I don’t have the stomach for this!

So, it’s the weekend after my triathlon and I’m taking a rest day, my nephew is getting Christened today so I’m visiting my brother and his gorgeous little family and trying to keep up with a crawling / toddling machine! Seriously, a triathlon has nothing on this little tyke!

Although this blog is pretty much for myself as a training journal as I plod towards my half and possibly full Ironman dreams, I didn’t make it private so there’s a chance that someone other than my Mum will read this! Hi Mum!! Here goes…

Hi, I’m GutlessIrongirl, a 30-year-old, female, engineer originally from England but now living in Glasgow, Scotland. I live in a cute little flat and desperately want a dog but with my work and training getting in the way I’m not sure it would be fair on the little guy to leave him in the flat all day.

Being an engineer is all I’ve ever really wanted to do and although I have bad days at work, as I’m sure most people do, most of the time I count myself very lucky that I get to do a job that I love.

I’ve never been a particularly ‘sporty’ person but have always loved sports – must try harder was the general summary of my PE school reports and I played rugby at university but I think I enjoyed the social side of that as much as the game and training.

When I started working in Glasgow I met a great handful of female engineers, there aren’t that many of us so we tend to gravitate towards each other, and most of us signed up to do an open water swim event in the Lake District, England called the Great North Swim – I think it was 2010 and either the first or second time this event had been on – it has since grown to be a huge event, both in the Lake District but all over the UK – it’s a brilliant event giving ‘normal’ people the chance to give open water swimming a go. Our event at the time was a one mile swim but now there are ½ mile and 2 mile versions too including a pro race giving you the chance to meet / swim with some of the countries greats. I’ve always been quite a good swimmer, I’m not fast but I can tend to hold my own when it comes to distances plus the group of us and some friends were going to rent a cottage and make a weekend of it. I happily signed up.

Two years later in 2012 I went back, alone this time, to complete the two-mile race which took place in less than desirable circumstances, it had rained pretty much constantly for weeks before, the lake water level had risen significantly, the water temp was lower than usual, about 14C when I did my swim, and it was windy and rainy leading to most of the days races being cancelled – I wasn’t that ‘lucky’ the two-mile event was still going ahead. I finished the race, battered by the waves and with only half my face working due to the cold but I was so pleased with myself for completing it.

Then about a month later everything in my world changed. I was diagnosed with Oesophageal Cancer and it didn’t look good. To the extent that my poor Mother was informed that if she were intending on having a big family Christmas she’d maybe best to do it sooner rather than later! After that my life revolved around doctors appointments, nurse appointments, scans, reviews and more needles than I care to count. I was extremely unusual to be diagnosed with this type of cancer so young but that my age, 27, could play in my favour by being fit enough and strong enough to take on what would be a grueling course of chemotherapy, a pretty horrendous and very major operation and yet more chemotherapy. My operation, in Jan 2013, involved having 2/3 of both my stomach and oesophagus removed to try to get rid of the tumour that had decided to stop and play inside me – it took over 10 hours for a whole team of people to perform the procedure. Another 9 weeks of chemo followed which would actually finish on my 28th birthday.

I’ve been very lucky through all this – the chemo and operation floored me there’s no doubt about it but in December 2013 I got my first all clear scan so all the suffering and, let’s be brutally honest, vomiting was worth it and I get to be here, having just turned the magical age of 30 to tell the tale.

My life has changed irrevocably since that diagnosis not only in my mindset and determination to make the absolute best of the life I’ve been given back but also due to the lack of a stomach (hence my blog name) my day-to-day living has changed completely too – I’m not going to lie at times its hard, keeping weight on is a problem, energy levels is a problem, I pretty much feel sick all the time and I have a real hard time controlling my blood sugars due to my new ‘plumbing’ but I am determined to not let this define me and I have vowed to all my friends and family that I’m going to come through this fitter and stronger than I was before I was diagnosed.

So this is why I’m doing this blog / training / Ironman – I’ve always quite fancied attempting something crazy like this and since my diagnosis things have turned from a ‘that would be nice’ to a ‘right what do I need to do to achieve this’ so that’s exactly what I’m going to do, I might fail horrendously in my attempt but hey at least I’m here to try right?!

I’ve also met some pretty amazing people while going through treatment and I’m going to try to use this event to help raise money in an attempt to go a little way to saying thank you for everything.

The Beatson Cancer Hospital in Glasgow is, surprisingly, one of the most amazing places to go to for treatment. All of the doctors and nurses were so caring and upbeat – I was worried going to cancer hospital would mean it was depressing / sad but it was quite the opposite. It definitely takes a special kind of person to do that job and they deserve any and all the recognition they get even though I’d bet that they’d be the first to say it wasn’t necessary and they’re ‘just doing their job’. They’re not. They’re doing so much more.

The OPA (Oesophageal Patients Association) is a charity based in Birmingham, England but who have an online forum for patients / patients relatives where anything and everything relating to this horrible disease can be discussed. Oesophageal is quite a rare type of cancer anyway regardless of what age you are and I found myself quite lost at times both during treatment but even more so after it all finished when trying to adjust to my new way of life and all the symptoms associated with that – the forum has been and still is an amazing source of information and guidance. It meant I could speak to other people who had been through the same as me and allowed me to feel like I ‘wasn’t alone’ in this. They also produce leaflets for eating during treatment, eating after the operation and medical cards requesting restaurants to provide me with a small / child’s portion of food due to a medical condition. They need all the support they can get because the support the forum gave me was invaluable.

So, anyway, that’s not me in my entirety by any means – I have interests and a social life and a million other things aside from my diagnosis but it is my driving force for completing my Ironman which is why I’ve told you all about it.

I want to prove to other people that you can do anything you set your mind to through any circumstances with the right amount of hard work and determination but mostly, this journey is to prove it to myself.


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