I’m a mum of two young children (Robert aged 12 and Natasha aged 10) who had been running her own business for many years. When I was pregnant with my second child in 2004 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) – an autoimmune condition where the body’s defence against infection goes wrong and attacks healthy tissue. However, I couldn’t be treated with the steroids I would need until my baby was born.
After the birth of my daughter I lost two stone in weight in just two weeks. Such is the nature of UC, it ulcerates the colon and therefore limits the absorption of nutrition, so I was becoming fatigued. I was put onto steroids to control the condition, and many other meds to counteract the negative effects of the steroids on other parts of my body.
The next four years were a yo-yo of medication – as soon as I tried to wean down off the high dose steroids, I would have another flare up and therefore the steroids had to go up again to get it back under control. The steroids also had the effect of ‘bloating’ and I was depressed from being so overweight! As the months .. and years… rolled on I was becoming less able to control the condition. My husband had to do a great deal to support me and the children, particularly when I had to be hospitalised for a week for intravenous steroids. When it got to the point where it was impacting on my business and I had become virtually housebound, as I couldn’t be far from a toilet, I made the decision to have surgery.
This is a tough decision, but when you look at the quality of your life, the thought of living with a bag was far better than the poor lifestyle and pain I was suffering. When I woke from surgery I couldn’t have been happier. No more pain, no more meds and no more Ulcerative Colitis. I could at last get on with my life.
Six months after surgery, I took up cycling to get fit, but I am naturally lazy so to make me cycle regularly I signed up to ride London to Paris in 24 hours for charity. Yes, it was mad, but I was so excited at having the freedom to get out there, that nothing was going to stop me from getting to Paris. Just 16 months after my surgery, I was standing under the Eiffel Tower, having completed the 24 hour event with my team mate. Since then, I have gone on to take part in another 24 hour event, cycling from Newcastle to London, and numerous sportives. I’m not fast, but I get there!
As my children grew up they became proficient swimmers, starting at the age of 5. Me? I couldn’t swim; in fact I was petrified of putting my face under water. But wishing to swim with my children, I took up swimming lessons just two years ago. Learning to do the front crawl and get the technique right was baffling, but I soon decided I wanted to do a triathlon, so joined the local North Devon Triathletes. If I wanted to be a triathlete, I had to train with triathletes.
So here I am, three years down the line from beginner lessons, with some local events under my belt, I’ve tackled half and full Ironman events with varying degrees of drama. I’m enjoying the training and I am enjoying my life… a life I wouldn’t have had without surgery.
If you’d like to read the full story, my autobiography ‘Loo Rolls to Lycra: The Ironman Dreams of an IBD Sufferer’, published by Pitch Publishing, is being launched in January 2018. However, pre-order HERE and I will send you a personally signed copy.