Hatfield man with a colostomy bag takes on Mount Snowdon challenge

PUBLISHED: 09:55 09 February 2018 | UPDATED: 14:53 09 February 2018

John-Paul is now living his life to the full post-surgery. Picture: supplied by John Paul Huntley

John-Paul is now living his life to the full post-surgery. Picture: supplied by John Paul Huntley

supplied by John Paul Huntley

A Hatfield man is climbing Mount Snowdon this spring to raise money for Crohns and Colitis UK, and to raise awareness of invisible disabilities.

Immediately after surgery. Picture: Pictture: supplied by John-Paul Huntley Immediately after surgery. Picture: Pictture: supplied by John-Paul Huntley

John-Paul Huntley’s life was turned upside down in March 2012 when he was rushed to surgery and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammation of the colon and rectum.

Half his bowel had to be removed at the Lister Hospital.

His mother, Susan Huntley, said the condition had flared up suddenly.

“It was literally an overnight thing when it happened.

John-Paul's gruesome wound after having half of his stomach removed. Picture: supplied by John-Paul Huntley John-Paul's gruesome wound after having half of his stomach removed. Picture: supplied by John-Paul Huntley

“I was then told if we don’t operate on him he’s going to die.”

Since then John-Paul, who used to live in Welwyn Garden City, has had four surgeries and is awaiting a fifth.

He now uses a colostomy bag, where digestive waste drains through a hole in his abdomen.

The practicalities of the bag, as well as the issues of living with a hidden disability, have had a huge impact on his life.

John-Paul getting his energy out. Picture: supplied by John Paul Huntley John-Paul getting his energy out. Picture: supplied by John Paul Huntley

He said: “Before my operations, I was a very outgoing person, but that changed a lot.

“Since then I had some depressing moments, some low moments.”

The condition caused considerable weight gain.

“It’s really difficult to get your diet right.

Before and after: John-Paul's fitness journey. Picture: supplied by John Paul Huntley Before and after: John-Paul's fitness journey. Picture: supplied by John Paul Huntley

“If you don’t get the diet right it leaks - and that’s embarrassing.”

But the 35-year-old is tired of feeling shy about it, and is determined to speak openly about his experiences.

His fight back began when his family found him a fitness trainer, Dean Clarke at Rock Health and Fitness, who has pushed him hard.

John-Paul said: “He’s the nicest man that you could possibly meet, but every Monday when I meet him to train I hate him!

John-Paul is now living his life to the full post-surgery. Picture: supplied by John Paul Huntley John-Paul is now living his life to the full post-surgery. Picture: supplied by John Paul Huntley

“Dean’s an inspiration.”

John-Paul recalled: “He gave me a kick up the bottom, and said: “You’re going up Mount Snowdon”.”

Despite an upcoming operation, he has agreed to make the climb with Dean on April 28, with all the challenges of using a colostomy bag.

John-Paul hopes to raise money for Crohns and Colitis UK, the main organisation supporting people with inflammatory bowel disease.

Immediately after surgery. Picture: Pictture: supplied by John-Paul Huntley Immediately after surgery. Picture: Pictture: supplied by John-Paul Huntley

“Going up there is the biggest challenge for me as my bag – if it fills up, what do I do?” said John-Paul.

“I have to plan very carefully.”

He has already exceeded his target of £100 and hopes to raise more - but just as important to him is to get better public awareness of hidden disabilities.

You can support John-Paul’s climb at his JustGiving page: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jp-huntley

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