“I’m Loving Myself Sick Right Now”

tracey bags

When a tiny sore appeared on the edge of the hole in Tracey’s stomach we wasted no time in getting her to a medical centre.

“What can I do for you?” the Doctor asked Tracey when she entered his office.

Tracey explained she had something funky happening on her skin graft.

“A skin graft? What was that for?”

“I had an aneurism on a vein in my stomach back in October,” said Tracey.

“An aneurism in your stomach? But that would mean your bowel wouldn’t be getting blood and usually would die.”

Tracey nodded and lifted her shirt.

“It did,” she said. “But I’ve still got 90cm left.”

The doctor paused to consider this.

“You realise,” he said, “surviving that is very rare. You are a very lucky lady.”

She knows. We all know.

Which is why we don’t muck about when something changes. He prescribed some antibiotics and the next day we stopped in at RBWH on our way back to Gympie.

“Feels like I’m coming home,” Tracey said when we emerged from the Clem7 and the hospital loomed in front of us. “I feel safer just seeing it.”

I do too.

The most likely diagnosis of the sore looks to be a small part of the skin graft is rejecting.

“It’s not unexpected,” the hospital doctor said, and although they took a swab he still seemed happy with how things are progressing. So we are too.

Since leaving the hospital back in December, everything has been plodding along pretty much as expected. We realise it’s just a waiting game now, with things in her belly needing time to sort themselves out enough Dr Brown and his fabulous team of surgeons can go back in and sort out a few loose ends – like hopefully the bags, and eventually the hernias.

The hernias, as you’ll see if you venture down to the photo below, are extensive. More than once Tracey has spotted people giving her tummy that ‘oh, you’re pregnant’ smile. It doesn’t bother her. Not much bothers her these days regarding body image.

“I’m loving myself sick right now,” Tracey is prone to saying as she looks at her nakedness in the mirror. “I used to find things wrong with how I looked, but now I love my body so much. It kept me alive!” Then she’ll inevitably backtrack a bit. “Oh, sure, it tried to kill me first… but then it kept me alive! It did good.”

Putting up a photo showing the physical scars of Tracey’s journey is something we’ve been discussing for a couple of months. In fact, we’ve had this photo sitting on her desktop for a while now. We realise not everyone will want to see it, and in fact some people might be offended. A couple of family members were a little shocked by the idea she wanted a photo, let alone wanted to share it with anyone. They’ve come around, but are still anxious.

Ultimately, Tracey thinks that it’s important to break down a few walls regarding stoma bags because they’re awesome. Several people have come out of the woodwork since reading about her story, and overwhelmingly there’s a lot of negative associations with it, including a gentleman now suffering depression.

“Whereas I love my bags,” Tracey inevitably tells me. Not that she’s not looking forward to maybe getting rid of them one day if she can. But as she says, “Without them I’d be dead. Where’s the fun in that?”

And without them we wouldn’t have her wonderful positivity to kick about with, so we love them too.

“Do you think,” Tracey said to me the other night while she sat on our bed changing her bags, and I lay behind her hooked up to my sleep apnea machine via a mask and tube, “our ex’s must look at us and think ‘geez, I’ve dodged a bullet’?”

“I reckon mine might,” I laughed. “But not because of this mask.”

It’s funny little thoughts like these which keep her chuckling about the whole thing. We should always look for something to laugh and smile about, because life can quickly become serious enough all of it’s own accord.

Without further adieu, here’s a photo of Tracey’s battle scars. There’s the scar on her inside leg where they took the vein to repair the burst one in her gut. There’s the big rectangle on her thigh where they took skin for the graft. Then there’s the belly itself, with the huge pregnancy-imitating hernias, the skin graft (which should eventually go when they reconnect the tummy muscles which are currently about 15cm apart), and her two wonderful stoma bags. You can’t see it, but her belly button is on the far side of her stomach, just beyond the lip of the furtherest stoma bag.

And its all more incredible when you think about things being even more diced and spliced on the inside.

Amazing stuff.

She’s amazing stuff.

Not least because this is the most skin I think she’s ever shown in a photo, but mainly because of her attitude.

