Sunday, 29 June 2014


Hello everyone!

After my last ranting post, I am incredibly pleased to fill you in with some very good news! Last Wednesday I graduated from the University of the Creative Arts, with a 2:1 in BA (Hons) Fashion Promotion & Imaging! After the longest three years (four if you include my Art Foundation) I am very relieved to have come out with a 2:1. Obviously I would have loved a 1st, something made all the more annoying by missing out on it by a tiny 2%?! I managed to get a 1st for my dissertation and my final major project which means that it largely came down to my 2nd year, to dragging my final grade down.
I hate, hate, hate to ever use Crohn's as an excuse or to ever let it get in the way but unfortunately sometimes, it seems to be unavoidable. Despite my hardest efforts I still wasn't able to achieve the 1st which I know I would have gotten if I hadn't been so poorly or missed so much Uni. Of course, a 2:1 is still an incredible achievement but for me, as a complete perfectionist I couldn't help but be a bit gutted that it managed to get in the way of my full potential. Sometimes it does feel that no amount of incredibly hard work will be able to counteract the 'crap' that comes with the disease. However, after the initial disappointment I can see how considering everything that has happened and the challenges I faced, especially in my 2nd year, I should be very happy.

So, after finding out my grade a couple of weeks ago, I headed to London Festival Hall on Wednesday for my graduation ceremony. Both my brothers couldn't make it so it was just me and my parents, which was still lovely. It was a long, tiring day and at times I got very hot and sweaty - which is not a great look - but all in all I loved it. My dress had been chosen weeks before, and I had tried on multiple different pieces of underwear to find the one which would disguise Margaret the best! I think the final choices worked very well.

At a couple of points I did have a mini panic that she would decide to leak everywhere and my white dress would do little to hide it. I did however go very prepared with a spare dress, just in case! After getting my gown and hat fitted and having my professional photos taken, we had just over an hour to kill, which we spent taking lots more photos. I got to see friends I haven't seen since the course finished and have photos taken with girls that have gone through 4 long years of blood, sweat and tears with me! Due to my Margaret paranoia I decided to try and eat as little as possible before the point of walking across stage. I ate some Haribo up on the train (very healthy) and a full fat coke, but apart from that I stayed away from food until after the ceremony. I just couldn't deal with having her be obvious in all my photos and in front of at thousands of people. In my day to day life I am largely pretty confident about having her, and don't think about it too much, but going on stage turned me in to a complete nervous wreck!
I was terrified before going on stage, I am not one to enjoy the spotlight or be the centre of attention, so having all eyes on me - even for just a couple of minutes - had me shaking. Thankfully, I did not fall over or make a complete fool out of myself, so once I was safely back in my seat I felt much calmer and properly felt that I could enjoy the rest of the day!
After the ceremony, the three of us headed to an amazing Italian restaurant near Covent Garden which finished off an amazing day wonderfully!

It was once home and after looking through the many, many photos I think the day really sunk in and for the first time I felt pretty, damn proud of myself.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Junk Food - Fuming

So, many of you will have seen in the news today Dr Sally Mitton talk about the increase in young people being admitted to hospital in the past decade. The fact that in 2003/2004 there were 4937 reported cases of young people being admitted to hospital with Crohn's Disease compared with the 19,405 cases in 2013/2014 is a pretty awful statistic. I am part of this statistic and if one good thing comes of this is that it will help raise awareness and funding for research as to why. This dramatic increase has clearly grabbed the attention of the British press and what I take huge issue with is what Dr Mitton goes on to state....

"if you have a lot of junk food in your diet before your diagnosis, it actually makes you more likely to develop Crohn's Disease... a lot of antibiotics - particularly in younger life - seem to be more likely to develop this condition..."

The backlash of this kind of comment is incredibly negative. For a disease already burdened with stigma and assumptions, the last thing it needs is people believing that the reason we all have it is due to stuffing our faces with 'junk food'. Now, people around me will know, that I do love a good McDonald's, however this love began aged 18, 2 years after my diagnosis. Prior to my diagnosis I was a healthy 8 stone, 16 year old, who did dance, netball and karate. My dad still cooked all my meals at home and I had no money to buy my own junk food or takeaways.

As a child I lived the first part of my life in Spain, a country where at the time there simply wasn't processed foods. I grew up on a diet of olives, fresh fruit and vegetables, rice and seafood. 'Kids' junk food wasn't available and children ate the same as adults. My whole life, my Dad has cooked every evening meal from scratch. I have never grown up with processed or 'junk foods'. To this day, aged 22, I have never had a microwave or 'oven' meal.

