Meet Glen Neilson


When you beat cancer and learn to live with a stoma, you can scale any challenge.

I’ve had my Ileostomy for 18 years now. Back then, I was in my early twenties and living my dreams in the Royal Navy on-board a nuclear submarine. It wasn’t the best place to fall seriously ill, but then I’ve never done things by half!

I was air-lifted off to hospital for tests and eventually given the news no-one wants to hear.

‘Mr Neilson, I’m sorry to say that you have thyroid cancer.’

‘Mr Neilson, I’m sorry to say that you have thyroid cancer.’

I think anyone who hears the C-word fears the worst, but I was mightily relieved when told that they’d caught it early, were going to remove it and there was a very high survival rate.

First cancer, then colitis.

If I thought my problems were over when the amazing surgeons successfully removed my cancer, I was wrong. Later, I also got ulcerative colitis. I’ve always been a fun-loving, positive person, but I’m not ashamed to say that the colitis left me feeling very low.

It’s not easy being happy-go-lucky when you’re constantly ill and on the toilet. I remember my son was six years old at the time and I took him fishing. I ended up going to the loo 32 times that day, spending more time on the throne than on the fishing bank!

My stoma was my life-saver.

I completely understand why not everyone shares this feeling. But that’s how I have come to think of my stoma. It saved my life – and completely transformed the way I live my life.

It hasn’t always been that way. I woke up during surgery in intensive care staring down at it. That wasn’t the best introduction! And neither was catching MRSA on my first holiday abroad, spending 8 long months recovering at home with a hole in my stomach.

My first bag didn’t bring any joy either. It didn’t help that I had problems around my stoma because of my baseplate and creases – and the fact my bag felt more like a carrier bag! It actually fell off the first time I ever went swimming. It took me two years before I would ever visit a pool again.

A new bag and the old me.

It wasn’t until my stoma nurse changed me onto the ConvaTec Natura two-piece bag that things started clicking into place (and I’m not just talking about the baseplate!).

The new bag gave me confidence and the old me started coming back. I got into going to the gym again, walking, golf and wild swimming.

I set up my own businesses. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, so I opened a sweet shop and cart for weddings and events. Another one of my ventures was a snow cone business called ‘Snow on the Piste’, which were alcoholic snow cones.

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