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There have been some questions in the past regarding how my boyfriend feels towards the fact I now have an ileostomy. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought of writing about it before because I wasn’t quite sure. As my mentality has progressed — so has his. I mean, when you live together, your emotions bounce off one another 24/7, so if one of you is feeling down the likelihood is that your partner will feel somewhat succumbed to that. It’s been an emotional ride for the both of us and I’ve relied on him to make me feel better about myself.

We’ve been together for a long time but one of my first thoughts after surgery was, “Is he going to leave me?” I didn’t know if he’d be able to cope (back then I was a complete mess) and I didn’t know if he’d still find me attractive. I didn’t know if intimacy was going to become awkward, and actually, I didn’t know if he’d ever want to be intimate with me again. I was convinced he’d only stayed with me because he felt too scared to leave when I was in such a vulnerable position like this.

I made the decision whilst in the hospital that in order to keep my relationship (the one normality in my life), I’d hide my ileostomy from him. I wouldn’t let him see it. Maybe that way he wouldn’t look at me differently. I made him leave the room when the nurses would come to change my bag, with my mum guarding the door until they finished. I made sure not to take my top off around him or expose my stomach. I was certain that in order to still be attractive, I’d have to be fully clothed at all times.

How was I going to carry out this level of pretense for the rest of my life? 

Well… it turns out I didn’t have to. I had moved back home with my parents whilst my mum was my temporary caregiver, but I decided I wanted to come back to my flat to spend a night with my boyfriend. I felt a lot better physically and was able to get around more, so my mum had packaged up a numerous amount of supplies and I was all set for the next day. At that point I wasn’t changing my own bag — I still didn’t want to look at the area itself. So, she changed the bag for me right before taking me back to my place. I expected my boyfriend to leave the room, as I’d usually asked him to do, but he just stopped and said to us, "Do you mind if I stay? That way I can learn what to do if she needs me." I’ve never felt a deeper sense of relief. He wanted to learn. He wasn’t scared. He didn’t fear me. He just wanted to help me.

It was at that point that I realized I was being stupid. I’d scared myself out of acknowledging the fact that maybe he didn’t feel the way I thought. My bag hadn’t changed me, it hadn’t changed the way he looked at me. He wanted to see. He wanted to learn. He wanted to understand. And that had to be a good sign, right? It definitely helped me. It showed me that if he could accept it so easily, so could I. If he wasn’t afraid, neither was I. We’ve had our ups and downs but he makes sure to tell me I’m beautiful and how much he loves me every day. To him, I’m the most beautiful girl in the world (which is crazy right?! Look at Jennifer Lawrence!!!).

You may wonder how he feels about intimacy, I mean, acceptance is one thing but being romantic with your partner is another. To my surprise, he actually asked me to take my top off! And one time, I’d done it without him asking. Lovingly, he smiled and said, you haven’t got a top on for once! It was a great feeling to not have to hide the bag away. It’s great just to be made to feel good about myself.

So… what does he think of my ileostomy bag?

Nothing. And I think that’s exactly the way it should be. He talks about it as if it’s a person sometimes and even has a nickname for my stoma! But that’s about it. When he’s looking at me… he’s looking at me. Not my bag. It’s not uncomfortable nor awkward no matter what the situation. And that’s exactly what I need.

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