A mum-of-one has shared her traumatic ordeal of dealing with chronic constipation her whole life – with her condition so severe she can’t walk or sit down properly.
Franchesca Flack, 35, from Essex, suffers with pain daily, dealing with extreme bloating as a result of being “blocked up” and is constantly mistaken for being pregnant by strangers.
In her mid-teens, doctors told the fashion writer she likely had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and in her mid-20s she was also diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel illness.
At this point, the excessive bloating was so intense that Franchesca recalls her stomach “expanding” under her clothes – and it has only gotten worse over the years.
Aside from extreme constipation, the mum also regularly experiences pelvis pain, back ache and intense discomfort.
“It has impacted my life in every way and I feel my confidence plummet every time I look in my wardrobe and try to decide what to wear,” she told Jam Press.
“I don’t like my body because of the bloating and in any outfit, my eyes are instantly drawn to my stomach.
“I have no body confidence left, which I’ve always struggled with it but it’s now at an all-time low.
“Often I prop a large bag in front of my tummy [when I’m out] to hide any bloat, and I feel paranoid that others are judging me – I feel ugly and insecure.
“I know I have health conditions, but I can’t seem to accept it and look at my body proudly.”
Franchesca has tried altering her diet, cutting out all the foods she once enjoyed and regularly exercises by running or doing pilates to help relieve the discomfort.
Before, she would have cereal, chocolate, curry and milkshakes but now, she drinks four litres of water a day to help with the blockage and has cut out dairy, red meat, fizzy drinks and caffeine.
While it helps in the morning, by the evening the discomfort and pain has returned – and is so intense she can barely sit down.
Despite doctors’ insistence that the bloating was linked to her other conditions, the now mum-of-one knew there was something wrong – which first became evident when she had her daughter in 2020.
Just 24 hours after giving birth, Franchesca was in “unbearable pain”.
She said: “I was at home and felt what can only be described as contractions – even though I’d just given birth.
“I hadn’t emptied my bowels or passed wind in over in a week.
“I was sent back to hospital but my daughter needed feeding at the same time, so I had to [do this] while still being in unbearable pain.”
In February 2022, the mum’s condition took an unexpected turn when she had her gallbladder removed.
The strong medication worsened her constipation and, as a result, she had complications with her bladder.
Franchesca claims: “I explained to the nurses that the high level of medication you need for surgery would make my constipation worse but they said everything would be fine.
“I then realised I hadn’t been for a wee since that morning and the nurses became worried.
“I was in tears from the amount of pressure on my bladder.
“I felt extremely frustrated and angry at my body, as my constipation had now caused my bladder to stop working.”
Longing to find the root cause of her issues, Franchesca insisted on a second opinion a few weeks later and following a CT scan, doctors realised just how serious the issue was.
Doctors now believe the issue is caused by a different condition and she is now awaiting a colonic transit and defecating proctogram, an examination of the lower bowel and rectum function, as well as a referral to the pelvic floor unit.
Franchesca also takes a range of medications to ease the symptoms but they do little to help.
Despite the horrific journey she has been through, the mum is happy that she might finally get an answer to what is wrong.
She’s also happy that doctors are finally listening to her.
The fashion writer is now sharing her story to help others who might be in a similar situation or feel embarrassed about their bloating or constipation, which is often seen as a taboo topic.
Franchesca added: “I finally feel like I’m on the right path to finding out the cause of my constipation and feeling confident in my appearance again.
“I’m determined to raise awareness for gut issues and break the stigma for those suffering from the physical and mental strain these conditions put on us.”