Ostomy support group launched

Bobbie Minshull who is starting a stoma support group for people in and around Berwick
Bobbie Minshull who is starting a stoma support group for people in and around Berwick

A new support group is launching in Berwick to help people in this area who are living with stomas.

Bowsden’s Bobbie Minshull is setting up the group which will provide a private, empathetic environment in which people with stomas and their families can meet.

“People who have them don’t want to have them, it’s not a lifestyle choice. It’s an exclusive club that no one wants to be a part of,” Bobbie says. “But you can still go out and have fun.

“Most of the time you tick along, you live a normal life. I play golf, swim, ski.

“People can walk around and you wouldn’t know they had stomas, but it’s a mental issue. It’s not something anyone wants to have and it’s not something you can really talk about. And that’s the big problem – people suffer in silence.”

Bobbie had her first stoma procedure after cancer treatment left her with little control over her bowel. “I had cervical cancer in the 80s, radiation was much less refined then and it fried my abdomen,” she explains. She had surgery for a second stoma, for urine, in 2009.“For me it’s never going to be reversed, this is permanent, so you make the best of it.”

There is information about stomas online, and web forums to interact with other ostomists. But Bobbie says older people can miss out. “If you’re on the internet it’s great, there’s lots of information and web forums there. But older people might not be online to get the up to date information or the support that talking to fellow ostomists can give,” she says.

“That’s why I wanted to start a support group in this area - the nearest ones are either in Edinburgh or Newcastle which is too far to travel for a couple of hours of social interaction.”

Bobbie and her husband Ken settled in Bowsden over a year ago. “My husband had just finished 38 years of service – we were living abroad and wanted to come home,” she says. “I thought, I have moved to this area now, this is my home. So I’m going to try and make it happen.

“I spoke to the local stoma nurse and decided that I would try and set up a group in the area. The idea is to get people together and exchange tips and ideas. It’s somewhere people can go to make friends, be open about their stoma and learn from each other.”

The first group meeting will take place from 6-8pm at Berwick Hospice, Hazel Marsden House on April 18, and then on the third Thursday of each month thereafter. “I want to say thanks to the hospice for allowing us to use the room, I’m very grateful,” Bobbie says.

“I have never done anything like this before and I’m petrified that there is going to be nobody there!” she admits. “But I’m trying. I have had one of my stomas since 1991 and I have learned a lot over the years. I want to help people realise it’s not the end of the world, and if I can help someone miss out on some of the steps I have been through then that will be a good thing.”

Partners and family members are also welcome at the group. “My husband has been wonderful, he has supported me through everything and has been my rock,” Bobbie says. “Ken will be coming along to the group because partners are often forgotten; they have got to deal with it too.”