My Story - Janet Thompson


My Story - Janet Thompson

Janet’s story

In June, Mike Jameson asked me to write an article for the Bulletin on the lines of “From Birth to Buckingham Palace’.  This was because he had just heard that I had been awarded ‘The British Empire Medal’ in The Queen’s 2021 Birthday Honours list.

Well to be honest I have just read IA Midland News Bulletin for July 2021 and I really cannot even attempt to follow the amazing people who have been included in that edition.  The articles about the Stoma Care Nurses at our Hospitals and how they have coped with Covid-19 whilst still providing patients with outstanding support is overwhelming and they are the true heroes of 2020-2021.  They have gone above and beyond what any of us could expect, if that was not enough, I then read the tributes to our very own Mary Cotterill whom I had the pleasure of knowing for 35 years and she deserves such high accolades and our grateful thanks: we will miss her.

So back to me, I write this article in the full knowledge that everything I have managed to accomplish in the voluntary sector has been because I am working with some super teams, and I do not stand alone.

I was a very healthy child although very shy (honestly) then when I first became ill at the age of 19 with Crohn’s Disease it started to ruin my life.  I joined NACC (now Crohn’s & Colitis UK) straight away and then IA once I had had my first stoma operation when I was 23.  My IA visitor was Audrey Newell who reassured me, I then went on to meet some amazing people like Professor Brian Brooke and my heroes Nancy Alexander and Doreen Harris.  I then decided to take up volunteering aged 23 and became Secretary of Birmingham IA and also a Brownie Guide Leader.  I found Volunteering to be so worthwhile and therapeutic because helping other people (as the Brownie Guide Motto states) makes all the difference. 

I continued to volunteer for other organisations over the years even whilst I moved Counties and Countries because organisations and charities always need support. I have been volunteering for 37 years now in one capacity or another and combined this with working full time for many years.  I find that the Ostomy products are so good and once you find the products that fit best for you then you have the confidence to get on and not let anything stop you. The Ileostomy Association have been a great support to me over the years and being part of the Midlands Division has allowed me to have a closer relationship with an amazing organisation.

Even before the first Lockdown, I had been involved in several community projects within my town of Uppingham and County of Rutland. This included a Neighbourhood Forum, Emergency plan committee, Community support group, driving the community Hopper bus, Food bank collections, Brownie Guides, Church kids’ clubs and being the only representative from Rutland within the Leicestershire Patient Participation Assurance Group within the NHS.  All of these positions were voluntary and allowed me to be deeply involved in my community.  I gained a huge amount of satisfaction knowing that I was trying to make a difference, however small.  

When the dreaded Covid and Lockdown started it was clear that these organisations were in need even more.  We recruited more volunteers within ‘UppWatch’ to shop for others, offer help, comfort on the phone and generally to be there as needed.  The extra volunteers just showed how everyone is there to pull together in a crisis and I felt that Rutland was a safe place to live in the hostile environment of Covid.

We all do what we can and so when I received an email in May saying that I was on the Queen’s Birthday Honour List for June 2021 and to be awarded a 'British Empire Medal' I didn't believe it and didn't even open the email.  Eventually I asked my husband to open the email believing that it was a scam.

The email was indeed authentic and was from the Cabinet Office and my name had been put through to them and then onto the Queen via Rutland's Lord Lieutenant.  I will receive my actual medal at our local castle in Oakham from Dr. Sarah Furness our Lord Lieutenant.  I make the joke that the 'rare ore has to excavated from the ancient city of Londinium'.

I adore traditions and the Queen authorising awards is part of our history and a lovely way to show appreciation.  I will indeed be invited to Buckingham Palace next year to one of her Garden Parties and will proudly wear my medal.

What I have tried to achieve as a volunteer is only a tiny fraction of what we all try to achieve every day.  Volunteering is good for the sole and a small way of trying to give something back to the people and the community that we live in.  Having an Ileostomy doesn't stop you living your life to the full, but it does help you to live life to the full.

May you all stay safe and healthy and appreciate every minute of our lives, share fun and laughter with friends and family.

As they say on the radio: thanks for listening.

Janet Thompson ~BEM