Hannah Witton interviews for StomaTips
Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Hannah Witton interviews for StomaTips about her experience with a stoma and creating content as a YouTuber and author
What does a typical day in your week look like?
Well, that depends if it’s a day I’m working or a day I’m looking after my 8-month-old. On a work day, I drop my baby off at his childminder in the morning and then I -work from home. My work can vary from a desk- work kind of day, to going to the studio, a filming day for YouTube or doing a podcast interview. If it’s a day with the baby, we usually play at home for a while, but then I like to have a morning and an afternoon activity for us to do (for my own sanity) like going to the park or a baby class.
When did you decide to focus on social media content?
I started making YouTube videos when I was 19 years old, way back in 2011, just as a hobby. It took a few years for it to become something I felt like I wanted to focus on as my career, and I didn’t go full-time making videos and producing online content until 2015.
What inspired you to make YouTube content for the stoma community?
After going through my unexpected stoma surgery in 2018, I was really helped by the blogs and videos I watched of other young women with stomas. It was amazing to see people like me just living their lives but also giving advice about things like clothes, drinking and travelling with a stoma.
When I came out of hospital, it was obvious to me that I would make a video about my experience, because I wanted to update my audience and I’d always talked about my life but also, I knew how much those videos from other people had helped me, so I hoped that by sharing my story it would help others too.
What are some pointers you would give to someone starting out in influencing?
You can’t ‘influence’ someone until they like, trust and respect you. So first, just focus on making content that you like, speaks to your strengths and is something that you are passionate about. Focus on building relationships and a community online before you start thinking about being an influencer.
Hannah and her bag
How did you come to have a stoma?
I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was seven years old and have dealt with flare-ups every couple of years until I was 15, when I went into what became a 10-year remission. Then, the most extreme flare-up came out of nowhere and I was in hospital but none of the medication was working and so they had to operate; now I have a stoma.
What have you learned about managing your emotions surrounding your stoma, over time?
I’ve learned that there is no point dwelling on the past and what my body used to be like. I sometimes get thoughts popping into my head about how I wish I didn’t have my stoma and that I could just see my whole belly again but that’s just not possible. But most of the time, I don’t really think about it at all as it doesn’t bother me day to day.
Hannah and Mona the stoma
What has being an ostomate taught you about sex and relationships?
Being an ostomate taught me so much. Having a stoma introduced me to a lot of activism around chronic illness and disability, and I’m ashamed that I had never considered how those things intersect with sex and relationships before it impacted me personally. There’s a lot of stigma and misunderstanding out there, but it’s taught me about accessibility, how varied sexual pleasure can be, the fun of creative problem-solving in the bedroom, and that everyone’s health will potentially, at some point, impact their relationships and their sex life, so it’s important to talk about.
How did you find pregnancy with a stoma?
To be honest, it was quite difficult, but I think that’s because it was all unknown. There was a lot of back and forth with my stoma nurse with trying different bags of different shapes and sizes to find ones that would fit over my growing belly and stoma. There was a lot of pain with tight bags and a lot of leakages to deal with. Once we found the right one though, and eventually, my stoma stopped growing, it was really easy. I’m hoping if I get pregnant again it won’t be as bad because we’ll know what we’re doing with the bags next time round.
Do you have a good relationship with your stoma? (Some people give them a name!)
I think I do; my stoma is called Mona and I think of her as a weird pet that is always attached to me.
Tell us about your daily routine with your stoma.
Every other day I change my bag which has just become a normal part of my morning routine. Obviously I empty it when I go to the toilet (getting up in the night to empty it is still very annoying, especially with the baby waking up too, and Mona and the baby are never in sync!). I always have to remember to take a spare bag out with me just in case… kind of like bringing the nappy bag for my baby, I have my own one too!
What do you keep in your stoma bag?
The one I take out with me most days, I like to keep quite light. I usually have one or two spare stoma bags in there, some dry wipes for cleaning, a ‘nappy’ bag thing to put the old bag in, an adhesive remover wipe and a barrier wipe.
What advice would you give someone with a new stoma?
Take your time. It’s a complete process and learning curve – practically and emotionally to get used to this new lifestyle but you will get there. Make sure to open up to loved ones around you if you are struggling and make use of your local stoma nurse – they are amazing!
Hannah Witton is a content creator and offers lots of tips and tricks for living with a stoma.
Instagram, Twitter and Facebook: HannahWitton