My story and why I’ve become a life coach, I want to start this journey with you from the beginning.
January 2013. I was at the peak of my health and fitness and studying for a Degree in High Performance Coaching and Nutrition. 21 years of age with the world at my feet, I was striving to progress my career in sport performance with the intention to move abroad to work with some of the best athletes in the world.
But of course life doesn’t always work out as you planned it…
May 2013. I woke up at 5:00am, with severe abdominal pain and bloating. At this stage I wasn’t worried, brushing it off as a stomach bug.
Fast forward 24 hours and my stomach had doubled in size and I was violently vomiting a bright green bile. Alarm bells! I called the GP for a home visit and was diagnosed by three separate GP’s over the course of three days with ‘gastroenteritis’.
I was in a pretty bad way, I had lost a stone in weight over the course of three days and was so weak my dad had to come and look after me. He took one look at me and rushed me to Southampton general hospital, but all I remember is falling through the double doors!
My appendix had ruptured and I was put in an induced coma for 3 weeks, being taken down to theatre daily to have my organs removed from my abdomen via a 9 inch scar to be cleaned and vacuum packed back in. Despite the odds being only a 20% survival rate, I woke up. The doctors told my mother that my previous healthy lifestyle was the only reason I survived.
I woke up and went in to pure shock, having gone from a muscular 11.5 stone man, to a frail 6 stone boy. I had to double take my twiglet of an arm.
As you can imagine the first couple of days were horrendous. Pumped full of medication sleeping felt impossible, along with coming to terms with what looked like the gateway to hell stitched across my abdomen, everything was extremely overwhelming. What really topped it off was when the nurse quoted: “Ah thats a shame, doesn’t look like you’re ever going to have ab’s like Peter Andre”
Ouch! That still infuriates me, so lets move on.
Just 5 days post surgery I was up and taking my first steps, which was one of the most testing things I’ve ever had to do. The energy requirement was what I could only compare to a last phase of a 100 mile cycle! It took a lot to come to terms with what had happened but once I changed my mindset I quickly I regained my strength. The doctors estimated I would remain in hospital for roughly 6 months but I walked out after 4 weeks.
When I left the hospital, I remember flicking through my notes and seeing the words ‘Suspected Crohn’s or Colitis’. I had no prior medical knowledge regarding these illnesses so it didn’t stand out to me at the time.
8 months passed and I had reached a healthy weight again, my abdomen had healed well and I was back to training. Though unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of my battle to good health.
I woke up with a heavily swollen foot, along with a break out of hives up my legs, then a severe ‘Erythema Multiforme’ (a skin reaction usually triggered by infection). This was when the toiletry issues ensued, which I initially thought may have been some kind of surgical error as I was passing a high volume of blood. After around 6 months of testing I was diagnosed with Acute Ulcerative Colitis and possible Crohn’s Disease.
My consultant mentioned the possibility of a Ileostomy bag, however my 22 year old self shunned the idea right away.
Over the next 4 years, I tried every medication under the sun. Unfortunately none of them really worked as they should, always having to be supported by steroids (otherwise described as the devil). Life had totally changed and I couldn’t even plan something a day in advance as I had to be close to a toilet. At its worst I was having to go 30-40 times a day! The feeling of something being so out of my control was completely frustrating.
The frustration really started to test me over the years. One day it finally beat me, and I moved forward with the surgery. Fortunately I was offered a slot in theatre just 5 days later, having an ileostomy fitted and a full colectomy at the age of 26.. turning my bum into nothing more than my third armpit.
Now I was under the assumption that due to this surgical procedure being planned I would have a fast tracked recovery, having been told some people walk out of hospital after a week.
but again how wrong I was…
After the 6 hour procedure, I woke up feeling great. My scar that was previously pretty messy looking had been neatened up and I had a juicy looking ileostomy but in the exact position I had chosen. For the first time in a while I felt pretty darn happy. Unfortunately this didn’t last however, quickly going from feeling great to horrendously sick in around 6 hours. This had been due to my bowls having trouble functioning, which is actually very common after bowl surgery due to the colon not responding well to being touched. The sickness lasted seven days, but once my ileostomy started to function that’s when the fun began…
I demolished eight eight custard pots right away, to the sheer panic of my nurse who had actually instructed nil by mouth! Although it could have caused a serious blockage I was fortunate this didn’t happen and we all had a laugh about it. Still bloody love custard.
Upon my return home I experienced difficulties having lost all of my muscle mass and being very underweight I was substantially weaker than before, with the added difficulty of standing up straight as my abdominal scar was too tight. I also had some issues with something called a ‘sinous’, which is a hole that forms behind the scar tissue that can sometimes result in the scar reopening. Having these issues when all I wanted to do was get on with my life had a negative impact on my mental health and I felt very low. I mean let’s be honest, having a poo bag explosion in the middle of the night wasn’t the greatest confidence booster!
After a while I started to come to terms with my Ileostomy. After all I had no choice, so I pushed forward and tried to make the most of my new chance at life. As my health improved my weight increased and I started to find a sense of normality. I knew I had made the right decision and that I could rebuild my former self with a little effort. Within the space of three months I was back to work, rehabilitating myself in the gym and really starting to love life with my new ileostomy.
This is when I really found a passion for helping others with my condition and ‘Mr.ColitisCrohns’ was born.
Over the years as a personal trainer I have always approached the Crohn’s and Colitis world from a physiological perspective, as I do believe if you look after the body it will look after you. However following my personal experience I have really tuned in to the importance of the psychological impact having such a condition can have, and I believe this is equally as important. I cannot fault the doctors, nurses, my family and friends at all; they were an incredible support throughout and I really couldn’t have done it without them. Though on reflection I can see what would have been really beneficial throughout my recovery process was someone to talk to who really understood what I was going through.
Fortunately for myself both my mental health and my physical health has continuously improved, however I understand that this isn’t the case for everyone.
Since returning to health I have set and achieved goals that were unimaginable when I was sick. In the past two years I have completed a half marathon, a Tough Mudder and most recently cycled 100 miles in aid of a great cause. All just amplifying with the right mindset and guidance you can achieve anything, so please don’t think having bowel disease or a bag is the end.