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The Traitors Mollie Pearce Talks Stomas and Breaking Taboo

"The Traitors" Star Mollie Pearce on Living With a Stoma Bag: "I Can Have More in Life Now"

The Traitors II,26-01-2024,12,Mollie,Studio Lambert,Paul Chappells

Mollie Pearce had the nation hooked as she went head to head with fellow finalists Jaz Singh and Harry Clark in BBC game show, "The Traitors". She ultimately lost the £95,150 prize money to her best friend and, unbeknowst to her, the traitor, Harry, in a jaw-dropping turn of events which left 6.9 million viewers in shock during the climactic final episode in January. "It's been mad, it's been really good fun," Mollie tells POPSUGAR, as the 22-year-old faithful became the central focus of group chats up and down the country.

While her nail-biting decision has taken her to a new level of public notoriety, Mollie, who was born with missing fingers on her right hand and lives with a stoma bag, also opened up the disability conversation, proving yet again that representation in the media is so important. On the show, there was never a moment when she let anything hold her back, and she is now eager to spread awareness of her condition. "I've had a massive positive reaction from the stoma and limb difference community," she says.

"I told them I'd rather die than have that surgery. I wouldn't be able to love myself."

Mollie underwent life-changing surgery in 2020 to remove her colon after being diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis, ulcers and inflammation of the colon and rectum, at the age of 11. She now uses a stoma bag, a pouch that collects stools, and while she is determined to stress her positive outcome, she admits it hasn't been a straight-forward journey.

Mollie had been experiencing the symptoms of colitis, which her family were aware of since her dad suffers from the same illness, but revealed that doctors "wouldn't really listen". It wasn't until she was rushed to A&E after collapsing in her shower that she was finally diagnosed. Her secondary school experience was tainted by her on-again, off-again treatment, with everything from painful flare-ups every six months to difficult steroid treatments. "I was on such a high dose of prednisone and my face was all fat. Mentally, you're just not in a good state when you're on steroids," she says.

At 15-years-old, she was introduced to the idea of surgery to remove her colon. "I really didn't want the surgery and pushed it back so many times. They first brought it up when I was 15. And I was like 'no'," she says. "I told them I'd rather die than have that surgery. I was so against it. I thought it was going to end my life. I thought I'd never get a boyfriend and that no one would ever love me with that. I wouldn't be able to love myself or wear anything."

Finally, at 18, Mollie made the difficult decision to have her colon removed after one last try at a treatment failed her, leaving her "emotionally drained" and "in so much pain."

Adjusting to "waking up with a bag on [her] stomach", which she has now named Sid, didn't come easy either. She couldn't watch her nurses change her stoma, let alone face changing and emptying it herself, but was determined to be discharged and get home. "I was going home with this new thing on my body. It felt like the scariest thing ever," Mollie recalls.

"My life for seven years had revolved around where the toilet was, [but my stoma] made me realise, actually, I can have more in life now."

Despite feeling apprehensive about her future, it was a trip through a McDonald's drive-thru that eventually changed things for her and made her realise the freedom her stoma bag would give her. "For the first time, I didn't need the toilet. My life for seven years had revolved around where the toilet was. If I wasn't near one, I'd be having a panic attack because my anxiety around the toilet had become so intense. It used to be all I thought about," she explains. "But I sat and ate my food and I didn't need to be anxious. That's when things really changed for me. I've just gone out and not had a panic attack, I'm not going to have an accident, I'm not going to soil myself. It made me realise, actually, I can have more in life now with this bag."

Since then, Mollie has an appreciation for her stoma bag and has been living her life like any other young woman, hanging with friends, confidently wearing bikinis, and embarking on a relationship with her boyfriend, Max Backwell. "You can do anything and wear anything with a stoma," she says.

Alongside her job as a healthcare assistant, Mollie has modelled for brands like Kurt Geiger and Tommy Hilfiger, and worked as a vocal advocate for stomas and limb differences, from promoting stoma-friendly underwear on Instagram to celebrating her "3 year stoma-versary" with her followers, which have grown exponentially to over 87k after her TV stint in "The Traitors".

And there's no stopping her now. Mollie has plans to continue raising awareness and breaking the taboo around poo, stomas, and other digestive diseases like IBD, Crohn's, and Colitis.

"I definitely want to push awareness. It's really important that we do talk about poo and that we are open about it because we all poo," she says. "We just do it differently if we have a sterile bag. So many people don't even know what a sterile bag is, which blows my mind because it has affected my life so much, so I definitely want to push it out there and talk about poo all the time."

While she may have narrowly missed out on the prize pot on the show, it's arguably more rewarding to know she has become a true advocate for those going through similar difficulties. "If I can help people, that is the best thing," she adds. We couldn't agree more.

Image Source: BBC
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