Patricia Poole

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Patricia Poole felt as if her life were grinding to a halt, until she decided to get her life back on track, literally.

I WAS diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1988, aged 22. I underwent surgery to remove the diseased portion of my bowel and in 2002 I had another surgery for the same reason.

I have suffered depression from an early age for various reasons and for me this was exacerbated by having a chronic illness. Unlike many Crohn’s patients, I had major weight gain following my last surgery, reaching 103kg. I was a divorced, sole parent living alone in the country and I felt stuck in a rut and was struggling financially.

The turning point for me came when I read a book by paraplegic Olympian John Maclean, called Sucking the Marrow out of Life. I was totally inspired by his never-give-up attitude and his philosophy of “only possibilities”. It was an awakening for me that although there were some circumstances in my life beyond my control, I was choosing (unconsciously) to focus on the wrong things.

Through further connecting with John, he taught me the importance of goal setting in order to achieve our goals, visions and dreams. I set myself the huge challenge of walking the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea as part of a group of 12 women called the Kokoda Chicks. Collectively we raised almost $90,000 in our fundraising campaign for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. It was a huge physical challenge for me, but also an awesome experience I will treasure forever.

Following on from that, I set myself a goal of running a half marathon (21.1km), even though I was unable to run for five minutes at a time without stopping. I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Pat Carroll, an online running coach, while surfing the internet. Pat, being an elite marathoner with more than two decades experience, was able to sensibly and realistically guide me to reach that goal within a four-month period. Being a sedentary person for most of my young life, I surprised myself that a 42-year-old women with a history of chronic illness could achieve such things.

Then, on July 4 this year, I ran my first Gold Coast Airport marathon, 42.2km, which took me a little over five hours. I am not a fast runner and was unsure I could achieve this goal until I crossed the finish line.

This was good training for completing my third consecutive City2Surf in August, raising funds for CCA for the second year running.

I’ll never be an elite athlete but I do enjoy the feeling of being a relatively fit 44-year-old woman. I have done four half marathons and a few 10km fun runs, and lost 28kg along the way through exercise and healthy eating.

I don’t know what the future holds for me in relation to my Crohn’s disease. Since my last surgery I have been very blessed to have been mostly pain and symptom free. I’m still on medication and I do suffer fatigue but I think the hugest difference for me has been my change in attitude. I now choose to focus on the can do side of life and gratitude mixed in with some self belief.

Living with a chronic illness and being uncertain what the future holds can be very daunting. Pain and other symptoms can make social situations and the like seem very daunting. It’s easy to feel isolated and alone. I encourage others to try facing their fears, whatever they may be, and also to set themselves a challenge, knowing that all we need to do to get the ball rolling is take one step at a time.

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