It Takes Guts: Short story competition winners

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Congratulations to the three winners of our It Takes Guts short story competition!

Read their stories...

The First Step

Jane sat in the hospital corridor trying not to read the posters on the wall. On either side of her a row of people were busy reading books or scrolling through their phones. She had left Jack in the waiting room, she hadn’t wanted him to see how nervous she was. A young man in shirt sleeves suddenly appeared and called out “Amelia Roberts”. Everyone looked around but nobody moved. “Amelia Roberts” he called again with just a hint of impatience.

“Sorry, that’s me.” Jane stood up feeling flustered. “You see, Amelia is my first name and …“ but the man had disappeared through a door. Jane followed him feeling wrong footed. He indicated a chair by the side of his desk.

“I’m Mike,” he said. “I’m the gastroenterologist.” He smiled encouragingly at her and then started reading a file.

Jack’s advice ran through her head. “Tell him everything. Tell him about the pain and always having to look for loos.” But she couldn’t find the words to tell Mike any of these things, he was too young. He was probably younger than her son. She felt herself flush with embarrassment.

“So, how are you feeling today?” Mike asked.

“Good thank you.”

Mike picked up a pen and started writing. He paused waiting for her to continue. He looked very tired.

“It’s just that, every so often,”

Jane’s tongue seemed to swell in her mouth.


“It’s just that,”

Mike started writing again. He looked like a diligent schoolboy doing his homework. She found herself burbling something. She imagined he was writing ‘time-waster’ and she missed the next bit of the conversation.

“So, what do you think?” he asked. “Shall I arrange that?”

“I’ll think about it.”

Jane was too embarrassed to admit she hadn’t been listening. And then Jack’s anxious face floated across her vision. He was such a patient man. He never complained about spoiled holidays and difficult days out or just not being able to leave the house at all. Somehow she must find the courage to explain for Jack’s sake. She took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “Can we start again?”

Mike gave a quick glance at his watch and Jane started talking quickly about her fears that things were more serious than she had admitted to Jack or to herself. She found it easier to talk to the picture on the wall above Mike’s head, but she didn’t think he minded.

Then suddenly it was over and she was being ushered to the door.

Mike was saying “I’ll be writing to you shortly setting out a plan.”

When she got back to the waiting room Jack was reading his newspaper.

“Well, love, how did it go?”

“The doctor is going to write.”

Jack looked so disappointed that she reached out to him.

“It’s all right,” she said. “I told him everything and it was such a relief.”

They smiled at each other. It was the first step.

Written by Elizabeth Anne Ayres

Like Butterflies in Your Stomach

Cassie has no knickers on and she is surrounded by a group of strangers. This is becoming a bit of a habit. Today will be her fifth colonoscopy and it has been a long time since she once, innocently, wondered why hospital gowns were backless.

Another half-dozen women are sitting on the green plastic chairs next to her. Several are modelling chic bathrobes; others are wearing slippers with a slight heel. No one is talking.

The dressing gown loosely fastened at Cassie’s waist is five years old. She bought it for her last in-patient trip to the hospital. After one too many runs through the washing machine, the dressing gown is not as soft now, but it will do for today.

At the centre of the waiting area, a small, low table is strewn with magazines. The People’s Friend, Woman’s Own, a series of Reader’s Digest and an army recruitment brochure. How it got there is a mystery. The forces won’t even take anyone with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Cassie rolls her eyes and opens a library book. As she begins to scan the opening paragraph, a familiar shape moves into the edge of her peripheral vision.

It can’t be.

In the gastroenterology ward, and settling into the seat opposite, is Gayatri. The short-haired librarian that Cassie has been thinking about long after her visits to the local library. Flustered, she gives a quick nod of recognition and tries to focus on the book lying open on her lap. Words swim on the page.

She looks up again. Gayatri meets her gaze and flashes a wide smile. Cassie is about to -- is about to say something -- when her abdomen utters an urgent pulse. Yesterday’s laxatives have unfinished business and there is no option but to hurtle to the toilet.

When she returns to the waiting area, Cassie finds it empty.

Of course it is. I didn’t even get a chance. Every single time I work up the nerve to talk to someone I like...and my gut gets in the way.

She slowly sits down and reaches for the book to distract from the frustration welling behind her eyelids. Something slips out from between the pages and lands by Cassie’s feet. Her fingers reach down and find a business card with Gayatri’s name embossed on it. On the back, a note has been written in pencil:

I have Ulcerative Colitis. Fancy a cup of something soothing once this is all over?

Cassie feels a flutter in her stomach and heat spreads across her face. At the other side of the ward, Gayatri is lying on a bed, facing away from the waiting area. Cassie’s chest thuds.

A porter comes in, looking for the consultant’s next patient, and starts to wheel the bed towards the operating theatre. At the very last moment, as they round the corner to leave the ward, Gayatri tilts her head. She looks directly at Cassie and gives a knowing wink.

Written by K.M. Dunn


My Dad was sixteen when he found out that he had Crohn’s and it has been a part of him ever since. when I was little, I didn’t know anything about Crohn’s but as I got older, I had a little bit more understanding about it all.

It was 2007 and I was only two when my dad went into hospital and came home with a bag. And the next few years weren’t easy for him either due to the pain he was in. As I was getting older, I had to start helping round the house as my dad could not do much. I remember going to the hospital and getting all excited to see my dad as I had only seen him on face time for about half an hour as I had to go to school or go to bed. when we got to the hospital we were always asked by the staff if we wanted a drink; then sometimes If I was lucky, I would get some chocolate or biscuits from the nurses and that would make me happy. When I was up at the hospital, I never really knew what was happening as there was tubes in his mouth and needles in his hands.

In 2012 my sister was born, and I was very happy that my dad was really well that year. But as my sister got older, I had to do more about the house by helping my sister with her homework and help clean around the house.

With my dad’s illness it has stopped us doing a lot of things like going out somewhere as a family or going away on holidays as he would be in too much pain and could not handle going out.

When I moved into secondary school it was really hard for my mum when my dad was in hospital as she had to get me and my sister to school so sometimes, I walked to school but also our neighbour offered to give me lifts as their daughter goes to the same school as me. Sometimes it was hard at school because my friends would be saying how they are looking forward to going on holiday and how they are going abroad when I would be staying home. But I would rather make sure my dad was better than going away and him being ill and not being able to enjoy it.

My friends are all really supportive about it as they are always asking how he is and how did he sleep. Also, two of my friends offered to have me round when my dad went into hospital in 2017 for an operation.

In July me and my dad are going to be doing a 10K walk for Crohn’s & Colitis UK which we will be raising money for the charity. I really hope the money we raise will help a lot of people like my dad.

Written by Lucy Jenkins

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