When Tom Underwood fell seriously ill with a bowel condition in 2010 he had never even heard of the illness he was diagnosed with.
He was suffering with ulcerative colitis, a chronic condition which causes serious inflammation of the large intestine and led doctors to remove his colon.
Eight years after the life-changing event, Mr Underwood, of Horsforth, is determined to raise awareness of bowel disease as he prepares to undergo his sixth major surgery.
Mr Underwood, 35, said: “ It was back in 2010 when I got ill with ulcerative colitis.
“It happened out of the blue. Nothing really causes it. I was just unlucky. I got really ill very quickly.
“I had never heard of ulcerative colitis. It was a massive learning curve. It was quite a traumatic experience. But I adjusted to it.
“I bounced back and was able to get on with my life.
Mr Underwood was fitted with a J-pouch, a device which helps bowel disease patients go to the toilet.
It worked well for around six years, but Mr Underwood began suffering complications and a decision was taken that he would have an ostomy procedure to allow waste to pass from his body.
Mr Underwood said: “The surgery will make me healthy and feel a lot better so I can live life to the full.”
Mr Underwood said he wants to tackle a public perception of ostomy procedures that they restrict people’s lives.
He said: “There are around 120,000 people in the UK with an ostomy. It affects people of all ages.”
He also wants to raise awareness of bowel conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease . He said: “I think its a bit of a taboo subject. You wouldn’t talk about it with your mates down the pub.
“Even though it is quite a drastic change that your body goes through it doesn’t have to hold you back. You can still do everything you want.”
To chart his journey, Mr Underwood has launched his own online blog site at www.tomsgutreaction.com
He wrote on the site: “I’ve set up Tom’s Gut Reaction to try and normalise ostomy perceptions within mainstream life and demonstrate that you can continue to do anything you want and feel good.”
Mr Underwood is also looking forward to marrying his partner Naomi Stafford, 31, after recovering from the operation.
He added: “This will be the sixth major bowel surgery I’ve had since 2010 and I’m hoping it will be my last.”
“We are due to get married in Barcelona next year.
“Next year will be a new chapter.
“I can put all this surgery behind me and move on with my life.”
BOWEL ILLNESS HAS NO KNOWN CURE
Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition which causes inflammation of the large intestine.
The condition affects around one in 420 people in the UK.
Surgery to remove the colon is considered for some patients. Symptoms include recurring diarrhoea, abdominal pain, extreme tiredness, loss of appetite and weight loss. The severity of the condition varies, depending on the level of inflammation.
There is no know cause of the illness, thought to be an autoimmune condition.