Finally, a life-long dream come true, qualifying as a PADI open water diver. My husband is a commercial diver, and many of my friends are qualified divers, so I have spent many an envious hour listening to their underwater adventure stories, wishing that one day I could have the same experience. My fear of the sea, an inkling that I might find it claustrophobic (even though I don't suffer from claustrophobia), and then the unexpected arrival of my stoma bag, seemed to put paid to this desire - just one too many things getting in the way. I remember looking on stoma forums after my operation and seeing posts bemoaning the inability to go diving, and I couldn't find anyone, anywhere, with a stoma who had gone diving. I have always loved swimming though, and am a natural nature lover at heart, a country girl more at home in the fields than any shopping centre. I even travelled to exotic far flung destinations such as the Maldives and the pinnacle of nature travel - the Galapagos Islands, but never managed to go diving. On honeymoon in Mauritius we booked to try out diving but it was cancelled because of the weather.
Back in September 2019, for my 40th birthday present, my husband bought me my PADI diving course, including the dry suit element because we knew that most of my diving would be in the cold North Sea. A year after starting, on Sunday 25th October 2020, I finally qualified as a PADI diver.
The location was in Beadnell, Northumberland - the sea at long last, after my first open water dive was at Ellerton Lake. I had two dives to do that day, and the first was quite disappointing because I made the amateur's mistake of forgetting to de-fog my mask with the result that it was like trying to see through pea soup. We swam around for about half an hour, me following the white fins of the instructor and trying in vain to make out anything exciting. I passed the test of removing and replacing my mask underwater (always have to pause to gather myself before I do that one!), and some other skills, and then we came back on shore to get new air bottles.
The second dive was...amazing. I had de-fogged my mask so could see everything. I even led the dive, making my way slowly through the kelp, watching little hermit crabs scurry underneath, anemones rippling in the gentle current and right at the end a stone fish which I pointed out to my fellow divers. I felt sheer joy surging through me as I realised that I was diving, I actually FELT like a diver, finning softly through the watery world under the waves. All too soon the dive was over and we were back on land getting changed.
Afterwards I sat in my car and was overcome with emotion. I was 41 years old and had overcome my fear of the sea, my worries about my stoma and the non-existent claustrophobia and was now a qualified diver. I could now get on a plane to somewhere warm and sunny, hire diving gear and go diving. Anywhere in the world! Imagine that. An entire new world opened up. I couldn't stop smiling and laughing to myself, bubbles of pure elation rippling all the way through me, my tummy doing dances. The video below captures that moment for me.