How fitness saved my life…Part 1

Nine and a half years ago, I was living in a small town in rural South Australia. The previous year I had escaped a stalker, subsequent mental health issues, sold my house and moved to the country with my young son to be closer to my parents. I had been happily running my online business, enjoying small town life and had even set up shop in the Main Street of that small town.

One morning, I awoke with a sore tummy which felt like indigestion. Not too bothered by it, I took my son to school and went to my shop to start my day. As the day wore on, the pain in my tummy didn’t shift and by the evening had got worse. I started to feel hot and dizzy, so I took myself to bed with strong painkillers and antacid for what I still thought was gastro. If I was no better by the morning, I told myself, I would make an appointment to see the doctor.

The next morning I could only walk doubled over, with my face pointing to the floor and I knew I had to get to hospital. My parents were out of town on a short holiday so I ended up taking my son to our neighbour, who my son was friends with her son. I drove myself to hospital as I had no ambulance cover.

The emergency staff immediately found me a bed and gave me strong pain relief. Blood tests revealed an abnormally high white blood cell count and other markers. My temperature hovered around 39c. My stomach was tight and very sore when pressed. The pain had localised somewhat to my lower left hand side. At this stage I still wasn’t overly concerned and ‘twisted ovary’ was being suggested as a possible cause. Scans needed to be taken, so it was decided I would be transferred down to Adelaide for a CT scan on my belly.

With a good dose of morphine, I headed down to Adelaide in the back of an ambulance. I was drifting in and out of consciousness, half delirious from the fever and the sedative effects of the morphine. At the Royal Adelaide, I was placed in a cubicle in emergency to await my scan, and not long after started vomiting. I pushed the emergency button and demanded I be scanned immediately (I’d been waiting 2 hours in emergency at this point). It was late afternoon and I had been in hospitals since 7:30am.

Finally they did the CT scan. I was returned to my cubicle in emergency and after about 30 minutes, a doctor flew in, followed by two nurses. It was a flurry of panicked activity as they hooked me up to IV fluids, put a plastic band on my wrist and told they me they were admitting me for emergency surgery. I had a perforation in my bowel, I was literally being poisoned and they needed to operate straight away. I stared at them in shock. They left the room briefly (I presume to organise theatre) and I called my mum who had no idea where I was or what had happened.

I was utterly alone in that room – scared, in pain and thinking I might possibly die from this. The doctor returned with a second doctor and the news was slightly better. They had reexamined the scan and decided they would treat me conservatively in the first instance as the perforation appeared to have sealed over (the wonders of our self healing bodies!). This meant very strong IV antibiotics over the next five days and a clear liquid diet to rest my bowel. If this didn’t work, surgery was still an option where they would remove a section of my bowel, possibly leaving me with a temporary colostomy bag until follow up surgery could close it again. The prospects weren’t great.

What followed was five days of misery. Constant blood tests to test my white blood cell levels and inflammatory markers. Awful antibiotics every few hours that made me feel wretched and were always followed up by an injection of anti nausea drugs in my thigh. Gnawing hunger and only being able to have clear fluids. Being away from my son and family. Being scared out of my mind.

I ran my online business from my hospital bed. I had visits from my Adelaide friends. My parents brought my son down to visit a few times and each time he would stare at me with big eyes and then sob when it was time for him to leave, thinking I would die and he would never see me again. Those visits broke my heart.

Finally after a week, I was discharged with oral antibiotics and a follow up appointment for 6 weeks to have a colonoscopy. Nothing prepared me for the 3 months it took to fully recover. I was weak and tired all the time, I couldn’t work or go to my shop, I slept for hours every day. I had no appetite, sometimes only having an apple and a can of tuna for the whole day.  I lost about 10 kilos in weight. I’m sure I had some type of PTSD as I had flashbacks,  dreaming I had died and waking up in fear. I was depressed, teary and anxious most of the time.

The medical profession is not sure what causes diverticular disease, which is the name of my condition. There is some agreement it is lifestyle related – highly processed diet, lack of fibre, not enough exercise. It is rare for a younger person (I was 37 at the time) to develop serious complications such as acute diverticulitis. It is potentially fatal.

After a couple more years of problems with the condition (more hospital stays, endless visits to doctors and specialists, countless courses of antibiotics) I decided I had to fix myself. I was tired of feeling like rubbish. I wasn’t prepared to live with the uncertainty and have the condition control my life. I wanted to do everything I could to stay out of hospital and get healthy.

This experience was one of a couple of reasons that led me to changing my lifestyle and finding fitness.  I truly believe fitness saved my life for many reasons, and continues to improve it every single day. Quite honestly, the main reason I train and stay fit these days is for health – both mental and physical. How I look is secondary to this.

In another blog I’ll talk about how fitness saved my life in other ways. These reasons are my ‘why’ – and you should always have a ‘why’ that compels you to stick with a lifestyle change for the long haul. Motivation will get you started – it will not keep you going. Your ‘why’, however, will always be with you.

If you need help finding your ‘why’, I would love to coach you. Check out my coaching packages at

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