I think you’ll agree she’s hell sexy, and I’m a very lucky man.

scars big family little income
Tracey; “It’s perfect really, cause I’ve always had a bag fetish.”

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Raising a family on little more than laughs.

65 Comments

  • Oh, Tracey! So beautiful and alive and the positivity just radiating from her. What a treasure and an inspiration. She is definitely sexy and I am blown away by her positive outlook. What a legend.

  • Tracey is gorgeous, and she is right to love her body – what an amazing job it has done recovering from all it went through. I have extensive scarring from burns over 50% of my body, so can kind of relate – our scars are the sign of how hard we fought to stay alive, and a reminder of our strength. Best wishes to you both, and hope the recovery continues to go well.

  • I don’t usually comment to blogs I read, I would get any work done! But this post has both moved and inspired me. Well done Tracey in posting your battle scars it has given me an entirely different perspective on my own body image. thank you and stay well.

  • I am impressed and it shows how amazing Tracey is.
    I am not proud to say I hated every moment of my time with a stoma. I didn’t cope mentally with it. I was lucky to have it for only 5 months.
    They are amazing and saved my life but it still had a stigma.
    All the best going forward.

  • Tracey YOU ROCK!!! So glad you shared this. Our bodies are amazing things & we need to get comfortable in our own skin & love ourselves no matter what shape, size or colour. I’m sure Taryn Brumfitt of Body Image Movement would love to see this pic of you embracing your beautiful body. #ihaveembraced

  • I’m reading this as I lie in bed recovering from double mastectomy. My chest looks munted smashed deformed and totally amazing. Without that surgery I could be dead so I’m celebrating the scars and thanking god for my deformity. I love what Tracey said about not viewing my body for beauty like I used to, but for function. We are alive. .. scars and lumpy wounds be dammed. Onward!

  • Thank you for your bravery and for showing us your fight. I have been following your story for a while now and this has made me even happier for your (not so) little family

  • Good on you; if you’re comfortable with sharing I say do it. My husbands auntie has stoma bags & hernias too. We (and she!) sometimes joke she’s 12 months pregnant.

  • What an amazing body, damn straight you should be proud of everything it has battled and achieved, from birthing your beautiful children to this latest battle. Good on you for sharing this, beauty comes in all forms. You are inspirational xo

  • What a beautiful, brave lady. And I love Tracyey’s attitude because she knows what the alternative was!!!!! I am a bit of an inquisitive person so I went looking into Stoma Bags. I didn’t know there were so many varieties lol. You are an inspiration xoxo

  • Wow you look amazing and positively radiant. I love your story and by sharing it letting others know to be proud of your battle scars and taking the ‘glass is half full’ approach to life. Sure not everything is easy but hope your healing fast and well and love your attitude great role model x

  • The only thing that stands out for me is the smile. Sure, the bags can be seen, and those scars are epic … but the smile really takes the cake for me.

    • Couldn’t agree more! Tracey your smile is gorgeous! It shows the brightness of your soul. Heal well and keep smiling!

    • It’s hard to see past that big, beaming smile! I agree with Amanda — Tracey just radiates joy in this photo. When I look at this photo, I see a strong, gutsy, courageous woman who is embracing life. So proud of you, girl. I remember you from when you used to work at Kingston’s, and I liked you then, but I admire and respect you now. You’re a real fighter, and from following your story all this time, you have a fantastic family to back you up.

      TRACEY DEVEREAUX = GYMPIE’S WOMAN OF THE YEAR!

  • She is a beautiful woman! She should be so proud to be alive! So much sunshine radiating through her in that picture. So much admiration for your wife!

  • Tracey looks so radiant and happy! Such a brave lady and such a survivor. And duch an awesome attitude!

    I have a friend who has a great deal of secondary damage to her organs and body in general, from Crohn’s disease. She always says her body is now like a patchwork quilt; all cobbled together. 🙂
    Her family has been told on many occasions that she is unlikely to survive and yet, with grit and determination ( much like Tracey), she just keeps on keeping on!

    Love this photo and what it represents.

  • Woo hoo! Glamorous …. and that gorgeous smile is the icing on the cake …. I am also thinking Tracey is a great photographer!

