn”
If I’m in public, somewhere like a café, and I stand to put on my jacket or coat, I’ll simply turn my back on the room, so in the process if my shirt lifts up, no one gets a peek of my bag. Then I can take a moment to straighten everything up down there before I turn round and no one is any the wiser.

“The Left-Handed Carry” I mainly use this one in the office. If I’m walking from A to B anywhere at work I might carry a cup of water or a notepad in my left hand, held roughly in front of the area where my bag is. It is often possible to see the outline of my bag through my clothes, but as far as I’m aware no one has ever been able to see through a Moleskine notepad.

“The Lean Forward”
Again, if I’m in a café or bar, I find there’s less likelihood of the poop bag popping out if I lean forward in my chair. So that’s how I tend to sit, hunched over like I’m sat on the loo, ironically.

“The Bag On Bag”
During rush hour on the tube you’re crammed in so tight you can usually tell if the person standing on your toes uses Colgate or Crest. No one has their own personal space. So to stop any short-arsed commuters seeing anything they shouldn’t, I position my manbag over my shitebag. It also helps protect it from stray elbows.

“The Larry Grayson”
Left hand bent limply at the wrist, held in front of my bag. I very rarely use this one for fear of sending out the wrong signals.

“The Awkward Teenager” By thrusting my left hand deep in my trouser pocket, rolling my shoulder forward and my elbow inwards towards my body it covers up my bag, but it also makes me look like a 37-year-old trying to look like a 17-year-old. Which is never a good look, is it Bobby?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Travels with my RADAR key: Number 2

There are 7000 public toilets in the UK accessible with a RADAR key. This is my visit to one of them.

It’s Friday. One of those quiet days at work, so I decide to start my weekend a little early, and I pack up and go. With vague notions of walking half of the way home and catching the tube from Highbury & Islington, I leave Soho and head east. There’s a really good Oxfam bookshop near the British Museum, where I nearly always find something tucked away in a dusty corner. Today’s visit doesn’t disappoint, and for £3 I buy Ben Watt’s Patient: The true story of a rare illness. Ben Watt is one half of pop group Everything But The Girl and is, I believe, also an ostomate. So with my new book I continue on my merry way through the heart of literary Bloomsbury, stopping to relieve myself at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. As with most UC-ers, my knowledge of decent, available toilets is extensive. I’ve used the ones here a few times, and seeing the poor little kids running around with tubes sticking out everywhere never fails to put things into perspective. Around about this point on my journey I should turn left and zig-zag my way towards Kings Cross, but today I turn right. Skirting the fringes of Holborn, I head towards Clerkenwell, where things start to get a bit more warehousey and interesting. Now I start to think I might walk as far as Liverpool Street Station and catch the overland train home to St James Street, Walthamstow. The cool Clerkenwell web designery folk in their limited edition trainers begin to thin out as I approach Old Street and I find myself amongst the lunchtime masses of mini Gordon Gekko’s. Judging by the numerous packed out eateries in the area, Gekko’s ‘Lunch is for wimps’ rhetoric is as dated in the financial world of 2009 as his red braces. Enjoying the sunshine, I decide to skip Liverpool Street completely and meander my way northeast through Hoxton. Behind Hoxton Community Garden I discover a row of pristine toilets looking totally out of place in the fashionably grungy surroundings. Using my RADAR key I let myself into the disabled loo and empty my bag. The key saves me 20p. Hoxton becomes Dalston and the sound of Friday afternoon prayer from a huge mosque, competes with the traffic. I buy a Magnum ice cream and as I toss the wrapper into a litterbin, an Arab looking man standing nearby says, “That’s a pound for using the bin.” Gekko would approve of his initiative, I laugh and strike out north into Stoke Newington. Clapped out afternoon drinkers huddle in pub doorways turning the air blue with their jokes and nicotine. EastEnders doesn’t even come close. A right turn takes me into the leafy suburbia of Stamford Hill, with its population of Orthodox Jews in their traditional black dress, wide-brimmed hats and ringlets. I feel somewhat conspicuous in my canary yellow Macintosh, like someone has dropped a Smartie into a bowl of liquorice. I arrive in Springfield Park café eager for refreshment. With a much needed coffee I finally take the weight off my feet and settle down to read a few pages of Ben Watt’s book. Before me the park slopes away to the River Lee and beyond to Walthamstow Marshes. Finishing my coffee I lug myself over the cricket pitch towards the river. Heavy legged I cross the Lee with this tune in my head. Like a pair of nightclub bouncers surveying the queue for trouble, two geese with puffed out chests have a good long nosey at me as I pass. I pick a blackberry and pop it in my mouth. Home is in sight.