A woman who will live with a colostomy bag for the rest of her life after she had her colon removed will take on a running challenge to show young people that having a stoma bag as a young woman does not mean the end of the world.
Nicola Davison, from Felixstowe in Suffolk, was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a disease of the intestine, when she was in her 20s.
She managed the condition for around three years on medication before having a flare up which caused her to be hospitalised. In order to survive, Nicola was forced to have her entire colon removed during an emergency operation, which made her completely dependent on a colostomy bag for life.
Thankfully, Nicola’s life was completely changed by the operation and she went from not being able to eat to making a huge recovery and getting rid of the disease.
She threw herself into leading a healthy and active life by taking up horse riding and running to show that she can still take on challenges despite relying on a colostomy bag.
She is now focused on being an ambassador for young people who undergo the life changing operation and wants to prove that going through this does not limit your life.
As part of this, Nicola set herself a challenge of taking on a half marathon in 2017. She signed up to the Great East Run, which will take place in Ipswich on Sunday 24 September.
Nicola, 40, will be fundraising for Crohn’s and Colitis charities as well as hoping to challenge the stigma of wearing a colostomy bag in the process.
She said: “When I was first diagnosed with the condition, I managed it under medication until I had a flare up in 2002 when the pain became excruciating.
“I was admitted to hospital and had to have an emergency operation to remove my colon and was fitted with a colostomy bag. “By that point I was not able to eat and if I did not have the operation, I would have died.
“I found it amazing what my body could survive and vowed to not let the operation change my life in any way.
“Because I was so positive about the prognosis, the staff at the hospital in Ipswich were keen for me to come in and speak to other young people who had gone through a similar situation.
“I agreed because I felt it was important for them in their recovery to see someone who was living a completely normal life and to show that it is not the end of your life, it is really the beginning.
“I always wanted to be an active person and I have always loved horse riding so I was never going to let something like that stop me.
“I took up running when I gave up my horses and I loved how it made me feel very free. I am a person who likes to work towards something so I thought by setting myself a half marathon challenge I would be able to push myself.”
Nicola will join 2,500 others for the inaugural Great East Run this Autumn, which is Suffolk’s newest running event. Participants take on a fast and flat course which starts and finishes near to Ipswich Town FC’s Portman Road stadium.
Runners pass the likes of Ipswich’s vibrant waterfront before heading out under the iconic Orwell Bridge before returning into the town centre.
Nicola added: “A lot of people associate having a colostomy bag with old people but more and more young people are now being affected.
“The bags are very thin and very discrete, I never have any issues when I am out running. A lot of people think that these activities are difficult for someone with my condition but they couldn’t be more wrong.
“I have never entered a running event before so this will give me something big to work towards and hopefully I’ll be able to raise money for the National Association for Crohns and Colitis in the process.”
We're celebrating all #RealRunners who take part across the Great Run series. Share your running tales and fails on our social media pages.
Why did you first start running?
I first started running after I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and underwent emergency operation to remove my entire colon and I was left with a colostomy bag. I loved being fit and active and when I gave up my horses that I used to ride, I started running outdoors.
It’s a great form of exercise and gives me something to aim towards in life. I wanted to start running to show that having a stoma bag does not limit you in keeping active.
What is your main goal?
My main goal is to be able to complete a Half Marathon at the Great East Run. I am the type of person who likes to be able to focus my attention on aiming towards something and I thought why not challenge myself this year in being able to take on my first ever official running event.
What do you love about running?
I love the freedom that running gives you both physically and emotionally. It releases endorphins and I love being able to get outside in the fresh air and forget any worries that I have.