Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bloody Redgrave

A word of advice to anyone newly diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

Chances are until recently you’d never heard of ulcerative colitis, and as soon as you got home from the hospital you probably did what most people do and went straight on Google. Maybe that’s how you ended up here?

And amongst the flotsam and jetsam of UC related stuff on the internet you may have read that Olympic legend, Sir Steve Redgrave also has ulcerative colitis. This is true, he does. He’s one of the very few public figures who are happy for the world to know they have a bowel disease. This is to be applauded.

Now, when you come to find yourself explaining to your friends, family and colleagues what exactly UC is, it may be tempting to drop in the fact that Sir Steve Redgrave has it. This is perfectly natural. It somehow helps normalise it for people. In their heads they’ll think “Oh, if Sir Steve Redgrave’s got it, it can’t be contagious because he had to sit in a boat with other people and I’ve seen him shake hands with the Queen.” It helps people contextualise it.

It’s understandable that anyone with any sort of illness would seek out a celebrity with the same condition. I imagine Professor Stephen Hawking often told his friends, “You know that Davros from Dr Who? Well he’s got what I’ve got.”

But if you were thinking of telling people you have the same disease as Sir Steve Redgrave, don’t.

It’s not worth it. And I’ll tell you why. Next time you phone in sick, or cancel a night out, or try to get out of going to Ikea and you use your UC as an excuse, Sir Steve-sodding-Redgrave will be thrown back in your face. Gold medals and all.

You see, somehow Sir Steve managed to go and win gold at five consecutive Olympic Games all whilst having ulcerative colitis. And he wasn’t doing shooting or bowls or some namby-pamby sport, he did it in rowing, one of the most physically demanding events you can do.

Up against that your excuse that you’re too tired to go to Aunt Jean’s birthday party suddenly sounds a bit lame.

So if you want an easy life, mark my words, don’t ever, ever tell anyone that Sir Steve Redgrave has UC.