Ulcerative Colitis and Riding- Rowan Childs battle
This is the first in a series of interviews with unbelievably strong Human beings that have been through serious medical issues and have come out the other side, still being able to ride a bike. I hope that this gives the drive for others going through an issue themselves to think they can overcome this and have an aim of positivity through all the negativity of a health issue.
Rowan Child is a 29 year old Radiographer from Hampshire. He’s had a long battle with ulcerative colitis and has almost come out the other side albeit with some difficulties. We have a chat with him about how he has dealt with this medical issue and still be able to ride after the hardship. Join us on this Rollercoaster of an interview and listen to Rowan’s story.
Thanks for joining us today Rowan. How is everything going for you at the moment given the strange situation we’re in?
Yeah it’s crazy isn’t it? It’s all good though just cracking on with everything that I can do, I guess like everyone else.
So let’s take it back to the start. What age did you get into Mountain biking and what were your influences in that?
Actually you were one of the main guys, I think it was the standard thing of making jumps out of bricks and wood with a bunch of guys from school and it just went from there. Obviously, we all used to love Drop in tv and New World Disorder videos, they would get us so excited. I think as I got into riding more it’s Mike Aitken and chase hawk that influences me the most, or at least they are who I enjoy watching the most!
How did the diagnosis for Ulcerative Colitis start?
So this came relatively early at the age of about 11, I basically was shitting loads and there would be blood in it. Then after a bunch of tests they found out it was ulcerative colitis.
What is Ulcerative Colitis?
It’s an autoimmune disease, and basically it means that your immune system attacks the lining of your bowel, this is where the blood I mentioned comes into it.
How did that affect you as a teenager growing up?
Yeah I missed a bit of school because of this, and being a teenager probably isn’t the best time to be on steroids giving you a crazy moonface haha. It was lucky the group of people I hung out with were so close, as it didn’t seem like a big thing.
Did you continue to ride with the early diagnosis of the condition?
Riding was probably the best thing that could’ve happened during this time, it definitely offered a form of escape. Main difference was I was packing more toilet rolls and a bag full of meds. There were times that I simply couldn’t ride but that was a good driving force, those times usually coincided with not being in school so it was quite boring.
At what point did it take a turn for the worse?
ah yeah 2015 for sure, I was probably having the worst flare up I’ve ever had, but I was just finishing up uni so didn’t really do anything about it. Eventually it just got too bad so I went to the doctors expecting the usual dose of steroids and it’ll be all good, but it wasn’t so I had to have a series of 4 operations to remove my whole large intestine.
How did that affect your mindset as a young adult?
I would say mainly positively, I tried to learn from everything that happened over the course of that year and twist it into positives. I had to drop out of my final year at uni so that I had a lot of free time to think, but most of the time the focus was just on recovering.
Since then it’s definitely changed things, physically I have to know where toilets are and take lots of medications to stop me shitting haha. Mentally I think something really clicked during that year and to an extent I used it as a driving force to get things done.
What were the stages of treatment you had to endure?
Oh man this is probably going to be a long list haha. From 2000 to 2015 it was all managed with the usual immunotherapies and steroids, then 2015 was when I had to have the large intestine out. It was 2 days from being admitted to having that done, So i didn’t really think about having a stoma bag at this point. After the first op I then had one where they made a pouch out of the small intestine, this one was around 14 hours long and I ended up in intensive care for a few days. This was pretty rough because an artery got nipped so I had to be rushed in for another op to sort that out. It was actually a scary point in the ICU where I genuinely thought I wasn’t going to wake up the next day, but that didn’t happen so winner haha. The last one was attaching where the bag was of the small bowel to where the new pouch was, this one was super quick, and I recovered pretty well. Since then it’s just been a few years getting used to it balancing out the medications to stop pooping, I’ve just had a few flare ups but that’s managed with antibiotics now so it is a lot easier!
Was getting back on the bike a big drive for you to recover as soon as you can?
It’s really all I wanted to do, I think as soon as I felt fit enough to get out on a bike I went on a gentle xc ride with minimum climbing or effort at all really haha. I really wanted to ride so I knew I had to get fit and recovered to do this.
At what point in recovery could you swing your leg back over a bike?
It was probably about 5 months after the first op, I was in the hospital for 2 months and then I was basically in bed for another 2. I was so hungry to get out on the bike with the group and get riding and hanging out.
There was something really weird with this that I now had to think about, I had a piece of my small intestine hanging out of my abdomen, and I definitely didn’t want to crash on my front with this. So I made a sort of shield for it with a tight bandage that went the whole way round me and also a plastic container. I don’t even know if it would have done the job but it felt like the right thing to do.
What was that feeling like to finally be back to it?
It was awesome man, a bit of normality in what was a really mental time. My mind was all over the place during this, so the bike and the people around me really were a lifesaver. To be honest after a few rides it just felt like normal again, which was the best thing ever, I was advised to take it easy, but a few sneaky tabletops and whips weren’t going to hurt anyone eh ahha!
How have you adapted to living without a large Intestine?
Yeah i’ve learnt to deal with it, at the early stages I lost a lot of socks in the woods if you catch my drift haha but my friends have been super understanding, like if we go to Bike Park Wales or something they are well prepared to stop on the motorway a good few times haha. but other than the toilet and being absolutely knackered all the time it’s just normal, I work I hang out and I have fun.
Does it affect you whilst riding still to this day?
Yeah sadly it does, I think you’ll remember last year you guys did the south downs way in a day, I was due to do it too but I had to pull out cause I was getting some serious stomach cramps and the Co-Codamol that I packed wasn’t helping, so I had to pull out. This was gutting but these things happen, maybe i’ll do it in two days instead haha.
How are you feeling now you’re out the other side of it all?
I feel great man, if I am facing a challenge in life or something I want to achieve, I know what i’ve been through so it gives a good perspective. I know my friends and family have really got my back through anything which is a real nice thing to hold onto.
What advice would you give someone going through the exact same right now?
I think the best thing I can say is, all problems will end in one way or another. Most things are temporary in the grand scheme of things, and life usually has a way of working itself out. I would say get a good group to be with like I have, and find a passion like riding, I guess if you’re reading this you’ll have that already! Having something to drive you through is probably the best thing to have.
Have you got anyone you would like to thank for helping you through this all?
I couldn’t thank my family, the wife, and friends enough, they have definitely got me through it no doubt. Having been alone it would’ve been a totally different story. I should really thank St Richards hospital. I spent months in the place and I couldn’t fault them one bit.
Thanks for sharing your Journey with us rowan! It’s great to see that you have had the drive to get back on a bike and return to normal life after all of that and I take my hat off to you!.
All the best for the future.