Staying stoma positive
Thursday, September 8, 2022
Keith Thomas takes part in an interview about his life with a stoma and offers advice to other ostomates
How did you come to have a stoma?
I was diagnosed in 2008 with ulcerative colitis. This is a long-term condition where the colon and rectum become inflamed, leading to abdominal pain and further problems. After 4 years on medication, my bowel failed. In June 2012, after a 10-hour operation, Homer the stoma was born and is now part of me for life.
How have you overcome any barriers that an ostomy might present to achieving your priorities and life goals?
The only barriers to any of your life goals are the barriers that you put up. Having a stoma is just a different toilet routine and should not stop you achieving anything. If you are prepared to have a go, then the sky is the limit.
‘I have embraced my ostomy since day one’
What have you learned about managing your emotions surrounding your stoma over time, and do you have a good relationship with your stoma?
Managing emotions about my stoma have never been an issue, and I have embraced my ostomy since day one. When you are so ill that a stoma is the only thing that will save your life, then it is easy to accept. I believe that being positive is a lifestyle choice; we are all capable of it, and for me it has made life with my stoma, amazing.
How did it make you feel to show your stoma to your family and friends, and how did they support you?
I have been open about my stoma from day one, and anyone who wanted to see it or talk about it only had to ask. My family and friends have been an amazing support to me, and, with three of my family diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, they know that I am only a call away to support them.
Keith receiving an award from First Cymru
Tell us about some joys in your daily life and achievements.
Since my stoma surgery, I have achieved so much that I am very proud of. I have just completed 9 years as a First Cymru bus driver, and in 2019 I won two awards. One of the awards was Top Welsh Bus Driver, and I also came runner-up in the national bus driver of the year. I began fundraising for charity in 2016, and, to date, I have raised over £15,000 for good causes. As part of this, I walk a lot for charity, and I have even climbed Penyfan mountain!
'Your body will tell you if you are overdoing it’
How has the experience of returning to work been positive for you?
During my stoma surgery, I worked in a factory, and I returned to work just 6 weeks after having my operation. A year later, my recovery was so smooth that I became a bus driver, and this was the best decision I have ever made. Returning to work is easy if you take your time and know your limits. Your body will tell you if you are overdoing it.
Can you give some advice for others with a stoma returning to work?
Listen to your body because it will tell you when you are ready to return to work. The most important thing in life is your health, not money. You can have all the money in the world, but without your health you have nothing.
Keith with a stoma pouch
How did the stoma affect you as a man; do you feel there is a stigma?
There are stigmas relating to stomas but together we are breaking them down. Men or women, we are all in this together, working as one awesome community.
What is one way that people in your position can challenge stoma stigmas?
I am a part of a huge online stoma community, and we are breaking down barriers and stigmas daily. We will continue our work, because together we are stronger.
Keith’s picture emblazoned on a local bus