Cherine Docherty was unable to poop without hospital treatment for months.
She shared every minute on TikTok — from doctor visits to surgery to living with a colostomy bag.
She hopes to inspire others to not be embarrassed when it comes to their health.
When Cherine Docherty woke up in the middle of the night with her new colostomy bag leaking everywhere, she was, understandably, confused and upset.
"I'm not joking when I say I was covered in shit," she told Insider.
Docherty had just recently been fitted with a colostomy bag, also known as a stoma bag — an external pouch that is attached to a hole in the abdomen to take on the role of the colon and has to be emptied.
Docherty said she had to throw out all her bedding and get carpet cleaners because her bag had overflown and all the food she had digested was "spraying through my tummy."
Related video: Making these three lifestyle changes will improve your poop experience
"It was an absolute nightmare," she said. "I've had to set my alarm every single hour, every night, since I've been discharged from hospital, just because I'm so scared of that happening again."
This experience is just one of many Docherty has transparently and unapologetically shared with her 244,000 TikTok followers. She began documenting her bowel issues in February, when she developed a mysterious condition that resulted in her being unable to defecate. Every four weeks she would go into the hospital to be given medication that allowed her to use the bathroom. But after a few months, this treatment stopped working.
On July 11, Docherty posted a TikTok captioned "Day 34 of not doing a [poo emoji]" in which she showed her significantly protruding belly and noted that she looked eight months pregnant. After that, she posted regular updates — sometimes multiple times a day — of her visits to doctors and the hospital and her frustrations with getting no answers.
Since then, Docherty — who is 39 years old and lives in Scotland — has gained over 100,000 followers who have been with her every step of the way. While she has found the app to be a lifeline for advice and community, she is also connecting with people going through similar things and inspiring them to speak up about health issues they may find embarrassing and not seek medical help for.
"There's been a lot of people saying that they have been going through what I've been going through, but they're too embarrassed to go to the doctor to say, 'I can't poo,'" Docherty said. "They've watched my journey and it's given them the confidence to actually speak about what's going on with them."
After being in and out of the hospital, doctors decided to fit a colostomy bag
After being in and out of hospital several times, Docherty said she begged her doctor to do something. She was being tube fed laxatives because her throat had started to close up, and she was tired of being sent home with no solution.
In the videos posted after July 11, Docherty said she was having trouble breathing and was extremely worried for her health. Docherty also has stage-three chronic kidney disease and brittle asthma and didn't want either of those conditions to worsen.
The doctor told Docherty he would have rather removed her large intestine and then reattached the rest of her digestive system (a procedure called ileoanal anastomosis). But this would have been a 12-hour operation and there was a long waiting list, so he decided to give Docherty emergency surgery that day and fit her with a stoma bag. "It was either that or go on living the way I was living," Docherty said.
While the operation has offered Docherty relief, it has also been "traumatic," she said. She said she's not sleeping because she's so scared of her stoma bag exploding, so she's exhausted all the time and has been "crying every day."
"It's been one of the worst things I've ever experienced in my life," she said.
Docherty still doesn't have any answers about what caused her bowel problems in the first place and needs to go for more tests. Doctors have mentioned a few potential issues such as inflammatory bowel disease and lazy bowel, but there's no definitive diagnosis yet.
The experience has been difficult, but her following has helped
As she grapples with her condition, Docherty has been turning to her TikTok community, posting about her experience every day leading up to the surgery and afterward. The good days and the bad days are laid out openly, showing the realities of going through a major surgery — shouting out for nurses and retching because the pain was so bad, or celebrating her first poop after the operation. Docherty also asks her followers for advice about living with a stoma bag, which they are happy to provide.
In one incident, Docherty turned to her followers when her stoma bag exploded one evening shortly after she had surgery to attach it. She was upset because the stoma nurse had visited her just after the operation while she was still affected by the anesthetic and painkillers, so she couldn't remember anything the nurse said.
"If you'd have told me my skin was blue, I would've believed it," she said. "I did not have a clue what she told me, what to do, nothing at all."
After posting about what had happened, Docherty's comment section was full of people offering her suggestions, like eating marshmallows to help thicken the "output" and buying puppy pads for the bed. While most people with such a large following often deal with trolls or toxic comment sections, Docherty has found the platform to be an incredibly supportive space.
"There's a lot of big TikTokers that do get negativity, but for some reason I don't really," she said.
Docherty wasn't always this open on the internet. She used to work in childcare but has had to give up working due to her health issues. She said she used this opportunity to be "an open book" on TikTok, and it's paid off for her and the strangers who come across her videos and feel inspired.
"I get lots of people tagging me in their videos saying, 'This is the very, very first video I've made, but here's my stoma bag, thank you very much for encouraging me to do it,'" she said. "That's just been really good."
Seeing the humor in everything has been a lifesaver
Docherty said she gets her positive outlook from her parents. Her dad is a "pure Scotsman," she said, who sees the humor in everything and pipes in with remarks like, "Oh for fuck's sake, hen, shut up just get on with it." Her mother is the kind of person who gives tough love and tells her not to wallow.
"They're proper Scottish people where they'll just be like, 'Get on with it or moan, it's up to you,'" she said. "You moan and lie in your bed for days or you go on with it, and that's it. I've taken a bit off the both of them, to be honest."
While living with a stoma bag is the hardest thing Docherty has ever been through, she can also see the silver linings. She loves cooking and baking, and she's found the joy in that again now she can actually eat. Before her operation, her partner would finish all of her dinner, because Docherty couldn't manage more than a couple of bites. Now "I'm putting in more than her now I've got room to eat," she said.
Docherty is also no stranger to hardship. She said she's been intubated four times in her life and nearly died, so this is just the latest challenge — the tenacity her followers love her for.
"I think I've got nine bloody lives," she said.
Read the original article on Insider