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Sarah Russell ®

- UK

Hi! I am Sarah Russell, a typical busy working mum. I live in East Sussex with my husband John, our two labradors and teenage boys Eddie and Charlie. I am ConvaTec's Well-being Advocate.

 

"I am 43 years old and have been living with an ileostomy since 2010. I have always been a competitive marathon runner, enjoying the outdoors, mountain biking, trail running, and hiking."

Sarah has worked in the fitness industry as a coach and trainer for 25 years and competed at an International level in both rowing and triathlon.  So when in 2010 she needed emergency surgery to treat life threatening peritonitis caused by perforated diverticulitis, it came as a huge shock. But her surgery didn’t go to plan, and Sarah needed five operations over the following 2 years to treat various complications. Eventually after her reversal surgery was unsuccessful, she literally begged her surgeon to put her stoma back. Now with her ileostomy she has her quality of life back. She is healthy, fit and happy; able to eat normally and run up mountains again.

Sarah said "I’ve tried to see my stoma as a challenge to overcome, rather than a barrier to prevent me doing things. It’s more ‘how can I work around that problem?’ rather than ‘Oh I can’t do that because of my stoma’. Of course it’s not always easy, but having this conscious attitude has really helped me cope."  

"I’ve had to work hard to rehabilitate after each operation and to rebuild my body from rock bottom. It’s been both a physical and emotional journey, but gradually I’ve gotten stronger, fitter and more confident. In 2014 (2 years after my last surgery) I became the first person with an ileostomy to run the Himalayan 100 – a hundred mile stage race over five days at altitude in the Indian Himalaya."

"When I came home from that race I felt invincible – if I can do that and survive, then I can do anything. It was incredibly empowering. Having a stoma really doesn’t have to limit your life in any way, if you don’t let it."

"People ask if what I’ve gone through has changed me. In some ways I’ve just picked up where I left off. But in other ways, it’s changed me for the better; I have more perspective and I’m actually grateful for my experience and what it’s taught me. After five abdominal surgeries and a low point where I thought I might never eat again, the simple pleasures in life – such as going for a run, or hiking a mountain with my family – are treasured, not taken for granted. I appreciate every step I take. I’m lucky enough to be able to run, when many others can’t."

"When I ran the Himalayan 100, I got to witness the stunning sight of Mt Everest at dawn, with the first glimmers of light shining on the World’s highest peak. It was breath taking – spine tingling stuff. Richard Nixon once said ‘Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you truly appreciate the magnificence of the highest mountain’.  I often wonder if I’d have enjoyed it so much if I’d not experienced the ‘deepest valley’. I doubt it.  Adversity teaches us so much. It makes us stronger and shouldn’t be feared. For me my stoma is simply a challenge to overcome – much like a marathon or any other race. It’s not a barrier, nor is it a disability and I’m not about to let it stop me doing anything."

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