Vanilla Blush. A way of life, not just a brand.

As you may already know, I have HUGE love for Vanilla Blush. 2 years after being introduced to the brand, I thought it was about time I wrote about it! 

My love for Vanilla Blush began on my first home visit from a stoma nurse. I was handed a pack containing a few leaflets and useful contacts. Prior to this all I had received was my stoma supply bag, a leaflet on food and a pat on the back as I left hospital. I was excited to finally see a leaflet that wasn’t about clinical products nor fronted with only an image of someone 50+. I didn’t feel instantly pulled in by the leaflet if I’m honest & actually thought it looked a bit like an Ann Summers one but toned down 😂 and I wasn’t convinced that there was something special about VB but I was intrigued.
The nurses however treated and still treat these items as if they are a luxury and merely an expense to the NHS. I was led to believe this and truly thought that spending £15 – £20 of my own money on  ‘just’ a pair of knickers; was pointless. How wrong I was! 

I can see from a stoma nurses perspective, that they seem like any other knicker we can buy and again this view must be handed down to the GPs and new ostomates but I now know for certain that they are ill advised. They have zero concept of what helps an ostomate in day-to-day life and I intend to stay on the side that is educating them on this matter.

I’ll briefly touch on this issue…

Over the past year our supplies have been audited (see my other blog about this) and our CCGs are taking stoma nurse advise on what they THINK we should have. Sadly I do not support this at all and whilst stoma nurses offer great clinical advice on the anatomy of our stomas, I now believe the best people to advise on our product requirements – is us! As I have stated previously, I do not see a hierarchy between medical professionals and patients. Doctors, nurses and surgeons are trained by the books to assess, tests & treat our conditions. They are not (all) however able to speak from experience of such conditions.

They are the generic biology experts, we are the experts of OUR bodies and OUR symptoms. This applies especially when it comes to stoma products. Sadly due to a few that have abused the system (one that surely the nurses & delivery companies should have been in control of prior to this), we are now treated like children at times. We need assessing on an individual basis and not sent blunt, generic letters that have quite frankly patronised many of us. It is hard enough to find the right products for our skins & lifestyles, let alone have to be told what we can and can’t have by another adult. Fortunately I don’t represent them and from day one have vowed to fight for patients rights to these items! However we’ll leave my anarchy for another day 😉

I’m passionate about body confidence and am aware that acceptance of your post op body, is a huge challenge for many. Just look at how many resources the mental health section already takes up and yet there is no support when it comes to accepting ostomies. Why?! This is something the clinical professionals just can’t understand and so it’s up to people like me to speak up about this. I believe everyone can grow to be confident with their ostomy but there is no set time for each individual. Both investment and support is required from healthcare providers, as well as that of ostomates who have reached a point of acceptance.

Trying Vanilla Blush products, gave me the opportunity to explore my underwear AND outer clothing options and truly face my body with a stoma. I decided to order the prescription underwear, mainly to challenge my nurse and prove that GPs had the ability to empathise, stick to their oath of putting patient wealthfare first and ignore the ‘red tape’. Being the person I am, I had already discussed how I would appreciate my GPs support, in achieving a quality of life. This was something he had seen me go without for 4 years and had been right behind me from day one.

As hoped, the order arrived fairly quickly and I got to experience my first VB beauties. They were made from cotton, which in my eyes is the supreme material for comfort & good skin. Prior to this I had slumped into a habit of wearing Asda cotton pants, along with a basic support belt. I was in so much discomfort and felt frumpy!

Vanilla Blush basics were exactly that but also practical, fitted my curves perfectly and suddenly – my bag was inside my knickers but OFF my skin. It was a wonderful feeling. It was like not having a bag on and I got to sit comfortably in my skinny jeans, without the bag digging in, making me itch or sweat. Now, I love big pants and the more comfort the better but as you know, with comfort often comes an ugly product clinical product. Just look at the shoes available for those of us with arthritis. I’m sexy now in my pants but my feet are doomed to a lifetime shame! These knickers are great to wear by day and even better for comfort by night. No butt cheeks hanging out, no wedgies, no loss of front or back bum coverage and all whilst holding my bag there for a good nights sleep. 

I am lucky to not suffer leaks, however I was far more conscious of them back then. My stoma was merely a few weeks old and the fear was instilled from reading a constant barrage of online negativity. I believed if I leaked, my mattress would meet it’s maker at the dump, my underwear would appear like a nappy full of melted Snickers and my dignity would crawl out of the room with face in hands! However I survived and now know it’s no hardship at all. All expensive material things can be protected, knickers replaced & my dignity is way beyond salvation – so f*ck it! At least I had my Vanilla Blush knickers to place a layer between my skin and my bed, in the hope of less carnage.

