My #GetYourBellyOut story: Sarah

Hi everyone, my name is Sarah and I am 30 years old. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative colitis at the age of 16 and have had a long hard battle with it ever since.

In April 2019, I was rushed into hospital and had to have emergency surgery (subtotal colectomy) this has left me with a stoma and a small part of my end colon left (the stump). They decided to leave the stump in in case I wanted to have the reversal surgery to have a J pouch.

Pre – operation – living with Ulcerative Colitis was very hard. I think for the 14 years pre – op I had around four years where my Ulcerative Colitis was fully controlled. I have tried every medication possible and went onto biologics in around 2016. I tried three of these biologics but unfortunately, I still had no luck of getting back into remission.

Although Ulcerative Colitis literally ruled my life, I have always tried to do as much as I can. Sport has always been a big part of my life and I have been a cheerleader since the age of 11 – I was lucky enough to live my dream and go to the cheerleading world championships in April 2018. This was a big challenge for me, and I was massively out of my comfort zone, I went with a team who ‘knew’ I had an illness but didn’t know the true extent of what it meant. Luckily, two of my best friends were on that team and they were able to help me through the hard times – the urgent need to use the loo at the most inconvenient times. But I managed!

After we returned from USA, I had to have carpal tunnel surgery on both of my hands so it was here that my cheerleading career came to an end, but I was lucky enough to coach our local university cheerleading team De Monfort University.

In July 2018, I got married and in August/September travelled again to USA for my honeymoon, my Ulcerative Colitis seemed to hold out quite well for me over these very important months. However, when we returned from our honeymoon in October, things started to go downhill health wise for me. I went onto steroids in October 2019.

Although I wasn’t feeling 100%, I have always wanted to push myself in all aspects of my life and, so as my passion was for sport and fitness, I decided to qualify as a personal trainer. I worked hard physically and mentally around my full-time job and coaching cheerleading to train up to be a Personal Trainer.

Unfortunately, after 5 months of flaring, on April 1st 2019 I was taken into hospital and on April 10th I was taken in for emergency surgery. I came home on April 17th and started my new life with a stoma. The first 6 weeks in recovery were the hardest. As I was fairly active it was tough not being able to do things that were once very simple – for example lifting the washing basket. However, as I started to feel better, I focused on finishing my personal training degree and qualified whilst I was in recovery.
Whilst I was off work during this time, I also had my garage converted into my own gym. I found my mind was so active even though my body wasn’t, and I had so many amazing ideas for my personal training career. I wanted to provide a gym where people of all abilities felt comfortable. I know how daunting it can be going into a gym where there are lots of people there and you may not feel as confident. Therefore, I converted my garage so that people could have a true one on one experience without feeling self-conscious about others around them.

I thought that having a stoma was the worst thing in the world that could happen to me, but actually since having the surgery I have realised that actually it was having Ulcerative Colitis that was uncontrollable.
I can happily say I now don’t have to take any medication, I have little to no pain (the only pain I do get it from my stump as that still has Ulcerative Colitis in) but I have decided confidently that I don’t want the reversal surgery, I am happy with my stoma – I have even named her Stella.
Since my operation I have been able to do so much more than I ever thought I would be able to, I actually feel like I have been given a new lease of life. I have enjoyed 3 amazing holidays, I have started my own cheerleading business along with my coaching partner and best friend and I feel more confident within myself and my body now than I ever have before, and that is all because I feel well!