I haven’t been to the toilet in two years
IMAGINE not farting for two years. Better yet, imagine not going to the loo for a number two for that amount of time.
Welcome to my life. That's exactly what happened to me when I lost my bowel at the age of 24.
But thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, I can finally poo again. And to celebrate, I'm holding a poo party with my closest friends.
It might seem odd to you, but after the journey I've been through, I figure it's better to laugh with your loved ones than spend time worrying about it.
Since 2015, I had been defecating into a bag that was attached to my stomach. Any time, any place. I couldn't control it. I hadn't expressed wind, or anything else for that matter, the "normal" way, for quite some time.
I would suffer painful aches while going to the bathroom, like a sharp, lightning pain. It really got pretty hectic when I started to bleed down there. I got really sick and went to hospital, I couldn't keep things down. Eating was horrible and I was becoming seriously dehydrated.
Doctors first thought it was a fissure, which is a tear or split in the lining of the insides of your backside. It can be quite common among us.
But the problem persisted. I went back to hospital three times, until I was 24, in September 2015, when doctors diagnosed me with ulcerative colitis; an inflammatory bowel disease characterised by chronic intestinal inflammation.
It was so serious that at the time, doctors said, "you're not leaving today without surgery. Your bowel is going to perforate and tear away".
They remove your bowel as a last resort because it's a big surgery. There are a lot of medications people can take to combat the problem, doctors hope you'll be OK. Some people are lucky enough, but for me, surgery was my only option at that point.
They twisted my small bowel and cut a small hole at the top, and that small hole in my stomach is where I have been going to the toilet for the past year and a half.
My initial surgery was called an ileostomy, and what they do is they remove the large intestine because in my case, it was going to perforate - I've seen pictures of it and it was ruined.
Since that operation I have had to defecate into a bag that comes out of my stomach.
Most of the time I didn't feel too much, if it was something harder to digest I might have felt a little pressure. I didn't know when I was actually going to the toilet, I just saw my bag full. I never felt the urgency to poo like normal people. It felt weird sometimes.
But in my case, there was hope. Doctors kept a small part of the large bowel inside so they can reattach my bowel to my anus. Sorry to be graphic, but hey, it's my reality.
This all happened three weeks ago, when I went back into surgery.
This time, my doctors basically reattached the bowels and sewed up my belly. In a nutshell, they put the real "bag" back inside my body, rather than out.
Before the operation I was scared of the sensation of bowel movement again. Will it stay together? It had been so long that I'd forgotten how to do it.
But two days after the operation, I felt the first hints of an urge.
I was in hospital, I took my phone into the bathroom and I thought, 'I'll just read and relax'. So there I was, sitting there, thinking, 'if it doesn't work, it's fine'.
I felt something ... and we had lift off. I took a photo and sent it to mum. She was like, 'woo-hoo'!
The nurses and I were partying in the hospital room. Mum bought me flowers. I even put a secret message on Facebook to people who know me. The poo emoticon and a thumbs up.
I must admit, it was a little weird at the beginning and I'm still getting used to the sensation. Every now and then I still reach for the non-existent bag on my body.
I didn't trust myself initially and I found myself nervous whenever an urge presented itself. What was going to happen?
I held everything in for a while before I could fully trust myself. I was too scared.
But as time went on I began to let go, and after two years, it felt very nice. I'm pleased to report that everything is fine down under. I can finally poo again.
I'm still a little bit iffy, but I let things go through a little more confidently this time. The bag is all gone and the belly is closed.
I haven't started back at work yet and I'm nervous about that, I deal in customer service and I'd hate to be alone when the urge presented itself. What if I have to go to the toilet?
I'm not on a strict diet, I've been eating anything and everything. If everything goes well I shouldn't have to go back for any more surgery. We confirmed with the doctor that I'm finally free from ulcerative colitis. All of it is gone. It can't affect any other organ in the body.
The poo party is organised for next month at my friend's house. I had a few drinks for mum's birthday, it was my first alcoholic drink, I had about four cans. I want to test myself a few times beforehand to see what happens when I drink.
It will be the ultimate test when I go for a night out.
To anyone else going through what I went through, I urge you to surround yourself with supportive people, people who won't go 'ew' and who will laugh at your poo jokes. I went undiagnosed for a while before I was hospitalised. Listen to your body and keep telling your doctor, 'I don't feel right'.
Take the little things seriously - but, most importantly, laugh at everything.
Sadly I've been unable to travel with this condition, because of insurance prices and medical expenses. I was so worried about it for so long that I didn't do things I should have done.
But my partner and I are planning our first European trip together next year. We're going to Amsterdam, Paris and London. We're so excited, he bought me travel books to read while I was in hospital. So sweet.
I can't wait to see new things and experience new cultures. Eat everything I can.
Because now, I'm free.
- As told to Matt Young. Share your story - email@example.com.
- Name has been changed to protect individual's identity.
- For more information, visit www.crohnsandcolitis.com.au.