My personal story
And how it's shaped me and my work...
It was June 2010 and I was lying in A&E with 'off-the-scale' abdominal pain. 'I'm doing an Ironman triathon in 8 weeks' I said 'I'll be better by then right?'. The bewildered look on the surgeon's face said it all. There would be no Ironman. In fact at that point, staying alive was the only goal.
It turned out I had life-threatening peritonitis due to a perforated colon, was very poorly and had to have emergency surgery to remove a section of my large bowel. Part of the surgery meant having an stoma formed. Back then I had no clue what that was. I learned fast!
Most people know it as a ‘colostomy’ or having a ‘bag’. Technically it’s an ileostomy (the end of the small bowel is called the ileum) and it essentially bypasses the rest of your digestive system. It's both weird and incredible in equal measure.
Between 2010 and 2012 I was in and out of hospital countless times and had 5 major abdominal surgeries. Looking back I’m not entirely sure how I got through it. I do remember feeling desperately low, desperately ill and rock bottom (and very thin). In 2012 I finally had a successful surgery to have a permanent 'stoma bag' and could slowly learn to eat and exercise again.
Since then I've rebuilt my body and my confidence, and I wouldn't change my experience. It's taught me so much.
It's taught me how to train intuitively, be kind to myself and care for my body. It's one where I have far more gratitude for my health and being able to run. Running is a privilege. Not everyone is so lucky.
Since then I’ve gone on to run multiple marathons (31 at the last count), ultra-distance runs. The 100 mile stage run in the Himalayas in India and the Transrockies (120 mile stage run) in Colorado.
My experience has given me a unique level of empathy and understanding. It’s made me a better trainer and coach and taken me on a new journey into the world of rehabilitation, cancer recovery and clinical exercise. I wouldn't be here doing this work if it wasn't for my experience.
If you’ve always been fit, it’s impossible to understand just how hard it is when have a major illness. In many ways the cause of the illness or surgery is irrelevant. The roller coaster of treatment and trauma leaves it’s mark. You can choose to give in and give up, or you can dig deep and find a way to overcome the challenges and learn to go in a new direction.