A MUM-of-six couldn’t sit for 10 years due to a giant pus-filled abscess that grew on her behind.
The agonising lump began to grow when Nicola Fletcher was just 19 years old.
It was the result of Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation in the lining of the gut.
After a decade in pain, the 36-year-old finally underwent an operation to remove part of her right butt cheek.
Though the surgery relieved her agony, it left her with a huge scar – which she’s now had covered with a Cheryl Tweedy-inspired rose inking, costing £300.
The mum-of-six, who is unable to work due to her condition, said: “I spent ten years in horrific pain and although I was so glad that they were able to treat it, I was really embarrassed by the scar it left.
“I’m so pleased with it. You would have no idea that there is a scar underneath.”
She added: “The tattoo gave me back my confidence and now I’m happy to show off my body.”
Nicola, of Blackpool, Lancashire, first started noticing pain at the age of ten, noticing she was going to the toilet more often and losing weight.
Initially she was too embarrassed to tell her dad Robert, who has since passed away, and mum Janet, 56.
But after a few months she confessed all and was taken to see her GP.
Doctors first suspected an eating disorder, because she was rapidly losing weight.
But further tests at Booth Hall Children’s Hospital in Manchester revealed she actually had Crohn’s disease.
I had no life. I couldn’t sit down on my bottom for those ten years. I had to either lean on my side, sit on my knees or just stand up.
After trying steroids, and other drugs, Nicola had to have an ileostomy bag, where the small intestine is diverted through an opening in the tummy, and into a bag.
For seven years the operation gave Nicola relief, and her health improved.
But at the age of 19 she developed a painful sore on her bottom.
“It was completely out of the blue,” she said. “I thought it was just a boil at first, but I kept getting more and more and more.”
Eventually the then teenager went to A&E at Blackpool Victoria, because the pain became unbearable.
Doctors pierced the lump and sent Nicola home with antibiotics.
“From that point onwards, it just went on like that for years – going back and forth to A&E,” she recalled.
The abscesses became bigger and more painful, with one between her buttocks reaching the size of an orange.
Nicola, who lives with partner Michael Causon, 37, said: “I had no life. I couldn’t sit down on my bottom for those ten years.
“I had to either lean on my side, sit on my knees or just stand up.”
Relying on a walking stick to get around, the now mum-of-six had to take morphine to ease her pain.
“At the time, I had three kids, and it was really heartbreaking because I couldn’t do things with them,” she said.
“I knew it wasn’t my fault but I felt really guilty – like the worst mum in the world.
“I was very open about it. It was so painful I couldn’t hide it.”
After living with the abscesses for ten years, Nicola was referred to Salford Royal Hospital in 2011.
There specialists revealed she was suffering perianal Crohn’s, where inflammation around the anus causes large pus-filled lumps to grow.
Over a six-week period, surgeons operated several times to remove the infection.
Doing so in one big operation increased the risk of the infection spreading further.
“As soon as the infection started to leave my body, I immediately started to feel better,” she said.
Mum to Paige, 14, Teejay, 12, Neeko, nine, Miqualer, six, Charlie-Brooke, four, and Frankie-Lou, three, Nicola faced a three-month recovery.
And she was left with a scar covering her entire buttock cheek, leaving her feeling very insecure.
Last year, she spotted a post by local tattoo studio Modz n Rockers in Blackpool, about C-section scar cover ups.
It inspired her to think more about improving the appearance of her own scar.
“I had been thinking about getting a tattoo for a while but it’s quite a complex, bumpy scar and I didn’t think it would be possible,” she said.
“They said I would have to go in and let them have a look and I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m going to have to get my bum out’.
“I eventually plucked up the courage and went into see them.
“He suggested a rose because it would give the illusion that it’s not bumpy.”
In November last year, Nicola took the plunge and spent six-and-a-half hours in the tattoo artist’s chair.
The finished design is similar to the one singer Cheryl Tweedy had spanning her bum and lower back.
Nicola added: “It wasn’t painful. It might be for somebody else but when you have been through the pain that I have been through, getting a tattoo is like a walk in the park.”
Now, though her confidence has improved hugely, she still suffers daily from the effects of Crohn’s disease – but is determined that it won’t hold her back.
She has started an online blog called Beauty and the Bag where she’ll post underwear snaps, her bag proudly on display.
She said: “I’m quite a confident person and I’m not afraid to show off my bag. think people are afraid to talk about bowel movements but we need to be open.
“I have found a fantastic community of people online with Crohn’s and Colitis and we all help each other.
“I really hope that by showing how we aren’t ashamed of our bodies, we will help to raise awareness of this condition.”