It was quite a long time before I tried the lingerie. I was fortunate to be put in touch with Nicola Dames CEO of Vanilla Blush, when she was searching online for ostomates with unique hobbies. I jumped at the opportunity to apply, because by then I was dreaming of modelling this underwear and would work my damned hardest for that opportunity. Can you believe it? The girl who had been conscious of her body for the previous 10 years, was now ready to bite the arm off the CEO of VB, so I could get my ass out for the world! Literally within a few months (op Jul – video shoot Jan), I was feeling sexier than I did at 18, when I had more confidence & bfs than Mr.Kipling had cakes! I was on top of the world.

The shoot wasn’t about underwear but was about intimacy. It was supported by Coloplast with a Valentine’s theme (to see videos check out VBs YouTube page). I went on to do my thing on roller skates and when interviewed, I spoke frankly about how intimacy was no issue for me at all. That having surgery hadn’t changed my relationship and I believed it was largely down to positivity and body confidence. Confidence VB was giving me!

From that point I gained a slight obsession….ok a big one! I contacted Nicola via email stating I was extremely interest in modelling for her one day and although I knew she probably received requests daily, I had the confidence to be bold. I didn’t believe I would be asked but I was proud of myself for believing I could try! 

I began to collect the lingerie and made the most of the great deals they were offering on Fridays and via their monthly money off codes. I decided I would post my pictures in the hope that it would inspire other ostomates and show women with curves or without, that beauty is a state of mind; enhanced by great underwear. The response was CRAZY. 

As positive messages poured in, along with compliments, questions about the products and advice, I found myself feeling like a VB representative but was probably more like Del boy. I LOVED talking about the products that make me feel good. I still do.

As you all know by now, I was fortunate to model the latest range in November 2016, with an amazing team of ostomates. Fate had worked in my favour as many applied and I’m so grateful I was pulled out of that hat. I had cheekily dropped a few names to Nicola of others ostomates I felt would be amazing and when the names were read out, I was ecstatic to be reuniting with my video shoot beauty, Jessica Kitchener and my buddy Steve Cartmail. I met some wonderful ostomates I hadn’t met previously too. All of a sudden, my dream turned into reality and the day was even better than I’d imagined. It was a great experience that I’d do over and over again.

Vanilla Blush offers a variety of basics, lingerie styles, a great range of sizes (with children’s range due in Nov I believe), beautiful colours to match all your bras and even an intimacy range for those shy about their bag still or even a bit kinky…wehaaaay. They provide amazing hernia support wear too and I wear the vests day-to-day, as they aren’t too restrictive and look like a fashion item. Again there is nothing clinical about them at all. I also own swimwear by VB. Both a black, flattering swimsuit and high waist bikini bottoms. They use the same internal pocket design but offer a slimming fit too. I can mix and match my black bikini bottoms with any top I wish. You can get swimsuit and bikinis in a variety of sizes and colours too. 

I have been fortunate to go to their HQ in Glasgow and meet Nicola’s partner and hubby Simon Dames, along with the rest of the amazing team. When ostomates talk to me about Vanilla Blush they tend to mention 3 things. 1) How good the product makes them feel/look, 2) What great value they are and 3) The quality of customer service offered by the team. You can’t say better than that right? 

I now own around 15+ pairs of knickers and won’t stop there. Every pair gives me comfort, helps me start my day on a good foot and tempts me to share my body confidence with the world. I will continue to post pics on my social media, until I’m old and grey…if I make it that far!

Since meeting Nicola, I have continued to support the brand, as a fan and advocate. I am truly inspired by Nicola, who took her experience as a Nurse, sufferer of UC and as an ostomate and chose to turn a negative into a positive. I wanted to do the same with my advocacy and thank Nicola and Simon for supporting me on my journey. I admire Nicola’s vision with VB, her will to help others and her tenacity to make things happen! VB was the first of it’s kind and it’s not just the quality, variety or unique internal pocket that makes it special to me but the life changing effect it has had on my views of my body. Vanilla Blush for me is a way of life and not just a brand.

Look out for their new range later this year and you can sign up to emails via their website http://www.vblush.com. You will receive discount codes, news updates and reminders of your prescription orders. Orders can be made online or over the phone on 0141 7630991. Any queries email sales@vblush.com. Follow both my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages (all under Stoma in a Teacup) for images of products and deals. 

Disclaimer – I only support what I truly believe in and write this from the heart. No sponsorship, gifts or money were received for this review. All views and expressions are my own.

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