Some people look at the glistening buildings of Canary Wharf, or the hustle and bustle of soho with the hope of joining the thousands of people who pace in and out each day.
And I suppose I was one of them.
From as young as I can remember going to London was pretty regular, and I would go with my parents most weekends. We would get to the tube map; a spiders web of routes taking you all over London and they would say “ok Billie where are we going?” At the age of 7 I would have to work out the difference between all the colours on the map and get us to our destination. The more I did it, the more I understood how to get from A to B on a map that looks like someone sneezed with a load of crayons in their hand.
But now I’m a fully fledged commuter, and I love it! It might be unbearably hot and I might have to stand under the armpits of lots of very unhappy people, but I get to work in one of the best cities in the world. London has always held a positive place in my heart and to work in the hub of it all is very exciting.
I imagine this is the newbie buzz of going to work for the first time, but a girl can dream.
I work in PR as part of a health and well-being team right in central London. I love my job. And yes that is a glass of rosé on my desk (FYI it was a Friday at the end the of the day) and no, the wine is not the only reason why I love my job… The company I work for and the health team are great, plus the work we are doing and the clients we have are really interesting.
When it comes to discussing my health, they are pretty understanding. My blog, Instagram and all the work I’ve done through my social media was on my CV, so when I went into the process of trying to get the job, they knew about my stoma and IBD life. We talked about how it has changed my perspective on life and why I decided to share online in the first place. Clearly being so open was a good thing because HEY PRESTO I got the job.
I’ve been making an hour trek into work for three weeks now and for anyone who knows me, you’ll know I’m a meticulous planner. I worked out my train journey weeks before I started, had all my outfits ready to go and made sure I was always super organised! I had the travel time down to the second and worked my morning routine around my journey. The night before I set my stoma stuff out and get my outfit hanging on the back of my wardrobe. I get up at 6.40am to allow enough time for a difficult bag change before I leave, and a cuppa of course. If I’m ready quicker than expected, I jump on an earlier train and get to be the keen bean arriving at the office around 8.30am.
Of course starting a job meant a new wardrobe! We have a smart/casual vibe at the office. At the moment with summer finally in England, I’m opting for dresses and skirts because they are much more comfortable with my stoma bag. For autumn/winter I can wear jeans but find the smart leggings from Zara are much more comfortable.TFL ‘please offer me a seat’ badge. Even though it won’t always work, it gives me the best possible chance. It’s free and you don’t have to explain why you need it.
When it came to telling my line manager and HR about my health situation, there wasn’t much more to tell. I made them aware of my anaemia and the hospital appointments that come with it, as well as giving them enough information about how I manage my stoma without revealing too much. I told them about leaks and if I pop to the loo for longer than is socially acceptable, they know not to ask any questions or think I’m skiving off work in the toilet. On my first day I packed my Beyond Definition stoma case with a bundle of stoma supplies. It lives in my locker and is there to rescue me should my stoma decide to join the party.
One of the things I’ve noticed about working full-time is my stoma has taken a bit of a backseat. She isn’t the only thing I have to think about anymore, and I find I’m less paranoid and anxious about her. Bag leaks don’t annoy me as much as they used to, and instead of getting upset about it, I get on with it quietly with the prime objective of getting back to work. My bag is now just something I have and changing it is something I do; it doesn’t run my life and it isn’t always at the forefront of mind.
I’m always mindful of my stoma and I never forget she’s there, however instead of defining me, she’s become part of me and part of my new commuter life.