I was only 21 when I got diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. It was when I was in my final year of the British Army and had just got back from Iraq when I fell very ill after a horrible bout of food poisoning. This saw me being emitted into hospital for a week; I remember this like it was yesterday mainly because it was when the 07/07 bombings had happened.
It was after this hospital admission when the constant need to go to the toilet and general feeling of being unwell and pain started. I was a couple of months off leaving the Army to set up my first online business and life was pretty stressful; I know this now was a clear factor in my illness getting progressively worse.
I was diagnosed with this debilitating disease shortly after another hospital stay when I starting finding blood in my stool. If I fast forward over the years I took all the usual medication prescribed, but I took this selectively, meaning that when my symptoms got slightly better I’d stop taking the medication. I didn’t want to admit there was a problem and thought I could beat it with diet and healthy living. The norm for me was going to the loo with blood in my stool the majority of the time 8/10 times a day, on bad days I could be going several times an hour. This actually, believe it or not, didn’t bother me, I just cracked on, maybe it was my military background but I just ate healthily and these phases would come and go. Silly I know but for some reason I thought I was untouchable and that nothing would “beat” me.
Things took a turn for the worst last year (2014). In January just after my first Son was born I had to go to hospital due to the medication I was taking causing me to loose my hair, I had Alopecia. How? I was 30 and couldn’t believe that I was suffering from this. So I stopped the medication and things slowly got worse. Pain started to kick in, although I could manage it before this got a lot worse. By May I was in for hospital for 10 days, taking the last resort drugs for UC before surgery is talked about. I had lots of steroids, and also a last ditch attempt using infliximab. It got me a little better, but I had lost nearly 3 stone in weight, I didn’t have this weight to loose either, I looked like death.
I left hospital and got worse, in fact I had to go back into hospital due to weight loss and being in to most pain I had ever felt in my life. I was in for nearly 2 weeks and left feeling very weak.
Things got a little better, but I couldn’t believe how weak I was, loaded with drugs made me so tired that I could hardly operate and stay awake a whole day. Whilst on holiday in Italy and lots of embarrassing “urge” moments, my wife and I decided surgery was the only way I could get back my life and take control. Looking after my son was also terribly difficult because I always had to be near a toilet and I found this especially upsetting.
I had a very good relationship with my doctor and spoke to her about trying to get surgery ASAP as I couldn’t go on the way I was for much longer. Amazingly only a few weeks after coming back off holiday I had my surgery and I was in and out of hospital in 5 days, the operation went very well and I seemed to have grasped “The Colonel” (the name I call my stoma!).
When I got home the reality hit me of how much my life had changed. I had a few problems with leaks, for instance having my bag burst in a business meeting and running to a disabled to toilet to strip naked to sort it out. Or the time I took too much night nurse and fell into a deep sleep and my bag filled up so much that it burst in my bed. Nevertheless I couldn’t believe the pain had gone. I was actually absorbing food and packing the pounds on. In fact once I was 3 months out of surgery I was back in the gym training and put on 3 ½ stone. I went from my clothes not fitting to them actually not fitting because my muscles were growing too easily!
To date and up until the starting of this new venture only my closest friends and family knew about my surgery and how bad I was. I want to change that and feel proud to tell others about my past, but also what I’m living with now so that I can help others understand that anything is possible. If you want to train to run a marathon, you can do it, if you want to start a business then you can do it. Nothing should stop you from fulfilling your dream.