After the debilitating symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis left her housebound for eight years, Susan Conboy is now taking on the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run after new treatment has significantly improved her quality of life.
The 52-year-old from Northwich suffered with the severe symptoms of acute Ulcerative Colitis for a decade, which included extreme pain in her stomach, urgency, fatigue, joint pain and weight loss, all of which drastically changed her daily life and that of her close family.
After frequently passing blood and needing to use the toilet more frequently with urgency, she visited her GP, where she was quickly referred to a consultant and diagnosed.
She said: “It is a hidden illness in that a lot of people don't understand, because looking at me, I don't look ill. So, people wouldn't understand the limitations on our lives, but I struggled to live a normal active life and exercise in between looking after my young daughter.
“I used to enjoy socialising with friends and going out because I like to eat and drink, but all this stuff stopped for me. I found it very depressing and I would basically spend my day in bed, unwell and upset.
“Treatment for the condition has at times felt like something of a lottery, as different treatments and combinations of drugs were tried and either failed, or gave very little improvement.
“Perhaps surgery was going to be the option for me. I would have had to live with a bag for the rest of my life.
“But I didn't want to go down that road because there are new medications that are always coming along, and really fortunately for me, one did come along.”
Susan received regular treatment and care from the Countess of Chester Hospital and after many years of trying and testing, was fortunate to try a new treatment, Vedolizumab, via monthly infusions which has vastly improved her quality of life and enabled her to train for the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run.
She is now preparing for her biggest challenge to date, joining up to 30,000 people on the streets of Manchester on Sunday 19 May for a running event like no other.
Starting and finishing in the city centre, the 10k and half marathon courses are packed with live music, charity cheering points, boost zones and incredible support from thousands of local spectators.
Although Susan is managing the disease with the help of her new medication regime, she will never be fully cured and still suffers with the symptoms of Colitis, which makes the 10k quite a challenge for her.
However, she is inspired by her daughter Faye, age 14 an endurance runner with the Vale Royal Athletics Club in Cheshire.
Susan now runs with the club three times a week and said: “I enjoy the running because I enjoy being part of that group of people doing it, and the social side which I think is really good for my mental health.”
Ahead of this year's Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run, Susan has featured in a new film alongside other runners and well-known Manchester faces showcasing the inspirational poem, Do Something, by Tony Walsh, aka Longfella.
Written by Longfella specifically for the Great Manchester Run, the poem embodies the universal feelings of ambition, motivation and celebration experienced by those who take on the running challenge.
Susan has joined TV stars Julie Hesmondhalgh and Tony Audenshaw and a selection of other charity fundraisers to take on Longfella's poignant words.
She reads the line: DO SOMETHING TO SHOW YOU DON'T SURRENDER – a statement very close to her heart.
She said: “I am very thankful that my health has changed, and I can do things, but I still want more, because I still have limitations on my life.
“But if this is it, then I'm quite happy, because I've got enough to lead a happy, healthy life now.”