Running: Why My Illnesses Won’t Hold Me Back

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Working out with an ostomy can take many different forms and is a case of firstly, taking care of your core muscles (as they are like a corset holding your internal organs nice and safe), and secondly finding something you enjoy!

Exercise and/or just movement is pretty critical to living a healthy life and when you have illnesses or conditions that make your life difficult or challenging, it is super important to find something you enjoy or something that makes you feel good about yourself afterwards.

Running was always my favourite, but that was before pouchitis hit me with a vengeance. I had my ileostomy surgery shortly afterwards.

Since having the surgery and then giving birth to my youngest child, Baby Button, I have dipped my toes in a few times with the running but I am now officially a ‘medical zebra’ as I was also diagnosed with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – a connective tissue disorder that mainly affects my joints.

No one wants to run on painful joints so I thought that was it, my running life over. Well not quite …as tragedy struck my extended family when my best friend Sarah lost her baby boy Phoenix at just five weeks old. She made a promise that she would keep running for him, and is running the London Marathon in April. The day she did her first half marathon in January, my daughter Ra-Ra and I laced up our trainers and started day one/week one of Couch to 5k.

I made a promise to Sarah and Phoenix that day that I wouldn’t give up running again.

I did eight runs in the second part of January and ran 20.5 miles including a 5k on the 28th which marked eight weeks of Phoenix walking amongst the stars. Not only did I promise to keep running, but I have signed up to run alongside his mum and our other bestie Hannah, in the Northallerton 10K (our hometown) in May and the Great North Run in September. All whilst raising money in aid of our local hospital’s Neonatal Unit, who helped Phoenix at the start and end of his brief but beautiful life.

To help me reach my physical activity goals I have taken on help from two different physiotherapy teams from the same hospital we are raising money for.

One is there to help me run without causing too much pain/further joint damage and the other is a rheumatology physiotherapist and an expert in hypermobility so is helping me regain the core muscle strength. This is super important for me – I need to keep my hips strong as they like to drop out of place and trap nerves when they go back in, but also important because parastomal hernias are a possibility that I need to avoid. The stronger your core muscles are the less likely you are to develop one – or so the experts tell me!

Running always provided that much needed ‘me time’ and drastically improved my mental health, and as clichéd as this sounds it helped me to be more positive/optimistic.

I’m hoping that it will do so again because severely depressed is not a fun place to be. I try and break up my solo runs by running with either my daughter Ra-Ra or my friends; even though we’re at different levels it’s just nice to be there supporting each other. I even ran 2.5 miles on my birthday with the support of Sarah and Hannah!

The thing I need reminding about is to do my core exercises and I am planning on making up a chart and giving myself stickers for each day I’ve done them because let’s face it, we are all in need of a little praise and we should be able to acknowledge each little win.

So here is to 2020 - the year I become a runner again and the year of #RunForPhoenix.

“Running improved my mental health... it helped me to be more positive and optimistic.” - @colitistoostomy

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Our sister company, CliniMed, have some excellent information if you’d like to learn more about parastomal hernias and how to avoid them.

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by Stephie Simpson

Stephie Simpson

About the author

I’m Stephie - a mum, wife and punk rock ostomate, blessed to be from North Yorkshire. I'll be writing about different campaigns that can help ostomates & general lifestyle posts.