By making such a sweeping, damaging statement Dr Mitton and the press which quoted her, have managed to alienate and stigmatise an already 'embarrassing' disease. By claiming a link with 'junk food' she has allowed sufferers to think that this horrendous, life changing disease is their fault, and the parents of children with it to believe it was down to something they did wrong. The report basically puts blame on the patients, which is not just incredibly unfair but also ignorant and down right wrong. There are so many possible causes of the disease with the majority being completely uncontrollable such as genetics, pollution and viruses. This 'blame' shames patients and their parents (if diagnosed as a child) who are already battling with the day-to-day crap (no pun intended) that comes with having the disease. I couldn't bare to think of my parents ever thinking that me having this disease was their fault.

Frankly, if parents and patients are to blame for eating junk food and thus having Crohn's then surely a considerable amount of 'blame' needs to be directed to whoever was providing turkey twirlers, potato smiley faces and processed burgers to primary aged school children before Jamie Oliver put a stop to it.

Not once since my diagnosis have I ever been told about 'junk food' or diet being the cause. I have never been offered nutritional advice or been asked to alter what I eat. I would like to think that if this were to be the cause then this advice would have been given by my extremely experience medical staff. Once you have been diagnosed, many people notice that certain foods upset their symptoms or they develop food intolerances. These kind of diet changed or adaptations are very individual to each patient - there is no blanket cause/treatment/diet plan.

The fact remains that having Crohn's Disease comes with a lot of 'unknown' and there are clearly multiple factors and arguments for why certain people get the disease. However, claiming that this is down to junk food and having that aparent 'cause' leading the report is hugely damaging and has a very wide knock on effect. I am disgusted.

Safe to say I am fuming.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Happy Birthday Margaret... what a difference a year makes.

Today is Margaret's first birthday.
I remember, a year ago today I sat in the pre-op waiting room, with my mum, waiting to go in to surgery and have Margaret. The name had already been chosen, and as I was given the anaesthetic I remember thinking about telling the nurse what I had planned on calling her.
(Jeeze - she sounds like my child)

It's only looking back now, that I realise just how poorly I was and how much worse I could have gotten. At the time I was pretty oblivious to how unwell I was, I had gotten so used to feeling awful that I think both me and those around me lost some perspective of how bad I was. I remember sitting, waiting to meet my surgeon for the first time, discussing with my Mum that maybe I didn't look ill enough as I was having a 'good day'.
Half an hour later Mr Surgeon offered to do the surgery that afternoon - clearly my 'good day' wasn't that great. I still remember what I was wearing that day and how ridiculous I looked in one of the huge hospital wheelchairs. Three sleeps later, Margaret was created.

Looking back at the last year it is scary to see how much can change in 12 months.
I have been on radio, had my blog tweeted by the likes of Alan Sugar, Alan Carr, Dynamo and Lennox Lewis, lost 16lbs and bought a dachshund.
One thing I am incredibly proud of is finishing my degree, something which I never doubted I would do but I know could have easily not happened. Completing a degree for anyone is an achievement and not an easy task, I know I have had it pretty bad but there are people everywhere who have gotten through a lot worse. I still firmly believe that everyone has their crap to deal with and I don't really believe that my achievement is that much greater than others.
One thing I do hope it shows people is that having an illness should never, ever stop you, and that with a hell of a lot of hard work there is no reason why you can't do anything you want. I have managed to complete a lot of things on Margaret and I's to do list, although I still haven't met David Beckham, something which I can't get my head round but am convinced will one day happen!

I won't pretend that this year has been easy, months of it were pretty horrendous in fact. I am grateful to Margaret for keeping me alive and making me better. We do, however, have a love-hate relationship. If I had the choice she would be reversed in a heart beat and I wouldn't miss her for a second. I have thought a lot about what life would be like without her and I would do things a lot differently than I did before Margaret. The main thing being wear bikinis. All day every day, Summer and Winter, with every fat roll on show for all to see because until you can't you don't realise how good it is to bare your belly. Whether that will ever happen remains to be seen, but my fingers and toes are crossed.

The people that surround me are what have gotten me through, my amazing parents and brothers and wonderful friends (my girls and Harry in particular) - so to them a huge, huge thank you. One thing I have learnt over the year is who really cares and what really matters and that life is way too short. I value being able to go out and enjoy myself, see my friends and make plans. Spending a lot of time in bed, in hospital, in wheelchairs or on crutches with my arthritic knee has made me really think about my body and how insanely lucky I am to be able to walk, run and dance.

To everyone who has read, or still reads, this little blog and has gotten it to just under a crazy 75,000 views - thank you too. The kind words of strangers still blows my mind.

A year ago I was in a wheelchair, incredibly poorly and terrified of what was to come.
I sit now, a year on, with my joy of a dachshund on my lap, and both the healthiest and happiest I have ever been.

So thank you and happy birthday Margaret.