Adventure and travel are something that people usually look forward to, thriving on the thought of trying something new and feeling excited to get out of their comfort zone. There are many things in my life I have achieved and some of these moments occurred when I was suffering from a flare-up of Endometriosis. I am an expert in ignoring all the warning signs that my body might give me. Instead, I opt to push through and make sure that I am not missing out on anything fun and exciting. A couple of years ago I was kayaking down the Ardeche in France when my body had a massive flare up. I was beyond bloated and exhausted already before I even began paddling. But every so often in my kayak, I would take a deep breathe in, take in my surroundings and feel lucky that I was in the position I was in. Instead of letting it get me down and allowing my condition to take over, I powered through regardless of the stabbing pains in my uterus and at that point, I was incredibly proud of myself. After this trip, I realised it was more about my mindset than simply giving up.
Me in the Ardeche!
Last year I managed to travel around New Zealand as well as complete a 12,000ft skydive over one of their most beautiful lakes. It was the most amazing experience I’d ever had and I was only 3 months post surgery. Whilst getting into the diving suit I remember feeling a surge of pain through my stomach meaning I spent more time worrying I would wet myself or suddenly need the toilet than actually worrying about jumping out of the plane. It was the one time that my illness distracting me was actually rather helpful! Before I left the UK, I was insanely worried about every aspect of travelling with Endometriosis. I would sit up at night thinking of all the ways I could protect myself against a flare up and potential ways of helping ease pain. I packed tones of heat pads and deep heat, my case was lined with night time sanitary towels and I had more pills that your average pharmacy. But I tried my hardest not to let it ruin my experiences. I made sure that I rested when I could and I made sure that I avoided any food and drink that would trigger a flare-up. I did it because I refused to miss out on all the opportunities and adventures we discovered along the way, again I never gave up.
Just before the skydive over Lake Taupo in NZ!
Last weekend, I went surfing in Cornwall with my other half. It was the first time that both of us had ever surfed and I was a little worried. We had 3 sessions over 3 days, which meant not a lot of relaxing and more importantly, not a lot of recovery time! Since being on the HRT treatment I have put on a lot of weight and haven’t had a lot of energy to exercise. So I was really worried that not only would I feel very uncomfortable with my swimsuit on but I’d also be unable to push myself up on to the board, let alone ride a wave. I hid my worries away and focused on planning the trip, packing the bags and getting us ready for a 5hr drive. I was full of questions, ‘what if I need the toilet in the wetsuit? how bad will my endobelly look in a wetsuit? what if I start to panic in the water?’ I ate a little breakfast to prep my energy levels and then I got ready, the only swimsuit I own that fits me now is very old and looks like its owned by a 50+yr old swim instructor from the 90’s. But I couldn’t be bothered to care.
First of all, putting on a wetsuit is one of the funniest things I have done, whilst laughing at myself shrink wrapping my body I realised I might as well embrace it because I couldn’t hide in it! There was no way of holding in my stomach or hiding my flabby arms so I let myself relax. To be honest it felt nicer to be covered up than to have my whole body on show (even if I did get a ridiculous tan!) One part of me that really has been knocked from all of the hormone treatments is my body confidence. I can’t look in the mirror without feeling upset with how I look and how I feel in my own skin. I know that everyone is different and I love that us ladies are learning to embrace our bodies, whatever shape or size. But I think it can take a lot of hard work and a lot of mixed emotions to get to a place where you are comfortable with yourself and unfortunately all the hormone treatments have knocked me off track a bit!
Anyway, I digress… the first session on the beach we were doing a warm-up and I genuinely thought I was going to collapse! I was huffing and puffing before I had even entered the water and once I was in the sea, I felt totally out of touch with my body. I couldn’t get my arm muscles to co-operate with the rest of my body so lifting myself on to the board was hilarious. Swinging my legs up onto the board was even funnier because every time I lifted myself I couldn’t hold it long enough to swing them up and around. I was lying on my stomach so much I thought I was going to throw up in the middle of the sea, which only made me start to panic and made my stomach start to really hurt. Adding to this, my glasses fogged up so much I had to take them off and was then basically blind and the board hit my leg so hard I had an instant green bruise. I came out of the sea feeling really down with myself. But on the second day, my boyfriend pep-talked me up and I felt a lot better about getting on the board. Slowly but surely I began to push myself up with my arms easily and balance myself to actually get on the board. Laying down still felt incredibly uncomfortable because of the pressure being placed on that area but aside from this I was able to push through. Long story short, I managed to stand and ride a wave at the end of the second day!!!!! I felt like I was on a high and it made me realise that all the adventures I want to take and all the activities I want to do shouldn’t be controlled by my condition.
Me and my boyfriend in our wetsuits ready for day 2!
Chronic illnesses can take too much control away from us and limit the goals we set for ourselves. They cause us to miss out on opportunities or dreams we had before we became poorly. But I don’t want to live like that, I want to explore what I can do and what I can push myself to achieve. Yes, there will always be days where I have to listen to my body first and rest or put my plans on hold but I don’t want my condition to stop me from experiencing all the wonderful fun things I can do or from challenging myself. Although I might not like how I look right now and sometimes I have sad or mad days, I am a strong believer in positive thinking breeds positive outcomes! Remember never give up… something Bear Grylls always says…and that man knows adventure!