Rachel Jury, 32, lives with two stomas – an ileostomy to her small intestine, and a urostomy to her urinary system – after a severe case of food poisoning in her early 20s led to both bladder and bowel failure.
After initially struggling to navigate sex and dating with two stoma bags, Ms Jury now advocates for better awareness of sex and disability among health professionals. Ms Jury is also a patient partner at her local hospital trust, where she works in partnership with the Director of Operations for Surgery, helping them make improvements to how patients are cared for. She lives in Bournemouth.
I got my first stoma when I was 24, four years after I first started suffering the effects of food poisoning. I’d graduated in Radiotherapy and Oncology from Cardiff University, and was working at the Bristol Oncology Hospital, but my bladder and bowel just wouldn’t empty. I couldn’t go to the toilet, I weighed just six and a half stone, and I looked really poorly. I loved my job but I had to have a urethral catheter, which made working in a hospital a nightmare, and I just knew I wasn’t going to be able to work anymore.
After having the ileostomy, which connects my small intestine to a stoma bag, I started gaining weight again. This was a really positive sign but I struggled with my body image. Even though I could see I was getting healthier, I felt self-conscious because I was putting on weight at the same time as adjusting to life with a stoma bag.
I was so worried about how I looked, what my partner would think, and if he would cope with the impact on our sex life. I remember thinking, “how can I have sex with a stoma?” but none of the health professionals I saw ever spoke to me about that side of things, and I felt too embarrassed to ask.