Every day is a struggle for Riddings hairdresser Charlotte Fenn. To the outside world you would never know, as she has spent many years perfecting the art of plastering on a smile and telling everyone she is ‘okay’. But now Charlotte is ready to shed some light on the condition that turned her life upside down – Crohn’s disease.
The 29-year-old, along with her brother and brother-in-law, is now on a mission to stop others from suffering in silence, and to raise awareness for the disease which is often considered ‘embarrassing’.
Charlotte was diagnosed seven years ago, and spent many years trying to keep it under wraps.
She said: “I was diagnosed around the age of 22, but it wasn’t easy or straight forward. For months I was told the pain and discomfort I was suffering was down to food poisoning, stomach flu or upset and many more reasons. But finally I was told I had Crohn’s, which was actually a relief – there was something concrete wrong with me.
“I had lost a huge amount of weight, and was down to just over five stone. “I struggled to eat, and when I did I would vomit. I was also in a lot of pain and would bleed heavily as ulcers were popping inside my body. “Family and close friends all knew, as well as my fiancé, but to the outside world I tried to keep it quiet. I found it extremely embarrassing, especially as no one ever really seemed to talk about it, or the symptoms of the disease.” Crohn’s disease is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system or gut. Crohn’s can affect any part of the gut, though the most common area affected is the end of the ileum – the last part of the small intestine – or the colon. But after years of treatments including steroids, injections and tablets, Charlotte is now facing the prospect of surgery.
“I have tried a lot of different treatment, but my body gets used to them and then it’s no long effective. Steroids are keeping the symptoms at bay, but I am running out of options before surgery is the only possibility. The idea of having a colostomy bag is something that makes me extremely anxious, but thankfully my family and partner are extremely supportive.” And it is thanks to her family, that Charlotte has spoken out. Her brother Drew Fenn, 33, and brother-in-law Steven Hill, 44, took part in the Outlaw Triathlon in Nottingham to raise cash for Crohn’s and Colitis UK. The event, held on Sunday, July 24, saw both men tackle a 2.4 mile open water swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and finally a 26.2 mile run.
Drew completed the challenge at Holme Pierrepont Country Park in 13 hours and 13 minutes, and Steven in 13 hours and 35 minutes. Charlotte, along with other family members, watched proudly from the sidelines.
She said: “They did amazingly well, I’m so proud of them both. My brother came up with the idea of taking part after watching everything that I have been through. He has seen me at my best and worst, and knows what an impact the disease can have not only on my life but also on that of the family. “They didn’t set a specific target, they just wanted to raise as much as possible, and to spread the word.” So far the determined duo have raised around £2,000 in Charlottes honour, but tey aren’t stopping there. They hope to host two other fundraising events in September and October to help boost the total. Charlotte added: “Everyone knows someone who has it, and every day is a struggle. I don’t look ill, but if you could turn my body inside out you would see it. Let’s hope the more people get involved, the quicker a cure can be found.”
To donate visit: www.justgiving.com/drew-fenn1.