  • You are just beautiful, it’s not surprising that you have such wonderful family and friends surrounding you and supporting you all. Your husbands words and your smile are inspiring. You both really put things into perspective.

  • You have forever changed my idea of body image. It’s very humbling to see someone who went through so much be grateful for the body that sustained her. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • This is an amazingly beautiful story and photo. Your family’s plight brought me to tears many times over that tumultuous time but you and your family’s strength then and now can only be admired and has brought such inspiration into my life. Thank you for sharing your stories and photos. You have helped remind me what is important in life and how lucky I am (and I laugh a lot) 🙂

  • you are totally gorgeous. such a beautiful smile as well.. your body did indeed save you.. you truly are inspirational.. xxx

  • It takes guts ” a little pun” to go forward and show others that you are a survivor. Scars are to be embraced and celebrated your lifes journey. Well done an inspiration.

  • Tracey,you are one amazing truely beautiful gal .We love your positivity and the quiet endurance you are emitting to your wonderful family,keep all the love going. We are with you all the way even though we live a little way from you all Lots of love Ann and Eric

  • I had to comment to thank you for sharing the photo. You are a miracle and you are beautiful. I wish you good luck for the future

  • Tracy: you are the most courageous woman in Australia. I think every one of us that read your family blog during your illness held our breaths and prayed for the miracle you became in defying the odds and pulling through. What we couldn’t have anticipated is such courage after having gone through so much. You go girl!

  • Awesome sauce Tracey! My husband had a lot of trouble accepting his stoma at first, until I suggested we name it. We hit upon ‘Mr Creosote’ – Monty Python fans will understand. Cue many jokes about ‘wafer thin mints’…

  • Wow good on you. Followed your journey and you are still so beautiful and full of life. Thank you for sharing as I’m sure you will more than help others out there.

  • The hernias tell me she is a survivor. The bags tell me she is a survivor. The skin grafts tell me she is a survivor. The scar one her leg tells me she is a survivor. All of them together tell me that she did a kick ass job of wanting to survive! Tracy – you’re a fricking legend!

  • Tracey, you are so damn amazing and beautiful! Your smile is radiant. Thank you for sharing this very personal photo of yourself. Your strength is beyond belief! I wish you all the very best for your recovery ahead. God Bless. xx

  • Tracey you are such a beautiful and courageous lady, with an amazing and loving husband and family. Thank you for sharing something so personal xxx

  • This is such a beautiful photo, her beautiful face and smile just light up this photo. To have survived what she did was a miracle and it is so wonderful to see this photo. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • What an amazing lady you are Tracey, you are an inspiration to us all to never give up. You photo is beautiful as is your stunning smile.

  • Wow! So impressed with your guts and awesomeness. I’ve followed your journey and are so glad to see you so positive and fabulous (and making it through!). High five, Tracey ✋?????

  • You have a beautiful smile Tracey………….You are an inspiration to everyone…………you are an amazing woman

  • Tracy, what an amazing, beautiful woman you are. Totally awesome. We could all take a leaf out of your book and love ourselves sick…instead of worry and complain about nothing. Much love and excellent health to you. xxx

  • I find this confronting. In a good way. I’ve never met (to my knowledge) anyone with a stoma bag, let alone seen one. And I instinctively feel bodies were not meant to be sliced and diced this way. But my instinct is wrong when the outcome is so right. And I too, am so glad that Tracey is alive. I think it is so sad that anyone might have to struggle to accept themselves with a stoma bag. It would be hard to deal with, as all physical deterioration is. But we are so much more than our bodies, and Traceys smile and attitude wins out. I hope anyone else with a stoma bag (or any other big issues) can see this and think that living is better than any physical injuries.

  • Very brave to post the photo, but it is amazing. I have crohns disease so a bag may well be in my future too but you have 2!! All jokes aside, this has to be the happiest story of my year.

  • How beautiful!!! She is so brave! – you are ALL so brave. I was praying for you all during that awful time, and I think of you often… Not to mention, I’ve just moved to Brisbane, so every time I see a sign for Gympie I think of you! Thanks for your great blog 🙂

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