Charlotte was in her 20s when she found out that it was emergency surgery or death. Ulcerative colitis nearly took her life and meant she needed to have a stoma, something she had never seen or heard of.
Since then Charlotte has been positive about her condition and actively promotes body acceptance for people with a stoma. She blogs in “Life o Charlotte” lifeocharlotte.com and posts on social media at facebook.com/lifeocharlotte, twitter.com/LifeoCharlotte and instagram.com/lifeocharlotte.
In 2019, Charlotte joined us on the World Naked Bike Ride in London. Here is her blog about the ride.
Life o Charlotte
Blog by Charlotte, shared from https://lifeocharlotte.com/2019/06/14/wnbrl/
So I’ve done this thing…and in the worlds of one of mums favourite sayings;
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” ~ Neale Donald Walsch
This has sort of become quite a big thing for me, pushing myself to do things I wouldn’t normally do, or things that scare me a bit, or just new things.
Saturday the 8th of June, 2019, the first time I took part in the World Naked Bike Ride in London. I can’t really even believe it myself that I did it. My sister told me about it on new years eve, and how she was going to do it, and I remember thinking “right, I can do this too, I don’t know how, but I will and I have 5 months to prepare myself!” Throughout these months I’ve thought about it a bit, and spoken about it a bit but then forgotten again. Then suddenly it was time, it was two weeks away and I couldn’t back out now, no matter how nervous or scared I was. As you know (well those of you who have read my other posts) I find it so nerv wrecking getting undressed for the first time, whether it be in front of a new partner, or on a new beach that I haven’t been to before. Oddly enough tho, if I am going to get undressed for a doctor, or just to show someone my scars and how things work, then I am not nervous in the slightest, I can stand there talking and showing all sorts, but in any other situation I’m a total mess inside! Usually if I’m on a new beach I use my sunglasses as protection, once they are on its like there is no-one else on the beach and I can walk out into the sea and then I’m good… well after a good 10 mins of pep while trying to hide as flat as I can haha. So, yeah, maybe you can see why I would be nervous about this too… even more so because I decided to do it without the security of my trusted sunglasses. This time I was just going to jump all in!
Unfortunately my sister was too ill with a fever and a bad cold, and wasn’t about to join me, which didn’t help the nervs in the slightest, however I decided I wasn’t going to let that stop me! Luckily I already knew one person who we were going to be doing the ride with, but I also got to meet lots of new and absolutely lovely people!
The world naked bike ride is an organisation with multiple objectives, such as a protest against car culture, obtaining rights for cyclists, demonstrating the vulnerability of cyclists, demonstrating the global dependency of oil as well as body positivity, or whatever you as an individual would like. Of course as soon as I head about it I knew what I would be doing. Biking is important for me, and after having lived in Sweden for 5 years, and biking everywhere, but most of all feeling safe biking everywhere, as they are much more keen on keeping cyclists safer and off the car roads on bike paths instead, I feel that the UK really needs to up their game because I really don’t feel all that mega safe biking here (but I still do it when I can). This bike ride however was so much more to me. It was a chance to challenge myself, but also to raise awareness. To raise awareness for ostomies, and most of all, that young people get them too. As some of you know, I knew nothing about ostomies before I got mine, I hadn’t seen one, or heard of one before, and decided when I got mine that I was going to do what I could to try to spread awareness and make sure more people knew about it, whether they were getting one themselves or not. So Stevie the stoma got a cute little face, my sister helped write slogans on me… with permanent marker, which luckily wasn’t as permanent as I first feared, and decorated a load of bags that I no longer can use, which I then decorated my bike with. If I was gonna be doing this I was gonna be going all in, and I did!
As you’ll see in the pictures (I hope you can see) I wrote on my body;
– Keep Calm it’s only a stoma
– Life takes guts
– No colon still rollin’
– IBD Warrior
– Love yourself
– Self love
– Body positivity
And the bags I decorated for my bike read;
– End the stigma
– Ostomies save lives
– We are all beautiful
– End the taboo
And of course there were plenty of little love hearts around too! Hey, don’t they say ‘go big or go home’ or something like that, and that was my plan! I was not going to go home!
I was so nervous all morning, my stomach was like a whirlwind of all sorts, and I just tried to keep telling myself ‘it will be fine’, although at that moment in time I wasn’t sure if it would be haha! When we got to Regents park, where we were gonna start the ride, we got there just in time, and basically just had time to strip off before setting off. I think I’m quite happy we were cutting it fine time wise, because it left me with little time to think of what I was actually doing. Everyone else there was already naked, and about to set off, so with some fast action my clothes came off, got shoved into my bag and next thing I knew I was biking naked (I kept my knickers on) in a crowd, surrounded by thousands of other naked people, and all my fears were gone. I also think my fear transferred from ‘holy shit I’m naked’ to ‘oh good god, I’m on a bike with handbreaks, how on earth does this work!? I don’t want to crash’ (yeah, I’ve grown up with foot break bikes, where you peddle back to break, so handbreaks scare me quite a bit). It’s crazy how liberating it can be, just being outside in public, naked, with a load of other naked people haha. Some people were in all their underwear, some in a tshirt, some in trousers, others with plenty of body art, masks and costumes, others just as they were. And best of all, everyone was so happy! As we were biking round London, we were, of course, clogging up the traffic on the roads (yeah, stop driving everywhere people *winkwink* haha) and people were gathering along the paths cheering us on, waving and clapping, taking pictures, laughing and just looked like they were enjoying it as much as we were, who were taking part. I think we biked around London for about 2 hours, but time just flew by, and it felt like nothing. Of course we weren’t going very fast, but I felt like I could have carried on all day. I didn’t need my sunglasses, I didn’t need my clothes. I was just me! I am so proud of myself for doing this, for myself but also for other people. I had several people come up to me and thanking me for showing my bag, and raising awareness, showing them something they hadn’t seen before. I also had people wanting to take pictures of me and them to send to their friends who also had ostomies to try and get them to take part next year, or to just show them that there was someone else with their bag out doing this. I felt like a celebrity, and I felt proud of my body. I also met a man, who had surgery scars on his belly, who was so sweet and just said “neither of us should really be here should we, I have my scars out proud too”. I was really moved by him, and of course we got a picture together too, he was so sweet. The best thing about the bike ride is that it didn’t feel pervy or wrong or horrible at all, everyone was there for the same or similar reasons and it was no big deal that we were all naked together, we were just all there together and it was an amazing feeling! I have been living off this buzz every since, and I cannot wait until next year when I can do it again! It is one of the most empowering things I have done in ages and I would really recommend it to everyone because it truly was an amazing feeling that I can’t even try to begin to put into words!
Oh, I also have to share this… there was a professional photographer on the spot too, who took pictures of me, and everyone else, but I never caught his name or anything so I sort of thought, ‘ah what a shame, I guess I won’t be seeing those pictures’ and then the other day, I was looking on facebook and in one of the crohns and colitis groups I was in, someone posted this;
The Naked bike ride in London.
My friend is a photographer down there and snapped a lady (naked) with a stoma and had ‘Keep calm it’s only a stoma’ penned on her body.
Is that lady in this group?
If so well done very brave of you. Ps can you pass on your details as he has some photos you may be interested in.
I got so excited! That was me he was talking about! So I got in touch, and got some of the photos, but wow, that feeling was just amazing as well!
So many fantastic feelings to come out from this experience, like I said, I don’t even know how to start explaining how it feels… the closest I can get is sort of… free, bubbling, joy, strength and power… I think, although I’m not sure that really does it justice either… hmm.. hey, I know, come with next year and you can experience it yourself!