During 2004 I suffered with abdominal pain, leading to bleeding and weight loss. This went undiagnosed for months and the belief was that it was due to something as simple as haemorrhoids. After significant weight loss and bleeding I was taken in for further testing (colonoscopy, blood tests and scans) and was admitted to hospital in November. They diagnosed me with a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Ulcerative Colitis. I was put on various medications to try and treat the Colitis and was sent home. I started to see some recovery, but during some very cold weather in December my health deteriorated again. I was admitted early Jan and remained in hospital until March, this time I had surgery for an Ileostomy, only weighing 6st.
My recovery was very slow and I had no support groups or advice around me at the time. After 6 – 8 months I took it upon myself to go down my own fitness route and try and build my own mental and physical strength. The medication was holding the Colitis at bay in what remained of my large bowel, but it was still a daily struggle. After approximately 18 months, I requested a different surgical team. This was due to me wanting the remaining bowel removed and the current surgical teams reluctance to do so. My reasons for wanting this was due to being so young and I had no children etc and the surgery would or could reduce the chance of me being able to have a family, but it was a risk I was willing to take to be better with my health.
My care was transferred to the RVI in Newcastle and I met with a surgeon who immediately agreed to perform the surgery at my request, as he believed my reasoning to be good enough as it was all about my health and wellbeing moving forward. The Colitis was slowing and hindering progress. So, in April 2007 the surgery was scheduled and took place! I was discharged within days. My recovery was only hindered by an MRSA infection in the wound, which has left additional scarring but still gave me no regrets.
By August 2007, I was back on my fitness journey, through gym training, running & Jujitsu training. In 2008 I gained 3 grades in Jujitsu and moved onto different forms of self defence and Martial arts, as well as boxing. In 2010 I ran the Great North Run (half marathon) and continued to push my limits. Again in 2011 but with added weight. For the next few years I started focusing on weight training and did sustain various injuries along the way, my outlook was trial and error to learn about my body. To start trying new things but to understand what was good/bad for me. I rarely had any issues and rarely suffered from flare ups. But when I did they were quite severe, forcing me to stop training and at times seek further medical help via my GP or even A&E. I learned that some training aids such as proteins powders were affecting me. So again I started to consider what or how I was taking these supplements and worked out what was the right balance for me.
2014 was when I first reached out to the IBD and Ostomy community, this was due to an incident in the local gym. I had always been reserved and quiet about my stoma, never discussing openly or letting anyone outside my close circle even know it existed. One evening my sparring partner heel kicked me in the stoma and I dropped, this was the first time I had shown pain and he had no idea, so when I showed him, he took a picture and it ended up online and then contact was made with various people. Some of which are great friends of mine now! Since then I have been much more open, showed a lot of awareness of the disease and my stoma. I even posted a picture of myself the year before to now on the anniversary of my surgery (stomaversary.) In 2016 I competed in a 13 mile Tough Mudder in aid of Crohn’s & Colitis UK. I continue to support and show awareness to this day.
My training now is different and I have pushed so many different boundaries that I feel able to do, I also help and even advise/create training plans for anyone wanting to learn various techniques or goals with or without chronic illness/ostomy. My current programme is for size and strength and have safely gained almost 2 stone in 2020 as well as dropping 8% body fat. I was asked to be part of a local calendar this year and have recently taken part in the photo shoot with all profits going to charity, one being an ostomy related charity called The Purple Wings Charity (you can information about them here.) I have a much higher social following and will reach out to anyone I see struggling and speak to many in the same boat as me daily. I have made a lot of friends for life and will continue to do so.
Since surgery to put it in perspective, I have climbed the professional ladder, I have done a variety of roles, both external and internal and continue to climb. But most importantly to me, I have 3 beautiful children, all of whom know and understand my illness and support me every day. My eldest daughter Ruby (12) always shows support for me on occasions via her Instagram page. I am divorced, however my ex wife remains my best friend and biggest supporter to this day.
Isn’t Dan’s story absolutely outstanding?! A huge thankyou to Dan for sharing his story.
You can find Dan on his Instagram @dannycally82