Australian Rules football is a male-dominated environment where strength, courage and determination are all core values that typically represent those who participate. It was very challenging to be actively involved only to regularly miss training sessions, compete at less than 100%, and question why the intensity couldn’t be increased.
But these were the first true signs that something wasn’t right. Tiredness and lethargy, chronic stomach pain, unexpected weight loss, and regular visits to the nearest facilities began to take over. A simple night with friends consuming small amounts of alcohol generated constant nausea, and there were no immediate signs of why this was the case.
With no visible signs of poor health, like a plaster cast for a broken limb, it was difficult for those close to me tounderstand exactly what was happening. Worse still, I had no idea what was happening.
This continued for nearly 12 months until a forced hospital visit provided the answer. With deteriorating health, a weight that was continually falling, and no sign of an immediate solution, a local GP suggested an immediate trip to the emergency room. I was admitted immediatelyand spent the next week undergoing numerous tests to determine the outcome. Then the answer came – you have ulcerative colitis.
I had never heard of this before and immediately wondered what this meant. Would I live a normal life? Would medication make it go away? And what about playing football? All important questions for a 20-year-old.
This was more than 15 years ago. Since then I was forced to retire from playing football, I’ve learned to understand the disease is always with you and is incurable. However, this hasn’t affected my quality of life, and it hasn’t affected my ability to fulfil my ambitions in life. Sure, there has been the constant vigilance that is required from regular colonoscopies, a necessary career change to avoid travelling to third world countries, and the inability to enjoy a couple of bottles of wine with friends. There is also the continuous questioning of dietary requirements, restaurant selections, menus etc. I have a tremendous family who provide great support at all times. I will never underestimate the importance of a wonderful, close support network of family and friends who learn to understand the various ups and downs of living with colitis.
Throughout my colitis journey, for what is approaching half of my life, I’ve become passionate about making sure others never lose sight of the fact that they can live a normal life. Sacrifices are made along the way, but everyone has to make them at some point in their lives. With so many great medical practitioners who are committed to the cause, there is absolutely no reason why anyone living with Colitis (or Crohn’s) cannot fulfil all of the ambitions they have in their lives.
It’s my passion to help others, talk with them and let them know that opening up your private life, whilst very tough initially, can be enormously rewarding and beneficial. This drove me to become an active ambassador for The Gutsy Group, Inc.