An expectant mum who refuses to be beaten by a digestive disorder that causes chronic diarrhoea and can sometimes see her rush to the toilet eight times before she starts her working day has thrown caution to the wind and conquered Everest.
RAF Dental Officer Samantha Rose, 33, was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease – symptoms of which include frequent diarrhoea, stomach cramps, passing blood and extreme fatigue – in July 2018.
But, refusing to give in to the lifelong condition, in April this year she climbed 17,598 feet to the Base Camp of the world’s highest mountain in the Himalayas.
Samantha, who lives in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, with her fiancé, Daymian Underhill, 36, an adventure training instructor, said: “My mum thought I was bonkers, so did my sister and several of my friends told me not to go.
“I knew there was a risk something could go wrong. I could have a flare-up, which would not be great, as all the toilets are just holes in the floor.
“But I’ve gone to the toilet eight times before 7.30am and still gone to work, so I figured I’d manage okay.”
Samantha, who is four months pregnant with her first child, first started experiencing symptoms of the lifelong disorder in December 2017.
She said: “I have a family history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which can flare up from time to time.
“But I started feeling bloated and gassy, I was very tired and was making frequent trips to the loo.”
She added: “I’m a morning person, who embraces getting out to exercise early, and these symptoms started to hinder my ability to do that.
“When I first started getting the symptoms of Crohn’s, I thought they would pass but by the end of January, I booked a doctors appointment and was officially diagnosed in July 2018.”
Given medication to ease the symptoms, Samantha is still trying out different drugs to find a regime that suits her.
She said: “By the time I was diagnosed, my trip to the Mount Everest Base Camp was already in the works and I wasn’t about to back out.
“I’ve never wanted to let having Crohn’s hold me back from pushing myself to do my best and seek new adventures – even when it’s an inconvenience and I’m feeling drained.”
Samantha and a friend officially booked the trip in August 2020 for 2022.
The team set off on April 4 2022, hiking for 14 days to Mount Everest Base Camp – their final destination.
Samantha said: “I actually don’t know how much the Crohn’s affected me during the trek, because the altitude sickness took over and we were all rushing to the loo constantly – it wasn’t just me!
“On one day my friend had to go to the toilet 12 times and I said to her, ‘Welcome to the world of having Crohn’s.’”
She added: “I think it gave her a lot of insight into what I was struggling with on a day-to-day basis.
“I did have a few tummy issues along the way, but nothing out of the ordinary for me.
“Luckily, Crohn’s had prepared me well for that kind of experience and I coped much better than some others on the trip.”
Samantha says battling with sickness during the trip was worth it for the rewards supplied by the stunning scenery.
She said: “The views were absolutely breathtaking, so beautiful. I loved every minute.
“It was worth the sickness.”
And she now has her sights on completing other challenges.
She said: “I’d planned to do an ultra-marathon last month, but after finding out I was pregnant I dropped it down to a half marathon.
“I’m hoping to complete an ultra-marathon at some point in the future.”
Samantha says her family have been very supportive since her diagnosis.
She said: “I’m lucky in that my dad is a retired GP and my sister works as a rheumatologist, so discussion around bowels isn’t something that is considered embarrassing.
“I’ve been able to talk to them openly about my condition and they’ve had a very good understanding of it.”
She added: “My family, friends, colleagues and fiancé have always been exceptionally supportive and my doctors have been amazing. I wouldn’t be where I am if not for them.
“I have good days and rough days, but it’s all a balancing act. Throughout everything I’ve dealt with because of having Crohn’s, I’ve been determined to keep up with sport.
“There’s evidence to show that exercise helps conditions like Crohn’s and, at times it has been tough, but I wanted to maintain that sporty part of me.”
Now, Samantha hopes to raise awareness of the difficult condition.
She said: “Getting diagnosed early and starting appropriate treatment could help save you from experiencing months of discomfort and the exacerbation of a serious illness.
“Know your body and don’t be scared to talk to friends or loved ones when you don’t feel right.”
She added: “Important things I found were getting diagnosed early, taking a thorough medical history to your GP and not being embarrassed to talk about poo.
“Take care of yourself and know your limits.”
For more information on Crohn’s or Colitis, visit crohnsandcolitis.org.uk