If you look at me now happy, well and feeling confident you may not realise that for me life wasn’t always this way. I understand how it feels to hate your body and to feel ashamed of how you look.
When I was seven I was diagnosed with a serious bowel disease called Ulcerative Colitis. Coping with the illness was challenging as symptoms include stomach pains, bleeding and rushing to the toilet. To try and keep the illness under control I was on high doses of steroids so my cheeks puffed out, my growth was stunted and my body hair grew thick and dark. I was also put on a sugar free, wheat free and diary free diet so couldn’t enjoy the same range of food as my friends. Aged 14 things had become so bad that I could no longer leave the house or go to school.
In 1997 I was rushed to hospital for life saving surgery and woke up in intensive care to find my large intestines had been removed and I had a colostomy bag. I literally thought my life was over. Luckily for me after the surgery I gradually got better and my quality of life improved and I started to enjoy all the things I couldn’t before like going on school trips and eating ice cream!
At 16 I was offered the opportunity to have a special operation to create an internal pouch from my small bowel so that I would no longer need a colostomy bag and could go to the toilet normally. It was quite a long and challenging road to recovery but the operation was an incredible success. I am now incredibly lucky to live a totally normal and healthy life, and I could not feel more grateful. I am free to pursue all my dreams and it feels like a miracle.
Today I like to share my story with others and hope that I can in some way use my experiences to help and inspire others.
Part of why I enjoy my job so much is that I love helping other people to look and feel great. I can genuinely relate to how it feels when you hate what you see in the mirror. I also understand the way you feel about yourself can change into a positive. I want to help people to feel confident and amazing so they can live their lives to the full.
There can be light at the end of the tunnel and my motto is to try and appreciate every day and not to take good health for granted.