‘It has saved my life’: Brave 23-year-old from March speaks out to ‘kill the stigma’ around having a stoma

Brave 23-year-old Pollyanna Harvey from March speaks out to ‘kill the stigma’ around having a stoma

Brave 23-year-old Pollyanna Harvey from March speaks out to ‘kill the stigma’ around having a stoma fitted. Picture: FAMILY - Credit: Archant

A brave 23-year-old from March wants to raise awareness of living with Ulcerative Colitis after surgery led to her having a stoma bag fitted.

Pollyanna Harvey first started to experience frightening symptoms such as constant stomach pain, weight loss and the passing of blood in 2017.

Flare ups would leave her hospitalised and in agony over what foods she could eat.

It wasn’t until doctors said Pollyanna had Ulcerative Colitis – a condition that she had never heard of before – that medication was prescribed.

“It was my tenth admission into hospital when I could not take it anymore, that’s when a surgeon told me that I would need a stoma within the next year,” she said.

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“I was put on steroids and had no flare up for about 10 months, and then the abdominal pain came back worse along with tiredness and sickness.

“Nothing would calm it down, it was just horrible.”

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

Pollyanna’s condition left her not knowing where to turn, as meals and nights out with family and friends had to be cancelled in case she had a flare up.

“It was really tricky knowing what to eat and as a young woman you want to go out but I was on medication constantly and it really affected my mental health too,” she added.

“The stoma has saved my life. When I was first told about it I did a lot of research to know it would be right for me.”

A stoma is an opening on the front of the abdomen which is made using surgery.

It allows faeces to be collected in a pouch (bag) on the outside of the body.

Pollyanna continued: “I was in hospital for less than five days and had open surgery, but although the recovery can be slow I am making sure I keep busy and go for a walk everyday.

“My mood is up and I have been able to eat and it’s great to not have to run to the toilet all the time. It has been life changing.”

Three weeks since her surgery, Pollyanna, who is a retail assistant, now aims to raise awareness for young people.

She said: “I want to kill that stigma of people thinking, ‘why does she have a bag?’

“I feel like I have got a bright future ahead of me now.

“There are a lot of younger people locally who don’t know what a stoma is or certain conditions that go alongside it.

“People don’t want to speak out about it, but I want to encourage people to talk and not be afraid.

“Mental health does have a link to it but it could be genetics as well. Ultimately it can affect anyone at any age in life.”

Colostomy UK said that around one in 550 people in the UK have a stoma, many of whom will draw inspiration from Pollyanna’s story.

They added that it takes courage to speak out and without the likes of Pollyanna, the general public will remain ignorant of the challenges that people with stomas face in their day-to-day lives.

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